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CrunchBang, an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution that sports a snappy, low-drag interface and is perfect for thumb drives, live CDs, or speed-obsessed Linux fans. Check out how it looks and runs in our screenshot tour.
Windows only: If you have a U3-enabled flash drive, you might want to skip extra load time and the disk space the software chews up, and the U3 removal tool can help you do just that. U3 is a software bundle stored on a protected partition on a flash drive that emulates a CD-ROM when it’s plugged into a Windows machine. While some people like the pre-packaged software and the sometimes expensive software add-ons, many people prefer to assemble their own suite of portable apps without restriction. The removal tool banishes U3 from your drive, reclaims about 6MB of space, and gives you a significant speed increase in load time. After removing the U3 software from a test flash drive, I found that the load time went from between 10-15 seconds, to around 2 seconds. U3 Removal Tool [via Everything USB]
Windows and Linux only: Free bootable image creator UNetbootin automates the downloading, imaging, and installing of Linux distributions onto USB thumb drives, creating a persistent, boot-anywhere desktop. We’ve previously featured rather involved guides to putting Linux on a flash drive, but UNetbootin does it all for you, from downloading the right ISO to setting up a USB stick as a bootable Linux drive. It can also convert almost any bootable ISO, so if you’ve got an old, smaller thumb drive not seeing much use these days, you can use UNetbootin to install a partition editor, a file-recovering live CD, or the Windows password-cracking Ophcrack. UNetbootin is a free download for Windows XP and higher and Linux systems. UNetbootin [via Tombuntu]
Windows only: Freeware application USB AutoRunner automatically launches documents or applications when you plug in your USB thumb drive. We’ve explained in the past how to auto-run apps or documents when you insert your thumb drive by making your own autorun.inf file—a Windows default convention for automatically launching files. USB AutoRunner creates this file for you, so setting up a working autorun.inf file is as simple as telling USB AutoRunner what you want to launch when you plug in. USB AutoRunner is freeware, Windows only. While you’re at it, find out how to quick-launch your USB workspace. USB AutoRunner [via Shell Extension City]
Tired of having to look up which drive letter Windows assigned to his multiple USB thumb drives, one author at gHacks decided to assign each drive to its own folder nested inside a “USB” folder. Not only does it add some consistency to swapped storage, it also allows for a persistent shortcut on a Windows desktop. The short how-to: Run “diskmgmt.msc” from Windows’ Run/Start Search box, right-click on your plugged-in drive and choose “Change Drive Letter and Paths.” Then:
Click on the Add button, select Mount into the following empty NTFS folder and click on browse. Now navigate to the subfolder that you want to assign the USB drive to and confirm the assignment. The USB drive will from now on be accessible from that folder as well if it is connected to the computer.
Hit the link for a more detailed explanation and a quick undo fix. Assign USB Drives to a Folder [gHacks]
Following up on last week’s guide to creating a shortcut to Windows’ Safely Remove Hardware dialog, the How-To Geek weblog details how to set up a shortcut or hotkey to immediately eject a specific USB drive, particularly handy if you typically only use one USB drive on your computer. The guide uses previously mentioned app USB Disk Ejector in conjunction with its command line options to create simple shortcuts for specific drive ejection. When you’re finished, you should be able to instantly eject any drive with a couple of quick keystrokes without clicking through menus. These shortcuts would be perfect to index with Launchy for quick access. Create a Shortcut or Hotkey to Immediately Eject a Specific USB Drive [the How-To Geek]
Productivity weblog Digital Inspiration rounds up several ways to travel without your computer, suggesting instead that you carry all the programs and documents you need on your USB thumb drive. We’ve covered most of the post’s suggestions before, whether we were showing you how to carry your life on a thumb drive or rounding up the top 10 thumb drive tricks, so with the wealth of options out there for taking that thumb drive to its limits, I’m wondering:
You don’t have to lease server space or keep your home computer always on to access a personal web server—you can run a web, FTP, and database server straight from a USB drive. A slim web server package called XAMPP fits on a USB stick and can run database-driven webapps like the software that powers Wikipedia, MediaWiki. Almost two years ago you learned how to set up your “personal Wikipedia” on your home web server to capture ideas and track document revisions in a central knowledge repository. Today we’ll set up MediaWiki on your flash drive for access on any Windows PC on the go.