When Linux Isn’t an Option

This isn’t an Xubuntu-centric post. Instead, it’s about what I do when I’m without Xubuntu (or Linux).

My work computer isn’t an issue. Even though it’s Windows 7, I have a virtual machine for any Linuxy things I need to do. And between my browser (Chrome), its extensions, and Notepad++, I’m pretty much always set.

I frequently find myself on other computers, though, and not having all of the tools I need can be a little frustrating.

I used to carry around a USB verison of Puppy Linux. It was a persistent installation, meaning any changes I made, software I installed, or files I created, were saved to the flash drive for the next session. It was pretty nice, but rebooting a machine every time I needed to use it just wasn’t realistic. And things could sometimes get a little sluggish running off of a flash drive. But the flash drive got me through some pretty tough times, including a presentation on a Windows machine that turned out to be hopelessly virus-ridden.

I still use the flash drive concept, but now I take advantage of a bunch of portable applications. This gives me enough of my tools to do what I need to do when I’m not at home or at my desk.

Portable Chrome is useful in that it lets me bookmark web-based tools. The citeulike browser button lets me capture articles. The pinboard bookmark lets me capture web sites. And Simplenote is a solid web-based text editor.

I’m usually not looking for a lot of functionality. I just want to grab some information and/or build very simple files. Simplenote is nice because I don’t have to get any files from my USB drive to my main machines. It’s all in the cloud. When I do need a local client (Simplenote can be a bit laggy for my tastes), I use a portable version of the TED text editor. I haven’t spent much time configuring it, but mostly I like it because it’s more stable than the default Windows text editor, which seems to get flaky if you repeatedly save the same file. I used to use a portable version of Notepad++, but it became corrupted and I just never bothered to re-install it.

Because so many tools are now browser-based, portable apps are a quick and easy way to make sure you have all of your tools when you’re at a strange Windows computer.

I suspect that with the rise in popularity it tablets, soon a lot of people will just work from their personal tablet rather than another desktop machine, but until we get to that point (I have no immediate plans for a tablet myself), my flash drive means I can be productive from just about any Windows machine that’s OK with running applications off of a USB.

A quick note: You can find a lot of portable apps via portableapps.com, but I’ve had a lot of luck just DDGing the name of the software I want with the additional word USB or portable.