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External view of the BlackDog
Internal view of the back and battery

The BlackDog is a fully self-contained Linux computer with a built-in biometric fingerprint reader. BlackDog is completely powered from the USB port of the host computer – no external power adapter is required.

BlackDog is a mobile personal server which allows the user to use the open source Linux operating system on any computer with a USB port. The device has proprietary technology and intellectual property developed by the now defunct company Realm Systems Inc., which at one point was transferred to Echo Identity Systems and finally ended up belonging to Inaura Corporation.

When plugged into the host computer’s USB port, the BlackDog starts up, automatically launching the X Window system for Windows Xming and a software NAT router via an autorun application that the BlackDog presents to the host through a virtual USB CD-ROM. Once those applications are running, the virtual USB CD-ROM drive disconnects, and a virtual USB-to-Ethernet adapter is connected to provide the communications link.

The host machine’s monitor, keyboard, mouse, and Internet connection are used by the BlackDog for the duration of the session.

When the user is finished, simply unplugging the BlackDog returns everything on the host computer to its original state.


Hardware history

Identified as the BlackDog, sometimes identified as Project BlackDog or Original BlackDog. Created in conjunction with the Realm Systems Project BlackDog programming contest. There was a short production run to support those who wished to enter the contest or to experiment with the platform. Publicly available for purchase from the Project BlackDog website in September 2005, production ended in mid January 2006 when the contest closed. It is an opensource Linux derivative of Realm Systems' initial Mobile Personal Server (MPS) prototypes.

  • Dimensions: H: .50” W: 1.75” L: 3.5”
  • Weight: 1.6 ounces
  • Xilinx Virtex II-Pro FPGA containing one 400 MHz PowerPC 405 Delta processor
  • 64MB low power mobile SDR SDRAM
  • 256MB or 512MB NAND Flash Memory
  • USB 2.0 through FPGA
  • Authentec AES3400 fingerprint reader
  • MMC Expansion Slot
  • Small lithium polymer battery
  • Small multicolor indicator LED


Identified as the K9 Ultra-Mobile Server, sometimes identified as BlackDog, BlackDog Personal Linux, UMS, or K9. Information regarding it was revealed at the Open Source Business Conference in February 2006. Officially launched by Realm Systems at Linux World Boston 2006, with last announced expected availability by Realm Systems to be the third quarter of 2006. Based on partial hardware descriptions to date by employees of Realm Systems as well as promotional materials, it appears to have the same internal features, and may actually be internally identical to an intermediate Realm Systems iD3 personal server prototype (the very thin chrome model resembling an iPod Nano). Promotional literature shows the form factor to be the same as the intermediate iD3 prototype, but all black with a rubberized exterior. Before Realm Systems was shutdown, there were working prototypes of the K9, the hardware design seemed to be finished, and the software was functional.

  • 400 MHz PowerPC Xilinx Virtex-II Pro
  • 128 MB RAM
  • 1GB Flash NAND Memory
  • Dimensions: H: .50” W: 2.0” L: 3.75”
  • 60 pin Hiroshi connector replaces MMC slot (intended for a USB connection cable, as well as custom cables to support additional peripherals)
  • OLED display replaces indicator LED of first version (1.1 inch display, 96x64 resolution, 4 bit grayscale Black and White)
  • 128MB RAM
  • USB 2.0
  • Biometric Fingerprint Reader
  • Small battery
  • Rumors of RFID, Bluetooth support, and internal SD/CF/MMC cards were just that - Rumors. During development there were many one off prototypes built - these prototypes were likely the source of at least some of the rumors.


