Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Don't lose that pair of old shoes

Don't lose that pair of old shoes
Mon, Oct 12, 2009
The Straits Times

By Tan Chong Yaw

My browser setup is like an old pair of shoes. I am so comfortable with it, any small change will upset me.

A month ago, my HP Compaq nc6230 laptop at work was attacked by a virus, which rendered my USB ports unreliable. So I was stuck with a replacement machine that I was unfamiliar with.

Now, my Firefox browser setup is elaborate: it fires up my four home pages, three of which are Gmail, the OneLook dictionary search page and Wikipedia, at the same time.

The fourth page holds iGoogle, which can be customised with news feeds and widgets.

Mine has more than 50 items.

I would have gone bonkers if I had to build my browser up from scratch.

My sanity was preserved because of a U3 USB flash drive from which I could install and launch apps like Firefox. You can buy one for $20.

I had replicated my laptop's browser setup on it months earlier as an exercise.

First, I installed Firefox on the U3 drive (above). Find it in

Next, I replicated my four homepages using their URLs and saved them on the drive.

As Gmail and iGoogle are Web-based services, they were set up automatically once I signed in. My username and password were saved in U3 Firefox.

You can set up your Gmail and iGoogle accounts at and You need to register just once with an e-mail address for the Google apps.

My hundreds of bookmarks are backed up on the Net using Xmarks - an app for the online synching of bookmarks.

Download it from Registration with an e-mail address is needed too.

Next, the setup. Once I stuck the U3 drive into the USB port of my temporary PC, a U3 panel popped up. One click on the Firefox icon there and my four homepages appeared. Bliss.

The beauty of this solution is that my setup is synched automatically.

Now that my old machine has come out of intensive care, I have gone back to using the browser on that laptop.

However, I now have another pair of old shoes - the U3 drive. It is like leaving a trusty spare in the boot of the car.

This story was first published in The Straits Times Digital Life.

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