There’s no shortage of tiny PC-on-a-stick products these days, but the HardWhere is something new.

This tiny computer has a dual-core ARM-based processor, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of built-in storage. But the computer’s Linux-based operating system, apps and files aren’t stored on the built-in storage. Instead, they hang out on a removable microSD card.

Remove your microSD card and insert another and multiple people can use the same HardWhere stick.

hardwhere_05

The developers of the HardWhere are running a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the project. Early backers can request a HardWhere device with a 16GB microSD card for a pledge of €30 or more.

That’s about $35 US, and roughly half the eventual price of a retail unit. But the price doesn’t include shipping, which adds another €20 ($23).

HardWhere’s hardware includes 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, two micro USB ports, a full-sized USB port, a microSD card reader, and an HDMI 1.4 connector.

The system comes with a custom Linux-based operating system with support for desktop apps including LibreOffice and VLC. But the computer can also run Google Android if you want to use apps which aren’t available for the version of Linux running on the HardWhere.

While it’s possible to install Ubuntu or other Linux-based software on a number of other PC sticks, this is one of the first models I’ve seen that not only comes with a desktop Linux distro, but which runs that software from microSD cards as a way to make it easy to switch user profiles by switching storage cards.

Since this system uses an unspecified ARM-based chip, one thing it cannot do is run Windows. If you want a Windows PC-on-a-stick, you’ll need to use a system with an x86 processor, like an Intel Compute Stick.

via Notebook Italia

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8 replies on “HardWhere multi-user PC stick uses removable microSD cards for OS, apps, and data”

  1. “a dual-core ARM-based processor, 1GB of RAM”

    Is there still this kind of devices today? at half the price you can have a (faster, looking at the video) quad core ARM with 1GB of RAM, or for about the same price à 4/8 cores SoC with 2GB of RAM. The project is a good idea, not sure it will really usefull in this shape. 4GB should be the minimum tooday for surfing wth lot of tabs and saving the configuration.

  2. this is a hdmi dongle with a soc dual core arm cortex A7 maybe a Allwinner A20 with 1gb of ram soded to the board and 8gb of emmc or nand flash soded to the board with the android OS (you can find in geekbuying or other site) and the micro sd card with linux you can find in linuxium google plus by ian morrison, the access speed for the microsd card and to boot os i think that maybe will be not very good and this is nothing different from is already out there. But if you want a arm cortex chip but with removable storage emmc with a connector 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB you can go to hardkernel odroid with better acess speed and more propper for OS booting

  3. It runs an arm version of linux and is therefore restricted with few updates.

    No thanks.

  4. OS, apps, data on flash is good. Cheap PC that can boot from that flash is good. $60 for this thing is bad. For the same price you can get a tablet that also has a battery, an IPS display, and Android or Windows included, and get TV output whenever it suits your fancy using a $20 refurb Chromecast dongle.

  5. What’s the point of making these small and then making the profiles microsd swappable? Swapping is when the device is too large for everyone to carry one around, but this thing is a stick.

  6. No. This a a retarded idea. It runs Linux, multi-user is inherent in the design already so what is the point of shutting down, getting back behind a monitor or TV, swapping a -microSD- card and rebooting? Just use the hot seat switching already built into every modern distro. And every Linux since it shipped on floppy discs supports logoff and login user switching which is still a lot faster than shutdown, media swap, power on.

    They expect large groups to share this? Why? Why would people try to keep track of a microSD card that only works in this little toy computer that apparently they share access to for what reason exactly? Somebody hasn’t actually thought through a real world use case here, just had a kinda neat idea and hopes idiots will throw money at it and keep them in kibble for a few months.

    If you want to carry around a working environment buy yourself a USB stick, load a modern Linux distro (hint: several exist optimized for this use case) onto it and you will be able to stick it into just about any PC that allows booting from USB. Which is more likely to be available? A stock PC that hasn’t had it’s boot locked down or one of these novelties? The question answers itself doesn’t it?

    A Windows PC built around removable drives might make sense if you could get Microsoft to license you in such a way that they would be tied to the PC and and somehow allow each user to load the OS without purchasing a license.

    Now if they promoted this like a Pi as a bulletproof hacking platform where the boot from removable media means you can never brick it then OK, good point. But that would also require it otherwise be a good hacking platform and shipping out with ‘unstated’ SoC, only 1GB of ram, and the tiny form factor precluding any real I/O capability negates that option.

    Then add in the vapor of crowdfunding and what is the point of this?

    1. When you start throwing around words like “retarded” you’re the one at risk of having a lack of imagination.

      Of course, the vast majority of Kickstarter projects are risky propositions (they’re not even close to their goal yet) but I can certainly see this being used in classroom settings in poorer nations that have very limited access to computers. Handing out a microSD card to every student for use in the school’s computer lab is a lot cheaper than handing out a computer each (even a cheap one), and a lot easier to maintain and control costs. Sure you could just have multiple accounts instead, but allowing students to own their own entire computing environment could be attractive in some circumstances.

      Some people may like the idea of keeping all their data complete separate from their computing device when not in use for security reasons. It’s a lot easier to conceal a microSD card than a computer stick. (It would be even more secure if the microSD had to be paired with a specific device to load, though could be a problem if the device ceased to function.)

      I’m sure there are other perfectly reasonable use cases people can come up with. Whether any of them is commercially viable is another question, but I certainly don’t fault the creators for testing their ideas through a crowdfunding campaign. Innovation in a heavily trodden field is difficult, and most efforts are doomed to failure, but if people don’t try, we’re all going to be a lot worse off in the long run.

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