USB portable a software – what to use, how to use it best

So I asked for a portable USB drive for the holidays, I got three of them! usb sushiThat is awesome, because I actually want to fill one with music, another with pictures and have a third for running portable apps like firefox when I find myself at another computer. The big question now is how to find the best way to run these portable apps.

First off, this is not my first USB thumb drive, I have another sandisk cruzer with the U3 launching software, which is pretty cool really, but I found if you use the password feature on it to give some protection from unauthorized access, as of today, it does not work with windows vista, so I was unable to pull up my documents from the thumbdrive onto the new computer at work, which is using vista. I instead had to email myself the docs from another system running xp.

So I am aware that compatibility is an issue sometimes, and so is security. I keep some important documents on my thumbdrive and I want to know that they will be secure if my keys get stolen or lost. A friend was telling about this info box site that has a way to add a virtual encrypted partition to a thumbdrive (if you remove any U3 software that may be on it already), and add portable apps like firefox which I have become accustom to. I may give this one a whirl for the drive I want to put photos on and see how it works.

Then I see an article that talks about a new way run as a virtual pc from a thumb drive, giving me privacy and a safety net for the remote computer I may be using, very cool idea, one I have heard before. I wonder if this is the best way to do this, or if just adding the apps to a thumbdrive and running firefox and thunderbird from the thumbdrive will do the trick anyway. What are the various virtual pc methods for using a thumbdrive for surfing on another system and working with docs, not leaving any info behind?

Virtual PC article I was referring to:

From Yahoo news / Reuters
Virtual PCs add new layer of security

By Jim Finkle Thu Jan 3, 12:38 PM ET

BOSTON (Reuters) – Worried about people accessing your private information whenever you use a public computer? There is a way to protect yourself: Devices as small as a keychain allow you to use any computer without leaving a trail of evidence.

A new computer program known as MojoPac can turn most flash memory sticks, hard drives or iPods into “virtual” PCs that can run most programs that work on Windows XP.

The devices draw on the host computer’s resources — including its electricity, Windows XP software and DVD drive. Yet they retain their independence as they move from machine to machine.

This independence allows people to use public computers without a trace of their session being left behind. PCs typically store a record of activity long after the computer has been turned off.

“It’s a slick way to move from machine to machine,” says Rob Enderle, founder of the Enderle Group, a research firm that follows the PC industry. “It’s about as safe as you can get.”

The device cannot be bought. You have to make it by downloading free software onto a computer drive such as the thumb-sized USB flash memory drives that were so popular as gifts this Christmas. It also works with iPods, many other digital music players and regular external hard drives.

Once the MojoPac shell is created, users need to install their own software — just as they would do on a regular PC running Windows XP.

MojoPac’s developer, RingCube Technologies, asserts that most programs are compatible, including Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop and a slew of free programs.

Other companies are working on similar technology, but there’s nothing available with free software that is as easy to set up as MojoPac, according to Enderle.

MojoPac virtual PCs are not just designed for mobile use. They can protect users who share the same computer. A virus introduced by one user into their MojoPac, or virtual computer, would not affect the rest, according to RingCube.

“If you were to corrupt your virtual world, your host PC would be fine,” says RingCube Senior Vice President Ron DiBiase.

MojoPac is available for free on the company’s Web site,

For now it only works with Windows XP, but the company plans to launch a version this summer that allows users to switch between machines running XP and Vista.

PCs that have been locked by administrators so users cannot install files on them won’t work with MojoPac unless the administrator first installs a small piece of software that is available on the company’s Web site.

And, there are no plans to develop MojoPacs for Mac computers or the Linux operating system, DiBiase said.

While most programs work with MojoPac, one good source for the devices is, a site that specializes in offering programs customized for thumb drives.

It lists more than three dozen programs, including software for fighting viruses, backing up data, surfing the Web and viewing documents. There are also programs for word processing, photo editing, spreadsheets and instant messaging.

(Reporting by Jim Finkle)

So what do you suggest? What’s the best way to setup a private surfing usb drive I can use at a friend’s house or the library should the need arise?