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The Next Logical Step in Bootable Media

la Cie are specialists in external storage devices (though they also make excellent flat-panel monitors). They got their start building SCSI drives for Macs and other SCSI-equipped PCs, and then were heavy early adopters of IEEE 1394 (a.k.a. "FireWire" -- still superior to USB 2.0, as far as I'm concerned, but what's a guy gonna do...).

Now they've partnered with MandrakeSoft to package one of their pocket-sized 40GB "portable" drives with a bootable, autoconfiguring version of Mandrake Linux version 10. Called the "Globe Trotter" [ZD Net story / MandrakeSoft product page], this is essentially a lineal descendent of MandrakeMove, and directly analogous to interesting and generally excellent Linux distros like Knoppix. It's designed to be booted from a CD and then auto-configure to use the system's resources.

The advantage of a gizmo like this, or of these bootable CDs, is that they let you carry your own computing environment with you without carrying (or even owning) a computer. With MandrakeMove, you carry just the computer and a one-ounce USB thumb-drive; I've typically also carried around my 20GB Archos external drive, which gives me still more capacity. This gives you an even more complete computing environment with even more storage space, as well as the ability to easily install new Linux software. With the benign neglect of a helpful librarian, or by just rebooting your office PC for your lunch hour, you can escape the confines of "public" computing environments. This type of device can also be handy for students having to use PCs in computing labs.

(Aside: While you could probably figure out a way to do this with Mac OS X, it would be technically difficult and legally questionable to try it with Windows.)

I'm a huge fan of MandrakeMove, and have been planning to upgrade to their second generation version; I might just get this instead. True, $219 is a little high for a 40GB drive (even one of that size), but the markup from MSRP of the naked 40GB drive is only about $60. So what you have to ask yourself is whether it's worth $60 of your time and effort to buy naked and install on top. For many Linux geeks, the answer will be "yes"; more power to them.

Me, I'll think seriously about this, because I've already found so many uses for my MandrakeMove CD that I can't begin to tell you. For example, it's been hugely useful in filling in for the deficiencies of Windows NT 4, which I still use on one of my systems at the office. The only way I have of making backups is by copying from my old PC to a slightly less old network fileserver. But since this box has USB, I can reboot using my MandrakeMove disc, and then backup my files to my 20GB Archos disk or to my 1GB Lexar thumb-drive.

Of course, there are also less savory uses for this kind of thing, such as bypassing IT policies or serving as a hackers toolbox. But then, just as you can use a car to transport stolen goods, you can use any of these things (and I, personally, do use them) for legitimate purposes, too.

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