Pc stick windows option?


#1

Consider this an ambitious feature request.

I’m a frequent traveler and outdoors person and I only have room for one PC in my luggage or backpack. I do however ocassionally need to rely on an OS like MS Windows, that attracts highly polished well developed applications. Crypto currency apps are a prime example. These are often only available for Windows, OS10x, Android, & iOS operating systems, with no offerings available for 'nix OSs. I do recall seeing something called a “PC Stick” (Windows PC on a USB Stick) available in the marketplace. I’m wondering if this could be a Windows option for Librem users?

PC Sticks are designed to be used as an option to turn a television set or any other HDMI enabled monitor into a complete, if somewhat performance limited, Internet capable personal computer. Some of the current offerings look promising; although the highest rated “Intel Compute Stick” only offers “eMMC” permanent storage, which is slow compared to SSD options.

 https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/products/boards-kits/compute-stick/stk2m3w64cc.html

 https://www.windowscentral.com/best-stick-pcs

 Similar devices are also available for the Google Chrome OS.

 https://www.asus.com/us/Chrome-Devices/Chromebit-CS10/

 Apple currently has no offerings that I'm aware of; and I suspect this will continue to be the case 
 for the foreseeasble future, although IMO it shouldn't be.

These devices have an “external” HDMI port to send video to the monitor device, instead of sending data through the USB port, which it uses only as a power supply. I believe they rely primarily on an On-Screen-Keyboard; but I believe they will also accept a Bluetooth Keyboard as well. I could possibly throw one of these onto my hotel flatscreen, if I’m lucky, it has an HDMI port, and I can access it. See (if I’m lucky); but this won’t always be the case. I often sleep in Hostels, when I’m anticipating a major expense, like a Tourist Visa or Airline Ticket. I won’t get to add cables to or monopolize “THEIR” TVs. So I’m thinking “how could I get one of these things to talk to my potential future Librem Laptop?” Well, I have an answer, which you’re probably NOT going to like.

RECODE THE BIOS (recall I said “ambitious” request) to allow the HDMI port, on the Librem, to be bidirectional, so that I can run the HDMI cable to the Librem for video “input;” and allow the Librem keyboard to function as a “dumb” Bluetooth Keyboard. The only problem that now remains is creating an elegant solution for printing, like attaching a wirless printer (I’m sure these PC Sticks don’t have printer ports), or sending the documents to “another” USB stick, which I can then take to an Internet Cafe or copy shop, etc. (In Malaysia none of the Internet Cafes had printers. These were just for gamers: so I had to go to a camera store to get my PDFs printed).

BTW, printing on-the-road is a BIG BIG BIG problem! (for which there is NOT a satisfactory solution). When opening Bank and Exchange accounts or requesting government documents (especially, from the US State Department), or even opening a Private Mailbox (PMB), the PDFs are often required to be Printed First, Then Signed, Then re-Scanned before being re-Transimitting electronically, or delivered by Courier or in-Person. Also, PMB applications (in the US) HAVE to be notarized. The international “Know Your Customer” (KYC) regulations have made these otherwise “ordinary” tasks a nightmare. As a personal commentary, If I’m an ordinary (especially US) national, with little disposable income, I get strip searched when doing any of these things. If I’m Carlos Escobar, I get waved right through. NOT FAIR!


#2

Or, you know, just use Windows through a VM, and pass all of the hardware components you are interested in through to the VM.

Has the added benefit of being cheaper, probably more robust as it can access your laptops resources, and means you only need your laptop and not a pc on a stick.

There are other advantages to a pc on a stick, but based on your scenario I don’t see them being relevant here.

Either way, not saying don’t do it, just have you considered the simple more straight forward solution?


#3

Thanks for the reply. You’re clearly a VM expert; so I’d like to learn more about the scenario you’ve described and how it might be automated. You know, set up Plug and Play; so that a non-professional would be able to duplicate it, without much more effort than turning on the switch, “while saving her bookmarks and other settings in non-volitile storage for future use.” I’m not sure this last bit can be done with a VM?

BTW, the scenario I described in the OP, while NOT ideal, might be useful for other things. I think
having that flexibility might be beneficial, especially, if I just want to use my lappie as an extra
monitor or a BT keyboard. I think what I’m trying to say, is that no scenario is ideal and having
more than one way to do things is a good idea, especially if it’s the middle of the night, the stores
are all closed and the application server is down for maintenance.

Back to the topic at hand.

While not an expert, I have used VMs before for testing distros and running “Whonix,” which I think is a joke. The process, as I understand it, is to “sideload” Windows or the distro of interest with a DVD drive, then adding it to the VM. You can then start your distro of interest, from within the VM menu system. I haven’t tried this with Windows yet, probably because I’ve always dual-booted. The software maintenance involved has become too much of a headache and Windows 10, just doesn’t play well with other distros. Also, Windows 7, 10 etc., starts getting real defensive if it thinks its on any other drive than C: Lastly, Windows wants a product code. Will entering this work in a VM environment?

Your point about having ALL my system resources available is correct and well taken. This is clearly a desireable result. The cons of this approach are a lack of performance, sometimes extreme; and, more annoyingly, the loss of my bookmarks and settings on every reboot. Also, what do I do if I need to use a VPN? Hold-on, I seem to remember being able to save some settings in Whonix. Can I save all this and my VPNs in a VM environment? Also, how much performance will I actually lose this way? Will Windows-Updates “break” the VM install? Bottom line, can I run a Bitcoin, Verge or Monero wallet, in this environment and expect my “Crypto-Currency” to be secure, at least as secure as it would be in a non-VM’d environment?

Perhaps, if this sideloading of Windows is actually a viable solution, perhaps this can become a “bespoke offering?”