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Top 10 USB Thumb Drive Tricks
LifeHacker ^ | 10 July 2010 | Kevin Purdy

Posted on 07/12/2010 5:37:35 AM PDT by ShadowAce

Top 10 USB Thumb Drive Tricks

What can you do with a few gigabytes and a USB port? Quite a lot, with the right software. Learn how to encrypt your work, run whole systems, rescue Windows, and customize your thumb drive with these USB-geared tricks.

Photo by Debs (ò‿ó)♪.

Note: Gina previously rounded up 10 thumb drive tricks in April 2007, and we've borrowed a few of those ideas here. But many of the apps have updated, some have been replaced with better offerings, and a few totally new cool things (Chrome OS! XBMC!) have made their way into this mix.

10. Give Your Drive a Custom Icon

Top 10 USB Thumb Drive Tricks

An "oldie" but goodie. If you use multiple USB drives, or just want to make your USB drive more recognizable at a glance, you can give it a custom icon. The root of the trick is keeping a .ico file on the drive—you can create one from any image with any number of tools, including the ConvertIcon webapp. Now when you plug in your USB drive, you'll know which one you're looking at on your desktop and explorer windows.

9. Try Out Chrome OS Now

Top 10 USB Thumb Drive Tricks

Google's fast and light netbook operating system, Chrome OS, isn't due out until late fall, but thumb drive owners can jump into an open-source build of the code so far. As explained by Gina, you can run a custom build of Chrome OS from Hexxeh from your thumb drive and try out Chrome as it stands today. Isn't open source development cool? (Original post)

8. Browse and Work Securely with DemocraKey

Top 10 USB Thumb Drive Tricks

If you're on vacation, or working somewhere else where the security, tracking, and privacy conditions are unknown, you'll be glad you have the DemocraKey bundle. It's a set of Windows-based apps—including a browser, image editor, email client, and encryption suite—that makes browsing and working much more anonymous and secure. (Original post)

7. Run an XBMC Media Center From It

Top 10 USB Thumb Drive Tricks

XBMC Live, a version of the awesome XBMC media center software built for thumb drives, is great for showing off XBMC to your friends and relatives on their own gear, but also loading onto your netbook or laptop when it primarily pull other duty with a standard operating system. It's also how Adam starts off the process of building a silent, cheap media center, providing a peek at how well things will run when XBMC is going full-force.

6. Save Your Windows System

Top 10 USB Thumb Drive Tricks

If you've chosen to put an Ubuntu system on your thumb drive, you've already got everything you need to fix a Windows system that just isn't working. From an Ubuntu thumb drive, you can scan and fix viruses, recover files, analyze and clean up disk space, fix partitions, and recover lost Windows passwords. All that is covered in our complete guide to saving your Windows system with a thumb drive.

5. Prevent Leaving Your Drive Behind

Top 10 USB Thumb Drive Tricks

USB drives are small, light, and look like any other peripheral—so, yeah, a good share get lost and left behind. If you're trading your drive between Windows systems, Flash Drive Reminder can pop up a window when you're starting to log off or shut down, reminding you that you've got a drive plugged in and, hey, won't you yank it out while you're thinking of it? (Original post)

4. Install a Portable Windows App Suite

Top 10 USB Thumb Drive Tricks

If you're short on space for Windows, or you just like to keep certain apps with you or contained on a separate disk, your USB drive can function as a full-fledged launcher. PortableApps offers no-install-needed versions of Firefox, Chrome, Pidgin, GIMP, Notepad++, and many other favorite bits of open source software. There are other suites out there—some accused of playing fast and loose with licenses and software property—but PortableApps remains the most consistent and up-to-date collection of free, go-anywhere Windows software. (Original post)

3. Encrypt and Set Your Drive to Self-Destruct in Emergencies

Top 10 USB Thumb Drive Tricks

Not physically self-destruct, as cool as that would be. But with USB Safeguard, you can make it so that either your entire drive requires an encryption drive, or just select files do. In more unique fashion, USB Safeguard can be set to wipe your files entirely if someone tries to access them without your password too many times. Losing a cheap thumb drive is much better than losing the keys to your checking account. (Original post)

2. Sync the Files You Need

Top 10 USB Thumb Drive Tricks

Rather than manually copy the files you need back and forth between USB and hard drive, why not automatically sync what you need? It's the least you can do to help your thumb drive keep up with Dropbox. Tools like SyncBack Freeware or Microsoft's own SyncToy give you the option to automatically copy, or delete, the files that stick out on either side.

