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Portables Hardware

USB FlashDrives The New PC? 305

olddotter writes "Yahoo has an article about how large capacity USB drives might be redefining the concept of the personal computer. The article is windows specific, but think knopix on a flash drive." From the article: "When you check into an average hotel room and find -- alongside the alarm clock, hair dryer and DVD player that once were bring-your-own items but now are as standard as the furniture -- a cheap PC for guests to plug into, as our truly personal computing environment travels with us."
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USB FlashDrives The New PC?

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  • by Pharmboy ( 216950 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @04:34PM (#13752146) Journal
    Yea, but you still have to bring your own virus and spyware. It will be years til they provide that.
    • Oh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by temojen ( 678985 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @04:37PM (#13752179) Journal
      I wouldn't trust a hotel (or net-cafe) computer with a USB stick with my private keys, certificates, or banking password. Even if you boot off your USB stick, how do you know it's not booting under Xen? I think it's more likely that the hotel computer has malware already. chambermaids are not sysadmins.
      • Re:Oh? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Pharmboy ( 216950 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @04:40PM (#13752207) Journal
        This is referring to a computer with NO operating system at all. You have to provide everything, it's completely diskless, just a usb port. If they did anything, it would have to be at the proxy or some kinda tftp boot.

        Having a whole operating system on a flash drive isn't that unusual. I have been using Knoppix for years, like a million other people. The flashdrive would just be faster and smaller, and you could write to it and save some files if you chose to.
        • Re:Oh? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by temojen ( 678985 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @04:44PM (#13752230) Journal
          How do you know it has no OS?
          • Try to boot it without your flashdrive installed the first time perhaps? Or run fdisk as soon as it does boot to see if there are any other drives that the hardware detects? Or kudzu? Use a screwdriver if you must, but don't put it in your carry on luggage.
            • Then how do you know it's not a virtual machine that's emulating a diskless PC?

          • Re:Oh? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by ComputerSherpa ( 813913 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @06:48PM (#13752944) Homepage
            You guys are all assuming that your precious data is worth stealing in the first place. You may not be as interesting to other people as you may think.
            • Re:Oh? (Score:3, Insightful)

              by jrockway ( 229604 ) *
              In that case, please explain all these SPAMs that say "please give me you paypal password", "please give me your bank password", etc. My data is important simply because some scammer can make money off of it.
          • Re:Oh? (Score:3, Funny)

            > How do you know it has no OS?

            Build a bridge out of it!

            Oh, wait....sorry. That's witches. Carry on.
          • Re:Oh? (Score:3, Insightful)

            by timeOday ( 582209 )

            How do you know it has no OS?

            The point is it shouldn't be too hard to make a machine that can't be modified in software by its users, which you can use to boot up from your own memory device.

            Does that mean whoever owns the machine in the cybercafe or hotel couldn't trick you? No. But it means a patron of one of these establishments probably could not, which is good enough.

            It's like asking "before entering your PIN, how do you know that's a real ATM?" The answer is, you don't, really, but exploints

            • Bad example (Score:5, Informative)

              by Wudbaer ( 48473 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @08:31PM (#13753404) Homepage
              You chose a really bad example up there ;-). At least in Europe fraud using manipulated or even completely bogus ATMs is not too infrequent according to police reports. Apparently there are a lot of mostly Eastern European gangs that either "enhance" real ATM systems with add-ons for the card reader and the keyboard that, while often not discernible on even closer inspection to the non-expert, can log the users PIN codes and grab the transmitted card data. Sometimes they even use complete real-looking fake-ATMs that trick you into entering your PIN and swallowing your ATM card afterwards. Until you have contacted the bank to get your card back from the presumed read ATM they are already spending your money using your real card and the PIN you gave them.
        • Re:Oh? (Score:3, Insightful)

          That won't help you one bit if the keyboard has within itself a hardware keylogger.

          Some keyboards themselves are keyloggers.

          Sometimes keyboards are attached to keylogger adapters or dongles.

          KeyGhost.Com []

          So, remember, either bring your own keyboard or just bring a laptop.
        • This is referring to a computer with NO operating system at all. You have to provide everything, it's completely diskless, just a usb port. If they did anything, it would have to be at the proxy or some kinda tftp boot.

