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Desert Island Disk - what software is most useful?

By infobreakfast in Technology
Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 07:05:42 AM EST
Tags: Round Table (all tags)
Round Table

With the recent arrival of affordable USB-based key ring disks (e.g., thumbdrives), people have a new way to carry software around with them. What are the most useful pieces of software/data that people like to have close to them?

With all of this space available on my key ring, the question is, what software/data files are most useful to have with you? Large monolithic software packages that require a full installation are clearly not optimal; small utilities that are fully contained within one or two files are much more useful.

Personally, I like to have a good text editor (VIM), an outliner (Action Outline), VNC for remote access to machines, a telnet client (Putty), Python (with some working reference scripts), MAME with a couple of games and finally, my contact details in vCard format.

This way, no matter where I am, I have a good chance at setting up my enviroment and being productive.


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Desert Island Disk - what software is most useful? | 38 comments (36 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
Unbelievable (3.40 / 10) (#1)
by qpt on Sat Feb 02, 2002 at 05:48:30 AM EST

I am almost at a loss for words.

Anyway, so you are in a ship wreck and find yourself on a desert island. Not to worry, though, you merely pull out your "thumbdrive" and ... what?

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.

Uh.. (3.66 / 3) (#5)
by kaemaril on Sat Feb 02, 2002 at 09:09:48 AM EST

I don't think the title is meant to be taken literally. He's being, like, metaphorical or something :)

Why, yes, I am being sarcastic. Why do you ask?

[ Parent ]
Making a Radio 4 cultural reference, actually [NT] (none / 0) (#14)
by greenrd on Sat Feb 02, 2002 at 07:54:28 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Yep (none / 0) (#21)
by kaemaril on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 08:08:15 AM EST

A reference I got, since I'm English. But did everybody? While Desert Island Disks is a genuine British institution, how widespread is it's fame around the world? (Inquiring minds genuinely want to know...)

Why, yes, I am being sarcastic. Why do you ask?

[ Parent ]
I've never heard of it. nt (none / 0) (#28)
by scanman on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 03:50:31 AM EST

"[You are] a narrow-minded moron [and] a complete loser." - David Quartz
"scanman: The moron." - ucblockhead
"I prefer the term 'lifeskills impaired'" - Inoshiro

[ Parent ]

Pffft. (5.00 / 6) (#11)
by wji on Sat Feb 02, 2002 at 02:28:00 PM EST

Well, obviously you do the Gilligan's Island solution and build a SPARC box out of coconuts and seashells. Geez, don't you know ANYTHING?

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]
Maybe even ... (4.00 / 3) (#2)
by ragnarok on Sat Feb 02, 2002 at 06:10:23 AM EST

Dr Kevorkian's Euthenasia package?

(Take me seriously at your own risk!)

"And it came to healed until all the gift and pow, I, the Lord, to divide; wherefore behold, all yea, I was left alone....", Joseph Smith's evil twin sister's prophecies

Emacs, of course. (4.50 / 6) (#3)
by pwhysall on Sat Feb 02, 2002 at 06:26:09 AM EST

Like you even have to think about this one...
K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.
Not fair! (4.00 / 4) (#7)
by miah on Sat Feb 02, 2002 at 12:05:59 PM EST

Now that's not fair! You can't just put an entire operating system on there! ;)

And I thought that EMACS stood for: Eighty Megs And Constantly Swapping.

Religion is not the opiate of the masses. It is the biker grade crystal meth of the masses.
[ Parent ]
About that E (4.66 / 3) (#10)
by losthalo on Sat Feb 02, 2002 at 01:50:04 PM EST

I'm not sure how old you are, but you may have just let your youth peek through. ;)


[ Parent ]
Age (1.00 / 1) (#38)
by miah on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 03:07:01 PM EST

Well, if you must know. I am currently 22 years old as of: Sat Nov 24 3:12:24 MST 2001

Religion is not the opiate of the masses. It is the biker grade crystal meth of the masses.
[ Parent ]
Emacs? (none / 0) (#18)
by Cloaked User on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 05:55:46 AM EST

Are you sure it'll fit?

These things only go up to about 128MB of capacity ;-)


Tim (vim user, as if you couldn't guess)
"What the fuck do you mean 'Are you inspired to come to work'? Of course I'm not 'inspired'. It's a job for God's sake! The money's enough and the work's not so crap that I leave."
[ Parent ]
Winamp. (4.00 / 3) (#4)
by Delirium on Sat Feb 02, 2002 at 06:52:56 AM EST

Encryption (none / 0) (#8)
by Global-Lightning on Sat Feb 02, 2002 at 12:20:09 PM EST

1. Public and private keys (perhaps on separate keyrings) and the software to use them.

2. Secure terminal and connection software such as OpenSSH

3. If you really want to get fancy, write a One Time Pad encryption generator to use on the keyring
and your servers

And whatever you do, don't lose that keyring!

definitely crypto (4.50 / 2) (#12)
by Arkady on Sat Feb 02, 2002 at 03:07:37 PM EST

I keep PGP (with its prefs and ring files) and a custom Mac software kit for crypto and access control I wrote a few years ago on mine.

