!(I Heart Dongles)

A post over at vinf.net about unsupported USB devices appearing after using the VMware Converter reminds me that I’ve been meaning to complain about something[0]:

Dongles mean that I can’t virtualize your software.

If you’re a software developer and you think that you can protect your software from piracy by using a hardware-based protection scheme please realize this:

If I can’t virtualize your software it’s likely that I’m not going to buy it.

Just ask yourself: will what I’m doing work in a virtual machine? If the answer isn’t a definite ‘yes’ then you’re doing it wrong. Virtualization is here to stay, so invest in your future and figure it out, people.


[0] Like me complaining about something is new around here.

8 thoughts on “!(I Heart Dongles)”

  1. Our VMware guys have been virtualizing machines with usb dongles using USB over ethernet hubs like this one: http://www.digi.com/products/usb/anywhereusb.jsp

    Its been working pretty good here, every once in a while they do have an issue of loosing connectivity between the hub and the virtual machine but its very infrequent. We do use these in our production environment.

  2. I had this problem too. I found there is a device called AnywhereUSB that is basically an Ethernet-enabled USB Switch. VMWare supports it: http://www.vmware.com/resources/techresources/426 Its downside is that it costs about $250, and it can only be used with 1 server. But if you have to virtualize a program (our door security server was failing bad) it works great. I’ve only had to touch it once when I first set it up, and never again. I’ve forgotten all about it basically until now, over a year later.

  3. Hi Bob. I’ve never used them, but there are USB network hubs. You plug the USB device into the hub, which is connected to the network. You install driver software inside the VM which creates a virtual USB port for the device across the network. Obviously it is not as good as a direct-attached port (the network introduces a point of failure). The below link is from the VMware site, so semi-officially endorsed? Also not sure if dongles are supported.


  4. I’d had same issue into the past (with Citrix and USB ID Card Reader)

    Why don’t you use USB over Ethernet … (idem for Com Ports).

    So, with this, the Guest have and supports USB , and ESX allow VMotion.


  5. Hot damn, you guys rock. Didn’t even know about those. I need to get out more.

    Still, though, hardware protection schemes are moronic in this day & age.

  6. Your post made me do a double take as I remember setting up a VM that required a usb dongle earlier this year. I was able to do it without any additional hardware. Since, I couldn’t remember exactly how I did it I did a quick google search and turned up this. http://outwardtruth.com/tutorials_pc/vmware_usb_dongle_fix.htm

    The linked document doesn’t specify a version, but I was able to do this on VMWare Server 1.0.x running on Windows 2003 Std 64bit.

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