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Microsoft & SanDisk To Provide Desktop on Thumb Drive 233

Jesus Christ writes "An Information Week article reports that Microsoft is teaming up with SanDisk to provide users a complete image of their desktops in their pockets, allowing them access not only to their data...but also their applications and user interface setup while on the go. 'The companies plan to add a security layer to the offering using SanDisk's TrustedFlash security and digital rights management technology. The effort will elevate "simple flash storage to a whole new level of customer benefit," said Will Poole, corporate VP for Microsoft's Market Expansion Group. Microsoft also plans to seek out third party-hardware developers to support the initiative, the company said. As part of the plan, SanDisk will phase out its U3 technology, which adds some smart features to USB devices. Independent software developers that have created U3-compatible applications will be offered help migrating their products to the new technology, which has yet to be named.'"
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Microsoft & SanDisk To Provide Desktop on Thumb Drive

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  • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Friday May 11, 2007 @04:50PM (#19089937)
    Why do I keep seeing "DRM" in this?

    Funny, nowadays anything that has "trusted" in it seems to me like something I have to distrust...

    • Euphemisms mangle language.

      I was just having a discussion the other day about the word "fantastic". These days it means "great" or "wonderful", but I have been informed that the century before last it meant "unlikely".

      This was because it meant "fantasy-astic", in other words, "unrealistic".

      This use of the word, "trusted" is seeming to me to be meaning "inflexible" or simply "restricted in action".
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Kuciwalker ( 891651 )
        The current use of "trusted" actually makes a certain amount of sense. Trusted computing, for instance, derives from the idea of a trusted system ( []):

        "In the security engineering subspecialty of computer science, a trusted system is a system that is relied upon to a specified extent to enforce a specified security policy. As such, a trusted system is one which failure may break a specified security policy."

        The idea is that by including some sort of trusted hardw

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 11, 2007 @05:11PM (#19090245)
      Trusted computing isn't about providing an environment you, the user can trust. It is about providing an environment copyright holders can trust you to have.

      Like the Soviet Russia jokes, only real.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Nimey ( 114278 )
        In Soviet Russia, computer trusts YOU!

        Damn, now I hate myself for succumbing to that temptation.
    • by Hatta ( 162192 )
      Funny, nowadays anything that has "trusted" in it seems to me like something I have to distrust...

      This has always been true, whenever someone says "trust me" you know they're up to no good. I guess if they were trustworthy, they wouldn't have to say so.
    • by Skapare ( 16644 )

      It's like any sales pitch. If they have to tell you it's trusted, it obviously must not be.

    • Problem: USB drives are widespread, standardized, and allow users of many competing platforms such as Mac and Linux to exchange data freely with Windows boxes.

      Solution: this thing.
  • ...when a program was a single executable file?

    And by "file" I mean made of manila paper, and by "executable" I mean with holes punched in it.

    Seriously though, why aren't most modern desktop applications portable by design?
    • Portable Apps (Score:4, Insightful)

      by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Friday May 11, 2007 @04:54PM (#19090001)
      It looks to me like MS finally caught on to Portable Applications and BartPE bootable CDs or USB sticks.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ModernGeek ( 601932 )
      I'll be the first to mention that they normally are on the Macintosh. I could make a joke about modern - mac and legacy - windows, but I won't go that far.
      • by N3Roaster ( 888781 ) <nealw&acm,org> on Friday May 11, 2007 @05:40PM (#19090685) Homepage Journal
        That was previously the case on the Macintosh where the executable typically had everything it needed in the resource fork of the file, but these days the executable file is buried in a folder with a .app filename extension and the folder also contains graphics and other resources that normally would have been in the resource fork or as separate files somewhere else. It's a nice solution, but the default shell Apple provides isn't as smart as the Finder when dealing with these, so running graphical applications from the command line isn't nearly as nice as it should be (you can't just add /Applications to $PATH and say, Preview list_of_files). Still, that's much nicer than the application being an executable file, a few dozen DLLs scattered throughout the system, and a couple hundred registry entries. (On a related note, why do I think I've heard about this already being done with Linux without the DRM?)
        • by zsau ( 266209 )
          (On a related note, why do I think I've heard about this already being done with Linux without the DRM?)

          I'm not entirely sure I know what you're referring to, but if you're referring to fully containing applications in a single relocatable folder and/or shell integration thereof, there's two different free options for this on GNU/Linux and other *nix-like operating systems that I'm aware of.

