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I would like to use a USB with a Linux distro, ideally with Electrum. The advantage of this is that the USB does not need to contain any information, just entering the seed would be enough, which provides extra security in my opinion.

Is there a distribution which does this? or there an instruction on how to do this?

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I have considered building a electrum usb-distro but the problem is it would be hard to keep it updated after each new release. However if there is enough interest I might do so.

Your best bet is to simply take a debian live-usb and install Electrum on it; you can follow the instructions for linux on the electrum site.

If you have any specific Electrum questions you are always welcome to join #electrum on freenode and ask your questions there.

  • thanks, I think this could possibly be even better, because you know the image is secure. However, I can't install it. Question about that (on Ubuntu) here – Bastiaan Quast Aug 27 '13 at 12:33
  • on second thought, this is pretty irrelevant if you are always offline. – Bastiaan Quast Aug 27 '13 at 12:48
  • also, because of the offline nature, I don't think each new release would have to lead to a new build. Updating the online (transaction) version would probably be enough, right? – Bastiaan Quast Aug 27 '13 at 12:56
  • One thing to consider is that a newer version of Electrum is coming out with BIP 0032 wallets, these will have different keys for the same seed. To maintain the 'online' de-seeded wallet, you will need one capable of keeping Electrum-based keys around... or you will have to migrate all your offline coins to a newer wallet. Here are the scenarios to consider: 1) Keep old offline wallet * need to keep older version on PC for transaction generation * get to keep older one in USB 2) Update wallet * need to update usb wallet at least once * no need to keep old online wallet – harningt Aug 27 '13 at 13:09
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    Regarding a USB distro - I have tried Electrum on tails with some success: tails.boum.org/forum/… The hardest thing is getting the proxy connection working to the onion address there, though. – harningt Aug 27 '13 at 13:15
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You can make the standard client portable if you use the "-datadir" flag.

Assuming that the application "bitcoin" is accessible from your working directory and that you want to store information in a directory named "data", the script you want looks like this:

#!/bin/sh
bitcoin -datadir=./data

Source: https://bitcointalk.org/?topic=809.0;wap2

  • thanks, I am mostly interested in Electrum because of the ability to restore wallets from seeds, and because it does not download the blockchain – Bastiaan Quast Aug 27 '13 at 11:25
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BTCVault (http://dswd.github.io/btcvault/). The client is a little old but the concept works great.

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After writing this message, I realize this thread is about a USB based distribution. Yet I'm posting about a CD based solution in case it serves the ones who are still searching and deciding...

Here's how I did my setup to be able to exchange bitcoin and litecoin.

I don't want to use two computers for separate offline-and-watchOnly clients.

After searching and reading, I decided to use:

  • Electrum and Electrum-LTC from a CD-booted operative system, rigorously offline (I unplug the ethernet cable from the PC so I still have wifi for my phone), with a portable wallet on a pendrive

  • and a watch-only Electrum client in Windows (this can be fully portable so I plug the pendrive just when I need to use the client and nothing strictly related stays permanently on the PC which is often online)

HOW?

I grabbed the latest Electrum (1.9.8) and Electrum-LTC (1.9.8.6) clients from electrum.org (the Linux versions come with executable binaries, too) and I added them to the current slax distribution (with the necessary modules but not the electrum one, and the startup command launches from inside the electrum folder) and made a bootable CD of it (although it works offline, it's good to know that it cannot be modified like a pendrive-resident environment).

IS THAT SAFE?

As long as the offline part stays offline and as long as slax and Electrum do not contain malicious software which might store my seed phrase somewhere in my hardware, that's pretty safe... apart of course the Electrum servers considerations etc. etc. etc.. If I come to get very rich (but I doubt LOL), I'll start using the Tor network (I already have the connection setup in Windows). (*****)

I saw that another slax based solution was out, I had tried BTCVault, but

  • the Electrum client is a little old

  • because of that, I didn't spend more than a couple of hours on it but I couldn't have Electrum create a new wallet on the pendrive (and in volatile storage either) through the GUI and the right-mouse-button contextual menu item "create new wallet here", sure I'm missing something; I could have it create a new Multibit wallet but that's not my choice for now.

I have tried two more live CDs, Tails 1.2.2 and Ubuntu 14.10, but the boot time is much greater than with slax, and anyway I need the online watch-only part to run on Windows, and in the offline part of the process I wouldn't use the extra features that Tails and Ubuntu might (or not) offer over slax.

(*****) The only advantage of Tails which is evident to me even for offline use: Tails wipes the memory before shutting down... I don't know how much time I should wait after shutting down slax, before switching on the PC again, no idea.

I hope this helps some other crypto currencies newbies!

With the first "crypto-bucks" I will hopefully earn (I'm offering online lessons, trumpet, rhythm, musical theory :D ), I think I shall have to donate to the Electrum and slax developers, and I promise I'll try to avoid dust transactions and will not be stingy with tx fees.

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Check out BitKey.

It is a pre-bundled collection of software allowing you to perform bitcoin mutations in an air-gapped environment by running it of a USB key or other removable media. Electrum is currently part of their package.

  • Thank you very much, I've checked Bitkey, it's very interesting and very promising, however: - It didn't recognize an USB storage device which works fine with slax (it is a 32 GB SD card in a card reader, I didn't try with these two pendrives because I have them ready for the offline and onlineWatchOnly parts of the solution I mentioned in my previous post). Also, the boot time is a bit longer than with slax. (cont.) – Nicolas Dec 25 '14 at 7:51
  • Bitkey aims at working online too (it's fine that they warn about the security level which would be "medium" instead of high), but I read in a forum that Debian and derivatives are plagued with backdoors by NSA guys... they mentioned Arch Linux as a safer base. Although I doubt the NSA would steal my earnings, I don't know if those backdoors can be exploited by somebody else. Besides, now, as mentioned, I need the onlineWatchOnly part to run on Windows, but of course a solution able to boot and face an online and potentially dangerous situation too would be interesting in another scenario. – Nicolas Dec 25 '14 at 7:51

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