- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2006

It had to happen: A burst of brilliance that offers to let you carry your entire computer in your shirt pocket. This from Ceedo in Israel.

For years, a question has been: If you travel, what do you do with your wretched computer? Obviously, you don’t take your desktop. You can take a laptop, but the things are pricey, heavy and fragile, and people want to steal them. A laptop is a poor solution, but at least it’s a solution.

Another idea, which didn’t work, was to keep all your software and files on a server somewhere on the Internet. You would land in Ulan Bator, log on to the remote server, and your screen looks as if you were at home. A nice idea, but unworkably slow, and not too secure.

So is there a better idea? Yes.

The crucial point is that your hardware doesn’t matter much. Your data, including your software — in other words, the content of your hard drive — is what matters. So how do you take this with you on a trip? You could burn it onto a DVD, in which case it would be perfectly useless unless you were a high-level geek.

Today there are things called “flash drives” among other names. These are little gadgets smaller than a stick of gum that plug into a USB port, which all computers now have. They can contain several gigabytes of “flash memory,” which is what holds the pictures on your digital camera. You can put your software and files on a flash drive and put it in your pocket. When you get to Ulan Bator, you plug it into any computerbut nothing happens, because the computer has no idea what it is.

Enter Ceedo. The company has written software that makes a local computer treat your flash drive as it normally treats its own built-in memory. Now when you plug it into the computer in Mongolia, for practical purposes, your own computer comes up — your novel just where you left off, with Word and all its settings, or your spreadsheets or whatever, e-mail and so on.

If you have more than a few gigabytes of software and so on, equally small memory units based on a tiny hard drive are available and cheap. These are probably more practical at the moment. I prefer flash memory because, having no moving parts, it isn’t going to break. And it’s getting cheaper.

Ceedo says your data is secure because everything is done in your flash memory instead of in the host computer’s own memory. I would be very wary of this if I were carrying, say, the recipe for killer bird flu.

Your data is still passing through the host computer’s CPU (central processing unit) and, in principle, could be tapped by someone who knew what he was doing. On the other hand, many of us aren’t worried about confidentiality.

I don’t know how well all of this actually works. I haven’t had a chance to try it. But the idea is workable.

This means that anywhere you went you would just plug in the little flash drive — at a friend’s house or in a cybercafe in Bangkok. Bingo, instant computer. Before long, business-class seats on airliners , as well as hotel rooms, probably will have computers for this purpose.

This solves the problem faced by companies that try to miniaturize computers: The keyboard quickly gets so small that human fingers can’t use it. A perfectly splendid notion, I say. If you want to give it a shot, the software is a free download for a 30-day trial at the Ceedo site.

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