          Firstly, there's GNUStep, which is basically the same as Mac OS X in this regard, being another NeXTSTEP derivative. I
    • by rm999 ( 775449 )
      Two reasons that I can think of:
      A. It's harder to secure a program from privacy when it's portable to another computer. The registry allows them to tie a program to the computer - if you can put the program on a disk and then put it on another computer, it can now be pirated
      B. A lot of programs use the same files as other programs. A common dll may be used in 20 different applications. Space can be saved if the programs take advantage of some common location for these shared files, installing only if they d
    • Actually, I do (Score:4, Insightful)

      by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Friday May 11, 2007 @06:30PM (#19091247) Journal
      And after you have dropped a large stack of punch cards, you will realize that the good old days SUCKed. In addition, the card reader was monster. ppl like to remenese about the GOOD OLD DAYS, with out realizing that it is all relative. I like today. Just because MS and other companies are issues, does not mean that things are that bad.
    • Because you have two options:
      1. Statically link libraries. You 4 MB program is now 400 MB.
      2. Require an installer to check and configure the environment for the program.

      Re-usability of code, one of the requirements for significantly complex systems, requires that the program assume things about *other* programs on the system.
  • by spotter ( 5662 )
    We've done this on Linux, including supporting checkpointing the state (very quick, its under a second ignoring writeback time, which is a function of the device one wants to use) so one can migrate to a different machine where one can restart it. c2006_fordist.pdf []
    • Mepis used flash for your home directory, with optional encryption, in 2005. Here's the announcement []. You booted off the CD and logged in as the "onthego" user. This is not as quick sounding as yours, but it's easy.

      I'm not sure if they had it set up to install applications to the flash drive, but that should not be hard. It would also not be hard to make a custom boot CD with Debian.

      • by spotter ( 5662 )
        true, but think about a laptop, do you really want to shutdown every time you move somewhere? You want to be able to hibernate/suspend and then resume when you get to the new location. You don't want to worry about saving all your applications (if you were looking at, you won't be able to get the same view when you return).

        the idea of this project was to put the laptop metaphor into something you could store in your pocket.
        • the idea of this project was to put the laptop metaphor into something you could store in your pocket.

          Hmmm, I really love my laptop's power management and having everything I want where I left it as I walk around .... and it's only got some 4 GB of system files and swap to make it happen ....

          So how does it actually work? What do you have to run on each machine to have it work? From your paper I get the hazy idea that some kind of virtual machine software is running and loads an image off the USB stick.

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )
      Hell I've been there with windows for at least 3 years now.

      BartPE - you can install BartPE live boot CD's onto a thumb drive. It works but is far less useful than a CD because the number of pc's the boot from a USB device are incredibly small compared to those that boot from a CD.

  • Is it just the BIOS that gets in the way? I've been running OSX from external drives for years now, and it makes a whole lot of recovery and imaging tasks unbelievably easier, and I keep wondering, why the hell does Microsoft have to make it so difficult?

    Even with Linux, you can't just run your normal Linux install and point it towards an external drive and have that work. You have to do extra tricks that are... tricky.

    So really, is it a problem with the BIOS? Can't we just fix whatever it is and be done

    • by MoxFulder ( 159829 ) on Friday May 11, 2007 @05:21PM (#19090443) Homepage
      Yes, it's largely a BIOS problem. BIOS is a freaking travesty of junk 20-year-old code zealously protected by a evil, backward-looking cabal of motherboard and BIOS vendors. It's slow and nonstandardized and often buggy, and it needlessly initializes lots of hardware that's going to be reinitialized by the operating system anyway. Of course, it would be great if we were all running LinuxBIOS [], like the OLPC is. It can go from power-on to kernel load in about 1 second, and is completely modular and customizable. Oh, and it can boot Windows and xBSD and probably OSX too. But unfortunately, the chipset and motherboard vendors mostly don't release their docs, so the odds that your desktop mobo is supported by LinuxBIOS are sadly very small.

      All that being said... with modern Linux kernels (2.6.1+ I believe) you can mount partitions based on the UUIDs stored in the partition table (e.g. 8F3B6029A471238F), rather than by what particular interface BIOS sez they're connected to (e.g. /dev/sdg1 or /dev/hda1). This goes a long way to making it easy to install Linux distros on portable drives.

