Last months editorial on using a USB flash drive as an alternative to a laptop created a flood of user queries. This month I’ll try to answer your three most common questions:
What kind of USB flash drive do I need?
Fast drives can cost a few dollars extra than slow drives but it’s money well spent as a fast drive can load programs more than ten times more quickly than a slow drive. As a rule of thumb a fast drive is one with a read rate of more than 15 Mbs. Here are the manufacturer’s stated read rates for some of the faster drives around:
Only buy a genuine USB 2.0 drive. Don’t buy a drive that is the older USB 1.1 standard or one marked as "USB 2.0 Compatible." These drives drive are simply not zippy enough for running applications.Drive capacity is less important than speed. In fact to run a full suite of applications you really don’t need much bigger than 512MB. But large flash drives are now so cheap it would seem a folly to buy anything less than 2 GB.
Should I buy a U3 drive?
It’s not that important. You can setup a great portable system using either a U3 drive or a standard drive. In fact many portable apps are available in both U3 and non-U3 versions.
If you use Vista you will already have discovered that many of your favorite freeware and shareware utilities won’t work with Vista. At this site they claim they only list utilities that will work. Note: despite the site’s name, a good proportion of the products listed are commercial shareware not freeware.
In recent issues I’ve mentioned how web based application may one day replace some of the programs currently running on your PC. Here’s a list of just some of the products and services available.
One of the best comparative reviews of defragmentation utilities I’ve seen. I don’t agree with all the author’s comments but hey, everyone is entitled to their opinion.
Securely storing your passwords and other sensitive data at an online web service has lots of advantages: It’s free, secure and you can access your password and other information from any PC. On the downside you have to trust the web service provider and in the event of a security failure, you risk having all your eggs in the one basket. I’ve looked at two services, PassPack  and Clipperz . Both are impressive but I found PassPack easier to use while Clipperz had a more impressive set of features including offline capabilities. Be warned though, figuring out how to use Clipperz full set of features took me half a day! It’s early days for these services but they offer a viable though slightly clunky alternative for those not prepared to buy RoboForm.
Including your email address on a web page, a blog or web forum will almost certainly result in you being spammed. Here’s a free web based service  that will encode your email addresses to reduce spamming. Thanks to subscriber Michael Woodruff for the suggestion. An alternative to using a web service is to download this free utility  that performs the email address encoding on your own PC. Yet another option is to display your email address as an image file rather than as text. You can create your own email graphic for free here .
For the last few years I have been using master.com to monitor my website uptime. It’s a free service and I’ve been quite happy with it. However I’ve just switched over to a different free service  at a site suggested JW. They offer a more comprehensive service than master.com with better statistics, coverage of servers, mail servers and other network attached devices not just websites. They also offer RSS and email notification in the event of service failure. The same site offers website stats and visitor tracking as well but I’m happy to leave this to Google Analytics which just keeps getting better and better.
Got some top sites to suggest? Send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org...
Subscriber Rodney Green writes "Gizmo, in issue #145 of your newsletter a reader mentions that they hate it when a website starts playing music. I found an application called FlashMute  that works well for muting sound from Flash movies in Internet Explorer, Firefox and a few other browsers." Nice suggestion Rodney, FlashMute is a great way of overcoming a common annoyance but it won’t stop HTML based sound used on many sites. To do this you need to consider other option. For example Internet Explorer allows you turn off all webpage sound from the Advanced tab within Tools /Internet options however I find this very inconvenient as sometimes you want to listen to web audio. Firefox doesn’t even offer an audio mute option at all but there is a free Firefox extension called Stop AutoPlay  that is designed specifically for the job. It works by adding a browser button that rather conveniently allows you to play or mute at will. It doesn’t stop Flash sound files but if you use FlashMute in addition to Stop AutoPlay you have a pretty complete solution to all unwanted web sound.
 http://www.indev.no/?p=projects#flashmute Freeware, Windows 98-XP, 233KB
Windows Secrets Newsletter • Issue 146 • 2007-06-21 • Circulation: over 400,000
Table of contents
- USB computing — the answers to your questions
- Utilities that work with Vista
- Free Web based applications
- The great defrag shoot-out
- Free online services offer RoboForm-like functionality
- How to reduce your spam
- Free service monitors Web site and server uptime and performance
- How to mute unwanted Web site sounds
- Compress your files to the max
- Free portable media player tops its class