To inform entertain and excite my kids, Jamie, Patrick, Aaron & Sarah Middleburgh, our family and friends.

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ok, at least once a week for 18 months I lugged an old X31 IBM notebook with power adaptor etc (approx 6LB) back and forth across the border between shenzhen and HK. It took it's toll - a hernia, stained back etc. I explored alternative options including different bags, (prefered is a Hedgren backpack) different PCs (an IBM X61s - 3LB), use of USB drives of different capacities with portable software and use of internet hosted software. I even considered subnotebooks such as the ASUS (2LB). (i am waiting for 10 inch display)

The trade off between using a pc no matter how small, as opposed to portable applications is obviously a question of usability. In my case I also have a dopod 818 with WIFI which on trips to the UK and ireland I have used effectively via wifi for occasional surfing and emails etc. Even good enough to watch short videos.

Implicitly using USB drives means that you leveraging a system other than your own. In my case this would mean in Shenzhen using a system with limited user privileges and internet access, typically configured with a simplified Chinese MS operating system and applications.

It is a challenge to use chinese language software on two levels if you are not a native user. Although the user interface for standard software is superficially similar, the options in drop downs are frequently different. This means that whilst I can use the basic functions in chinese version of IE7 and Excel, MS word and Access and the advanced functions in Excel tend to defeat me and this assumes that the input method on the PC is set up for entry in Latin characters.If the entry method is set up for pictograms (or both), my experience is that the PCs tend to behave as if possessed.

This means for work I now rely on a set of "portable" software even when using my own PC. This is itself not without problems. In China such software needs to be compatible with the Chinese OS environment (double byte non asci etc) Some popular portable software which works fine on English/European PCs either doesn't work properly or leverages OS utilities/functions eg file management which are unusable if you can't read chinese.

Equally important is how the software is deployed which in turn is dependent on it's footprint. ie how much space it and it's data files will take up. 2 GB USB drives used to be suggested for portable solutions.I am not convinced that even 4GB is enough for serious work use.

I have tried 2 alternatives ie using networked applications/storage and/or an external USB hard disc. Cheaper than a stick drives the downside of using a USB hard disk, apart from fact that you look silly with it dangling arround your neck, is that if you have only got guest account privileges on the host PC (running windows) you cannot save data or use applications which write to it since you are restricted to writing to removable media,the guests "my documents" and over the internet to network storage. The problem using applications or storage over the internet is that apart from corporate internet access restictions, in China you have to content with the Chinese Firewall which at its most benign may give adverse performance and at worse may block access.

To overcome windows guest accounts constraints I have toyed with linux. In principle you can boot from linux on an external drive and run applications outside of MS Windows. However if you use Quemodo or an equivalent emulator/virtual PC environment you are effectively running under windows and are still constrained morover if the PC is resource limited performance can be an issue since its running 2 operating systems. Of course you could modify the PC BIOS/Boot settings and boot direct from your disk etc .My experience is that the BIOS is either password protected or is an old version not suppoting USB drives etc or the PC does not have a CD or floppy drive to boot from. It is actually supprisingly easy to boot from a live linux floppy or CD disk however it can still be problematic if it doesn't have all the device drivers needed for the host PC hardware. I have also experimented unsuccessfully with utilities to boot/reboot from windows into native linux.Typically you need administrator rights in which case why would you bother .. you could use windows harddrive anyway.

Here follows the lists of the portable solutions that I personally use. It is supprising how little software I actually use on a regular basis Most comes from PortableApps. I also looked at applications to manage my calander, bookmarks, addressbook and RSS feeds. in the end I went with the functions in and add ons to the browsers and email clients

MenuPStartLoads faster than the one bundled with the PortableApps menu utility, is easy to configure, has small footprint (and is like the launcher I used to have on my Palm)
BrowserFirefox Whilst Firefox is effectively the standard portable browser, Opera (and this version in particular) has a much smaller footprint than Firefox and is therefore my preference on a flash drive .
EmailThunderbirdIf you need a client to access company email account rather than use a web email eg yahoo; hotmail etc Thunderbird is an option although Foxmail which is Chinese alternative has a much smaller footprint and again is my preference on a flash drive.
XML EditorXML notepad 2007I use the original version both as an XML editor but more importantly for mindmapping - really neat
FlowcharterChartistOne of few applications where I felt compelled to buy the licence. Amongst other things use it for Business Process Mapping
OfficeAbiwordPersonally I think the Open Office suite is bloated which is why I have chosen to use smaller applications from Gnome Office ie Abiword (wordprocessor) and Gnumeric (word processor) Unfortunately I haven't found a good alternative to Powerpoint (suggestions would be welcome). I use the speadsheet most frequently and on occasion when I need to develop a project plan I use Portable Planner which is a port from same person that did the Gnumeric portable port.
GNumeric Portable
Portable Planner
RadioScreamer RadioSo occasionally I listen to radio while I work - shoot me
iPodFloolaand when I am travelling between offices I listen to podcasts. Juice and Doppler allow download of podcasts.My preference is for Doppler since you have to edit the Juice/ipodder configuration file (ipodder.cfg) if the drive id assigned by windows is changed when you plug your drive into different PCs. I have also had problems with doppler recognising the .Net framework on Vista. The files if stored on the drive can be played directly using software indicated below. As a rule I do not store files on the drive but upload to my iPod using Floola and then delete.
IM/TelephonyPidginCompany policy proscribes the use of IM software for security reason and in China VoIP software like Skype is effectively illegal at moment although it is widely used. When I am at home in HK using my partner's PC to host I use both skype and Pidgin to talk to friends overseas
UtilitiesAida32most of this I rarely use but have on hand... just in case.
7 zip
Sumatra PDF Reader
ClamWin Antivirus
Filezilla FTP client
Ghost Firewall
AVGIMPI am not into editing audio but if I was I would probably used audacity, but I do watch video and listen to music using the VLC and Mplayer applications. I prefer to use Picassa and Adobe Photoshop to edit images but GIMP is convenient
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