Is there any chance for coLinux to run as a self-contained service from a USB memory stick?
There's a corresponding standard called U3: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U3
This is not doable. coLinux needs to install a hardware driver (linux.sys), and this is not allowed by U3.
I was thinking about this, and I am not sure if this conclusion is necessarily right - there are several other programs that have to load kernel drivers but still run fine from a U3/USB stick, most notably the various sysinternals (now Microsoft) tools (e.g. procmon, tcpview etc), but also wireshark itself which has U3 support.
Is this a misunderstanding on my part?
All the tools you reported no needs to install a hardware driver.
The "Wireshark U3" require, that WinPcap is installed before. Winpcap is a hardware driver and is not stored on the U3 stick. You must install WionPcap as administrator.
So, of curse, if you would install linux.sys on your desktop, then you can run coLinux as U3 application. So, you would split the kernel driver from application programs. But if you go to an other desktop for example into an Internet-Coffee, then you can't run.
For running coLinux from USB stick you don't need an extra U3 port. Simple copy all program files and the linux image into a directory of USB drive. Remove all paths and drive letters from configurations. Than create a new shortcut on your U3 menu. This shortcut should change into the coLinux directory on USB disk and should run colinux-daemon with the configfile as parameter.
With two extra batch files you can create an installer and uninstaller for linux.sys (the hardware driver).
With these steps you can use coLinux on any desktop where you have admin rights.