The Isostick

The Isostick, a Kickstarter project now in development, is meant to emulate an optical drive in the form of a USB stick.  Although there is nothing new with putting an iso file (optical disk image) on a USB stick, what is unique about this drive is that it fully emulates a drive without actually having to worry about drivers or extra programs.

When plugged in, a computer sees a flash drive and a virtual optical drive.  An excellent feature is that this disk can store multiple “iso” files and select them with a built in utility program. This could be invaluable for a technician or hacker since more than one CD or DVD is often needed to complete a task.

If fully developed, one could expect to attach this “drive” to your keychain and not have to worry about lugging an optical disk around anymore. Also, the activity light is programmable, which is a nice bonus.

93 thoughts on “The Isostick

  1. Nice idea, maybe someone can make one which emulates a USB floppy drive as well.
    Being able to install AND run an OS from the same drive by generating a dozen or so generic “fit most machines” images with an autoselecting menu would be pretty useful.

  2. @bothersaidpooh We’re actually working on floppy and harddisk image support, but it’ll be a little while. With both we will have the option to allow writing to the floppy/harddisk when the read-only switch is in the read/write position. We will probably also include some way of indicating that, regardless of switch position, an image should remain read-only.

    Personally I can’t wait to get on that, but there’s other functionality to get out of the way first. Zug zug!

  3. hi all
    i was pointed to your site because this is exactly what i am tryng right now!
    i can dump any iso on a usb that will act as a cd-rom – UDF formatted using terminal and some other software.

    but it has little bug
    for some reason UDF has trouble supporting mpkg ext

    attached is the all story:

    i work with A software company on a new Idea – a UDF Format USB stick that can include the Software for mac and pc I am in the stage where i am trying to find the right UDF combination that will allow me to put both SETUP.EXE and a Mac installer (source is .mpkg)

    when i make an ISO image of the current DVD and extract it to a DVD it WORKS

    i need to deploy the files to a USB flash drive that will be in UDF format (because of size limitations on other format) and allow the current .MPKG installer to run

    i have managed to create a stick that mounts on macs and pc but the installer gives me error-1

    digging into it i have found out that MPKG includes some compressed XXXXX.PAX.GZ files the the UDF format is unable to understand due to the double dot

    The question: Is there any way to make a MPKG to work on a Hybrid UDF formatted USB? — it shows up as a DVD or Cd on the computer

    question 2 i am not an active apple developer but i have all the developer software from apple Can I make an installer with a .APP ext instead of a MPKG ext. — In an uncompressed way so I dont have any double dots?

    appreciate your help gil

  4. The Kickstarter projects that have been featured here irritate me, all for the same reason.

    I understand that continuing production cost can’t be known in advance, since that’s dependent on sales volume.

    But production cost is only part of the price. Eric certainly already has a good idea what he wants in profit. So when he says $125 is a worst-case scenario for low-volume production, does that mean:

    1) It will cost about $100 per unit to manufacture and cover other expenses, and he plans to keep about $25 as profit. The sales price may decrease significantly with greater volume.
    2) Or, it will cost about $25 per unit to manufacture and cover other expenses, and he plans to keep about $100 as profit. The sales price won’t decrease much with greater volume, because Eric’s greedy.

    I may exaggerate, but it’s to make a point.

    Most people wouldn’t dream of investing in (or making a donation to) any traditional brick-and-mortar organization, *especially* a start-up, without a good idea of their business model. Doing so without that information is foolish; as you cannot judge either their chance for continuing success, or their motives.

    A Kickstarter pledge is no different. It’s a investment/donation for a start-up.

    But you can get on Kickstarter, not share ANY information about your business model, AND PEOPLE THROW MONEY AT YOU ANYWAY. What the heck?

    It reminds of how people used to throw money at Internet start-ups, until the “dot-com bubble” finally popped and reality set in. I predict that there will eventually be a “Kickstarter bubble” too.

    The Isostick is a good idea, and would be very useful to me. But not so useful that I’d pay $125 for it on the open market.

