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What's On Your Thumbdrive? 314

Posted by Cliff
from the portable-software dept.
Broue Master asks: "Nowadays, we need to support not only people at the office, but friends, family, friends of the family, family of the friends... you name it! They all run Windows to a degree and there are many tools to help you when assisting. Personally, I have a thumb-drive with removable memory cards. One of them has a small bootable Linux, the other one is filled with ready to use Windows utilities (CPU-Z, Ultra-Edit32), DOS utilities I've been collecting over the years, and Unix-style utilities (ps.exe, kill.exe, and others) ported to Windows, without the need for a layer like Cygwin. I also have a copy of the install files for AVG, Spybot, Sygate and the likes. But, even though I think I have many great tools, I'm sure I do not know about a lot of great others to help diagnose and solve problem. So I ask you, what's on your thumb-drive?"
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What's On Your Thumbdrive?

Comments Filter:
  • by ModernGeek (601932) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @10:47PM (#15987684) Homepage
    ....we need an open source equivalent to the GeekSquad MRI :)
  • I have about 6 of em too, got em real cheap from those iraq street shops :) [the above is ment to be a joke. Don't take it seriously big brother]
  • Porn.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by talkingpaperclip (952112) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @10:52PM (#15987715) Homepage
    And I think I represent most of /. here.
  • by jbarr (2233) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @10:53PM (#15987723) Homepage
    For me, the key is to load "portable" versions of apps instead of "installable" versions. The point is not only to eliminate the need to install, but more importantly, not to leave traces of your apps behind. It's security and a courtesy. Two excellent sources are:

    PortableApps.com [portableapps.com]
    PortableFreeware.com [portablefreeware.com]

    -Jim Barr
    http://jimstips.com/ [jimstips.com]
    • by Mooga (789849) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:37PM (#15987944)
      PortableApps.com has tons of great stuff. I use Portable Firefox all the time when I'm on the run and can't use my own laptop.

      I've also been crazy enought to run Steam on one of my 1 gig thumb drives. Simply install Steam and the games of your choice localy (I did it with Half-Life and TFC). Then copy the whole Steam folder to your thumb drive. While updates take a long time, booting the game and downloading new maps isn't nearly as bad as you would think. Lag was minimal when I tested.
    • I also use portable apps, with all logs and data from my specific day to day use on it (eg; chat logs, email, etc.) I try to keep anything unique on the memory stick (and back it up every day), as then my work is never delayed by a dead or dying computer. All I need to do is find another computer with a CD drive, throw knoppix in and mount the memory stick. I normally use gentoo on my machines but switch to knoppix if I am without a computer of my own and need to do some work with my thumbdrive.
  • Everything (Score:5, Funny)

    by oskard (715652) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @10:54PM (#15987729)
    My girlfriend bought me a laptop hard drive in an enclosure. Its 100 GB with a 5400 RPM disc, and supports USB 2.0. I literally store everything on it, from schoolwork to movies to backups of video games. I take it everywhere with me just incase I find some software (say on my school's network) that I'd really like to take home. Or if I need to access my schedule or project documents, or maybe my voice communication client.

    So, technically its not a thumbdrive, but it fits in my pocket.
    EVERYTHING.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by NMThor (949485)
      Make sure you have a backup! :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by owlstead (636356)
      I've got the same thing, but I wrapped it up in a laptop instead of a drive enclosure. Unfortunately there this thing called money that you need when you buy an ultra-portable. The 3.8 KB beast I got from work severely does not fit in my pocket (it's fit for home -> car -> office -> car -> relative though).
  • CCleaner, a Panda Titanium installer (does a nice job of removing stuff), XP's SP2, HijackThis, Macecraft's A Squared, and a variety of drivers and such.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Whenever including tools designed to try to clean infected systems, always include the important warning:

      Do not clean infected systems. You can never be sure you have caught everything. Almost always, infected systems should be formatted and replaced by a clean install. Only under exceptional circumstances should the attempt to disinfect systems be made, and the user must be told that it is possible his system is still infected and that he should proceed accordingly.

  • mozilla? (Score:5, Informative)

    by qortra (591818) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @10:55PM (#15987740)
    You missed firefox/thunderbird. It's shocking how many people don't have them, and how much grief they put themselves through because they don't.
  • Book 'em. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 26, 2006 @10:55PM (#15987741)
    "So I ask you, what's on your thumb-drive?"

    Fingerprints.