      With Ubuntu Edgy or Feisty, you *can* simply install Linux to a USB hard disk (I've done it without a hitch). It will look for the hard disk partitions based on UUID rather than /dev/whatever, so it won't get confused when you move it from computer to computer. Unfortunately you will still have to figure out how to make each computer boot from USB in the first place, because BIOS IS SO FREAKING GHETTO!
  • Windows on a stick? Yes, sounds familiar.... oh, sorry, that was 'shit on a stick'

    Seriously though, I wonder what nick names will be found for this product?
    • I wonder what nick names will be found for this product?

      Plain "M$tick", pronounced "shit stick" springs to mind. Let's parse out some M$ suggestions and tortured language to see what we can do with what we know:

      • Zune has "squirting" for involuntary and DRM encumbered "sharing" by billboards and coffee shop patrons. - Gross.
      • "Wince []" for portable computing. - Uncomfortable.
      • "Origami []" as a device name. - Tedious manual manipulation.

      What will they wow us with now that can possibly match and combine all

  • U3, gen 2 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Friday May 11, 2007 @05:00PM (#19090081) Homepage
    I don't know whether to cheer that the U3 flash drives are going away, or to tremble in fear of what these new ones will do.

    I manage college computer labs, and those damn U3 drives have been a recurring hassle. They try to auto-install software on every Windows machine they come into contact with, and require two drive letters (which doesn't work so well in an environment where several key letters are already in use). When used on a Mac, they mount an extra pseudo CD on the desktop, loaded with software that's obviously (but not to many students) utterly useless. If this is in any way an extension or "improvement" upon that, then my job is about to get even harder.
    • I concur, those things are a POS. I have the same problem... we have several mapped network drives, and they tend to not check if the drive letter is in use before they autoinstall. So I get calls of "I can't find it".
      The first time i tried a U3 on my system, the autorun program hung, and then every time thereafter as well. Eventually I got sick of trying to troubleshoot it, and just nuked it.
      If I were in a lab though... I'd have hot glue in all my USB ports, and one managed computer up front with a hub. "Y
  • and no one thinks it's interesting that the rapture is apparently imminent, and all that's relevant is Windows and thumb drives?
    • by JordanL ( 886154 )
      JC isn't here to stay yet, he's here for a brief visit cause pops decided that this development would be so disrupting to all his poor little geeks that they had to be warned. Poor JC had to log out of his Mac OS box which was divine protection and come down to utter a warning to the non-believers.
  • by voislav98 ( 1004117 ) on Friday May 11, 2007 @05:03PM (#19090139)
    Microsoft has also announced they will start producing a revolutionary new device, enabling for much more efficient transport of goods. They are calling it the Microsoft Wheel.
  • Phase out industry standards and implement more proprietary ( and restricted ) 'standards'.

  • by Applekid ( 993327 ) on Friday May 11, 2007 @05:05PM (#19090167)
    I had visions of hitting a button on my thumb drive and getting a huge desktop folded out that I can rest things on. You know, my notebook, my feet, that 5th cup of coffee...
  • by glindsey ( 73730 ) on Friday May 11, 2007 @05:06PM (#19090179)
    digital rights management technology

    Ooooh, so close to not being crap!
  • Licensing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NoMoreFood ( 783406 ) on Friday May 11, 2007 @05:08PM (#19090209)
    It'll be interesting to see how application licensing works for something like this...
  • Am I the only one who thought it odd that sandisk is going to give users "a complete image of their desktops in their pockets" I can't vouch for everyone else, but most assuredly there is no desktop in my pocket, and if there was I especially would not want an image of it.
  • Obligatory (Score:4, Funny)

    by ObjetDart ( 700355 ) on Friday May 11, 2007 @05:16PM (#19090353)
    Hey, is that a desktop in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?
  • I fail to see how this is one iota different than Mojo. While I don't use Mojo, I've seen an online demo and it looks interesting - exactly, to my mind, what MS & Sandisk are promising in mid-2008.

