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My home file server died and it's time to celebrate as I have a new project!

I purchased the Lacie 500G Home Mini about a year ago. The SATA 500G seagate drive has died. I've always loved this little box but not so much the internal software.

I see this now as the opportunity to play with an embedded distro of linux. However, I'm really outside my comfort zone here. Based on the specs: 400Mhz processor with 64MB of ram, I know I can't really run much here. But, again, this is a learning experience and I'm ready to jump in.

I'm looking for suggestions of how to begin? How does one install an OS when the box has no console. Do I mount to another machine and install from a host OS?

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migrated from Oct 28 '09 at 16:48

This question came from our site for system and network administrators.

It's always the psychical ones I have the most trouble with. – Dennis Williamson Oct 28 '09 at 16:30
Thanks Dennis. Spelling, and therefore, meaning corrected. – Richard Oct 28 '09 at 16:36

I don't know if there's much in the way of a hacking community around the Lacie Home Mini devices, you could start with this page on the Lacie Ethernet Disk Mini, but your first step is probably pull the drive out, and try to mount it in on existing Linux PC, if you can access the filesystems directly, you've probably got a half chance of getting something up and running.

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I have already mounted the SATA drive to a laptop running Ubuntu 9.04 which found the two "system" volumes and the data volume. My goal is to wipe he drive and drop a new OS on the SATA disk. I'd like to turn this into a home linux server (file share and SSH). Would FreeNAS embedded be the starting point? – Richard Oct 28 '09 at 16:50

Linux supports using a terminal over a serial port as the console from the kernel arguments during boot.

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400Mhz/64MB of RAM is OK under Linux to do a number of things, including running a file server, a small webserver, etc. With Linux the possibilites are endless here.

Generally, almost every "embedded" device has one of the following that you can use to install Linux if possible:

  • A way to update the firmware - if the device does not insist on a signed update, this is the usual and easiest way. DD-WRT does this, they offer files which you upload to the firmware update web page instead of official updates.

  • A serial port, pins to attach a cable, or solder pads where you can attach a port, pins or wires. This usuaully is meant to give you access to the bootloader of the device, where you may be able to tell it to load something other than the firmware in flash. @Lee B is correct, the Debian installer, for example, runs over a serial port if configured correctly.

  • A JTAG port, pins to attach a cable, or solder pads where you can attach a port, pins or wires. This allows you to program the flash chip on the board directly. This is advanced and not usually done unless there is no way into the firmware or bootloader. You need to have a flash image ready, either the one from the manufacturer or one you made. Typically this is a step in recovering a bricked device.

It takes a lot of time and effort to try to figure this out and that's why communities tend to build around such "hacks" of devices.

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