Being a homeless geek (i.e. without my own computer) is neither fun nor easy, but there's a few tricks that I learnt on the way. Here I'll try to share a few that I can remember of and comment them as well.
Most of the time my dad lends me his (Windows XP, brrr) laptop, but of course I cannot expect this to be true all of the time, so I had to find a solution that would a) let me move my data from different computers if needed and b) leave my dad's computer as clean of my clutter as possible.
Then I found (again actually, but forgot about it) PortableApps because they were nominated for sf.net's community awards. What they do is take FOSS programs, hack them so they're both smaller and that they store all their settings, cache and other files on the USB key itself. And this is all bundled into a menu launcher that can be ran under Windows.
The first try I gave it was quite pleasant, but on my little 256 MiB USB key I couldn't fit OpenOffice, if I wanted to have space for other applications on it and some for my documents as well. So when Ike (a friend of mine, co-geek and co-lawyer) gave me a spare 1 GiB key, I quickly formatted it and installed more apps on it, including OpenOffice Portable and for the moment use that as my primary
All in all I'm quite happy with the solution. It's relatively elegant, not too wasteful of resources and it's surprising how much apps you can fit on a stock USB key!
Here's what I currently have on it (with comments): - 7-Zip (compressing tool) -- so far managed to work with everything that I could throw at it, but the GUI leaves a bit to be desired - CoolPlayer+ (music player) -- reminds a lot of early WinAmp and XMMP; doesn't seem to have many features, but works; the on-top, minimal/shaded view brings back nostalging memories ;) - Cornice (picture/album viewer) -- small and simple image viewer; again works, but don't expect a DigiKam, Gwenview or Picassa killer - DOSBox (DOS emulator) -- heh, I felt like playing some of my old DOS games ;] - Firefox (web browser) -- I still miss my Konqueror, but it's nice to have a pimped up FireFox to carry along with all the bookmarks, history and plugins - GIMP (image manipulation tool) -- the Windows version of GIMP, 'nuff said - Infra Recorder (CD/DVD burning tool) -- I haven't had time yet to test it, but from the looks of it, it seems quite nice; actually seems a lot nicer then most "free" (as in beer) burning tools for Windows - MPlayer (video/media player) -- the GUI looks rather ugly, but I've seen worse; otherwise works quite nicely; so far I didn't have any problems with the bundled codecs (I did with Windows Media Player though) - Notepad++ (text editor) -- rather advanced text editor; has tabs, syntax highlighting and plugins; I still like Vim and Kate a lot more, but I'm quite happy with it - OpenOffice (office suite) -- the whole OpenOffice packed into a small package; works just nicely; I could open my ODT files that I made in KOffice almost perfectly (one tabulator was missing, content and styling was fine), while when I tried AbiWord, it was completely garbled - Pidgin (IM client) -- I'm usually using Kopete and Konversation (or Finch and Irssi when in the console), but I found using Pidgin for IM on Windows to satisfy my basic needs and runs nicely all the protocols I use; IRC-wise it shows the downsides of pretty much all IM clients that support IRC - PNotes (sticky notes) -- similar to KNotes, but it's harder to manage notes in it; does it job, but not sterling - PuTTY (SSH/Telnet client) -- essential for accessing the server; works like a peach - SpeedCrunch (advanced calculator) -- great calculator; exceeds my needs, but has all the features I need; I use it under GNU/Linux as well - SumatraPDF (PDF viewer) -- small and simple; so far opened all PDF I needed; GUI is not too nice and the full-screen shortuct (Ctrl+L) is not the most logic IMHO - Thunderbird (+ Lightening plugin) (e-mail/RSS reader + PIM) -- not bad, but still like KMail and the whole Kontact in general a lot better; handling mailing groups and filters is still inferior to KMail; e-mail scam prevention is a nice touch; RSS doesn't seem to be too predictable at times and is hard to organise; it's great that it has OPML import though, so I could just import my backed up Akregator list; adding events and tasks doesn't feel nice, although I like the time selection menu; overall the PIM bit feels quite rough, but it gets the job done I suppose - WinSCP (FTP/SCP client) -- essential to up- and down-load files to and from servers and other boxen via SSH or FTP - Xenon (file browser) -- small, tabbed browser; slow; pop-ups not informative enough (e.g. on deletion, copying etc.)
Also it'd be great if PortableApps would tweak the apps so that if they'd see that certain apps are also installed on the USB key that it would default to opening the according MIME types with the portable apps instead of locally installed ones. One such annoyance is that I cannot seem to convience Thunderbird Portable to open HTTP links in Firefox Portable, instead of the one installed on the laptop's harddrive. It'd be also great if it was possible (probably I just don't know how) for the user to tweak the PortableApps menu to e.g. manually remove all the OpenOffice component entries and just leave the OpenOffice suite entry.
The music I still get mainly from Jamendo and lately BlocSonic, so with the above tools and the free content online (and backups on SpiderOak) I somehow made myself a small shed on my lil' USB key, until I find a new home.
hook out → going to bed
P.S. Another cool project (that sadly didn't win) is RepRap -- a FOSS powered and following FOSS principles 3D printer.