IS THIS THE END FOR LAPTOPS?

The next time we travel we’re going to leave our laptop at home. Why carry around $2,000 worth of theft appeal and have to deal with airport security onCruzer Titanium top of it? In fact, we’re thinking, why have a laptop at all?

What started us on this heretical path was the new Titanium Cruzer thumb-sized flash drive from SanDisk. It holds 2 gigabytes of any kind of data, and you can drive a car over it with no effects.

It lists for $110 at www.sandisk.com and comes with U3 and CruzerSync on board. U3 is neither a rock group nor a spy plane, but a program that lets you load other, portable programs. CruzerSync synchronizes the thumb with data you might have on different computers. So, you can take off with the little gizmo, carrying not only the information you need to do your work, but the programs as well.

You can take the tiny thumb thingy to any Windows computer, wherever it may be. Plug it into a USB port and the Cruzer will want you to first install some of its own software, such as anti-virus. From then on, you can just suck your thumb, so to speak.

Since Windows PCs are everywhere and cheap, this raises the question: Why carry a laptop computer at all? They’re much more expensive than desktop versions and very vulnerable to theft and dead batteries. The keyboard is cramped too. You can buy two or three good desktop machines for the cost of one good laptop. Stash them along your usual path. You can also use public machines in libraries and cafes, or borrow from a friend or colleague.

The U3 icon appears when you first plug in the Cruzer. Clicking that opens a menu that looks much like Windows. You can click on pre-selected Web sites where you can download lots of useful programs. You can even add Linux.

We chose Open Office (free) and then used it to edit this column. We also elected to pay $15 to download XoftSpySE from www.paretologic.com. This is a portable application that removes spyware from an unfamiliar computer you’re plugging into.

There are lots of portable drives available now for less than $100, not all of them flash drives. We have a tiny 4 gigabyte hard drive from Verbatim that comes with Ceedo software. Ceedo is like U3, and you can download it for $30 from www.ceedo.com. It offers a free trial.

Finally, if you go to www.gizmodo.com , you can watch some guy drive his car back and forth over a Titanium Cruzer.

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