Saturday 30 July 2016

Dual booting Ubuntu and Windows on the CS125 Intel Compute Stick (STK1AW32SC)

Currently dual booting Ubuntu and Windows relies on using the BIOS's 32-bit bootloader. However booting sometimes results in a blank coloured (typicaly purple) screen so switching the OS requires a cold boot through the BIOS using the F10 option.

This 'F10' dependency can be removed by simply re-installing Windows as a 64-bit version and the switch is free (i.e. you don't have to pay for it) as long as you have a qualifying Windows license (see How to migrate to Windows 10 64-bit from 32-bit versions of Windows).

The whole process to configure dual booting is essentially straightforward and consists of three parts. First you need to prepare a USB for the Windows 10 64-bit installation. Then you need to install Windows 10 64-bit from the USB. Finally you need to download and install Ubuntu and configure dual boot.

Because the switch from 32-bit to 64-bit Windows requires a new installation (meanings files, applications and settings will be deleted) you will also have to install native 64-bit drivers. I've created a video of instructions with screenshots (see which covers the process in more detail and will assist anyone wanting to dual boot.

Before you start you will need:

1 x CS125 (STK1AW32SC) with Windows 10 installed
1 x USB
4 x hours
1 x backup (optional)

and the following links:

Windows ISO:
Intel Drivers:
Ubuntu ISO:

Remember to take a backup of any files you want to keep before you try this as otherwise they will be erased during the installation. And don't try going from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 using this method as you'll probably end up having to pay for a Windows 10 license now that free upgrades have finished. Also this will not work on the first generation BayTrail Intel Compute Sticks (STCK1A32WFC) as the BIOS is not compatible with the Windows 64-bit ISO.

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Making the most from the Intel Compute Stick Roadmap

When Intel's first Compute Stick loaded with Ubuntu (STCK1A8LFC) was released in late April 2015 the RRP was around $110. Recently it has been advertised at less than half that and even as low as $49.99. However when I looked at Intel's ARK website to check the EOL under 'Expected Discontinuance' it said 'See Roadmap':

As I was unable to track down this document anywhere on their website I contacted Intel who confirmed that the STCK1A8LFC model was indeed EOL and provided the following roadmap:

The map is useful for showing the current product lifecycles but unlike the 'leaked' roadmap of last year it does not give any indication of things to come. So I asked what was planned but all Intel indicated was that they are exploring an Apollo Lake compute stick as well as more Core-based compute sticks in 2017.

Update: According to a leaked roadmap Intel will release two new Intel Compute Sticks in the second quarter of 2017 and they’ll feature Intel Atom processors based on the Apollo Lake SOC.

Both models will feature 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2 and USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports and will now include headset jacks and HDMI-CEC support. The key differences being:

  • 2GB of RAM, 32GB of eMMC storage with Windows 10 Home 64-bit OS
  • 4GB of RAM, 64GB of eMMC storage without an operating system

Whilst they will be less powerful than the Core M models they will be significantly faster than the previous Atom models and again come with one-year warranties. There is no word on price at this stage.

Since the STCK1A8LFC came to market with Ubuntu 14.04 a new LTS Ubuntu has been released: 16.04. Whilst 14.04 is also a LTS release, the official supported version for the Intel Compute Stick is restricted to using the 3.16 kernel due to enabling HDMI audio, bluetooth and wifi. It is also limited to just Ubuntu rather than other flavours like Lubuntu, a fast and lightweight version whose core is based on Linux and Ubuntu but uses the minimal desktop LXDE and a selection of light applications.

To address this I've already created ISO images specifically to work on the Intel Compute Stick with the latest 16.04 release by patching Canonical's kernel source to fully support the hardware (see here).

But as Lubuntu Yakkety Yak Alpha 1 (soon to be 16.10) has just been released I decided to also create a version suitable for Intel Compute Sticks. They can be downloaded from here and used as LiveUSB or they can be installed (but must be connected to the Internet during installation at this stage).

The STCK1A8LFC only has 1GB RAM and 8GB storage but once Lubuntu is installed you get a really good cheap mini PC stick. Other applications can easily be installed to provide extra functionality and adding Kodi makes for quite a usable HTPC.

For example in the following video I demonstrate a brief overview of Lubuntu installed on a STCK1A8LFC which includes a mounted 64GB micro SD card and then show some examples of using Kodi to run videos from both YouTube and from the micro SD card. I also show running Octane 2 on Chrome and a YouTube 1080p video.

Looking at the Intel Compute Stick roadmap shows the availability of the STCK1A8LFC is most likely limited to existing stocks. So while the STCK1A8LFC is cheap now it probably won't last meaning the cheapest Intel Compute Stick to run Ubuntu on is about to change.