Monday, October 31, 2011

Restraining the nerd inside

Sometimes I have to sit on my nerdy instincts.

A couple of days ago a memory stick I use in work to carry files between computers failed. After buying a new memory stick my inner nerd quickly got carried away with the possibilities.

- Some of the material is sensitive so it needs to be encrypted lest the memory stick gets lost or stolen.
- Some of the computers I use lack the appropriate software for decryption and restrictive user rights can make it difficult to install.
- For convenience and security reasons wouldn't it be better to have a bootable operating system on the memory stick that had all my software pre-installed?

So it was that I set about trying to build and install a custom version of Puppy Linux on my memory stick so that I could have a portable self contained working environment.

Puppy Linux is one of the coolest pieces of software on the planet. A self contained operating system that will boot from CD or memory stick and runs on just about any computer you can find. It runs in memory and is fast and responsive yet the default installation is surprisingly fully featured. However it is Linux and a fairly specialised install of Linux at that so any deviation from the default package is not for the faint hearted. The difficulty is further compounded by the fact that Puppy seems to be between versions at the moment, changing from an Ubuntu base to a Slackware base. Four hours after starting I was still struggling to get my custom Puplet to work (puplet is the the name for a custom install of Puppy).

Enjoyable though this hacking was I had a slowly dawning realisation that I might still be playing with this in a month's time and not yet have solved the underlying problem of carrying sensitive files from one PC to another. Ignoring the indignant protests of my inner nerd I decided that the most expedient solution was to install the decryption software on my Windows laptop. If no sensitive files are involved then memory stick on its own will suffice but if encryption is needed then the laptop comes too. It isn't an elegant solution and it isn't a clever solution but it works.

I am still going to try and build my custom version of puppy but I amn't fooling myself by pretending it is work any more. This is purely for entertainment.

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