          Or just hook up as this: USB drive - hidden USB inside box - USB connector. The hidden USB could read yours, but keep or send a copy off somewhere. I'm sure you can do more variations on this. If this gets significantly popular people will find a way and it's popularity will plummet down to n
          • Re:Oh? (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Pharmboy ( 216950 )
            Or just hook up as this: USB drive - hidden USB inside box - USB connector. The hidden USB could read yours, but keep or send a copy off somewhere. I'm sure you can do more variations on this. If this gets significantly popular people will find a way and it's popularity will plummet down to nothing.

            First, Knoppix doesn't mount any foreign disk by default. Second, if it was a drive that was "interupting" my keydrive, knoppix would likely see that and tell me. No such drive exists today, writing the code to
            • Re:Oh? (Score:3, Insightful)

              by fbjon ( 692006 )
              Knoppix can only read what the hardware tells it to read. Try running Knoppix in VMWare, you'll notice that you can make it believe anything about your computer. Knoppix cannot detect if there is a keylogger installed in the keyboard. It cannot detect if the signals coming from the USB-key are really from the key, or rather from a device in between, reading the key, and generating the proper response while recording everything. The electronics for both of these can easily be hidden, inside a regular-looking
              • Re:Oh? (Score:4, Interesting)

                by Pharmboy ( 216950 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @07:19PM (#13753104) Journal
                But if you have some sensitive data that someone wants, perhaps the hotel you're staying in provides some black-market services you're not aware of?

                When I pay $300-$500 a night to stay at the Sheraton in Brussels, I'm pretty sure they aren't just a front for a credit card fraud ring. After all, I have already GIVEN them a scan of my credit card to put on file during my stay. This is the kind of hotel that would be offering computers. Better quality business class hotels near major airports and travel destinations.

                The Model 6 on the edge of town where the crack whores stay isn't gonna start having free computer access anytime soon.

                Come on, a little perspective goes a long way folks. You guys must not travel much.
                • Re:Oh? (Score:3, Interesting)

                  When I pay $300-$500 a night to stay at the Sheraton in Brussels, I'm pretty sure they aren't just a front for a credit card fraud ring.

                  You, and others that can afford to stay there, are the perfect people to collect private data from. Credit card numbers, passwords to corporate accounts, banking information, whatever. The person doing the collecting doesn't have to tell Sheraton he's doing he, does he? He just has to impose his malware into the system you're going to be using while fat, dumb, and happ

      • Re:Oh? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by myov ( 177946 )
        One of my clients runs an internet cafe. Partially as a result of the machines constantly failing, I set the machines up so that they refresh each time the machine is rebooted. But, from a security perspective all you need to do is reboot, wait 7 minutes, and you have a clean system. No spyware, no viruses. It's been almost a year and there have been 0 problems since.

        The image was made after a clean windows install and uses parted to restore. It's stored on a partition that is hidden by grub at system boot.
  • Right... (Score:3, Funny)

    by xeon4life ( 668430 ) <devin&devintorres,com> on Sunday October 09, 2005 @04:34PM (#13752148) Homepage Journal
    Yes, because Knoppix is so much more familiar to the Slashdot crowd than Windows...
    • Re:Right... (Score:3, Funny)

      by gl4ss ( 559668 )
      for being easily booted from usb.. damn right!

      would you conduct your business from a windows pc.. sitting in a hotel room? thats like using old sheets.
      • Re:Right... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by SeventyBang ( 858415 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @07:57PM (#13753263)

        Forget the sheets - think about the fact you're reusing the blankets from the previous parties (and the previous parties' leftovers).

        Speaking of the drives, Best Buy just finished having a sale of Memorex 2G sticks (retail $199) for $159 at the cash register, then another $30 for the rebate. Granted, you're looking at $10+ in taxes at each level, but it's still a heck of a discount. Not much more than some of the stores' retail prices for 1G, although I don't think anyone is going to pay the upper end of a 1G price scale. Those things were nearly impossible to find using the StoreFinder Inventory. I didn't want to order one and was going to my doctor's office in Chicago a couple of days after they sold out here in Indy, so I placed a pickup order there.

