Use a USB Thumb Drive to Pocket Your Desktop
If you don't want to depend on the Web to store or edit your data, you have another option: Keep your data and your applications on a thumb drive. USB thumb drives may be a dime a dozen, but they're endlessly useful, especially now that utilities are available to make your drive work as a clone of your desktop, which you can access thereafter via any PC, whether it's Web-connected or not.
Most impressive is MojoPac: It's the truest version of a mobile desktop we've seen to date. After you install MojoPac on your thumb drive and add data, the MojoPac desktop--a custom interface similar to a regular Windows desktop--pops up. Here you can install any Windows application, just as if you were using a regular PC. MojoPac even temporarily transforms your thumb drive into your system's C: drive. Once you have installed an app on the MojoPac-enabled thumb drive, it will work on virtually any PC you plug the thumb drive into. Wrapping your brain around the concept takes some time, but the software works well and is compatible with any USB device, including Apple's iPod. The bad news: The software costs $50 after the 30-day trial expires.
You can obtain similar functionality from Ceedo ($30), which includes a number of applications within its system. However, you'll need a second $30 piece of software, called Argo (downloaded within the Ceedo program), to run applications--such as Microsoft Office apps and Lotus Notes--that are not part of the system.
Another option is MigoSync ($30), a program that lets you synchronize e-mail, share data files, and replicate the look and feel of your desktop. Unlike MojoPac, however, MigoSync won't let you store and carry any applications that aren't already designed for installation on regular thumb drives.
If you're a do-it-yourselfer, you can manually outfit a thumb drive with the data and the applications of your choice. The result isn't the seamless experience that MojoPac offers, but it works pretty well. Your first stop should be PortableApps.com, which is stocked with free programs that will run directly from a thumb drive without requiring a standard Windows installation. If you're a fan of open source, PortableApps provides plenty of choices, ranging from Firefox to OpenOffice to GIMP (the Photoshop alternative)--all of them ready to run from your preferred USB device.