1. Keep a Portable Linux OS Handy

Top 10 USB Thumb Drive Tricks

Linux systems have long been handy on a USB drive—they're fast, free, and very customizable. We rounded up the major thumb drive systems, and found that Puppy Linux and the various Ubuntu flavors (including the lightweight Xubuntu) found the most favor among readers (and editors, too, for that matter). As for making the drives, we recommend the uSbuntu or Unetbootin tools on Windows for making read-only systems, and Universal USB Installer for making a persistent system of any Linux OS on any drive. (Original posts: Universal USB, Unetbootin, uSbuntu)


TOPICS: Computers/Internet
KEYWORDS: flash; tech; usb
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To: BushCountry

I don’t think I’d like the knife one. I’d stick it in my pocket of course like any other knife or memory stick, and that one looks like it would accumulate crap in and around the USB connector (even worse than a generic stick with no connector cover).


51 posted on 07/12/2010 9:25:48 AM PDT by Still Thinking (Freedom is NOT a loophole!)
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To: BushCountry
Apparently they have at least a 16GB one now, if that's more to your liking:

http://www.techfresh.net/swissflash-16gb-flash-drive-and-laser-pointer/

52 posted on 07/12/2010 9:38:07 AM PDT by Still Thinking (Freedom is NOT a loophole!)
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To: Still Thinking

It is a key chain thing, since it is swiss army who typical do an alright job concerning quality (like their watches), I am sure the recess for the usb is tight as any other high quality connector.

I don’t usually carry a knife, pen or key light so if I have to carry a usb, might as well carry something that does more than one job. This was what made me even think twice about it other than the cool factor.


53 posted on 07/12/2010 9:40:30 AM PDT by BushCountry (I spoken many wise words in jest, but no comparison to the number of stupid words spoken in earnest)
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To: ShadowAce
bookmark for later . . . thanks!


54 posted on 07/12/2010 9:48:07 AM PDT by Hoodat (.For the weapons of our warfare are mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.)
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To: BushCountry
Oh OK, so it's one of those real small SWA knives? I prefer to carry a full size pocketknife which pretty much forces you to carry it in-pocket, and I was picturing all the sludge that builds up in the bottom of the blade tracks getting into the USB plug.

For a USB stick (which goes in the pocket too, I try to keep the key-chain as light and unencumbered as possible) I used to use the Lexar "sport" models with a stretchy rubber cap, but have recently been using PNY ones with a plastic cap that seals pretty well.

55 posted on 07/12/2010 9:58:26 AM PDT by Still Thinking (Freedom is NOT a loophole!)
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To: BushCountry

Forgot to mention it, but I do love those SW watches though. Won’t wear anything else, even for dress. I beat the crap out of watches and these just seem to lap it up and keep on going.


56 posted on 07/12/2010 9:59:46 AM PDT by Still Thinking (Freedom is NOT a loophole!)
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To: ShadowAce

bump


57 posted on 07/12/2010 10:05:51 AM PDT by lack-of-trust
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To: 4mer Liberal

geek ping


58 posted on 07/12/2010 10:57:49 AM PDT by T Minus Four (tagline pending)
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To: Betis70

I got addicted to watching Weeds on Netflix. I watch it over the kid’s WII instead of the computer.


59 posted on 07/12/2010 11:20:02 AM PDT by Sawdring
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To: ShadowAce
Bookmark!
60 posted on 07/12/2010 11:48:58 AM PDT by The Cajun (Mind numbed robot , ditto-head, Hannitized, Levinite)
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To: ShadowAce

bump for later.


61 posted on 07/12/2010 11:50:22 AM PDT by dfwgator
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To: BushCountry

bttt


62 posted on 07/12/2010 11:52:09 AM PDT by ConservativeMan55
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To: ShadowAce

Will have to try it sometime.


63 posted on 07/12/2010 12:17:24 PM PDT by wally_bert (It's sheer elegance in its simplicity! - The Middleman)
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To: Still Thinking
This might be practical if you enjoy the finer malt beverages.


64 posted on 07/12/2010 12:19:35 PM PDT by BushCountry (I spoken many wise words in jest, but no comparison to the number of stupid words spoken in earnest)
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To: ShadowAce

By the way I didn’t mean to sidetrack your thread, sorry. Thanks, the information is pretty cool and I am going to make two bootable USB devices.

Haven’t decided which route I am going to take other than an NTFS DOS version to carry a lot of specialized low level software (wiping / repairing harddrives, resetting passwords, partitioning, old school stuff, etc...) and a virus scanner (maybe specific virus recovery programs).

The other will have a GUI, haven’t decided what Linux flavor yet (freeware web development, video processing, mp3 player, word processing, and graphics software).