    --
    "Slashdot requires you to wait between each successful posting of a comment to allow everyone a fair chance at posting a comment...that says the same thing you're going to post, and you get a redundent. HA! HA!"
    • by honkycat (249849)
      I actually do keep fingerprints on my thumb drive. RSA fingerprints for the servers I ssh to so I can verify them when I connect from a new ssh installation.
  • by AnswerIs42 (622520) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @10:56PM (#15987744) Homepage
    Could do a long post... but easier just to point to this /. post [slashdot.org] that was already up with MANY MANY good links.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hackstraw (262471) *
      Could do a long post... but easier just to point to this /. post that was already up with MANY MANY good links.

      This could be the best post from that article: http://ask.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=120583&cid =10155070 [slashdot.org]

      This is probably the only time I would defend the slashdot editors about a dupe.

    • by saskboy (600063)
      I just searched, and look what I found:
      (Score:3, Insightful)
      by itwerx (165526)
      on Friday September 03, @09:08PM (#10155070)
      (http://slashdot.org/)
      "this topic is a dupe from like.. last year or so"

      A lot can change in a year. :)

      ===
      I guess you didn't realize your grousing was redundant too? ;-)

      ===
      As for what's on my drive right now, I have some photos backed up from my digital camera while I was on vacation at someone's computer who had a Compact Flash drive to read my card. I also always keep Fi
  • Pixels (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by Konster (252488)
    Digitial still pictures in color of Linus Torvalds, Kevin Mitnick and Bill Gates.

  • I've got a 1GB PNY [misco.ch] attache and the first thing I put is of course a linux distro (DSL [damnsmalllinux.org]). And some windows utilities, things that can handle ISO images, writing floppy images. But the other half of that is personal stuff. I keep resumes of myself and some family members, my favorite wallpapers, some emulators (Nester, Dgen, KGB, Snes9x) and so on. And of course, a certain video file, with the name and extension obfuscated.
  • Sneaker net (Score:5, Funny)

    by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:00PM (#15987764)
    I use it to transport data from high-bandwidth to low-bandwidth areas, not much more. If my family has computer problems, they typically drop off the entire thing on my doorstep. Making housecalls is annoying because there's always that one little utility or piece of hardware I forgot to bring. My nerd cave is full of wonders, and is appropriately treated with awe.
  • Unspeakable (Score:2, Funny)

    by hoshino (790390)
    So I ask you, what's on your thumb-drive?

    You don't want to know.

  • Beats me. (Score:5, Funny)

    by MarkusQ (450076) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:03PM (#15987785) Journal

    Beats me. You'll have to ask the guy who swiped it.

    --MarkusQ

  • by (H)elix1 (231155) <slashdot.helix@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:06PM (#15987793) Homepage Journal
    are Putty (ssh client and proxy pipe), PSCP (secure copy of files from *nix to/from win), PSFTP (secure ftp), tail, and scite (a nice text editor).
    • by enrgeeman (867240) <slashdot@enrgeeman.com> on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:48PM (#15988000) Homepage
      you may want to switch to portaputty, it keeps stuff out of the registry, and in a neat little folder, same directory as the exe
      • by Xtifr (1323) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @02:07AM (#15988453) Homepage
        That assumes you give a rat's ass about people who are stupid enough to be running Windows. And who won't let you boot your knoppix disc, which would make the whole issue moot. People like that deserve random crap in their registry! :)

        Ok, ok, I'm joking. I didn't know there was a portaputty, but I'm definitely going to get it now. Thanks.
    • by pimpimpim (811140)
      Let me tell you a trick for those on a restricted windows 'kiosk pc' with no input devices, that want to run putty (which is sadly not in the standard menu). Go in IE (of course only browser available there) to the putty website, click on the putty exe, and you'll get the standard IE menu of what you want to do with the download. Obviously you cannot save it, but you can click the option to run it (at least on the ones I tried). Success! Fame!
  • Sysinernals (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rmull (26174) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:09PM (#15987809) Homepage
    Process Explorer, Filemon, Autoruns. Some other windows debugging tools too, since I do development on that platform. But those three are generally useful.
    • by EvilIdler (21087)
      I use all these tools, too, plus a few spyware removal tools.
      More importantly, my USB stick is an MP3 player - which is
      write-protectable.
  • Nethack (Score:3, Funny)

    by 10Neon (932006) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:10PM (#15987813)
    This way, I can satisfy any passing desire to experience Yet Another Stupid Death.
  • Sysinternals (Score:5, Informative)

    by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:11PM (#15987818) Homepage Journal
    There are a myriad of great tools out there, but personally I have a copy of almost everything from Sysinternals [sysinternals.com] on my thumbdrive. Top of the list are Process Explorer [sysinternals.com] a (overclocked, suped-up, uber, and simply amazing) version of TaskManager. It shows everything you've ever wanted to know about a process but didn't know you could know. In addition, FileMon [sysinternals.com] and RegMon [sysinternals.com] are very helpful for troubleshooting permission problems, and the PSTools kit [sysinternals.com] (psexec, pskill, etc) are also great. They also have a free read-only version of NTFSDOS [sysinternals.com] (and even an NTFS filesystem driver for 95/98. The TCP/IP tools [sysinternals.com] are also very good to have on hand. Best part is of course that they are free, and many have source available.

