Stormfly; A PC on your wrist

I’m a huge fan of the kickstarter concept. As well as allowing technologies to exist that may not have without it, it allows me as a geek to get in on the ground floor.  I’ve backed 2 things so far; My Pebble, which is fantastic but was incredibly infuriating to wait for, taking well over a year, and Stormfly, which I backed about 4 months ago in March.

Stormfly’s slogan is “Like a PC on your wrist”.  In effect, it’s a wearable USB which you plug into a mac or windows PC and boot from, giving you access to a linux OS and all your files.  There’s a bunch of nice value adds such as a back up and 24h replace service.

There’s a bunch of reasons you’d want something like this. Perhaps security, so you don’t keep yourself logged onto friends machines. Maybe you’re a big traveler and stay with friends.  My personal reason was simple; When I travel with work I have to take my work laptop (locked down to the max and so useless for personal stuff) and my own laptop, for email, Facebook, videos, maybe a bit of development.  My hope was I could boot Stormfly up on my work PC before all the encryption and lockdown shenanigans, meaning I could just take my work PC and still have a personal machine.

The Stormfly cost me $74 including shipping (yet another kickstarter shipping from China that charges more to send to HK than the US!), which was a fairly pricey bet that this would work.

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I was really suprised to come home and find my stormfly had arrived having had no shipping notice, nor a kickstarter update to say they were shipping. That said, this was a nice surprise, and I’d rather it be this way as I’m far too impatient when waiting for shipping. The box is fairly small, basic cardboard so lacking a bit of shiney but sufficient for the job.

It comes with some basic instructions (namely, how to boot in mac/windows to stormfly) and has a QRcode for the website if you want more information.  I dug straight in for the test.

My test machine for this was an X200 IBM Thinkpad. Plugged in Stormfly, held the thinkvantage button and prayed.

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Hey presto!  It works.  The installation process is fairly painless; as with everything these days there’s a sizable download update.  The OS is basically Ubuntu with a couple of extra apps thrown in related to Stormfly so it can back up for you to the cloud.  I’m pleased by this as some of the earlier updates implied it might be quite heavily customized; and whilst it might be under the hood, in appearance it’s just Ubuntu.  All the updates are direct to the USB, so I can now take that and plug it into my Mac, my friends computers etc. and it will be my personal environment.

I was lucky enough to get an email directly from Stormfly a few minutes later.  I’m the first Kickstarter backer to register their Stormfly, so it’s a big milestone for the company (and a little geek victory for me).  No word on whether they’ll throw in a t-shirt or some free subscription to congratulate me ;).

I’ve played with it for most the night, managed to get Java and IntelliJ up; I forgot how terrible Linux is for getting most stuff installed and working.  It’s really very nice and nippy.  Will it be worth the cost?  I think that will become clear over the next couple of weeks as I head out on holiday, followed by work travel, and I’ll be leaving my regular laptop at home in favour of Stormfly.  If you’ve got a corporate laptop and are fed up of carrying 2 around, I highly recommend you purchase one.