    However, *if* $125 would get me an Isostick, make me feel good because I like Eric and helped him start a successful business, *and* help get a useful product onto the market with good probability that it will be reasonably priced and therefore successful, *then* I would gladly pledge. And I’m guessing most people who consider pledging have similar criteria. But Eric, like most Kickstarters, has not given us any info to help us assess the last criterion.

    For example, how much did the small production run of 25x units cost? That is concrete, and would give us at least some idea of eventual price. But we should not have to specifically ask things like this from someone seeking venture capital. It should be on the Kickstarter page ALREADY.

    So while I’m impressed with the Isostick, I’m not very impressed with Eric. I won’t be pledging, and ask others not to pledge either. Save the money for someone who respects your intelligence by sharing the known aspects of their business plan, up-front and without asking, rather than vague blanket statements emphasizing only the unknown.

  5. The device uses MicroSD cards, but the case does not allow them to be removed? (swapped?, upgraded?)

    Absolutely no mention of a hardware read-only/read-write switch?

    This fulfills a real need of mine, but I don’t care if the form-factor is as large as a business card. For $150 quantity (1) I’d like to see at least two (accessible) MicroSD slots, even if only one comes filled from the factory. Two hardware read-only switches. One USB port and one eSATA port. Maybe have a small eInk or LCD display that let’s me cycle through different iso files before I plug it in too

    Got any extra room? Maybe make it a bluetooth dongle and add a beer bottle opener too. I assume there’s not enough room for the real-life swiss army chainsaw, but you get the idea of what I’m looking for.

    Meanwhile, I recommend paring with a USB Flash Drives with Hardware Write Protection

  6. This is brilliant. Shame about the price point, but i daresay even at that price it’s still a great thing. Can’t quite justify buying it out of hand, though. Maybe if it were 40$.

  7. I’ve got a busbi U3 enabled USB stick that creates a virtual CD drive on Windows and OSX without any software other than that on the stick.

    It’s 2 gig and it cost a damn site less than $120

  8. Already can do this with GRUB4DOS on a usb stick, and it appears the windows 6/7 bootloader has the same capability.

    If it can boot off of a usb optical drive, then it can boot off of a usb stick. No need to emulate.

  9. @Life2Death “If it can boot off a usb optical drive, then it can boot off of a usb stick. No need to emulate.”
    That’s true for recent software, but many older bootable things don’t play so nicely in our experience. It seems to depend highly on the BIOS being used, as well.

  10. Actually, many USB flash drives have this ability as it is. It only requires the correct program to configure the flash drive and upload an iso. I came across many years ago. They have the correct configuration programs for almost every flash drive I own. Warning…it’s in Russian. However, most of the programs are in English. And these flash drives will show up as having a USB r/w flash and a r/o CDROM, same as the U3 drives.

  11. Very nice…But I’d rather see a SATA version of this with at least 50GB of space, because then I could use this as a drive replacement of my Bluray video player. This would allow for BD iso files to be played.

  12. Consider also that between Kickstarter and Amazon 10% of the “pledge” is eaten in fees.

    However I would be willing to buy an 8GB one for about $70ish I would them promptly crack it open and insert a 32gb micro sd and superglue it back.

  13. I still don’t get it – I’ve had no trouble burning recent Ubuntu versions to a vanilla USB flash stick and booting from them. It’s pleasantly fast once you’ve done it, feels like 5-10 times as fast as booting from CDROM because you’re not waiting for rotating machinery.

  14. @Bill, Making a Linux LiveCD into a Linux LiveUSB isn’t quite the same thing as booting from an arbitrary ISO. For some bootable CD’s (eg. Windows install disks) it’s not so trivial to make them boot from USB. You also won’t get the Autorun/Autoplay behavior by default in Windows. The other advantage is that you can multiboot the ISOs without having to manually add/remove entries to the bootloader.

    I’m not sure you couldn’t do this purely with software on top of the several currently existing drives that support a hidden CD partition. But the idea still has some merit.

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