I bought one of those some time ago (about 2005). It’s basically a small computer with a funny CPU (SH4, 266 MHz), RAM (64 MB) network (Fast Ethernet) and 5 USB 2.0 ports, 4 buttons, and some LEDs. Inside is a CF card for the OS, and originally you are supposed to connect USB storage devices which are then exported via Samba. Since it was basically a LANTANK with the internal IDE disk(s) replaced with a CF card, it did not take long until it was hacked. All you needed to do was to take out the CF card, modify some files (e.g. set a root password and enable telnet), and put it back. Suddenly you had a cut down accessible Debian. At first I used Gentoo (specifically from here) but when Gentoo broke on my desktop (trying to replace the shared glibc with another, newer and incompatible one on a running system is bad), I jumped to Ubuntu (Kubuntu) on my desktop and and plain Debian (or Ubuntu Server) on my servers.
So some month ago I updated it to the latest Debian release (unstable/unreleased) as the previous installation was from 2007 and updates were no longer available.
Here some pointers where to find useful information about this device and how to configure it to be on Debian sid/squeeze:
- http://eggplant.ddo.jp/www/pukiwiki/index.php?USL-5P for a lot of general information
- The serial console pins are: 1:3.3V, 2:TxD, 3:RxD, 4:GND. Voltage levels are the usual 0V-3.3V, so you need a matching serial converter (e.g. ADM3232, like here). 9600 bps, 8 data, 1 stop bit, no flow control.
- The bootloader is here: http://iohack.sourceforge.jp/kogiidena/kernel26/bootld/
- Clean install of Debian using bootld: http://eggplant.ddo.jp/www/pukiwiki/index.php?deban26%20clean%20installation%20using%20bootld. While this installs an older Debian, using this as a jumping pad to a newer one is easy (well, if you have done this kind of stuff before)
/etc/apt/sources.list should contain:
deb http://ftp.debian-ports.org/debian/ unstable main
deb http://ftp.debian-ports.org/debian/ unreleased main
And if anyone wonders why I would use such a slow machine: It runs on 5V, using max 2.2A (and that’s mostly for the USB ports which can draw 0.5A each). It also has no moving parts, it’s really small, and it just works (mostly thanks to Debian’s SH4 port). And it can do anything Linux can do when it comes to networking and USB.
To put some numbers to the “slow”: compiling a recent Linux kernel takes 8h.
A more modern similar machine would be this