I’m kinda new to the whole portable application world… I’d heard about U3 for a while before actually looking into it, with the whole personal workspace idea sounding pretty cool, but it was only after I purchased my U3 drive a couple of months ago, that I actually understood the real potential in this area. The ability to take all my data and files with me, and use it anyplace anytime, is just what I needed.
Being a gadget freak and part-time programmer, I spend a lot of time checking out new applications, buying new hardware, and often taking both apart to little pieces. So, I naturally came around to investigating how my U3 Smart Drive actually functions, and while I’m pretty happy with how U3 is easy and useful, I now find there’s a lot about their technology that just plain doesn’t make sense.
I recently read in one of the other forums about a new companion program for U3 called PackageFactory (www.eure.ca), which supposedly has the potential to enables a user to install any software on their U3 drive. Now, there have been a few programs I’ve been dying to make portable but weren’t offered by U3, so I went and downloaded this application to see if I could add regular programs on my U3 drive. It actually worked fine except for a minor problem – the program cannot convert exe files to U3-ready files if they have no icon.
I then proceeded to check the application a little more thoroughly. I checked for any traces it might be leaving in the registry, and was surprised to find that after packaging an application using PackageFactory and running it on my U3 drive, all the application’s registry keys were written to the local registry and are left on the host PC! When I eject my U3 drive, the values remain in the registry!
I thought maybe this was a very small glitch, and I wanted to be sure, so I went on to test a bunch of applications, and found that they ALL left their traces on the host PC. Later I even wrote a tiny app which does nothing except write and retrieve values to and from the windows registry (I’ve attached it to this post, if you want to play with it yourself). This tool writes any value you type into it to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\RegTester, and then enables you to retrieve or delete the key from that location.
After I converted this app to the U3 format using PF, and ran it through my U3 drive, I used it to add a value to the registry, and then removed the U3 device from my PC. The value remained in the registry! Then, when I connected U3 to a different PC, the value did not migrate to the new host’s registry.
I understand that PF is trying to make adding applications to U3 more easy. But it also seems like PackageFactory is nothing more than a compression tool for taking regular files and packaging them to “U3 Friendly” format. It doesn’t actually make the application portable…
This tool may be very useful as an installer for programmers who want to make their programs U3-aware, but quite useless for normal users. There is no way to use this tool to allow running regular applications from the U3 drive on more than one PC (unless of-course they were originally U3 certified).
So what’s so portable about U3? If the applications already have to be portable what do I need U3 for? I don’t get it.
Here is the address for the application I created: