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Can a Ethernet USB Dongle be instead of Ethernet shield for arduino in order to cut costs?

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No. Arduino can't behave as USB host.

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No, not directly. As @Majenko pointed out its possible but most likely over your head. I am not a big fan of the ethernet shield as I like to use my Arduino for prototyping and then build the project with the components. There are a 2 easy alternatives which are inexpensive options for accessing a network or internet via the Arduino

  • ENC28J60 Ethernet LAN Network Module
  • Esp8266 Serial Wifi Wireless Transceiver

Both are inexpensive (between $5 and $7 USD). There are tons of tutorials on line to get you up and running

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  • One more alternative would be Wiz5100, cause it already have IP layer implementation. If you dont want to read lot of RFC-s :) – Gossamer Sep 14 '15 at 14:02
  • Its an option, but at $24.95 USD I can get 3 Esp8266 – PhillyNJ Sep 14 '15 at 15:22
  • Actually, you can get it for around 14$ from ebay. Still more expensive then two you mentioned... – Gossamer Sep 14 '15 at 15:35
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Possibly with an Arduino Due in USB OTG mode if you want to spend months and months (or even years) delving into the USB specs, reverse engineering the driver for the USB dongle and writing the software to get it working.

"Possible" but certainly not worth it when you can use a simple Ethernet shield and have it all working within a day.

And definitely not possible on anything like an Uno, etc.

Also it's possible on an Arduino that runs a full operating system (Linux) like the Edison or (possibly) the Yun (OpenWRT side of the operations, not the Arduino side).

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