  • Ripping off MojoPac. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PxM ( 855264 ) on Friday May 11, 2007 @05:17PM (#19090373)
    So, they're pretty much trying to create a copy of MojoPac [] (wikipedia entry []) and call it their own? MojoPac does the same thing for Windows, but it's not tied to a single physical device. The good part about this is that when I upgraded from an iPod to an external HD, I was able to take the entire setup with me without a problem. Unfortunately for MS, they are teaming up with a flash disk manufacturer rather than an HD maker. I found that trying to run any real app such as Office off a flash drive was impossibly slow. The reason I upgraded from my iPod to an custom external 7200rpm drive was for the sake of speed. The iPod was faster than running off a flash disk, but was still too slow for most things. Now, I can run all the important applications (e.g. GIMP, and WoW) without any noticeable performance hit off my external drive via MojoPac. It will be interesting to see how MS/Sandisk compare in terms of performance speed to MojoPac. Given how bad U3 was, I would be surprised if they can get it fast enough to run any games off of the device. Unless they can get enough performance off the flash disk to run Office, I don't see them as being a real competitor to MojoPac.
  • bah (Score:3, Funny)

    by blindd0t ( 855876 ) on Friday May 11, 2007 @05:18PM (#19090393)
    <sarcasm>Just let me have "My Briefcase" so I can synchronize my files with my floppy disk. There's no way this would be more successful a feature than that!</sarcasm>
  • Been there, done that. Ever use a Sunray terminal?
  • by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Friday May 11, 2007 @05:23PM (#19090477) Homepage Journal
    Since they plan on doing something from scratch (from what I understand), how about defining open standards that could be used on any platform?

    I know some things can't be cross-platforms (executables, etc), others can (wallpaper, keyboard, mouse, language, international, email and IM settings, etc).

    Put everything in pure (i.e., non-"Microsoft-enhanced") .xml files and keep it simple.

    Seeing as Microsoft is part of this initiative, however, I predict that "cross-platform" will mean "Windows Vista and future versions of Windows".

    • that's just it, apps can be cross platform. java springs to mind. a fast java is also possible in a properly designed OS, and intergrated JVM.

      Odd that first time I heard this I thought of Home on IPod that hits the Mac rumour mill with every "OS X" release.

      it is possible. the hard part is that MSF will have to break compatibility with existing systems, something they avoid at all costs including security.
    • Since they plan on doing something from scratch (from what I understand), how about defining open standards that could be used on any platform?
      Thanks, now I have to buy a new keyboard. Stupid coffee.
  • It's BS (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Werrismys ( 764601 )
    A live-USB that requires Winblows-side ware to actually work.

    It will not be a portable run-anywhere-on-x86-liveUSB like Knoppix or DSL. It will be another useless piece of shit.

    • Don't forget the part where every one will think it's awesome despite the fact that it's been done before and done better.
      This really is just a response to all the Linux USB sticks running around. But of course MS has to lock you in so of
      course whatever computer you boot on will need Windows.....more lame ass lock in to make more money in more lame ass ways.
  • So, they figured out a way to save their "Roaming Profiles" technology (which is horrendously unreliable) to a flash disk instead of just storing on the network. Big deal. The only "innovation" is the addition of DRM, which itself is predictable, and also a feature nobody wants.

    Microsoft: providing you with Innovative Innovations (tm) to Microsoft SneakerNet (tm) at a time when everyone else is moving towards the "always-on" web profile.
  • Suppose you have some DRM protected content which you can listen to or watch on your Windows computer. But if you do manage to copy that content over to your USB Flash drive and access it on another computer, like at work, you can't (if DRM is doing what the content owners expect of it). I suspect what the DRM in this new technology will be doing is allowing you to do just that ... listen to or watch your content on the computer you take your USB flash drive to. But it will most likely only let you liste

  • ... I could see some solid imaginative and practical uses for this. A portable "disk" with mass storage available through mapping the likes of a gmail account, and license info for access to web-based applications that don't need to be stored on the disk itself. Reminds me of the memory card for a PlayStation that stores settings for a game and if you take the settings to another location where the game is also available, you're right back at home; with the web, the "game" (or application) should be availab
  • ... the new technology, which has yet to be named.

    How about "Virus in a Box"?

