U3 platform offers personal computing on the go

Written by Wil Harris

January 6, 2006 | 06:42

Tags: #firefox #flash #u3

Companies: #sandisk

Here in Las Vague-us, we've been taking a look at rather a cool flash storage platform from newcomer U3.

OK, so the words 'flash storage platform' aren't exactly awe-inspiring. But, don't doze off - what U3 is doing is actually pretty neat. It's providing a hardware specification and software platform that means that you can not only take your personal data with you on a flash drive, but your personal applications and preferences too.

How many machines do you sit down at that just have Internet Explorer on? Maybe your work machine is locked down? With U3, you can load on a copy of Firefox (including all your bookmarks) and run it from the flash drive when it's plugged in - without your data being copied across to the main PC. Unplug the drive and Firefox - and your data - is gone.

This is obviously pretty handy for people who travel a lot, or transfer their data between home and work or college. Being able to bring your browser, your office suite, your MP3 software and your music library, configured the way you want it, is a new thing to be able to do. U3 call it your 'personal digital universe'. We call it 'sweet'.

U3's API means that you get a consistent experience no matter what you're doing. When you plug the drive in, a taskbar app allows you to launch whatever is on the drive, to add and remove applications etc. Although application software requires a little bit of rewriting to make it write all its temporary data to the flash drive instead of the host PC, we've been talking to developers who've told us that this is rather a simply process, providing you're not trying to work with huge scratch disks in Photoshop or similar.

By preventing any sensitive data being stored on the host PC, it means that this is also a pretty secure platform for those who might otherwise worry about having their private data accessed anywhere other than on their own machine. And if you're really worried about security, you can also password protect the drive with some pretty strong encryption. If you're a sysadmin,

So far, there's a range of over 70 programmes that work with U3, including OpenOffice, Skype, Trillian and Firefox. That list is growing, and will grow further when U3 begins to cater to the Linux and Mac market later on this year. At the moment, the platform is Windows 2000/XP only.

U3's partners include Sandisk and Kingston, as well as plenty of other flash drive manufacturers. We're playing with one at the moment, and we'll bring you a further look at the technology when we're back in Blighty. Until then, why not let us know what you think of U3's tech [eurl]http://forums.bit-tech.net/showthread.php?p=1147916]over in the forums?[/eurl]
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