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Hardware Hacking Debian Software Wireless Networking Hardware Linux

Full Debian ARM for Under $200 233

Posted by timothy
from the neato-keen dept.
An anonymous reader writes "With minor elbow grease, you can now set yourself up with a complete Debian ARM Linux box for under $200. This is thanks to Peter Korsgaard, who figured out a cool byteswapped kernel hack for the little $99 Linksys NSLU2. Add a $99 USB harddrive, and the tiny, cute, quiet 'Slug' can run any of about 16,000 Debian ARM packages, 24x7, for pennies per month worth of electricity, since ARM is still orders of magnitude more power-efficient than anything x86. Serve files, music, web pages, printers, backups, kernel images, webcams/motion detection, firewalls/routers, wireless access point... or whatever. Oh, did I mention you can overclock the Slug?"
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Full Debian ARM for Under $200

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  • Stereo component (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @06:21PM (#13118777) Homepage Journal
    Where's the $100 ARM device for Debian that includes ethernet and stereo audio out (headphones/speakers)? Even used PocketPCs cost $100, plus $50-100 for PCMCIA ethernet/sleeve.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @06:22PM (#13118784)
    Does it run Li...Oh, right... ^_^
  • ARM but does it have a HURD?

    (sorry)

  • Already hacked (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @06:24PM (#13118809)

    The Linksys NSLU2 has already been hacked [tomsnetworking.com] so you can run your own applications on it. :-)

  • by kaldek (901414) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @06:26PM (#13118828)
    OpenWRT is a similar thing for the Linksys WRT54G and GS wireless routers. Same goes for the Asus WL500 series. Linux forever! heh
    • You can't, however, attach a HDD to the WRT54G(S). I've just ordered myself an Asus WL-500g Deluxe with two USB 2.0 ports. Should be nice for a little web server with OpenWRT, though the performance should be poor. 1.3Mbytes/s I've heard. I guess this Linksys device has better USB performance, it being meant for file sharing, though it's not a guarantee. The WL-HDD (connects a regular IDE HDD) can only transfer 2Mbytes/s.
      • I have one of the older Asus WL500G wireless routers. At various times I've had photo printers and USB disks plugged in to it- it's a fantasic piece of kit. You can make it boot off USB and have SSH as well.

        Not blazingly fast, but enough for most of us.

        My Compaq laptop can only do about 1.5MB/sec using SSH anyway. FTP is obviously faster.
  • by MindNumbingOblivion (668443) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @06:29PM (#13118848)
    ...that doesn't cost an ARM and a leg.

    Thank you, thank you.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @07:22PM (#13119295)
      Hacking it will require strongarm tactics.

      Buying largue quantities means you're exercising your right to bear ARMs.

      People running to get them are conducting an ARMs race.

      A beowulf cluster of these will be called an ARMy

      Stallman's creating an OS specifically for this called GNU/HARM

      They're marketing it and calling it a Linux-Installed Micro Box System (LIMBS) with a monitor called a Linux-Embedded Graphics Station (LEGS)
      • Oh God. Someone mod this boy up.
      • Just don't cross your ARMs you'd hate to have them conflicted.

        A black-hat hacker with one of these, can be considered ARMed and Dangerous.

        Someone lend me a hand here, because boy is my ARM tired...

        you can always beat a dead joke, with your ARM.

        $define(funny,%pARM)

        If your box ever gets lost or stolen don't forget to shout "I've lost my ARM"

        If you don't keep debian patched, you're APT to say someone Root-ed around in your ARM.
  • We have all heard software monoculture is bad from a security standpoint... Would running one of these things be more secure than running debian on x86 since the hardware is different?
    • More secure against script kiddies, and pre-made attacks that send binaries for execution. If an attack can run an arbitrary shell script, then you are still in trouble.
    • No. Because its still Debian, just a different architecture. So if there is a flaw in the x86 version of Samba that Debian is using, then that flaw will most likely be in the ARM version too. As well as all the other architectures that Debian supports.
      • Re:More Secure? (Score:2, Informative)

        by SA Stevens (862201)
        Yes, but often the 'exploits' people make use of in, say, Samba, involves injecting a little bit of binary code into the stream that runs and gives the cracker root. On a non-x86 platform, the cracker would have to keep around different 'little bits of binary code' to inject. And it's safe to say that script kiddies won't do that. They'll move along to the next box they've found somewhere else to crack.
    • by blueskies (525815) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @07:48PM (#13119509) Journal
      yeah, without an ethernet it's harder to connect to and pwn.
  • by glowworm (880177) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @06:31PM (#13118860) Journal
    This is a cool project and Kudos to Linksys for using Linux as a basis for their NAS and Routers.

