U3 Is Not Evil

I mentioned U3 in my USB hotplug page. I think there’s a lot of FUD about U3 in certain quarters. The biggest complaint I’ve heard and read about it, which in my experience typically comes from people who’ve never even used U3, is how it “auto launches.” Ironically, the loudest critics of U3 I’ve encountered want auto-mounting in Linux, etc.

As I said in the hotplug page, the auto launching is a Windows setting issue — the same setting that causes music CDs to start playing automatically. The only U3 application that starts from that Windows default is U3’s launchpad. Everything else that starts at insertion is a user setting (see right side in the second image). If you don’t want your apps to start at insertion, don’t set them up to do that

Why do I like U3? There are times when the only computer available is a Windows machine, and there are many system administrators who get worked up when someone reboots a computer on their networks — making live CDs and USB-based Linux installs a hassle. U3 applications run directly from the USB stick — they don’t touch the hard drive. That means your apps and your data are securely confined to your stick. It also means you can sync data between your own computer and the portable stick when you get a chance.

U3 has many of the same apps you’re likely to use in Linux: Scite, Firefox, Thunderbird, and Opera are all available. Many other apps are available, many for free and quite a few open source.

I took the second screenshot after installing Putty so I can shell into my computer and computer at work using any computer in the world with something that weighs a few grams and won’t touch a host computer, won’t force me to reboot, and won’t draw the attention of any gung ho (Linux-hating) administrator. The device is also encrypted, so data is secure — and encryption applications are available so other USB storage devices containing personal or corporate data can be protected from thieves or “finders.” No key, no entry — at least not very easily: Linux has a problem with the filesystem when it’s encrypted, which is a good thing (there’s NO such problem with it unencrypted).

I think a lot of the unfounded complaints against U3 would die if it worked under other operating systems. Portable apps, open source apps, security, convenience, and the device is interoperable when its own encryption isn’t enabled. Doesn’t sound evil to me at all.

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