        Then, I happened to be picking up some laptops for our DARPA team from a repair shop, and when I went back to my car, there was a Best Buy sack (this was on the far side of the BB parking lot) which was on the passenger side of my car, so I opened it up. There was a 2G stick in it. Unopened. So I figured I'd do the nice nerd thing and track down the new owner. If they paid via credit card or cheque, it shouldn't have been a problem to track them down. Unfortunately, they paid in ca$h???? So I sat there for another hour, sitting & reading, sans A/C as it was fixed, then stopped working and I hadn't had time to take it back to be re-repaired. I don't tolerate heat very well, but I felt it was the decent thing to do. After an hour, I wasn't sure what to do, so I ended up putting it onto my lanyard, feeling badly for not having another way to find the owner.

        BTW, it's said you can't (or shouldn't) format NTFS, but both of mine seem to be working fine. I had the handle (which holds it on the lanyard) break off and had to finagle a fix, but also contacted Memorex. They told me to file it as a warranty issue to get a replacement cap. (???)

        One of my friends, who has a 512M stick, asked me what I was going to do with 4G of stick memory and I asked him what he did with 512M. He said he rarely comes close to capacity. I thought about marking one of them with tiny lettering: ICE (In Case of Emergency), sort of like the fad with cell phones, but a text file with the important info, in addition to the usual phone numbers (a list, and who they are - more options than a cell phone) as I usually have them around my neck; e.g. I'm allergic to morphine; my pain receptors have been exposed weekly exclusively to methadone for nearly ten years, so other pain meds may not work correctly; what other meds I'm taking; why all of this is so; etc.

        Here's an article [] from PC Magazine detailing how to stock up on what you can carry around, bootable, as well as what utilities you can tote about worrying about (on the Windows side) things which have to have components in specific directories, entries in the registry, etc.

    • Maybe not to everyone, but Knoppix _is_ more familiar to me than Windows.
  • by Afecks ( 899057 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @04:35PM (#13752156)
    ...check out VirtualPrivacyMachine []. DamnSmallLinux made completely anonymous with Tor.
    • by temojen ( 678985 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @04:40PM (#13752204) Journal
      Or just bring your own Laptop. Putting your confidential information in someone else's computer is not safe. ever.
      • Booting off a computer that you removed the hard drive, and then booted with Tinfoilhat Linux after disconnecting any contact with the outside world (ethernet, wifi, etc), and setting up your Faraday cage, and turning the impossible-for-cameras-to-read mode on in TFH Linux, then after your done burning another image into the CRT monitor, and after your done whipping the hard disk (just for good measure ;-)), and then inducing a strong electromagnetic field over the whole computer (choose your wavelength, I
    • You can see them posting on Slashdot. That's some Anonymous Coward!

      You'd think at least they'd be spreading dissent against governments. Not worried about being flamed.
  • Well, that's great (Score:4, Insightful)

    by the-amazing-blob ( 917722 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @04:35PM (#13752160) Journal
    It would be nice to have that accessability in hotels, but I have one small problem with USB drives. They're too freaking small. I keep losing them.
  • I like this concept (Score:5, Informative)

    by technoextreme ( 885694 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @04:35PM (#13752162)
    I have always been fascinated by the programs that can boot off a flash drive because I don't own a computer yet. These programs are quite useful and so far I know of three. (Open Office, Mozilla, and an HTML editor) Does anyone else know what programs can be booted off such a drive?
    • Linux. Several versions. Just Google it. []
    • runs off a 128 MB flash dongle: []

      It has everything you need to get a job done.

    • I have... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SeaFox ( 739806 )
      On my drive I have:

      Firefox (portable version prepared by John Haller)
      Thunderbird (also Haller's prepackage)
      7-Zip (cause my flash drive is only 256MB)
      NetRadio (simple Shoutcast player/ripper)
      XMPlay (for other audio files)
      Miranda IM (would use GAIM, but don't want to install GTK and the autologging is so useful)
      BitComet (more features and half the disk size of the official BitTorrent client)
      WinMTR 0.8.7 (if only the Windows shell had this built in)
      SSH Secure Shell (there's a free-for-non-commercial-use licens
  • by heptapod ( 243146 ) <> on Sunday October 09, 2005 @04:37PM (#13752174) Journal
    They crap out after so many read/writes. If a company can make a better flash drive all the better.
    • With a a proper and flash specific file system the write limit problem is almost non-existant. Wear leveling can allow the memory to last for years. One of the reasons for the semi-crappy performance/dependibility of these flash drives is because they use FAT over a flash translation layer, which uses more writes than nessesary and doesnt include wear leveling. A real flash filing system such as YAFFS [] is far more robust. The only problem is it requires support in the OS, which isn't included by default
    • That's what the MTBF rating is all about. It's just that flash drives do it sooner. But we all know what to do about it, right? Have a tight schedule of backups. Take your pendrive home and back that sucker up. Every time.

    • by v1 ( 525388 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @05:10PM (#13752392) Homepage Journal
      There are "spare" cells in flash drives just the same as there are "spare" blocks on hard drives. There are usually two controller chips in a USB drive (plus the flash chips) - they include the memory controller and a usb (or firewire if you happen to have one) bridge. The memory controller manages the memory and remaps cells that go bad, transparent to the usb/fw bridge. Anyone with a flash drive probably has some bad cells in it, just like hard drives 10 years ago that came with a label printed on the top listing all the bad blocks the new drive shipped with.

      Parent talks about "wear balancing" - interesting concept though I have not heard of it used on flash drives before... would be a nice idea but not too fun to implement.

      I use my flash drive several times a day at least, it's a 4gb SanDisk Cruzer Mini. Perfect for hauling around all the maintenance, repair, and update software that I use daily. I don't know why people buy those giant drives that don't fit well in a pocket and block adjacent USB ports. SanDisk also has a lifetime guarantee on their drives, so if mine ever does use up all its spares, I'll just trade it for a new one. Lacks a write protect switch though, which would kinda be nice.

      Also a less known factoid about USB drives... the fast ones - USB 2.0 "High Speed" (not to be confused with the "Full Speed" snails) only work in powered USB hubs. Can't plug them into the keyboard ports. I wish they'd fix that. I'm tired of having to crawl behind a computer to jack into one of the powered ports. Thankfully most manufacturers are placing a powered usb port on the front of their machines nowadays. (sometimes two)

      Would be nice too if Apple would fix OS X so it didn't reset all the #@*& USB buses 1.5 seconds into boot, so we could boot X off our flash drives.
      • Would be nice too if Apple would fix OS X so it didn't reset all the #@*& USB buses 1.5 seconds into boot, so we could boot X off our flash drives.

        I heard you can boot OSX from a Firewire flash drive like the Kanguru Drive []. Though it is a little more expensive then the USB ones. ($122 for 1 gig [])

    • and that should be long enough. I don't see what your problem is.
  • The key issue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by putko ( 753330 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @04:39PM (#13752192) Homepage Journal
    There's nothing magical about USB, or even a local disk.

    The key issue isn't that the data is on a USB disk, but that it is easy enough for you to carry around all your data (including OS and apps). E.g. compact flash would suffice. Or serial flash.

    Furthermore, just having secure access to the data (perhaps over the internet) would suffice. Imagine a system where to boot up, the PC fetches your data off the web. Perhaps you use a kind of use-once key to access some of the data, with which the PC computes.

    The thing I've not been satisfied with yet is the idea that the PC itself would engage in a man-in-the-middle attack. E.g. it stores a copy of whatever data you've accessed (off your USB, compact flash or network storage) -- and the bad guy gets that stuff later. There's no defense against this attack, because the PC is doing the processing.

    E.g. imagine a compromised PC running something like bochs. It emulates a real PC, but gives away your secrets.

