The best things about the Verbatim miniature disk drive are the size and the Ceedo software.
The drive is about the size of a business card and weighs an ounce. It’s called the “Store ‘n’ Go USB HD Drive” and comes in 4- and 8-gigabyte sizes. Prices run US$100 and US$160 from discount sellers listed at www.verbatim.com. This is much cheaper than the equivalent storage space on a flash or “thumb” drive.
The tiny Store ‘n’ Go hard drive comes with a short retractable USB cable; you just pull it out and plug it into a Windows PC. When you do, what they call a launch pad comes up on the screen. It looks just like a small version of Windows. The first choice is Start Ceedo. Do it.
Ceedo is a mini Windows environment. It comes with the common Windows headings, like All Programs, My Documents, My Pictures, My Music, etc. Outlook Express and Internet Explorer come pre-installed. So does Microsoft FrontPage, software for creating Web sites. At the bottom is a meter showing how much drive space is being used.
With the Ceedo software running, the tiny Store ‘n’ Go drive can be considered your own portable computer. You can download applications and use those with your own files just by plugging into another computer. Whatever work you do will have no effect on the computer hosting your little plug-in drive. On ejecting the drive, temporary files will be automatically erased if you wish.
Ordinarily, the Ceedo program costs US$40, from www.ceedo.com, so it’s something of a nice deal that it comes on the Store ‘n’ Go drive. But it can be purchased separately and loaded onto a flash drive or any other auxiliary drive; it takes up about three megabytes. The beauty of that is you can then carry your working environment with you and it’s all organized, including your mailbox. Many of the applications you want to use – word processing, photo editing, instant messaging, Google Talk, games, etc. – can be loaded in and will work just as if they were on whatever computer you plug into. We downloaded a free photo re-sizer and stored 50 photos. Now we can click on My Pictures in the Ceedo workspace and run an automatic slideshow wherever we plug it in.
This is not the only way to travel, however. Many portable applications can be downloaded from the Web without using Ceedo, or its competitor, U3, which you can find at www.U3.com. The most important would be Open Office, which we’ve written about before and you can read on our Web site (www.oncomp.com). Open Office is pretty much like Microsoft Office except it’s free. Microsoft Office itself is not available as a portable app.
You can find 18 portable apps at www.portableapps.com. They’re all free. If you use the Ceedo software and go to its Web site (www.ceedo.com), there are 100 portable apps that can be downloaded onto any Ceedo-enabled drive. Many of these are also free, but some are not.
If you’re not concerned much with price, high-capacity “flash” drives are currently available in 4-gigabyte and 8-gigabyte size. The advantage of thumb drives is they are solid-state; they have no moving parts. That means they are less susceptible to shock and may also hold their memory for a longer time than disk drives.
At www.diynetwork.com you can actually do-it-yourself. It is a Web site for projects in eight categories: woodworking, autos, boats, gardening, hobbies, home building, home improvement, cooking and crafts. This is a commercial site from Scripps Networks and draws millions of visitors a month. It has good information, and you can watch videos of each project as it’s being done. The woodworking projects even include a bill of materials.
At www.freewebs.com, this hosting site like geocities.com. You can sign up for a free account and host your Web site here. It also provides tools for creating the Web site.
Scandoo (www.scandoo.com) is a service that lets you search the Web with Google or MSN and lets you know if the site you’re visiting will put spyware on your system. If it will, the image of a tiny insect appears – a “bug.”
Scandoo also ranks sites according to acceptability. If the site is informational and OK, it has a green check mark. A red “X” means content in questionable taste, often pornography. A yellow question mark means Scandoo knows nothing about the site. This scan service is still in beta, so we didn’t get red or green indicators on all the sites we visited, but most of the time it worked fine.
Creative Computer Crafts: 50 fun and useful projects you can make with any inkjet printer,” by Marcelle Costanza; from www.nostarch.com.
Crafts are fun, and the things you can make with your computer can have personalized designs. This book has instructions for 50 projects, like decorative bags, party favors, paper purses, custom clock faces, candy bar wrappers, and even scratch-off tickets. There are full-size templates for everything at the back of the book; very handy.
Two new games from Activision: “Over the Hedge,” based on the children’s movie from Dreamworks, and “X-Men, the official game,” based on the adventures of the X-Men. Interestingly, both subjects were comic strips or comic books before being made into movies. So now they’ve made the full intra-media trip. Both are for the PC and game machines; best prices will be found from discount Web sites. Trailers are available at www.activision.com.