    If you do any Windows troubleshooting, this website is a must-have. No joke.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jarom (899827)
      Yeah, I find that the tools at sysinternals.com are among the best for figuring out what is going on on your system. My favorites are Process Explorer and AutoRuns (how to figure out *everything* that runs when you start up and log into Windows).
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Sexy Bern (596779)
        FileMon and RegMon are the bollocks when it comes to trying to remove admin rights for users. Fire up that errant app with both FileMon and RegMon running in the background and you'll pretty quickly find the registry entry or file/directory that needs its "All Users" granting "Full Control". Net result - Joe Bloggs doesn't have to run as machine administrator.
    • by Trepalium (109107)
      One thing I'll mention is that you might want to be cautious with the PsTools kit. Some overzealous antivirus software detect some of the programs as a virus, even though they're not. You may want to keep a copy of the zip file (appropriately renamed to something non-.zip) alongside the tools themselves for that annoying day when some stupid AV software decides to delete them.
  • by zerocool^ (112121) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:15PM (#15987839) Homepage Journal

    Trend Microsystems "Sysclean" package. It's just an exe file with the scanning engine, and you download the latest virus def patternfile, and it scans your computer. Very nice; TM I think is the best commercial AV product available.
    Sysclean executable:
    http://www.trendmicro.com/download/dcs.asp [trendmicro.com] (under "Not a Trend Micro Customer")
    Pattern files:
    http://www.trendmicro.com/download/pattern.asp [trendmicro.com]

    I also carry, in the "Antivirus" folder:
    Various utilities I've collected for removing Symantec AV
    AVG Free installer (I tried to talk people into TrendMicro, because I honestly think it's better, but if they flat out refused, I'd install AVG for them - less virusy computers on teh intarwebs is a good thing)
    vcleaner - avg's somewhat less capable version of TM's sysclean package.

    Also:
    A series of handy apps, including:
    7zip - v313 (the older one seems to have less bloat)
    adobe acrobat
    Divx codec
    VLC Media Player
    Firefox
    Winamp 2.92
    IttyBittyProcessManager
    Angry IP scanner
    Killbox
    MSRDPCLI.exe (MS Remote Desktop Client - for 2000/98 machines)
    vbrun60 files

    and a folder called "Computer Cleanup", containing:
    ad aware personal (plus the latest defs.ref file, available form lavasoftusa.com)
    CWShredder (remove cool web search spyware)
    Hijack this
    ewido setup
    LSP Fix (for sneaky spywares that replace something with dns)
    WinsockXPFix
    BugOff
    RegVac
    Spybot S&D (plus latest update packs)

    Yep.
    • Sure, they're great for hauling around your *anti* virus software, but thumb drives are also great for propagating viruses, at least if any of today's malware-kiddies decide to go old school and modernize the old floppy-disk sneakernet viruses. I work with a bunch of sales people, and when they're going out to do a presentation to a customer, many of them will put it on a USB thumb drive so they can give it to the customer or play it on a customer's video-projector PC in case that's easier than getting the
  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:18PM (#15987853)
    What's On Your Thumbdrive?

    My Capital One card.

  • With the 2GB drives costing so little, it's easy to bring all the tools you need anywhere you go. Some of the basics - All the tools from SysInternals - About 27MB (including RegMon, FileMon, etc...) File Recovery software like Restore File shredding utility SpyBot/Adaware TweakUI SynchBack (Synch and file backup program) AVG - AntiVirus Folder with key XP system files CCleaner Opera/Firefox/Thunderbird
  • Quick list (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Denyer (717613) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:22PM (#15987875)
    Some of this is a bit redundant, but it is all only 19Mb using UPX.