    But TFA says "built-in 10/100 (not yet supported in litte-endian mode)". If I read this correctly the device works, but the network port doesn't. Hopefully someone can correct me and confirm that the ethernet port does work.

    This would be a perfect low-cost always-on media centre server for Slim Devices [slimdevices.com] Squeezebox Server [slimdevices.com]
    • The key there is the "not yet supported in little-endian mode" (emphasis mine). Endianness [wikipedia.org] refers to which end of the data the processor starts chewing on first. Big endian means it reads the most significant bit first, little means it starts from the least sig bit.

      ARM processes things in what is known as a byte-sexual method, ie, either big or little endian. What tfa is saying is that eth0 port should work just fine under Debian ARM in big-endian mode (otherwise having this thing set up as a network s

      • by damiangerous (218679) <1ndt7174ekq80001@sneakemail.com> on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @06:55PM (#13119081)
        What tfa is saying is that eth0 port should work just fine under Debian ARM in big-endian mode

        What it also says is that Debian ARM only supports little endian mode. I closed the page and now I can't get back to it, so I don't recall if he overcame this problem with the ethernet port.

        • Damn, you're right. It says that in order to get Debian ARM running on the NSLU, they had to byte swap it (ie, turn the kernel around so the processor would read it as if it were in big-endian). And the tag next to the mention of the 10/100 interface, is, as the gp said, not supported in little endian mode.

          My hat is off to you, good sir, and I shall await the return of my reading comprehension skills before I make another attempt at an informative post.

        • This post meant to be useful to you and not condescending:

          If you're using Firefox and you were viewing the page in it's own tab, you could install SessionSaver (or some other equivalent extension) and immediately go back and re-open (accidentally?) closed tabs.
          • The problem was not that I forgot the URL or wher to find the link, the problem was that I first read the story right when it was posted. Later, when I went to check on that ethernet status the page was Slashdotted and unresponsive. If SessionSaver would have cached the page that would have been useful though.
    • If I read this correctly the device works, but the network port doesn't. Hopefully someone can correct me and confirm that the ethernet port does work.

      Read this [slashdot.org] for an alternative that does work with the built-in Ethernet.

    • Reverse kudos from me...

      He took a working kernel that supported the network and replaced it with another kernel so that he could get the debian package manager to work. This is backwards. If he wants kudos, he'll fix the endianess problem.

      In the meanwhile, the NetBSD people could probably port their system to this hardware in an afternoon. There's more to life than Linux.

  • But an XBOX cheap when people throw theirs away for XBOX 360 and chip it :-) You can run Linux legally on it and put in any HD you want much cheaper (internal) than a USB drive.
    • > But an XBOX cheap when people throw theirs away for XBOX 360 and chip it :-) You can run Linux legally on it and put in any HD you want much cheaper (internal) than a USB drive.

      Ah, but then you would still be running x86 -- and that's just not 1337 enough for /.!
      • Not L337 as ARM but you get ethernet, video output, 2X RAM (64 MB), internal "case" for HD. You can mod the firmware without a chip too if you don't mind soldering a few lines on the MB and following various xbox hacking guides on the net.
    • Cheaper than a USB hard drive.. eh?

      The last time I checked, I could buy a 250gb seagate barracuda for ~£80 and a seperate USB 2.0 compatible housing case for ~£15...

      The difference between buying the same sized hard disk (from a less reliable manufacturer, i've never had any problems with seagate before) works out to about ~£7-10 depending on where you buy from.

      This started out as an innovative product, with Linksys using Linux yet again to open new avenues in the consumer computing m

  • Think again, homies: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zerocool^ (112121) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @06:38PM (#13118926) Homepage Journal

    From TFA:

    The device has 32MB of SDRAM, 8MB of NOR Flash, built-in 10/100 (not yet supported in litte-endian mode), and dual USB 2.0 ports.

    How are you planning on accessing those files? Hopes and dreams? Network Attached Storage with no Network Attached is just a hard drive.

    ~Will
    • That's what the USB ethernet adapter is for.
      • ...if it works. You can't assume hardware support for something like this. USB ethernet sounds like the kind of thing likely to cause problems under linux even on X86, for that matter. Frankly I'm relieved when *anything* USB works. For instance, just loading ehci_hcd disables the USB ports on my IBM T40 docking station. USB scanners generally don't work - even the Epson Perfection 1200 I bought specifically because it was supported doesn't work right. The Lego USB Tower can be made to work IF you're
        • -1 Fud I've installed Debian on my 6-yearold Thinkpad over the 'net using some no-name USB ethernet adapter - and that was two years ago. The scanner doesn't work because of a broken USB stack.The scanner doesn't work because SANE doesn;'e support it yet,
    • by pyrrhonist (701154) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @07:07PM (#13119165)
      How are you planning on accessing those files? Hopes and dreams? Network Attached Storage with no Network Attached is just a hard drive.

