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Portable browser and email for flash drives

Thumb drives, mp3 players, and digital players cameras are becoming exponentially more popular by the day. It seems like everyone has at least one of these items, if not two. Today I’m going to show you some tricks you can do with this Flash Memory technology that I think are going to amaze you, at least a little.

Flash Memory is usually small removable memory storage devices, also called solid state memory because there are no moving parts. Everything is electronic. Flash cards and memory sticks for cameras, mp3 players, and Thumb drives (sometimes available in our Cool Gadgets [1] sections) can act like small removable hard drives. Most of the Flash drives can hold all sorts of data, not just images or mp3’s. For instance, you can plug your mp3 player into your PC, drag and drop folders onto it, and transport them to another location. You can do the same thing with a card reader and a camera card and almost any digital information, not just images and video.

Why not put programs on a Flash drive? Usually, these devices store less than 1 GB and a couple of programs will eat all that memory storage space. FireFox and Thunderbird, however, have portable versions that take up under 26 MB installed, and their capabilities are comparable to the full version to the point that the differences are nigh unnoticeable.

FireFox, open source competitor of Internet Explorer and close personal friend of mine, has become available in a 1 MB portable version. This is absolutely great for anyone planning on or currently using more than one PC over time. Dump this FireFox onto your Flash drive, and when you take it to another PC you should be able to plug in and access the Flash drive, double-click the FireFox.exe and the program will run from the Memory card, Thumb drive, or mp3 player.

The host PC doesn’t need to have Firefox installed prior to your use. The program does not install onto the PC. No matter whose PC you use, you should be able to surf the web in the comfort of your own browser settings and bookmarks. There are some very minor differences between this program and the full version. One is that portable FireFox will use the Java applet settings only if it can find them on the host PC. The same goes for .pdf files and Adobe Reader.

Note: You can download Foxit PDF Reader 1.3 which is a PDF reader that will work on your Flash drives as well, and allow you to view .pdf files.

Thunderbird is the Open Source email client software comparable to Outlook Express. With the new portable Thunderbird on your Flash drive, it’s like carrying around your Outlook Express with all your settings. This is so cool! How many times have you needed to access your email from a location where it just wasn’t going to happen? You don’t want to set up Outlook Express real quick on somebody’s PC, and even if you did, can you remember all your account settings? I can’t. Not a problem with Portable Thunderbird. Plug in your Flash drive, double-click the thunderbird.exe, and you have access to whatever email you set Thunderbird up to view.

Now that you have the programs, here are a few things you may want to keep in mind:

1. You can import settings from your current applications on your system, i.e. Internet Explorer and Outlook Express, which will be easier than configuring the settings yourself.
2. The programs may ask if you would like them to become your default browser or email client. I suggest saying NO to this. Leave your settings as they are.
3. You may want to import your bookmarks from your current browser with portable FireFox from time to time to keep them synchronized.
4. If the host PC you are using doesn’t have FireFox, the portable version will create two folders on the host PC. There is no sensitive information in them, simply program files.
5. If you download something from the web while using someone else’s PC, you can elect to save the data right to your Flash drive. This is great for mp3’s!
6. If you are using the Portable Thunderbird, then I suggest selecting the option to Leave a copy on the Server so you can access this email from your normal location.
7. Not all mp3 Players have the capability to run the programs. You’ll have to do some testing to see if yours will perform this function.
8. You can’t run the programs from camera cards in the camera. The camera’s firmware will stop you from even seeing the program on the card. If you want to use Flash cards this way, you’ll have to access them from a Card Reader (sometimes available in our Cool Gadgets [1] sections).

These programs are fun, and I suggest getting used to them before you rely on them. Transfer your settings and see what the full capabilities of the programs are. I have more cool Thumb drive applications to come. I hope you enjoy!

~ Chad Stelnicki

FireFox Article: http://www.worldstart.com/tips/tips.php/1281
Thunderbird: http://www.worldstart.com/tips/tips.php/1276
Portable FireFox: http://johnhaller.com/jh/mozilla/portable_firefox/
Portable Thunderbird: http://johnhaller.com/jh/mozilla/portable_thunderbird/
Foxit PDF Reader 1.3: http://www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf/rd_intro.php#sdk

**These recommended websites and downloads are not affiliated with WorldStart. We are not responsible for their content and cannot provide technical support for their use.