Vista: coming to a USB drive near you

[intro]One of the niftiest new features of Vista is its ability to use flash drives as memory buffer[/intro]I was rather disappointed to walk away fro

I was rather disappointed to walk away from yesterday's Vista launch without a copy of the new operating system to review. Distressingly, the PR batch hadn't been delivered yet. Odd - are they trying to stop us from seeing it?

Fortunately, I didn't walk away empty handed - the press pack was supplied on a USB thumb drive. That itself isn't unusual - but this was a hefty 2GB SanDisk Cruser Micro, which proudly proclaimed it was 'Enhanced for Readyboost'.

Readyboost, it turns out, is a nifty new feature that allows Vista to use  flash memory plug-ins as a supplement to your computer's RAM. And when the minimum memory requirements for all but the most basic flavours of Vista is 1GB, that could come in mighty handy.

Before I get too carried away about how cool this is, it's worth remembering that  flash memory is a lot, lot slower than normal RAM. In fact, what really happens is that the computer will use the flash drive as it might use your hard drive as a 'scratch disk'.

The important thing is that Sandisk says this will speed up Vista. As soon as I get my review copy, I'll let you know if it really does. 

Incidentally, Sandisk used this year's CES to show off a flash-based 1.8in drive that is faster than a mobile hard drive, has no moving parts, and goes up to 32GB. And this on the back of flash-disk versions of ultraportable computers from Sony and Samsung. The days of the mobile hard drive could be numbered.