Last year I wrote about attempting to run our internet business from a USB thumb drive while traveling and some of the struggles with that. After doing it for a bit, here are a few thoughts for anyone else who needs or wants to try it.
Carrying around and packing a thumb drive is extremely easy to do. Just stick it in a zipper pocket of your carry-on and you’re all set. They’re so small and easy to carry that it makes a lot of sense to have a spare or two in case something happens to one of them.
PortableApps.com makes it super easy to get special versions of most of the programs you need like Firefox and Gimp. They’re designed to install on and run from portable drives. They really help you save precious space with their smaller disk space requirements.
Unlike a laptop, I really never worried about someone stealing my thumb drive. I’m not saying that you should leave them laying around but it’s a much less attractive target than a brand new laptop.
The main reason we started down this route was because of the cost. It’s easy to get a USB drive for $10 these days. A laptop will cost at least a few hundred on the other hand.
Because they’re so tiny, I worried some about losing them. It wasn’t an issue but if you’re the type of person who misplaces your keys often then you might think twice about it.
The capacity gets larger and larger everyday but, when you’re a pack rat like me, it’s easy to hit those limits. My flash drive is 1GB and I struggled to fit everything I needed in that space. I need I should have paid extra for at least the 2GB drive.
Even though it says USB 2.0 doesn’t mean it’s going to be fast. That’s probably one of my biggest complaints with this whole thing. There are a few tricks that really help speed up Firefox (like turning off disk caching) but I still felt the productivity hit while my programs were stuck reading and writing the drive.
Do you love your Mac? Well, if you’re doing things from a thumb drive you’ll need to prep yourself to play in the PC world. Switching to Firefox and Thunderbird made it less painful but still… eww!
You’ll need access to a computer to make this work too. A lot of hotels have business centers but those can’t be pretty pricey. Your family and friends probably have a computer but those might be ancient. Some of the computers at the places where we’ve stayed were actually too old to use. Windows 98 anyone?
Even when you get a decent computer to use, the hours it’s available might stink. Most of my best work comes when other people are sleeping. That’s not the most optimal time to borrow your buddy’s computer that’s in their bedroom.
The last problem was syncing. It was kind of a pain in the butt. Firefox and Thunderbird both use profile directories that store all of your settings. That was handy but copying the files back and forth got to be a nuisance. There were times when I wanted to sync changes on my desktop with changes on my USB drive. Doing that is just a big mess.
We got this to work while traveling for several months and it wasn’t all that bad. 46’s computer sort of died, long story, so we decided to shell out the money for a laptop. I finally got my MacBook after all and I love it so far. I’m still using the thumb drive but it’s strictly an emergency backup now.
Happily blogging from our new MacBook.
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