There was an article in this month’s PC Magazine that detailed a number of applications that you could run from a USB key. Some of these were fairly run of the mill but some were also pretty impressive and included: Firefox, Windows CE and, most amazingly of all, OpenOffice. I have tested all these out and can say that they do indeed work. What is most impressive is that these are fully functional applications and given the number of dlls and registry settings that most programs seem to need this is quite an achievement.
So this led me onto the conclusion that, given that my iRiver MP3 player is just a large hard disk, these applications could also be hosted there and, of course, they can. This has the advantage of being able to hold all these applications without too big a dent on the available space. The largest application is OpenOffice which weighs in at 127mb.
I was particularly taken by the thought of running Windows CE from the iRiver and by following the instructions at the curiously named Furry Goat I was quickly able to do just that. While this works well there is one draw back and that is that it does not seem to be possible to install third party applications onto the Windows CE image. This means that you are limited to those applications that come with the image which are very few and consist of IE, Messenger and WordPad.
Having spent this time to download the applications and install them on the MP3 player I then started to question why you might want to do this – sensible people might have questioned this from the outset…
The question is when are you likely to be away from your desktop and be on another machine that doesn’t have some browser installed? Remember that these images are Windows only so you will be running them on a machine that is more than likely to have Internet Explorer already installed. For those die-hards that cannot live without Firefox and wouldn’t touch IE with a barge pole then this is the solution for you but I do not fit in that category. As for Windows CE, while it is an interesting technical exercise it is limited by the lack of applications. IE is more than likely catered for (see above), WordPad gives little more than Notepad and there is already a version of messenger available via a web browser.
So this just leaves OpenOffice and this is where I can see some value to the solution. Not everyone has Microsoft Office and more often than not, particularly in a home environment, only Microsoft Word is available. OpenOffice allows not only the creation and editing of word documents but also spreadsheets, presentations, drawings and databases. It can also do things that even if you have the full MS Office installed you cannot do – such as create PDF files. For this reason alone it is worth giving over 127mb out of 40gb on my MP3 player and will be staying with me.
If you want to try it out yu can find more details at Portable OpenOffice.