Sami Greenbury
Technology, Teaching & Travel

The Travelling Geek

The Destination:

Aside from the Live USB sticks, this post is only Windows related.

The Journey:

The first few weeks I spend trying to travel and keep up some web development were laborious, and some lessons have been learned. I hope that this post can help someone else to avoid the time waste I have – though my experience has shown this to be a very touch and go way of working.

The Conclusion: Buy a Laptop

After a few months of working this way, I bought a second hand laptop in Mexico City. An HP Mini with an 8inch screen, 160GB hard drive and a few weeks later an extra battery (giving me about 8-10 hours life). I found that using the setup described here had too many shortcomings, including not being able to make use of the dozen-hour-long-bus journeys.

I loved my little Bubbles, but while sailing on The Wong I broke her screen. And then again, until my 8 inch screen was less than 6 inches. That’s when the VGA chip died.

Despite the extra cost, having a laptop meant I could work without having to ask my CouchSurfers for their computer, I could work in coffee shops and Cafes and on buses (charging when we stopped for lunch).

The Other Options:/h1>

Live USB Stick

I’ve concluded that a live OS on a pen drive is simply not stable, I’ve tried various versions of Linux (unfortunately I didn’t keep track of which they were, but Ubuntu 10.10 was included). From being troublesome to install to suddenly giving up after a few days, I have had no long term joy. I’m only an amature Linux user, so perhaps someone who can dig deeper into the config may have more luck.

Portable Apps

When using portable apps I highly recommend using a menu system for it, there’s a few around. The first I tried was SmithTech Portable Menu, about which I have no complaints: it’s fast, flexible and easy to use. However I switched to LiberKey because:

  • Their software catalog makes it silly easy to install applications.
  • The software in the catalog has been well modified to run portabley, in contract to some which work but are not quite portable.
  • You can still add your own applications, not from their catalog
  • You can split the menu between tabs (or categories)

I’ve disabled the animations and some of the other resource heavy pretty things, and made the menu single click instead of double click and am currently loving it.

I’ve tried about a dozen apps from and found them to be cheaply packaged and messy. I don’t even try them anymore unless I can’t find a well packaged or alternative piece of software.


Before I left to go travelling I spent some time wrestling with different WAMP setups. Wampserver is my preferred choice at home, however it doesn’t do portable very well.

I settled with Uniserver in the end, despite disliking some of it’s workings to begin with, the new version (8.0) makes things much easier (if slower).

I found running my DocumentRoot from my USB was too slow. So I now have a folder (which I call www) which I copy to c:\temp before getting going. It’s not as neat as running it all from the USB, but it’s fast enough to work from.

Document Root
With UniServer on my USB, and added an icon to LibreKey, and pointed the document root at c:/temp/www/public.

I edited my.ini to tell MySQL to use c:/temp/www/data/mysql instead of it’s default folder on my USB.


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