    • And yet, I'd still not mind it. One USB cameras, printers, flash drives, CD/DVD drives, monitors []...anything that can take off the space wasted on internal PCI and non-USB ports is fine by me. I don't like those. I'd not know jack-shit about writing a USB driver, but hey, I can Google for that...
    • Re:The key issue (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kjella ( 173770 )
      The thing I've not been satisfied with yet is the idea that the PC itself would engage in a man-in-the-middle attack. E.g. it stores a copy of whatever data you've accessed

      Or if your USB key is your computer (I presume some of these can be offline), why not just copy the entire USB drive? At 512mb each, you'd fit 500 on a 250gb drive (actually you wouldn't since 2^10 != 10^3), then just search... any interesting jpgs? videos? license keys? confidential data? certificates? Take your pick.
    • Internet connections go down. It doesn't make sense to me to trust your data to something you might lose access to.
    • The thing I've not been satisfied with yet is the idea that the PC itself would engage in a man-in-the-middle attack.

      That's why I'm going to keep carrying my laptop. I don't trust non-free software, especially Microsoft junk. I'll use a windoze box in a pinch, but I won't put a password into it. There are just too many key loggers out there and the platform is too open to abuse. As long as there's a network, I have full OpenSSH access to my data from my cable box. It's rare that I need all of it, but

  • Trust? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wtown ( 880570 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @04:39PM (#13752195)
    Assuming that you are willing to trust that this machine isn't (either by design or by tampering) just grabbing and logging all of your data.

    Granted, I'm sure protection mechanisms would be built in to address this, but I think I'd still be a bit skeptical.
    • Hardly insightful. Any version of Linux can be configured to automatically scan for other storage devices in about 3 seconds. This is trivial. The hotel proxy is another issue, but that is what encryption is for, so yes, they could capture your encrypted messages, but good luck decrypting them.

      This would be easy to deal with. The hard part is getting hotels to install the diskless boxes in the first place.
    • Very insightful, not to mention obvious.

      Do Not Trust Anyone Else's Hardware

      Pull apart a few USB keyboards. You'll find a lots of ASICs. A popular flavour is an 8051 core with USB and matrix switch interfaces, plus a few GPIO pins for designers to get fancy with.

      The chips generally come in three basic models, a version with flash program memory and programming support, a One Time Programmable version with programming support, and a factory-programmable version. The first is most expensive, and is targetted a
      • Re:Trust? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by hweimer ( 709734 )
        The biggest problem is the changeover. You could probably do it in 15 minutes or so, but getting to each keyboard with a soldering iron for that time in a busy hotel would be difficult if you don't want to rent each room in turn.

        Nice idea. Wouldn't be it much easier to just use a USB keylogger? However, keystrokes (i.e. username and password combinations) are probably not that valuable information so that the earnings would cover your expenses.

        How about this: knock at an occupied hotel room (preferably dres
  • by cgrand ( 852896 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @04:39PM (#13752198) Homepage
    I'm puzzled: once I was told the network is the computer and now I learn the flashdrive is the computer.
    I'm totally at a lost.
  • Windows? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Libor Vanek ( 248963 ) <> on Sunday October 09, 2005 @04:40PM (#13752203) Homepage
    Now only if Windows can correctly boot on completely different box... Author probably never tried to take his Windows XP disk and boot in different box with different mainboard, video and network card...
  • Subnotebooks ... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gst ( 76126 )
    I already have my "Personal Computer" in form of a 1.2kg subnotebook. While 1.2kg is still not the ideal weight the new models get better each year (unlike some years ago when notebook manufacturers only cared about the performance and not about the size). All I need is an open accesspoint so that I'm able to check my mails when traveling. If there's no AP nearby I can still use bluetooth to connect to my mobile and then use GPRS to get onto the net. And when I'm at home I just put the notebook into the doc
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @04:46PM (#13752247)
    This sounds like a security/privacy nightmare. What stops the host PC from copying the drive or infecting it with malware from the prior user. Even if the USB drive uses an encrypted filesystem, once you type your password into the PC to access any file on the user data partition, you have no guarantee that it won't access every file on the drive. I can also see this giving corporate security managers the screaming heebie jeebies over the thought of returning road-warrior executives bringing infected USB drives inside the the corporate firewall (yes, you can scan for malware but you're still susceptible to zero-day attacks and delays in AV updates).