    1by1 (play MP3s), AriskKey (recover passwords), AutoRuns (enumerate startup tasks), BurnCDCC (burn ISO images), CD (basic CD player), CDex (rip CDs + convert MP3/WAV), Copier (quick scan + print), CWShredder (clean spyware), DComBob (tame DCOM), Discover (force windows onscreen), DupeLocater (find and clean), FileRecovery PC Inspector (undelete), Folder2ISO (make ISO images), FoxitReader (read PDFs), GUIPDFTK (split/join PDFs), HijackThis (find spyware), HJSplit (split/join files), Identify_Boards (identify hardware), IPAgent (show IP), KatMouse installer (due to MS drivers), LCISOCreator (make ISO image from CD), Leaktest (test firewall), Microsoft keygen (people lose things), MultiRes (change res + force refresh), Multi Timer (stopwatch), NoteTab Light (text editor), NTest (test monitor setup), OnTop (pin windows to foreground), Process Explorer (task manager), ProduKey (recover passwords), Registry Commander (virus cleanup), ResHacker (examine executables), Rootkit Revealer (just in case), ShootTheMessenger (turn service off), Shred by AnalogX (simple filer shredder), TedNPad (unicode text editor), TFT (dead pixel locator), UNPnP (tame SSDP), UPX (compress executables), UnitConverter (what it says), utorrent (basic torrent app), VCdControlTool (mount ISO images), Windows 98 generic USB flash driver, WinImp (archive to ZIP, de-archives more), WinIPs (set hardware IPs), Wizmo (create force kill shortcuts), WNTIPCFG (show IP config), WS_FTP95 (basic FTP client), XnView (image browser and effects), XPDite (minor XP-SP1 fix), YACalc (evaluate expressions), XVI32 (hex editor)
    • by PontifexPrimus (576159) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @04:50AM (#15988803)
      ...Windows 98 generic USB flash driver...
      So... you've got the driver... for the USB stick... on the USB stick?
      I foresee interesting problems in your future.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by paj1234 (234750)
        > the driver... for the USB stick... on the USB stick?

        Don't laugh. I also have the Windows 98 driver for the USB stick on my USB stick. I use Knoppix to copy the driver onto the Windows 98 partition. It's surprising how often copying the driver for the USB stick off the USB stick via Knoppix comes in handy...
  • by Nick Driver (238034) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:28PM (#15987904)
    ... a bunch of cheesy video commercials of some viking dudes complaining about loss of their former jobs, but now glad that they won a battle-of-the-bands.
  • Time to Move On (Score:4, Insightful)

    by value_added (719364) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:31PM (#15987922)
    ... DOS utilities I've been collecting over the years, and Unix-style utilities (ps.exe, kill.exe, and others) ported to Windows, without the need for a layer like Cygwin

    I used to do the same. Install Windows then a metric bucketload of "utilities" (text editors, Sysinternals programs, ActiveState Perl, ActivateState Python, Resource Kits, etc.) that made using Windows bearable. Like some self-fulfilling prophecy. And back when collecting warez was regarded as fashionable and not adolescent, I'd install even more Must Have programs. Now, when possible, I simply skip the nonsense and install Cygwin.

    No emulation layer needed? Maybe. In a few isolated cases, perhaps. But if you're going to run a program, you'd prefer a centralised distribution. And then you'll need a real terminal, you'll need a real shell, interpreters, centralised and consistent documentation, and you'll mostly like needed something like SSH to make it all work. Hell, a full Cygwin installation is comparable a typical Linux installation, and larger than Windows, but for an average user, the base install (coreutils, etc.) with SSH and few other packages will more than suffice. A no brainer compared to collect one-off programs from any number of sources.

    The consistency is especially nice in that I can go back and forth from Linux or BSD without blinking (same programs and same manpages, right?), no annoying little problems like CR/LF endings get in the way. And as a bonus, I get a perverse pleasure reading the manpages I wrote for Windows programs.
  • Backups of GPG private key.

    That thumbdrive isn't getting plugged in much.
  • it's got my current resume, some crap photos, and a game demo. I was going to put more on but I getting paranoid about ID theft. My Next USB drive will have reasonable security built in.
    • by jim_deane (63059)
      Seriously, try TrueCrypt [truecrypt.org].

      Setup was a breeze, and I now use it everywhere. I've only tried it in windows so far, but I have no reason to expect that the linux versions won't work perfectly well too.

      I really like the level of security it appears to provide, and I no longer worry about identity or information theft by any casual or semi-serious adversary.

      I have it installed on my 2002/2003 vintage Lexar JumpDrive 128, and on my newer PNY 2gb drive, and on my Sony Micro Vault 512mb. You can install just the e
  • An Electronic Survival Kit [honeypot.net]. If there's one thing Katrina taught me, it's that losing your entire life would completely suck. Why not take a few minutes now so that you can get back to normal ASAP?
    • by DuncanE (35734) *
      I wouldn't backup any of that stuff except for photos and possible my drivers license number (but then I have that with me all the time anyway). Its all easy to get from the relevant government sources and its theres a risk of identity theft if you have it all on a USB drive or store in multiple places?
      • by wfberg (24378)
        Storing account numbers for you bankaccounts (CDs, etc.) and insurance policies makes a lot of sense.

