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Can I provide a SD card as opposed to a USB stick? Still not sure why I would want to do this, but I suppose it's better than the RPi just sitting in my drawer...

I think they are suggesting you boot from SD then use USB for long term storage. People have expressed doubts over the longevity of SD cards for sustained IO.

Edit: confirmed with them, USB is optional

I am wondering the same. Maybe an USB stick is faster/bigger?

Actually, they probably run their own firmware/config/whatever on the SD or something, so they can manage stuff.

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