Following a recommendation from a friend of mine, I have recently been playing with a Linksys NSLU2. This device is no larger than a paperback book yet packs some remarkable capabilities. It was originally designed by Linksys (Cisco) to act as a “Network Storage Link for USB 2.0 Disk Drives” (hence NSLU2).
Externally, the rear of the box offers two USB 2.0 ports and a 10/100 ethernet RJ45 port for connectivity and sports front panel based LEDs for power, disk and ethernet status. Internally it has an XScale-IXP42x CPU (Intel’s implementation of ARM) running at 266 MHz (early versions were apparently underclocked to 133 Mhz) 8Mb of flash memory and 32Mb of SDRAM. Most interesting, at least from my point of view, is that the OS in flash is a version of Linux. Better yet, that can be changed for a full blown OS such as Debian so long as that OS is installed to external disk and the NSLU2 firmware is reflashed with an image which tells it to look for a bootable kernel on disk. Too good an opportunity to be missed – so I bought one and attached a 500 Gig Lacie USB disk so that I’d have room to play.
There is extensive documentation on-line about reflashing and upgrading the slug (as they are affectionately known by their users). My experience is documented here. My own slug now runs Debian Lenny (kernel 2.6.24-1-ixp4xx) and acts as the local apt-mirror for my home network. That mirror is run out of cron overnight so that I save on my bandwidth allowance. Having a local mirror speeds up software installs and security updates and I know that I can run local downloads to any of my machines at any time without impacting on either my monthly allowance or my external access speed. The slug runs lighttpd (changed from Apache) to give me internal virtual webservers as well as access to the mirror and I also backup my internal files to it via rsync over ssh. For example, my primary desktop machine runs a cron job to rsync to the slug.
Oh, and it also runs a webcam – just for fun.
A web search for “webcam on slug” led me to the deliciously bizarre “Slug Racing online” site. Quote – “Slug racing is an exciting and cheap alternative to other racing forms. Slugs are available almost everywhere, often in abundance. Seen as a pest by many people, they can be a great pleasure in cultivated slug racing.” Unquote.
Some people have the strangest hobbies.