        Given the chance, banks and insurers will gladly do everything they can to, well, forget to help you retrieve that information, especially if you're not sure where you got your CD/insurance policy..
    • by 4D6963 (933028) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @02:35AM (#15988510)

      If there's one thing Katrina taught me, it's that losing your entire life would completely suck. Why not take a few minutes now so that you can get back to normal ASAP?

      If all you need to rebuild your life can hold on a thumbdrive, I wonder what kind of life you live ;-)

      Anyways, why carry it with you? Zip your stuff, encrypt it if you want, and put it on a couple of servers that are in two different cities. If you're gonna get in a Katrina-type situation, rather have your data in some server in Germany than in your pocket.

  • Of course there's documents and the same old portable apps everyone else is listing, but those aren't much fun. I've got SimCity 2000, X-Com, and The Incredible Machine 3 on there, for starts, plus Scummvm and Frotz for my Lucasarts and Infocom adventure fix. And of course there's the basic preloaded Windows games, just in case you're going somewhere they've been removed. Throw in a couple Roguelikes, those few old Windows Entertainment Pack games that work on 32-bit systems, and finally put Cave Story in f
  • Arsenal of Tools (Score:5, Informative)

    by sixtyfivebit (884544) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:44PM (#15987979)
    Funny, I also carry a thumb-drive with a removable memory card slot. It's this generic one floating around online: http://www.supermediastore.com/supermedia-handy-4i n1--usb-20-flash-memory-card-reader-yellow.html [supermediastore.com]

    I think they're a great idea, because I can move with the SD card market as flash memory becomes denser and denser. Speed hasn't been a problem, either. The thumbdrives support USB 2.0 and my SD card seems to be capable of a very decent data transfer rate.

    I have a collection of Windows tools on the drive. Not Linux tools, because I can usually accomplish whatever it is I'm doing in the Linux environments I encounter day to day.

    Network Tools:
    * Raw TCP/IP transfer -> netcat ( http://www.vulnwatch.org/netcat/ [vulnwatch.org] )
    * SSH/Telnet -> putty ( http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty/ [greenend.org.uk] )
    * Port Scanner -> SuperScan4 ( http://www.foundstone.com/resources/proddesc/super scan.htm [foundstone.com] )
    * Classic Port Scanner -> nmap ( http://insecure.org/nmap/download.html [insecure.org] )
    * Packet Capture and Analysis -> WireShark setup ( http://www.wireshark.org/download.html [wireshark.org] )

    Editors:
    * General -> vim 7.0 ( http://www.vim.org/download.php [vim.org] )
    * Hex Editor -> xvi32 ( http://www.chmaas.handshake.de/delphi/freeware/xvi 32/xvi32.htm#download [handshake.de] )

    Development:
    * Tiny C Compiler ( http://fabrice.bellard.free.fr/tcc/ [bellard.free.fr] )
    * nasm ( http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group _id=6208 [sourceforge.net] )

    Misc:
    * Lightweight Windows md5sum -> md5summer ( http://www.md5summer.org/download.html [md5summer.org] )
    * Process Explorer ( http://www.sysinternals.com/Utilities/ProcessExplo rer.html [sysinternals.com] )
    * MP3 Encoding -> RazorLame with lame ( http://www.dors.de/razorlame/download.php [www.dors.de] )
    * Terminal Emulator -> TeraTerm Pro ( http://hp.vector.co.jp/authors/VA002416/teraterm.h tml [vector.co.jp] )

    The folder is 26.7MB.
  • just the obvious. (Score:2, Redundant)

    by supabeast! (84658)
    porn.
  • I keep mine clean (Score:4, Insightful)

    by raynet (51803) on Saturday August 26, 2006 @11:51PM (#15988012) Homepage
    My thumbdrives are usually empty and ready for use. Mostly they are used for transferring drivers from internet enabled computer to a newly installed computer. Before thumbdrives I used CD-RW's for that purpose and managed to reach maximum write count on several discs. Too bad that I haven't yet managed to make a working bootable thumbdrive that would work on my computers so I still have to use CD-RW's for BIOS upgrades as I don't have any working floppydrives.
  • by toddestan (632714) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @12:04AM (#15988055)
    Sadly, it still seems that a good portion of the time someone asks me to look at some computer, the computer is an old Windows 95 or 98 box that lacks working USB ports. Atleast it's finally gotten to the point where I can pretty much count on the computer having a CD drive (though I do have issues with slow, fussy, dust-clogged 8 year old CD readers having problems reading my burned CDs) I do have USB thumbdrives, but I mostly use those as a big floppy to move data around between computers, rather than semi-permanent storage of Linux distros and windows utilities.