I had been using an iButton ring for it, but the 32M USBDrive is sooo much more convenient. ;-)

When I did the K5 stickers for Rusty at last fall's LinuxWorld, I had written the Illustrator files onto my USBDrive before I went to the print shop. This was very useful, since they'd broken their email and hadn't received the copies I'd emailed them, so I just had to dowload the drivers onto their Mac and copy the 12M of Illustrator files to their machine.

Speaking of drivers, though, most of these units really suck on this. I've been using two different USB rives for about a year, and niether implents the USB standard properly so both have to have custom drivers (both will lock up a Linux kernel if you plug them in and let the USB Mass Storage driver access them; on a Mac with the USB stack in debug mode they generate about 1M of error messages per minute). To be _really_ usefull, they need to implement the Mass Storage class properly, so that you could plug them in driverless to any box with a USB Mass Storage class driver. I'm told the IBM drive does this properly, but haven't had a chance to get one to verify it.


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.

Simple. (3.00 / 3) (#13)
by terpy on Sat Feb 02, 2002 at 05:56:16 PM EST

QNX, along with samba, ssh and your favorite brand of encrytion, and if I'm gonna be on a desert island alone - PORN, and plenty of it.

-- if it's not one cathode ray tube, it's another
SNES, Genesis and NeoGeo Games (3.00 / 1) (#15)
by Talez on Sat Feb 02, 2002 at 09:46:20 PM EST

On the SNES I'd be looking at all the great Square and Enix RPGs ever made... possibly a patched version of Tales of Phantasia and maybe Star Ocean 2 if there was enough space left on it...

Genesis games... The Sonic The Hedgehog series definately, Gunstar Heros, Shining Force series, Phantasy Star Series and Soleli(sp?).

Neogeo games... Blazing Star definately, KOF2K would probably be a good one too. Windjammers, Neo Mr Do, NeoBomberman, Super Sidekicks 1, Money Idol Exchanger, Puzzle Bobble 2, Magical Drop 3 and Breakers Revenge.

Oh, and dont forget Puzzle Bobble 3 for RAINE. I love that game! It's so PB2 with just a hint of extra PB goodness :)

Si in Googlis non est, ergo non est
FYI (none / 0) (#31)
by dasunt on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 12:07:18 PM EST

The Tenchi-Muyo Game for the SNES was rather interesting, and the fan-trans isn't bad either.

A good collection of NES roms is about 200 megs, IIRC. SNES is a lot more. The complete MAME collection, sans NeoGeo, runs about 600 megs. With NeoGeo, its about 1.5 Gigs. Of course, if you could fit a decent little computer on that ring (say, a P100 or so), NES/SNES are playable, and so are gameboy roms (if you can find a copy of NO$GMB still around) and some NeoGeo Games (NeoRageX rocks), although, for the latter, the frameskip will be horrible.

What you are forgetting are books. Text format are great, although I'll use PDF for things with a lot of pictures.

Just my $.02

[ Parent ]

An OS, a hex editor, and a lot of documentation (4.00 / 2) (#16)
by Canthros on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 12:40:44 AM EST

I'm conceited enough to believe that, given enough time, I could re-create all the useful bits of software I need given the right tools and the necessary information. A handful of novels and other books (The Prince, The Book of Five Rings, The Art of War, a Bible and whatever other recreational reading will still fit) also seems like a good idea. Maybe some literary classics. And some Pratchett novels.

It's now obvious you are either A) Gay or B) Female, or possibly both.
slightly OT (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by martingale on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 06:22:54 AM EST

Ah, indeed. You're alone on a desert island and you want to read the Prince and the Art of War? Gotta subjugate the other inhabitants, hehe. D'oh!

Now seriously, if I was alone on a deserted island, I'd take a copy of the Kama Sutra to show the native g......D'oh!

[ Parent ]
Subjugation and conquest (none / 0) (#22)
by Canthros on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 12:53:25 PM EST

Actually, I just want to get caught up on them so I can conquer the rest of the world when I get off the desert island. I'll pass on the Kamasutra, though. I'm told that power is an amazing aphrodisiac.

It's now obvious you are either A) Gay or B) Female, or possibly both.
[ Parent ]
Interesting (none / 0) (#24)
by fluffy grue on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 11:30:22 PM EST

You do realize, of course, that the Kama Sutra is for what you do after you get the other person horny, right?
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Re: Kamasutra (none / 0) (#25)
by Canthros on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 12:00:51 AM EST

You do realize, of course, that the Kama Sutra is for what you do after you get the other person horny, right?
Yes. I'm Christian, not stupid:) Not that the former would have been obvious.

I didn't really figure it was worth worrying about too much, and that was the only sex joke I could think of that didn't bother me on some level. Tonight's not been a good one for me and humor.

It's now obvious you are either A) Gay or B) Female, or possibly both.
[ Parent ]
A compiler, assembler and linker. (4.00 / 3) (#17)
by Mr. Piccolo on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 01:55:32 AM EST

Because with some patience you can recreate any other program you would like.

