Linksys NSLU2, Unslugged

I bought a Linksys NSLU2 on Amazon, affectionately known as a “slug”. It’s a tiny little device, barely bigger than my hand, which is intended to be used as a network storage device, with the addition of a couple of USB 2.0 hard drives. Of course, I rarely use such gadgets for what they’re intended.

The reality is that it’s a tiny little box, which without modification1 has:

  • 266 Mhz X-Scale (ARM) IXP425 processor, underclocked to 133 Mhz
  • 32MB of RAM
  • 8MB of on-board flash
  • 2 USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 100Mbit Ethernet port

Most of Linksys’s consumer electronics run Linux, and the NSLU2 is no exception. In practice, that means that the Linux hacker community has adopted the NSLU2 and created many Linux distributions for it. You can easily add a USB keyfob, such as my 512MB SanDisk Cruzer Micro (link actually to a 1GB version), which gives you plenty of space for additional software. I’m currently using Unslung, as it is based on the original firmware from Linksys, and promises to be the least risky. Once I’m comfortable with the box, I will probably change to a pure Linux, minus the Linksys junk that I don’t need.

Last night, I got the box up and running on the Unslung firmware, got a whole bunch of software installed on it, and even got OWFS compiled on it (not including the FUSE filesystem stuff). Man, I forgot how slow things compile at 133Mhz with 32MB of RAM.

I plan to make a few hardware hacks on my slug to at least up the speed to 266Mhz and make it turn itself on when power is applied.2 I have some plans for using mine for running a weather station and webcam, which will (hopefully) make it to the top of a mountain around here. For the short term, though, it will go in our backyard for testing purposes (and well within range of our wireless network without special antennas).

1 With a few hardware hacks, you can add three additional USB ports, a serial port, and increase the clock speed to 266Mhz. Pretty awesome box. Did I mention it uses only 500mA with no disks attached?

2 I will never figure out why companies choose to make their products have stupid defaults like this. You might remember my post about “The Big Green Button“: my previous cable modem had the same stupid problem. Small consumer electronics that are largely designed to be “on” all the time should turn “on” by default, if they even have a power button at all. Sigh.

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