    Another advantage to the CD for things like Damn Small Linux is that you're much more likely to come accross a computer that can boot from CD (pretty common on anything 5-6 years old or newer) than a computer that can boot from USB (pretty much only standard new on PCs from the last 1-2 years or so, if that).
  • A bunch of stuff from portableapps.com: Portable OpenOffice.org, for working on articles when I'm on the road; Portable NVU, Portable GIMP, and Portable FileZilla, because I got an "omfg EMERGENCY!" request to update a website once and I didn't have any of my usual tools; Portable Sunbird; ClamWin Portable, because you can't trust just any old machine; and Sudoku Portable because you need something to do besides work.
  • Seriously.

    For fixing Windows machines, NOTHING is better than a BartPE CD with the right plug-ins.

    Anyone who fixes Windows machines and knows what they're doing has been using BartPE for a couple of years, now.
    • Better, maybe, but not more efficient. I use a Linux boot CD to test hardware, backup files from Windows, then I wipe and reinstall. I figure if I'm going to have a custom rescue CD, it may as well be an nLite automated Windows install CD, with my RAID drivers slipstreamed in.
  • BIOS flash updates (Score:3, Informative)

    by nsayer (86181) * <nsayer@k[ ]com ['fu.' in gap]> on Sunday August 27, 2006 @01:16AM (#15988299) Homepage
    I recently upgraded my FreeBSD server machine to a Conroe CPU running in an Asus P5B. But I actually had to upgrade the chassis and motherboard before Conroe came out. Because of that, I actually got a P5B that had an older BIOS that wasn't Core 2 ready. So to do the upgrade, I was going to have to to a flash update.

    The last time I had to do that, it was to a Dell laptop that dual-booted Windows, and the update only ran under Windows. Before then, it was DOS boot floppies and 'flash.exe'. So I wasn't looking forward to it.

    Oh, how things have changed! Asus has a flash update program built into the BIOS and that program supports reading FAT filesystems on thumbdrives!

    I hadn't actually used a thumb drive in a few years (since getting an iPod), so I actually had to dig it up from the bottom of a drawer, but it was there (the backup plan was going to be an SD card from the camera and the SD-to-USB adapter), and it worked.

    Asus may not be the only ones that support OSless flash updates via USB, but it's the 2nd most convenient BIOS update I've ever had to do (1st place goes to Apple).
    • How did the Apple one work?

      I remember BIOS flashers that found files on a FAT floppy, and I remember being desperate enough to actually hook up a floppy drive just for that. I remember burning custom boot CDs, or using a DOS boot CD and a temporary FAT partition. I can never remember it being particularly convenient, and yours sounds very nice.

      But how can Apple beat that? Can you actually flash from inside the OS?
  • I managed to drop mine at a party and when I found it someone had driven their car over it.
  • by pgnas (749325) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @01:44AM (#15988378) Journal
    Funny how I shrugged at the rash of thumbdrives out there, that is, until recently. They keep getting cheaper and cheaper and I kept buying them. I have since, stopped, however, it was only after the 12 step program.

    Now, what do I keep on mine? Slax - Kill Bill, of course [slax.org] it really has brought me the level of standardization that I need from one computer to the next and it can do all (like many other small distros) the things that I need. I would however recommend something like Truecrypt [sourceforge.net] for ensuring the security of your information. I would also recommend that you back your drive up on a regular basis, these things can be a bit unforgiving.

    I could go on and on about the various apps, it really all depends on what you are doing. I do find the following though, very useful: Wireshark (Ethereal) [wireshark.org], Open Office [openoffice.org] and the usual suspects, samba, Etherwake, NVU, Thunderbird, rdesktop, various vnc flavors and other well known management utilities.

    If I did not emphasize enough earlier, if you are going to rely on these little gems, I think you should always have an identical spare, and additionally, perform a backup on a regular basis. You might want to get creative and build a library of tools which could be easily accessed remotely to keep your drive lean. I would also highly recommend encrypting data you wouldn't want public.
  • by pspada (998105)
    Utils:

    Hijack This. Spybot & Ad Aware. Various Virus scanners & fixes. Ghost and TrueImage. MSCONFIG for Win2k machines. Keyfinder. reg files for particular tasks. hosts file to limit access (to myspace!). Windows Disk Cleanup (cleanmgr.exe). IE5 & IE6 install files. IEradicator. CPUZ. Winsockfix. Various standard network drivers for all Windows OSes including USB network drivers. Office updates, various versions. Zone Alarm. Winzip & WinRAR. Some DOS windows unix util ports, i.e.
    • Unix-style utilities (ps.exe, kill.exe, and others) ported to Windows, without the need for a layer like Cygwin

      Some DOS windows unix util ports

      For Unix-style utilities on Windows without the need for an emulation layer, nothing beats DJGPP [delorie.com].
  • by Klaidas (981300) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @03:37AM (#15988638)
    So I ask you, what's on your thumb-drive?

