Life on a stick

Last week, I installed the latest Fedora (Red Hat) Linux operating system on a 2GB USB stick. The installation instructions were clear and, using a fast USB stick and PC, runs very well. There’s a nice Windows application that installs Fedora with just a few clicks. I use Ubuntu Linux at home and this was a nice way to try out Fedora and also carry around an entire Operating System with my preferred applications for use whenever I have access to a computer.

I’ve also run PortableApps from a USB stick. This allows me to run applications I use at home, such as Firefox and Pidgin, which are not available on the corporate desktop. The applications run isolated on the USB stick and all settings and cached data is preserved and taken away when you unplug it. The applications run well and look and feel like an application installed on the PC. Only certain applications have been ‘ported’ to Portableapps, but there’s a good selection.

I mention these two experiences because they’re examples of how individuals can continue to personalise their learning or working environments in situations where the computing environment on offer is necessarily restricted for security or support reasons. As software is increasingly running on the web, accessible from any browser, and as we continue to use computers in all aspects of life, whether at home, on the move or at work, there’s an expectation that our personal choices of preferred web browser, preferred IM client, our bookmarks, settings, saved passwords, etc. should continue to be available to us both inside and outside of institutions. JISC’s ‘In Their Own Words‘ report confirms this and apparently some employers are also acknowledging it by allowing staff to purchase their own PC equipment. It says a lot about our relationships with computer hardware and software. Not all technology has this effect on us. I’m still happy to use the work provided fridge and toaster although if I were using them constantly throughout the day, I may begin to object…

Do you wish your personalised computing environment was available to you whenever you turned on a PC?