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I'm wondering if there's a USB stick (not HDMI stick) with computer things inside (processor, RAM, etc.) which plugs into another PC. I've had an idea like this as a kid, but many sticks don't plug into another PC, but with HDMI into a TV, but I'm not able to afford an HDMI TV so I'm stuck with VGA. My idea was that the PC into which the USB stick is connected opens up an application from the USB stick's special root folder which is like a terminal program. The program interchanges data between the PC and the USB stick so that the keyboard, mouse, microphone, USB, etc. of the host PC get onto the USB stick while the USB stick's monitor data and sound data gets to the host PC's screen and speakers.

Now, is this really possible? Does it even exist or is it in my imagination?

  • 3
    the realy question is, why would you want to add a pc to an already working pc. or am i seeing your vision wrong. – Thomcdrom Jan 15 '16 at 14:11
  • I think what you are thinking about is a Live USB. It runs the OS off the USB drive, but uses the computers hardware for all of its operations. If you are interested, I can expand this into a full answer. – Eric Johnson Jan 15 '16 at 21:20
  • I just want the host PC to act as a terminal that shows the image from the USB stick's virtual monitor and to gather keyboard and mouse input to the USB stick's virtual keyboard and mouse input. The processor must be inside of the USB stick, but the host PC is just there for showing the user what's on the stick. – Foxcat385 Jan 16 '16 at 0:55
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Sounds a lot like the USB armoury which I found googling for a remarkably similar, older product whose name I still don't remember. The feature list suggests you could emulate a device for communications with the host/

NXP i.MX53 ARM® Cortex™-A8 800Mhz, 512MB DDR3 RAM
USB host powered (<500 mA) device with compact form factor (65 x 19 x 6 mm)
ARM® TrustZone®, secure boot + storage + RAM
microSD card slot
5-pin breakout header with GPIOs and UART
customizable LED, including secure mode detection
excellent native support (Android, Debian, Ubuntu, Arch Linux)
USB device emulation (CDC Ethernet, mass storage, HID, etc.)
Open Hardware & Software

That said, for that price, you could probably get a cheap HDMI display for about half the price instead

  • Reminds me of the Rubber Ducky - that thing which looks like a flash drive but acts as a keyboard, just more powerful.. I wonder why on earth it costs $120 when the similarly specced Raspberry Pi zero costs just $5 though. – JonasCz - Reinstate Monica Jan 17 '16 at 17:58
  • Looks like when I buy Raspberry Pi Zero, I'll have to hack it and attach it to fit a USB breadboard. I just wish it could have BOTH host AND device USB. Looks like I'll have to design something like that myself. – Foxcat385 Jan 17 '16 at 19:04
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No, such a thing does not exist. However, you can do something quite similar, even though it's not quite a PC on a USB stick.

If I understand your question correctly, you want to use one computer (which may be very old and slow) for it's screen, keyboard, and mouse, and use another computer or device to do the actual processing.

As an example: I use an ancient Pentium 3 laptop as a frontend for a Raspberry Pi. All that's needed is an Ethernet cable, and I have a perfectly capable display, keyboard, and trackpad for my Pi.

To do this, you need a way to network your two computers (one is the one you want to use for the display, kayboard, and mouse, and the other is the one you want for the actual processing, in my case a Raspberry Pi, but it could also be a HDMI computer on a stick, as long as it has WiFi, USB or Ethernet, or even just a normal desktop or laptop.) In my case I used an Ethernet cable (if your devices don't have ethernet, you can use a USB to Ethernet adapter), but you could also use an ad-hoc WiFi network or even a USB to USB networking solution.

Hook up your two devices, make sure they can talk to each other, and then you can use remote desktop software or SSH to do pretty much what you want.

While it's not quite a computer on a USB stick, it's pretty close, with only a single cable.

Beware: the performance may not be great (With my PI, using it over VNC / Remote desktop is slow, but usable)

  • You can connect to the RaspberyPI using SSH. On your Windows machine, you can use PuTTY and XMing. Then you have a terminal and all the graphical applications should blend almost seamlessly with your Windows machine. That is, for example, if you open Firefox, it will show a new Firefox window on your Windows desktop. VNC send the entire screen (with some encodings to reduce the network load)or portions of it, This may burn quite a lot on your Pentium 3 – Ismael Miguel Jan 17 '16 at 13:55
  • @Ismael, Interesting, I never knew that you could use SSH for X11 apps like that, will definitely have to try it. I assume it works on Linux (both computers running Linux) too ?. In my case, I don't really think the p3 is the problem, as the CPU usage is not maxed out. I kind of think it's the slow Ethernet on the pi, but it's still quite usable. – JonasCz - Reinstate Monica Jan 17 '16 at 17:19
  • I usually do that to connect my Windows machine to Debian VMs and the web server at work (it isnt connected to the internet, so, no problem). You can try it with VirtualBox. I don't know the procedure for Linux - Linux, but Linux - Windows, it is really easy. – Ismael Miguel Jan 17 '16 at 17:51
  • VirtualBox requires admin rights – Foxcat385 Jan 17 '16 at 19:02
  • @Foxcat, yes, but it's not needed. All you need is son sort of remote desktop app, such as the one that comes with Windows – JonasCz - Reinstate Monica Jan 17 '16 at 19:47
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The Pi Zero makes this easy and cheap. Set up the Pi and follow this tutorial: https://learn.adafruit.com/turning-your-raspberry-pi-zero-into-a-usb-gadget/ethernet-gadget. I found that ssh is a good way to connect to the pi to perform these instructions.

When you are done, plug a micro usb cable into the USB data port on the pi and plug the other end into your computer. You should be able to use ssh pi@raspberrypi.local to connect to the pi without a wifi dongle.

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