The iD3 was a branch of the K9, intended for corporate use with a matching management router/server identified as the iD1200. Final Realm Systems iD3 form factor resembled a small Nokia cellphone. The hardware specifications are the same as the K9:

  • 400 MHz PowerPC Xilinx Virtex-II Pro
  • 128 MB RAM
  • 1GB Flash NAND Memory
  • Dimensions: H: .50” W: 2.0” L: 3.75”
  • 60 pin Hiroshi connector replaces MMC slot (intended for a USB connection cable, as well as custom cables to support additional peripherals)
  • OLED display replaces indicator LED of first version (1.1 inch display, 96x64 resolution, 4 bit grayscale Black and White)
  • USB 2.0
  • Biometric Fingerprint Reader
  • Small battery

Software specifications

First version

  • Debian-based Linux (Sid) with 2.6.10 Kernel
  • Sample default applications such as xterm, XBlast, and XGalaga
  • Additional software available through official and community APT repositories

Second version

Starting in late 2007, Olmec Linux was ported to the Blackdog and K9 devices.

  • Debian-derived Linux distribution
  • GNOME and XFCE desktops
  • 3600+ packages available
  • Updated SDK running in a chroot environment.


The official repository servers for the project disappeared in mid-February 2007, due to Realm Systems closing.

As of late-June 2007, the servers hosting the official repositories were reactivated by Inaura, Inc.

Host requirements

  • USB 1.1 and 2.0 Compatible
  • Current supported OS with no software installation include Windows XP SP2.
  • Debian 3.1+, SUSE 9.3, Slackware 10+, Mandrake 10.1, Ubuntu 5+, KUbuntu 5+, Fedora Core 3, or Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 are supported if certain additional configuration steps are performed.
  • Additional Linux compatibility instructions available to assist adaptation to other Linux distributions with 2.6.10+ kernels
  • Apple Macintosh (Intel & PowerPC) connectivity is provided by project XDog
  • Realm Systems promotional literature stated the K9 will support Windows 2000 SP4. This may require installation of USB-to-Ethernet adapter drivers and/or other software.

Development Support

  • SDK with QEMU emulator environment for Windows XP and Linux
  • With additional setup, QEMU can run the SDK under a variety of operating systems, like Mac OS X

Corporate history

Realm Systems attempted a corporate restructuring in the third and fourth quarters of 2006, in an effort to focus on their iD3 line of products. The K9 product launch was put off indefinitely. This was despite appearances that the hardware was working and the OS was functional. In January 2007, two then-unidentified groups containing former Realm Systems employees and investors attempted, independently, to license or move the K9 hardware and software to a separate company to continue development and production, due to the dissolution of Realm Systems and continued developer community interest in the concept, as well as rumored successful pilot programs.

One of Realm Systems' backers then posted a public foreclosure notice, and in a court-supervised foreclosure hearing, a number (possibly three) groups of investors bid on the company's assets in a closed bid. As a result, all of Realm's assets, including the iD3 and K9-series hardware, their operating systems, and the enterprise management router code, were bought out by backers of a new firm, Echo Identity Systems. This company claimed to be continuing the enterprise product line, and have re-used nearly all of the old Realm Systems website layout and graphics. It is unclear what the fate of the K9 product line would have been, and no mention of it is made anywhere on the Echo Identity Systems website. However, the former Realm Systems website directs iD3 and BlackDog customers to a transitional support website informing about the asset change, Realm Systems closing, and that product support will be done by Echo Identity Systems (though no explanation as to the extent of the support is provided).

Based on community discussions it appears the assets were again bought from Echo Identity Systems at some later point after the foreclosure sale by one of the aforementioned unidentified groups backed by former Realm Systems employees and investors, which supposedly include one of the original founders who authored some of the patents associated with the BlackDog. Based on unconfirmed community reports as of September 2007, it appears new developer prototypes of the K9 have been seeded to the Project BlackDog contest winners by this unidentified group, and possible limited availability of developer versions of the K9 may occur in late October 2007.

As of November 2007, the new owners have emerged as Inaura, and have a web site up publicly. It is sparse on details, and mentions no products specifically.

In June 2008, the website was updated to provide details on the company and product. The K9 device is now being branded as the K9 Ultra Mobile Authentication Key (UMAK).

See also

External links

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