    Nothing. No, really. I use it to transfer files, not as the "Ultimate thing for fixing anything" :)
    • My thumbdrive is only used for transferring files between my machines at home and those at work. Besides, all the people I "supported" were using digital lifestyle applications (photos, music, movies, dvds) so I had almost all of them buy Macs. Now, the only support calls I get are about simple things like how to make a photo-slideshow into a DVD or what camcorder they should buy.
  • by fo0bar (261207)
    (Shameless plug ahoy!)

    Finnix [finnix.org], a small sysadmin livecd I produce, can be easily installed on a thumb drive. Boot the CD, and there's a script called finnix-thumbdrive that takes care of the necessary syslinux configurations to install on a thumb drive and make it bootable. Finnix includes a ton of utilities for sysadmins, and boots up pretty quickly.
  • They all run Windows to a degree

    No, they don't. I fixed that "hey, I have trouble with my computer, can you quickly drop by and fix it?" problem quite easily: I don't support Windows boxes. Buy a Mac or don't call me. Those who bought a Mac hardly ever have to call, and those who kept Windows boxes eventually found somebody else to harass.

    For Macs, if there actually is an issue that some simple troubleshooting steps can't fix (which is quite unlikely), I use DiskWarrior and the Apple-provided Tech Tools [apple.com]

  • Very small USB drive (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @07:33AM (#15989101) Homepage Journal
    I recently went to Malaysia and bought myself an iDisk Tiny [pretec.com]. It try is small, not much bigger than two USB connectors. I wanted to find someone who sold it in Canada, or the USA, but not much luk yet.
  • a DIVX copy of the original Transformers movie, and photos from my vacation last week.
  • I usually keep a win32 copy of openoffice.org handy; I work in a computer lab, and it's happened more than once that a student from a low budget home comes in with some kind of ODF file that they can't open. The school insists on only using Microsoft Office, so I install OO.org on demand for students who need it. Since I keep documents on my thumb drive, it helps me to access my own work as well.
  • by matt me (850665) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @11:17AM (#15989821)
    128 megs of malware :)

  • Unix Tools and such (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SCHecklerX (229973) <thecaptain@captaincodo.net> on Sunday August 27, 2006 @12:31PM (#15990119) Homepage
    I've been working on a nice portable solution myself. Ideally, now that fast hardware and RAM is cheaper, it would be very nice if every OS had a standard virtual machine (java, whatever) and then we could all carry around one suite of tools that works everywhere. That being a dream, most people have windoze at home, so my portable apps are all windoze based. Here's what I've done:

    First, you have to deal with the fact that your USB key may not always mount as the same drive letter. I use pstart to take care of this: http://www.pegtop.de/start/ [pegtop.de]. A great little app to give you a consistent environment no matter who's machine you are using.

    Next, a unix environment. First, get a bunch of tools (including zsh) from here:
    http://unxutils.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]. Some of these don't work (man, df, etc), so you will want to find better versions elsewhere (they do exist! I just discovered a good version of DF from this thread, thanks! Others include dd, ls). Zsh is the killer app from this suite. A nice shell that does not depend on cygwin. You'll need to create two files to set up your environment. All of my unix tools exist in a subdirectory called 'unixtools' on the key disk.

    Start with a script (call it startup) to properly initialize zsh to know where your stuff is. You then initialize zsh from pstart using 'unixtools/zsh.exe startup' Note that $UTD will now be defined as your unix tools drive for use in any other sh scripts you want to write:

    UTD="${0%:*}:"

    if [ ${#UTD} -gt 2 ]; then
    UTD="${PWD%:*}:"
    fi

    export ZDOTDIR=$UTD/unixtools
    export ZSHROOT=$UTD/unixtools
    export UTD

    exec $ZSHROOT/sh.exe

    And of course we need a .zshrc (you need to replace ls with a version I don't recall where is at this moment for DIRCOLORS to work). You can see I have set up some aliases, most notably for gvim (this demonstrates the use of $UTD):

    export PS1="[%n@%m %d]$ "
    export PATH="$ZSHROOT;$PATH"
    export SHELL=zsh

    eval `$UTD/unixtools/dircolors.exe $UTD/unixtools/DIRCOLORS`

    alias ls='ls -F --color'
    alias clear=cls
    alias vi="$UTD/gvim/PortableGVim.exe"
    alias awk=gawk
    precmd () {
    title $USERNAME@$HOST: $PWD
    }

