U3 and Linux on Thumbdrives

February 11, 2008

I have a few thumb drives lying about and have been putting them to work carrying executable files from machine to machine. For instance, Intellitools and Boardmaker are huge tools of the special education trade and I often have to run them on multiple machines but not at the same time. Intellitools can be used with a switch, a touch screen or the Intellikeys keyboard plus a regular mouse and keyboard. The students have a workstation where they can access it, but I also have my own workstation that has a printer for making overlays. So I might have a student using a touchscreen while I’m making an overlay on another machine for the Intellikeys or a Gotalk 9+. The way our machines are on IT lockdown, it is impractical to have the software loaded everywhere. So loading it on to a thumb drive gives me portability and flexibility.

I found some inexpensive PNY 1 G thumbdrives last fall and bought a pack of 3 at a local retail store. They are good drives but come with this obnoxious “U3 Smart Drive” technology developed for Windows. Getting rid of the thing is a royal nuisance. The U3 site requires the download of proprietary software in order to remove it. And that requires administrative privileges. Thank goodness I have a home computer with broadband. Yeah, you read right. More on that later.

U3 gives you several nag screen during the removal process, trying to convince you how good this feature is and how you are crippling your drive. Don’t believe them. You can get all the same functionality from Portable Apps without the crippleware that is U3. U3 typically takes several seconds to even a minute or more to load on to a system over a USB 2.0 connection and disconnecting takes longer than a typical flash drive. Plus, if you’re a linux or Mac user, you can’t remove it at all. After finally telling them what I think of their crummy “smart drive” I was finally able to remove the junk. What a pain. It did erase everything on the drive, and they do warn you during the nag process plus I’m warning you here.

I’ve also recently begun purchasing 8G drives direct from Hong Kong through eBay. If you can put up with a 3 week wait you can get these for as little as $25 with free shipping. You’re not going to find that sort of deal anywhere as the going rate is over $50 plus shipping.

And I plan on trying out some new flavors of Linux on these things. Pendrivelinux.com has some easy instructions and I’ll be updating here on my latest experiences. It’s been awhile since I’ve tried anything new and since getting broadband I am looking forward to stretching out and learning a bit more plus seeing how far some of these distros have come since I last tried them.


One comment

  1. Removing the U3 CD partition from within Linux is possible using the tool at http://u3-tool.sourceforge.net/. Although user friendlyness isn’t very good yet.

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