Now the geeks can have a full-featured Linux OS booted from a USB stick or thumb drive. Linux distributor Mandriva's Flash 4GB provides Mandriva Linux 2007 KDE 32-bit, which needs no installation - being ready to boot off the USB 2.0 stick. Plug in the stick, turn on the PC, and Mandriva Linux is ready to use in a few seconds.

It includes drivers for common PC video cards, wireless adapters and modems - as well as the required firmware. It also offers some open source desktop environments, applications and plugins:

- KDE 3.5.4 (GUI - desktop environment)
- Mozilla Firefox (Internet browser)
- 2.0.4 (Windows Office-like applications)
- The Gimp 2.3.10 (image manipulation)
- Real Player (music and video playing software)
- Flash Player (web animation software)

This is sufficient software for general office work, Internet access and multimedia tasks. System configuration, preferences and data are all saved to the key for use in a subsequent session. It is a 'flash' Linux in that its GUI includes a rotating 3D cube effect when workspaces are changed.

Why carry Linux on a memory stick? When travelling, you might need to use a computer in a hotel business centre or an office. With the stick you get something that could pretend to be part of a Windows network, access the Internet, and which would leave no trace behind, taking your business results with it. It is also an easy way to try out Linux.

Flash 4G is an update on the previous Flash 2G, having twice the capacity, and provides a single 4GB FAT partition. The user decides how to split it up between system and swap partitions. When the stick is first started up, the user is asked to allocate space for their system. For instance, you can allocate up to 3GB for your system and keep the rest of the free space for personal documents.

No files needed to be copied to the host's hard drive and no traces of your session are left on the host PC.

The key software can be upgraded to Mandriva Linux 2007 Spring, the upcoming new version of the OS. Flash 4G costs €89 and can be ordered online.