Personalised Operating Environment for Bond Students?

Problem: Students in certain subjects require highly specialised software and it is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to create a standard Windows image across all teaching labs and shared environments such as the library. In addition new and upgraded software of particular benefit becomes available continually through the semester and currently with static images cannot be used.

Possible solution: Allow students to use a USB flash or micro drive that carries their own personalised operating environment (POE) that runs on any accessible machine on campus. This can be achieved by using a product such as MojoPac which runs the POE from the USB device.

There are many benefits when using MojoPac to create a POE:

  • the POE holds personal data and desktop and user profile settings, bookmarks, email addresses, and all application settings installed in the POE
  • switching between the standard operating environment (SOE) and POE takes less than a second, and no POE settings are transferred to the SOE
  • students have admin permission in the POE and, with appropriate licences where needed, can install/upgrade any software packages such as those that are enclosed with some textbooks
  • the POE is obviously at risk from inadvertently installed malware but can be restored from a USB device dump in minutes
  • the latest version of MojoPac does not require administrator rights on the host machine
  • the POE can also run on machines outside the Bond campus such as the student’s own machine, in an Internet cafe, in a public library and so on

At present MojoPac seems to be a viable proposition at a cost of USD 50 per USB device. Better still is the existence of some established and upcoming competitors:

  • Special U3 Smart USB drives (small additional cost to standard USB drives) also hold personal data and allow certain applications plus their data (bookmarks, email addresses and so on) to run in the operating environment of the host machine. All U3 application data is retained and isolated on the U3 drive which is carried from machine to machine.
  • The Lexar PowerToGo technology works in a similar fashion to U3 and a list of about 100 applications are approved for PowerToGo.
  • Of course a collection of special versions of opensource applications have been available at Portable Apps has been available for some time. To quote “Now you can carry your favorite computer programs along with all of your bookmarks, settings, email and more with you. Use them on any Windows computer. All without leaving any personal data behind.” No special USB devices or software is needed but only the special portable versions of the applications are available.

Using a POE might reduce the load on our technical support services and provide lecturers and students with much needed software flexibility. 

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About Michael Rees
Academic in IT interested in Web 2.0 and social media

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