65 posted on 07/12/2010 12:47:56 PM PDT by BushCountry (I spoken many wise words in jest, but no comparison to the number of stupid words spoken in earnest)
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To: All

bump


66 posted on 07/12/2010 1:18:52 PM PDT by Squidpup ("Fight the Good Fight")
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To: ShadowAce

PFL


67 posted on 07/12/2010 3:31:50 PM PDT by doorgunner69
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To: CORedneck

Sooner or later you’re going to lose your ass there. Reliability is better than it used to be, but if you can’t afford to lose it, don’t trust it to a $20 card.

(As I’ve said on here before...redundancy is your friend!)


68 posted on 07/12/2010 11:01:44 PM PDT by Fire_on_High (Stupid should hurt.)
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To: ShadowAce
I finally tried to get myself an Ubuntu rescue stick. System boots fine, but when I get to downloading and installing the utilities (e.g. clamtk) the system tells me it cannot access whatever archive site it is looking for. So I googled the error message and found that a couple of lines needed to be added to a hosts file. Simple enough so I found the file and tried to edit it but apparently I don't have permission to edit anything except in my own folder. So I googled to find out more about this and found several different command-line entries depending upon which flavor of Ubuntu I had. I didn't even know there were different types.

Any suggestions?

ML/NJ

69 posted on 08/02/2010 5:42:46 AM PDT by ml/nj
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To: ml/nj
Try "sudo su -" without the quotes.

That should allow you to edit any file. Your prompt will now be a # instead of a $.

When finished, type in "exit".

70 posted on 08/02/2010 5:57:58 AM PDT by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce
Thanks for the quick response. I'll try to give this a shot latter today.

ML/NJ

71 posted on 08/02/2010 6:51:05 AM PDT by ml/nj
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To: ShadowAce

later !


72 posted on 08/02/2010 6:51:38 AM PDT by ml/nj
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To: ShadowAce
Does anyone else have trouble with Google Chrome not displaying drop down menus?

IE had the same trouble until I did "compatability view" but I haven't been able to get Chrome to show drop downs. It's like white text on a white background but you can't mouse over to see anything.

73 posted on 08/02/2010 6:59:05 AM PDT by N. Theknow (Everything I needed to know about 0bama, I learned from Wesley Mouch.)
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To: ShadowAce

Still struggling here.

I’ve got the sudo thing. I’ve been able to edit the hosts file. Or I think I have. After using gedit (started from terminal) to edit the file, I issue =cat hosts= and the file types out just the way I expect it to. But whenever I restart the system, which I’ve unfortunately had to do many times, the hosts file reverts to the original. (I’ve done nothing but restart and open a terminal and go =cat hosts= and my changes are always gone.) I also once put a copy of the edited file on my desktop, and it was gone after a restart. Something always seems to go wrong after I change the hosts file so I cannot even get to try to download my utilities. Usually windows start greying and then things start disappearing. It appears that something is trying to recreate the disappeared stuff, but whenever it does things are missing (like my internet connection). I thought this was going to be easy!

ML/NJ


74 posted on 08/03/2010 10:45:31 AM PDT by ml/nj
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To: ml/nj
hmmm.

The alternative I can think of is don't restart your system right after editing the hosts file.

Instead, restart the network service:

/etc/init.d/network restart

should do the trick in terms of getting your hosts file to behave properly. I've not heard of the file reverting upon a reboot, unless the system is re-writing it upon startup.

Oh--wait a second.

You're running Ubuntu off of your USB stick, right? The /etc directory exists solely in RAM--not on your stick. What you are editing is a temporary copy of the hosts file--not the one installed by the rescue stick.

So--I'm not an expert here, though I've done this once or twice. Look for a directory called something like "/mnt/sysimage/etc" or similar. The file you want to edit will be in there.

Type in the following:

find / -iname /etc/hosts

and see if that returns anything other than /etc/hosts.

75 posted on 08/03/2010 11:52:58 AM PDT by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce
Thanks again. I was already doing the =/etc/init.d/network restart= thing.

Your comment on /etc existing solely in ram is interesting. For one I wonder how I would know that. But even if that is the case, it doesn't explain why the copy of the hosts file I put on the desktop disappeared.

I find it hard to believe that just anyone could just follow the article instructions. I actually used UNIX a bit, back in the pre WWW days; and I have quite a bit of PC and embedded experience. (In fact, I was quite familiar with all the chips IBM decided to use in the original PC.)

My intent is to start over downloading a new clean system, knowing what I have learned and see whether anything improves.

ML/NJ

76 posted on 08/03/2010 12:04:46 PM PDT by ml/nj
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