(I'm assuming you have a computer with OS and not *just* the Thumb Drive, correct?)

The BBC would like to apologise for the following comment.

Compiler and assembler? (none / 0) (#33)
by SIGFPE on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 03:48:42 PM EST

You wimp! All you need is a hex editor.
[ Parent ]
I have one (4.00 / 4) (#20)
by Nater on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 07:55:51 AM EST

I have a 64MB Apacer HandyDrive and this is what I have on it:

  • various tools from the PuTTY suite, and an SSH keypair
  • Rawrite.exe
  • FIPS.exe
  • Fdisk.exe
  • Gzip24.exe
  • a compressed 100MB Debian disk image and floppy images

    I also intend to put a Cygwin kit on it at some point. The idea with the Debian stuff and the partition tools is this: I can walk up to a computer, get it to recognize the drive, use FIPS to move the existing partitions around or Fdisk to just obliterate them, Gzip24 to uncompress the Debian image, and Rawrite to copy it to an empty partition. Presto, it's a Debian box. From there I can get whatever else I need.

    With all that, I've only used about half of the space on the drive.

    i heard someone suggest that we should help the US, just like they helped us in WWII. By waiting three years, then going over there, flashing our money around, shagging all the women and acting like we owned the place. --Seen in #tron

  • I like the 1gig USB keyrings... (4.00 / 2) (#23)
    by thebabelfish on Sun Feb 03, 2002 at 03:54:24 PM EST

    JMTek is selling a 1 gigabyte, driverless, USB keyring the size of a car key. $900US is pretty expensive, so I'm waiting for the price to come down, although you can get smaller storage sizes cheaper.

    On a side note, I'm waiting for the day when there are USB ports on the front of computer cases, just like there are (usually) CD-ROM and floppy drives now.

    "I don't trust goats," --To Catch a Spy
    There are. (4.00 / 2) (#26)
    by Verminator on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 02:06:13 AM EST

    Mine has two, as do most of the models I see at the store.

    So long as one is alive, death doesn't exist, except for other people. And when one is dead, nothing exists, not even death. -- Aldous Huxley
    [ Parent ]

    3 things (3.50 / 4) (#27)
    by DJBongHit on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 02:38:30 AM EST

    vim, gcc, and OpenSSH. Everything else is just fluff :)


    GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

    Some small programming tools (none / 0) (#29)
    by Masa on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 07:39:55 AM EST

    While traveling around I've found out that, for me, the most useful tools are some sort of VI editor (NVI/VIM/Elvis), some scripting language capable of sockets and file handling (Perl, Python, Tcl), SSH client (Putty) and a single floppy Linux distribution (tomsrtbt). With those tools I'm able to solve most of the problems I'd usually encounter (eg. solving network problems, parsing text files or fetching information through the 'net).

    BIOS boot support? (1.00 / 1) (#30)
    by Patrick Bateman 10005 on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 08:45:07 AM EST

    Do modern PC BIOSs support booting from these things?

    Buy me one and I'll let you know. =D (none / 0) (#32)
    by nstenz on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 03:14:24 PM EST

    I wonder if a 'standard' USB mass storage device would be bootable with the 'boot other' option in the BIOS... As long as it had an area of the disk defined as the master boot record, I don't see why it couldn't be... Are those things partitionable?

    [ Parent ]
    Well my Palm has a 64mb SD card... (4.00 / 2) (#34)
    by SIGFPE on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 03:51:53 PM EST

    ...that I carry everywhere with me. It's mostly text - some current fiction, some of my favourite old classics and a decent dictionary. It's great, any time I'm forced to wait somewhere boring (eg. supermarkets) I've got something to read!

    I also have all the usual Palm junk - telephone numbers, diary, memos etc.

    Palms more useful, but good as super-floppy disk. (none / 0) (#36)
    by icheyne on Tue Feb 05, 2002 at 05:38:54 AM EST

    I agree, at least you are not reliant on a computer to interpret all your digital data. I don't think these mini-hard disks are going to be bought by that many people. If you are a system administrator, you can hold all this data on your network and anybody who wants totally portable data will find a Palm more useful. I suppose it might be more useful as an equivalent of a large floppy disk, but it would only be useful if you could effortlessly connect to a new computer and if they were cheap.
    -- Iain Cheyne
    [ Parent ]
    Known Good Unix binaries (none / 0) (#35)
    by Slothrop on Mon Feb 04, 2002 at 10:56:46 PM EST

    with that much space, you could cover all the salient versions and still have space for emacs.
    Provide, provide!
    This is so obvious (none / 0) (#37)
    by Alorelith on Thu Feb 07, 2002 at 02:22:38 PM EST

    Well, other than my basic system to run THE program...I'd say Angband. Maybe Zangband. Nethack if I'm bored or feeling crazy. The source to both. Wait, definitely Zangband, but version 2.4.0 (I hate the random wilderness).

    Back to Angb...

    Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies. -- Nietzsche

    Desert Island Disk - what software is most useful? | 38 comments (36 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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