Why can't free software do portable right?

I recently bought a U3 compliant USB key, the hype and packaging was amazing and for the most part the U3 drive lived up to the expectations. Thunderbird was included on the key, and I was excited about being able to make any computer “my computer”, do my work, and then go without leaving a trace.

But, I was disappointed to find that very few free software products where available from the U3 site. Now, I know what you’re probably thinking and you’re wrong, this isn’t U3’s fault. They have opened up all of their hooks and an amazing amount of docs. Sure, they should open source their product, but they come close enough to still do a pretty good job.

The blame rests on the free software projects. I applaud those that took the initiative—OpenOffice.org, Firefox and Thunderbird. (Oh, and don’t give Sun and the Mozilla Corporation the credit, they don’t officially make these releases; their volunteers did it.) But, the fact that free software projects don’t make the few changes necessary to put their tools on smart drives is disappointing.

Now we get the news that Google is doing another Summer of Code (Google should have the admiration of even more people for this, unfortunately the conspiracy theories continue...). Here is a suggestion for Google and the SoC projects: turn making free software projects portable and U3 compatible into a project.

Portable free software projects can help everyone, let’s hope more free software projects recognize this, and provide these tools.

PS: PortableApps.com has worked hard to port some of our favorite software to be portable friendly. Although, most of them still do not support U3, it is a start. More effort should be made to expand this collection. (Hint, hint google.)

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