    Perhaps this would work if the client machine were truly memory-less (no HD, no NVRAM, no flash ROM, etc.). Then the machine could be a secure blank slate for whatever the USB user needed to do. Given the prevalence of flashable firmware on everything (and the need for persistent machine configuration data), I doubt this is very feasible.

    • Definitly the ideal would be to run the whole OS off the flash drive and have no storage or OS on the computer itself. Of course, this would currently only work with Linux (limited by Linux hardware support) and Macs. And Macs already have a good head start by being able to boot off of USB. And they don't generally have problems booting the same OS on different hardware. There are many modern PCs that cannot boot from a USB memory stick. And even if you could, we all know how picky Windows XP is about its h
    • could be secure, sure. But that's what the man at the front desk said. If you are worried about what computer to trust, why do you take HIS word? Saying the computer is secure is fine if you have control over it and know from personal experience that it is secure. But this is like a hotek keosk, not your bedroom. You don't own the machine, you didn't install the hardware or pull the memory. It's sitting at that bios screen when you boot it... who's to say that's not a program that's running? Is there
  • I had been doing something similar with my 20gig iPod for a while. At the time, I owned a desktop computer, so portability was a problem. Eventually installed OS X and all of my graphic design applications onto the iPod and used it as a boot disk.

    It worked pretty well. Whenever I came to a new mac, I would turn it off, plug in the iPod, and boot while holding down the "T" key to target the new drive. Unfortunately, the iPod's hard disk is not the speediest thing in the world. Moreover, I doubt toshiba driv
    • Wait, I thought the "T" key put the Mac into "target firewire" mode and effectively made it an external harddrive for another computer. Don't you have to go into the "Startup Disk" app to select a new disk to boot from?

  • The article makes reference to this new "U3 technology" [] that enables a flash drive to run programs. Exactly what is the point of this? Does anybody know. As far as I know, any program should be able to run off any flash drive as long as it doesn't do something like store all its settings on the host computer's registry or something. Isn't that how stuff like Portable Firefox, Thunderbird, etc. work? So why exactly is this concept so hard to do that one needs a special software SDK and specially designe
    • Re:I'm confused (Score:2, Informative)

      by NapalmMan ( 916246 )
      USB Flash Drives don't mount like say, a CD would, meaning you can't autorun anything. I believe that's what this U3 Technology does, it more or less adds autorun capabilities to the drive. I learned this tidbit about Flash Drives when my roommate and I tried to build a USB Game Controller, with a drive with some games on it. The idea was: plug it in and go. Unfortunately, we had the wrong kind of USB drive.
      • Wow..that's weird. I never thought that was a problem, because I have an autorun.inf on my flash drive that dictates the icon for it and adds an extra menu item. However, I just tried adding an autorunning program and you're right, Windows just came up with the autoplay menu because it found some pictures on the drive. Thanks for the explanation.
  • by Flying Purple Wombat ( 787087 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @05:07PM (#13752380)
    About 10 years ago, an engineer from our systems vendor predicted that one day, our computers would be the card-sized. We were looking at a PCMCIA flash card at the moment. Keyboard/mouse/display terminals would be everywhere, and we would just carry the cards around and plug them in wherever. PDA type terminals would be available for portable use. Sounds like it's coming to pass. Wonder if the guy got a patent out of that idea?
  • by Doodhwala ( 13342 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @05:11PM (#13752394) Homepage
    ISR [] has exactly these goals. It is essentially the concept of running a Virtual Machine that can migrate between different computers. Migration can happen via the network or via portable storage devices such as USB keychains. The ISR project was also covered in a previous Slashdot story here [].
    • it seems to me that the most portable (as in software-wise rather than physical size) solution is to create a qemu disk image, in which you install your entire working environment, copy that disk image to your USB flash drive. Then, on any computer, Mac OSX, Intel X86 (windows or linux, 32 or 64 bit), boot up and run qemu. That way it doesn't matter what the host machine *is*, as qemu provides a complete virtual machine with all the required virtual drivers for basic use.