    One app I like to use on the USB drive is freecommander. Unfortunately, this program relies solely on its INI file, and does not take parameters for browsing. To fix this, I wrote the following script called 'browse' for launching it:

    #!/sh.exe

    FCINI="$UTD/freecommander/freecommand er.ini"
    FCTMP="$UTD/freecommander/freecommander.t mp"

    if [[ -z "$1" || "$1" == '.' ]]; then
    DWP=`echo $PWD | sed -e 's!/!\\\\\\\!g'`
    else
    DWP=`echo $1 | sed -e 's!/!\\\\\\\!g'`
    fi

    TRHOME=`echo $HOME | sed -e 's!/!\\\\\\\!g'`

    sed -e "s/^Dir2.*/Dir2=$DWP/" $FCINI > $FCTMP
    sed -e "s/^Dir1.*/Dir1=$TRHOME/" $FCTMP > $FCINI

    exec $UDT/freecommander/freeCommander.exe

    Notice above that I can actually use a 'shebang' line, thanks to the $ZSHROOT environment set up in our startup script. Very cool! This even works if you install activestate perl on your key disk. I put perl in unixtools/perl. That means that from your zsh, you can do things like './test' where 'test' has '#!/perl/bin/perl.exe -w' as its first line. I think this is very cool!

    I should put this all on a web page one of these days :) Some other things I have on the key disk, that didn't involve quite the devotion of time:

    • Sylpheed. I have my home mail server set up to use imap over ssl and smtp auth with ssl. Those two things were a little bit of work to set up. You can always use ssh forwarding instead v
  • by slicenglide (735363) on Sunday August 27, 2006 @01:19PM (#15990319)
    I work in the IT field traveling to customer's houses.
    I see all sorts of jacked up computers.. Here's the usual rundown of things that I keep on my drive.

    Google Pack Installer - (three free months norton good for getting rid of virsues.)
    Norton Intelligent Updater - Used to update defintions for every version of norton. Google it and grab the x86 version(the second on the page.)
    Trend Micro Pattern Files - Same thing for Trend Micro, google it.
    AVG Free - Something more permanent for cheap bastards.
    Spybot and includes files.
    Adaware personal and include files.
    Ewido - I love you ewido, too bad you run really crappy in safe mode.

    Dial-A-Fix - Reregisters dll files neccessary to components like windows update and SSL security. Fixes all sorts of permissions things jacked up by spyware as well. This is an amazing tool, google it and be amazed.

    MS Scripting Engine 5.6 - This solves a lot of problems you will have with programs having blank screens, or if system restore is a blank screen, or windows update is blank as well.

    XP Winsock Fix - Explicit^Software wrote this great vb script to reset the TCP/IP and WINSOCK stack to default settings. Useful if the internet isn't working, commonly associated with the nasty spyware.

    Firefox - Nuff Said.

    Drivers - I collect the drivers I need for the things I run into. The biggest collection are HP printer drivers, and linksys drivers for PCI cards and USB drivers.

    Hijack This - Merjin software's great tool to give you the rundown on what's running on your computer. You really have to know what your doing with this tool though.

    My Music - All my music that I tend to listen to.

    Norton Ghost - I keep the install files for my copy of Norton Ghost on my drive, makes moving or replacing drives a snap.

    MemTest ISO - Memory Tester.

    DFT ISO - Drive fitness test for hard drives. If you know the brand of drive you are testing, use the tester from the manufacturer as they often print out RMA codes and have better tests for their drive. I've gotten free replacement drives this way from Maxtor and Seagate. Both companies which keep my business.

    Linux Password Crack - Used to reset XP administrator logins for people that lock themselves out of their machine.

    OpenOffice - I don't always have it on there, but good for people who need to do office stuff, and don't feel like being a pirate and recognize good stuff.

    Linksys Firmware - Many linux firmware upgrade files for Linksys Routers and devices. WRT54g Versions 5 and 4 were buggy at times until you upgraded the firmware. Especially version 5. Sometimes the router was just plain defective.

    SymNRT - Removes all versions of norton, there is also rnav2003 that removes below a certin point. Useful for when norton gets borked and ruins how the machine works.

    Windows Updates - All critical sercurity patches, and a script that fires them off in proper order and silently.

    SP2 - Big enough to list on it's own.

    Windows Installer Cleanup Utility - Used to stop programs that constantly install themselves over and over and over and over and get really annoying.

    There are many others, and I'm sure I've left out a few, but I think these will help everyone out.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas

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