  • by CritterNYC ( 190163 ) on Friday May 11, 2007 @06:16PM (#19091131) Homepage
    Just use [] today. It has better compatibility, working with most Windows OSes (95, 98, Me, 2000, XP, 2003, Vista) as well as Wine under *nix. It's open so you can add any software [] that's already portable to it. And it's much more popular than U3 ever was, with over 20,000,000 apps downloaded. Plus it works from any drive you'd like: USB flash drive, iPod, portable hard drive, network share, etc... so you're never tied down.
  • by the_rajah ( 749499 ) * on Friday May 11, 2007 @06:25PM (#19091203) Homepage
    I've been doing this for years, going clear back to toting a Zip disk around with me that had Eudora on it, executing the program from the disk along with carrying the files I'm working with at the time.

    I'm doing this now with my sandisk titanium Cruzer 2 Gig. I've got my email client, Eudora, that runs just fine executing from the flash drive. My FTP client, leapftp is similar. Effectively, my "My Documents" resides on the flash drive, too. Then there's the suite of portable applications from [] I use portable Firefox, OO and Putty and have lots of room left over on the 2 Gig drive.

    Since all that good stuff is on that little flash drive, I back it up automatically every night so if I lose it, it's no biggie. Encryption is a good idea..

    I'm with the other comments about being nervous if MS is running the show. It's going to be more about restrictions than enabling.
  • Embrace and... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bearhouse ( 1034238 ) on Friday May 11, 2007 @06:37PM (#19091323)
    "As part of the plan, SanDisk will phase out its U3 technology, which adds some smart features to USB devices."

    'Our U3 technology was crap, especially when compared to what was already out there' (see the other posts on this topic).

    "Independent software developers that have created U3-compatible applications will be offered help migrating their products to the new technology, which has yet to be named..."

    'We're getting into bed with MS, who have a solid history of fucking-over third-party sw developers, and end-users, (the Zune episode springs to mind). So, eh, kiss your investment goodbye, suckers!

    Meanwhile, go download the stand-alone versions of Firefox and Thunderbird if you want portability.

    But if you're serious about your data, DO NOT mix the OS & application environment with user data on that key. My main PC has a separate partition for data on the disk. If the OS, (any one of them), gets screwed, no problem - reinstall. Data not affected...
    • by LarsG ( 31008 )
      Our U3 technology was crap

      What I don't get is why they thought enabling autorun on USB sticks was a good idea. Makes me remember the good old days of boot block viruses.
      • Yup. What goes around...
        Mind you, if it's your stick, hopefully you'll ensure it's not compromised...especially if you're booting your entire working environment from it.
  • by huckda ( 398277 )
    and all of the other IT guys out there trying to secure workstations and networks...

    Thanks SanDisk and Microsoft!
  • ... MS with is proprietary mindset and evidence of consumer abuse via countless anti-trust cases can't possibly do better than what open source can do here. And lets not forget that USB ram sticks are getting cheaper and larger in storage ability.. and faster access.

    With the ability of hardware today to boot from a USB, what is the point of doing only half the job (what MS is proposing) when you can have the the whole system on the stick, OS included.

    MS is so far behind on this that their ball and chain met
  • Well my current "Desktops" worth of data is (approx) 170 Gb (lots of audio files in "full fat" WAV format)

    So if they can provide a USB drive of that size for a few (UK) pounds then I'm all in favour (obviously I'll reformat the fecker first ;)
  • Guys... we need some perspectives here. Forget Microsoft and VMware. The important thing here, that most of us missed, is that Jesus Christ is back and submitting articles to Slashdot.
  • U3+DRM = Apocallypse! seriously, I wouldn't expect such horrible thing to happen but MS (not surprised) just did. We are going to have them combined and the worst is that almost every flash disk will come with it and most users won't get to be able to remove it. This is terrible news.
    • by topham ( 32406 )

      Thankfully I bought a 2Gig USB key the other day. It had U3 on it, but I used their utility to remove it.

      (I don't need, or want U3, and my primary client at this time won't allow it.).
  • Exactly HOW? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Master of Transhuman ( 597628 ) on Friday May 11, 2007 @09:06PM (#19092455) Homepage
    "The companies plan to add a security layer to the offering using SanDisk's TrustedFlash security and digital rights management technology. The effort will elevate "simple flash storage to a whole new level of customer benefit"

    The first thing Microsoft cares about in this endeaver is DRM?

    And this is going to provide "a whole new level of customer benefit"?

    I don't think so.

    If Microsoft wants to make USB useful, let Windows XP and Vista be booted off it...(Yes, I know somebody has finally made this possible but success seems to be limited.)

Would you people stop playing these stupid games?!?!?!!!!