      If you don't need a distro as large as Debian, you can run Unslung [nslu2-linux.org], which does support the built-in Ethernet.

      Unslung uses ipkg for package management and has a simple installation using the native firmware. It is very stable, since it has been available almost since the Linksys product was announced. It is actively being developed and you can talk to the developers via IRC at #nslu2-linux on Freenode.

      There is also a Yahoo group [yahoo.com] for running Linux on the NSLU2.

  • by JeiFuRi (888436)
    the debian LEG?
  • I have a media server and p2p machine on an old Compaq Prolinea Desktop with an 133 Mhz Pentium and 96 MB RAM which runs Debian Sarge. The I/O-Performance is not very good but I can run mldonkey 24/7 without much noise.

    Could this ARM device compete with this? And what is the use of 16000 Debian packages when I can only run very few of them in 32 MB RAM?
    • And what is the use of 16000 Debian packages when I can only run very few of them in 32 MB RAM?

      Don't say that to the P-75 with 24mb ram at one of the offices I support. It doesn't know that it has too little ram to run exim, apache, samba, hylafax, courier imap-d, squirrelmail, and a few shell scripts to turn it into a fax server.
  • 1: Can you attach a USB hub to it and daisy-chain devices?

    2: If so, can you attach a printer and use it as a print server as well as a file?
    • I'm pretty sure the daisy-chain thing works for any USB 2.0 port up to 256 devices.

      Also, any Linux compatible USB printer should work since it runs Linux and has a USB port.
  • Serve This! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @06:47PM (#13119005)
    Serve files, music...

    And be served with an RIAA lawsuit!

  • by PsychoKiller (20824) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @06:51PM (#13119048) Homepage
    Can it use other USB 2.0 peripherals?

    How much power does it consume? Better than a WRT54G?

    Can it be further underclocked?

  • that you'll be needing to add your own serial port.
    • I know, and it had me all excited too :-( I'm playing around with Debian's auto-install text file (sort of like unattend.txt on Windows or kickstart on RHEL) and see if I can skip the serial port...
      • I know, and it had me all excited too :-( I'm playing around with Debian's auto-install text file (sort of like unattend.txt on Windows or kickstart on RHEL) and see if I can skip the serial port...

        You can also try using Unslung [nslu2-linux.org]. They you don't have to do either hack!

  • by alan_dershowitz (586542) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @06:57PM (#13119104)
    NOTE: First page says that the built-in ethernet isn't working under the Debian install yet. Not thinking this will be useful for most people. I'll be getting one when that's worked out, I need a low-power box to run an HTTP proxy on.
    • NOTE: First page says that the built-in ethernet isn't working under the Debian install yet. Not thinking this will be useful for most people.

      As I've said before, use the Unslung [nslu2-linux.org] distribution instead.
      It works with the built-in Ethernet, and doesn't require a serial port hardware modification.


  • Honestly, it took me 5 minutes from reading the slashdot post until ordering the NSLU2 from amazon. Lol.

    This is so cool. Does anyone know about a USB 2.0 ISDN hardware that is supported by Debian ARM? I want to make this a PBX using Asterisk.

    Christian
  • by pyrrhonist (701154) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @07:28PM (#13119349)
    To install Debian on the NSLU2, you'll need to do a serial port modification. If you aren't comfortable with modifying your NSLU2, than I suggest running Unslung [nslu2-linux.org].

    Unslung can be installed without using a serial port modification, because it simply uses the built-in Linksys web administration to upgrade the firmware to the Unslung distribution.

    Once Unslung is installed, it only takes a matter of minutes to have your NSLU2 running Samba, OpenSSH, Apache, Slimserver, and even Asterisk!

  • by GodWasAnAlien (206300) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @07:36PM (#13119414)
    Sounds like a bug...

    Doesn't Debian run on PPC?

    What exactly are the applications that depend on the backass ints?

  • Okay thousands of Debian packages but many of them are graphical. Is there a way to hook up a monitor to this beastie?
  • install Debian on my Zaurus and be done with it?

    A 400MHz xScale with 64MB flash will beat the socks off this little NSLU2, and you get direct audio in/out, USB, CF and SD storage.