      Qemu allows you to pause the virtu

  • ...with "Instant On" technology. Of course, so far everything is vapour-ware, but here's the site: []

  • by ross_winn ( 610552 ) * <<ross.winn> <at> <>> on Sunday October 09, 2005 @05:26PM (#13752468)
    This is, for all intents and purposes, what NeXT tried to do in the late 80s. The optical drive they used was ruinously expensive. The software was limited. Now, twenty years later, theidea is coming into its own. Devices like the USB key, the microdrive, and the Palm LifeDrive are actually spacious enough to make all of this work. Twenty years ago Jobs said you should be able to walk up to any personal computer and make it your own. Ten years ago Ellison said that you could access anything from anywhere. In five to ten years these visionary things may just really happen. Funny how the world works, isn't it...
  • Direction? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mashdar ( 876825 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @05:26PM (#13752473)
    Why wouldn't there just be a monitor and keyboard?

    The article assumes that the processor/memory etc are bulky by definition. Movement towards miniturization and disposable computing mean that having an entire system may become nearly as cheap and small as the stick of memory you are booting off of.

    The only way to be truly secure is to have full control over the system you are using, so bringing your own entire machine will be a necesity for the crowd for whom inovations in hotels are usually designed for: business people.

    Also a USB key with an OS compiled for an alternative archetecture would be useless in a hotel box.

    The only two things which a handheld device cannot offer are a full sized display and interface. Why not just make everyone's handheld device interface with a monitor/keyboard/mouse console? Leave architecture compatibility issues to the user. Leave security to the user. Just provide a pleasant work environment.
  • by HermanAB ( 661181 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @05:34PM (#13752529)
    Geez, I must be getting old. These young whipper snappers are so used to networked computers that they all think removable media is a new idea...
    • In the mid-80s, FidoNet was it. I had a whopping 2 line BBS - 2400 baud on the subscription line and 1200 baud on the public line. I had a massive 10 MB hard drive that I used to run the system.

      Well, with over 8 MB of the 10 MB dedicated to file areas for the BBS, 8 MB across 2400 baud is a slow transfer, particularly at long-distance rates. So how did we swap files?

      Every 2-4 weeks, us sysops would all meet someplace, usually a state park where we would grill some dogs and shoot the crap. We would all p
  • It ain't personal unless your sure it isn't bugged.

    And even still... how good can a free comp. in the room be? Not very useful for more than basic web browsing.

    IMHO the laptop will still rule this domain.
  • by Trurl's Machine ( 651488 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @06:06PM (#13752724) Journal
    Ideas like this one are always based on one assumption: that everybody will be totally happy with the same keyboard layout. While it might be true US-wide for US-only customers, it's not true in Europe. All the European languages require keyboard layouts more or less different than the typical English QWERTY - such as the German QWERTZ or French AZERTY, not to mention all those weird accented characters that the Swedisch chef need to correctly spell his "bork! bork! bork!". Don't get me started with Slavic languages, especially those of Cyryllic alphabet... No European hotel would seriously consider offering this service as it would lock-out foreign visitors. Personally, I'm just totally happy traveling with my powerbook as my personal computer, all I want from the hotel is to have Airport and access to their printers.
  • by Asprin ( 545477 ) <<gsarnold> <at> <>> on Sunday October 09, 2005 @06:12PM (#13752758) Homepage Journal

    Where the heck are you finding hotels that provide a DVD player when in-room PPV movies are $10-$15 each? None of the hotels I've ever stayed in provide that; the TV's don't even have accessible A/V inputs and the cable hookups are protected with a user-proof collar.
  • Is there a CPU in there yet? No? Wake me up when it's in.
  • by TheDarkener ( 198348 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @09:09PM (#13753564) Homepage
    I can see it now, people completely hosing their Windows installations by going in between "terminals" like these.

    Knoppix, I can see...
  • pretty cool... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cswiii ( 11061 ) on Sunday October 09, 2005 @09:47PM (#13753714)
    When you check into an average hotel room and find -- alongside the alarm clock, hair dryer and DVD player that once were bring-your-own items but now are as standard as the furniture -- a cheap PC for guests to plug into, as our truly personal computing environment travels with us.

    The Doubletree I've been staying at for the past million months recently replaced all the regular clock radios with new ones that, in addition to four other preset "memorised" stations, has a button designated to an input jack -- so that MP3 players can be connected.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"