What is U3 you may ask. Picture this – you once thought 8mb of portable disk space was a premium. Then came 128mb. You paid a lot of money and bought one of those ‘pen drives’ (aka flash/thumb drive). Before the warranty on the drive expired, higher capacities began to hit the market at much lower prices. And today, 16gb flash drives are available.
So what are you gonna use all this disk space for? Storing files obviously. But how about if you can carry some of your software on these drives? Cool eh? That is exactly what a U3 drive is. Of course, U3 being jointly developed by companies like Sandisk will never be free as in free beer, but the nice thing is that you have a good collection of open-source software available for U3 enabled flash drives. This includes Firefox, Thunderbird, Trillian basic etc. You even get Openoffice for U3. So basically you can work out of your flash drive. You can carry important files and don’t have to worry about what software is installed on the host computer.
I bought my second U3 enabled drive yesterday. It was a rather silly move on my part to invest in a IGB drive cos less than six months later I have now upgraded to 2GB. My first U3 flash drive was a Kingston and albeit the poor build quality, it served me well all these days. Of course, it is still going strong but I felt the need to upgrade to 2GB because of Portable Apps. Now what are these Portable Apps? They are U3 like software gone one step further – you don’t need any proprietary hardware to run these software applications. Any flash drive (or even hard drive) will do. Just head over to http://portableapps.com and see for yourself. I have tons of these apps and they take up almost 1GB of space. So obviously I needed a higher capacity drive I won’t be surprised if I find myself upgrading again, soon.
Bottom line is that U3 apps are nice. So are these portable apps, but they lack the ease of operation unlike the U3. The U3 comes with its own launch pad. Interestingly, not everyone seems to like these U3 enabled drives. When I was doing a search on Amazon for the Sandisk U3 drive, I found lot of negative reviews. And all the complains were about the U3 launcher – how it ‘installs programs without askin’ and how the ‘launcher is damn slow’. I thought there was something inherently wrong with the product (Sandisk). But upon reading the positive reviews I realized that most people complaining either didn’t know what a U3 devices was, or were computer novices. It is like buying a Jeep and then complaining that it is a four wheel drive The only possible drawback of U3 enabled devices is that they are not Mac/Linux friendly.
For now, I am happy with my new Sandisk. I like the retractable head (capless design). I like the U3 apps and look forward to making the most of it.
PS: These thumbdrives excite me. I use them a lot, and I remember struggling with compressing files into different parts to carry them home from office during the days of 256mb capacities. I like it when technology advances and comes within the reach of the common man