  • The Kuro Box [kurobox.com] is a NAS-ish appliance with a PPC processor and an internal HD. A Gentoo [kurobox.com] port is available (currently in beta).

  • I've got to admit, the NLSU2 is a nifty little unit. Even if you're not modding it like this guy, there's lots of potential - you can install your own server daemons onto it (for example, the Twonkyvision UPnP media server can be installed on the device so you can serve media files without having your PC running).

    But why USB2 ports? If you buy the NLSU2 as a home file server, you've then got to buy 2 USB drive bays, and have 3 slots on your power board - probably 5, because the NLSU2 and the USB drive encl
  • New uses (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JanneM (7445) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @09:12PM (#13120110) Homepage
    [Note: I wrote about this just a day ago here [lucs.lu.se]; I'm paraphrasing and shortening it below]

    I just bought myself a wireless router, for the price of 5100 yen (about $45). Of course, it's a real, full single-board computer that happens to have excellent connectivity to everything. Add storage ability and interfaces through USB2 and you can start thinking up some really interesting uses for this kind of gear.

    With the kind of price we're starting to see, there's no reason to have only one. How about having two, three or more of them at home, in different rooms to get good wireless coverage anywhere? They could present themselves as being one single friendly system to its users, transparently talking to each other wirelessly and move data to where it's needed.

    The units with hard disks could be hidden away in closets or workrooms where the noise doesn't bother anyone, while the ones out in the livingroom or bedrooms would would be small and quiet and have extra communications abilities like being able to play music or show movies stored anywhere in the home network. They would act as an external redundant storage (more convenient and much safer than backing up on CD:s or DVD:s), as backup, as household web, mail and IP telephone server, climate controller and general communications forwarder (whether you are at home, using your cellphone, or being on some conference trip halfway around the world, you can get to your email, voice mail and IM in the same way).

    You need more storage or some new hardware functionality? Just get another unit. When powered on it'll join the rest of them and suddenly your home has a bit of added capacity it didn't have before.

    When highly capable hardware like this is coming down into the sub-10000yen range, a whole new range of uses is becoming feasible.
  • by slashdot.org (321932) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @09:40PM (#13120308) Homepage Journal
    since ARM is still orders of magnitude more power-efficient than anything x86

    This is utter bullshit.

    On this page [nslu2-linux.org] it says that at 133MHz, idle, the board consumes 8.6W. There are plenty of embedded x86 boards that run lower power and/or higher clock frequency.

    For example, here's a board [ampro.com] that runs at 133MHz, 5 Watt at 100% CPU load.
    • by renoX (11677)
      I noticed that the x86 board you refer to has half the DRAM,no 10/100 Ethernet interface, maybe this help for the power consumption? (it probably doesn't explain the whole difference)

      What would be interesting also is comparing the SpecInt (and also SpecFP for fun) of these two processors..
      Clock speed isn't a good performance indicator: traditionnaly RISCs have been more powerful than x86 at a given clockspeed, but I don't know if this is the case here.
  • by kinneko (901475) on Thursday July 21, 2005 @01:40AM (#13121624)
    See this one.
    You can buy it with $160.
    http://supertank.iodata.jp/products/sotohdlwu/ [iodata.jp]

    CPU: SH-4/266MHz
    DRAM: 64MB
    NIC: 100BASE-TX (Realtek)
    USB: 2.0 x2 (NEC)
    SerialConsoleCable: (not include. extention$33)
    HDD: 3.5 ATA HDD x2 (not include)
    OS: Debian GNU/Linux SH (iohack version)
    kernel: 2.4.21
    daemons: mt-daapd, akaDAV, vsftpd, wizd,
    mdnsresopnder, telnetd

    Web reviews (Japanese)
    http://pcweb.mycom.co.jp/column/jisakuparts/023/ [mycom.co.jp]
    http://bb.watch.impress.co.jp/cda/special/10056.ht ml [impress.co.jp]
    http://bb.watch.impress.co.jp/cda/special/10074.ht ml [impress.co.jp]
  • Limited memory :-( (Score:4, Informative)

    by Mark Gillespie (866733) on Thursday July 21, 2005 @03:20AM (#13122068)
    The crippling factor on the NSLU2 is the limited memory. Fine for what it's intended to do, but they to expand it's capabilities, and you hit the wall. Many people have this problem when trying to use it as a UPnP Mediaserver (using Twonkyvision). The hardware is simply not powerfull enough, or enough memory to cope with large scale media databases and heavy network media streaming.

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