Monday, March 23, 2009

Installing Debian on "Slug" NSLU2

Essence of this blogpost: Log in with a shell on the device to tail the syslog while the installer runs for much finer grained feedback during install. This can be OK, since it often takes "half a year" to format the disk and install the device, and one start to wonder whether it is hung.

How cool: You can install the actual Debian newest version 5.0 system onto a Slug!

This is a quick note on the installation of the Cisco Linksys NSLU2 device.

The debian install works like this: You "upgrade" the device "to the installer" using one of three methods, one of which is to simply use the web console of the device and direct that to the "di-nslu2.bin" file you downloaded.

The device then reboots, and after some minutes emits three beeps. You now log in to it using ssh (for Windowers, this means putty). The standard ip of any new Slug is, but if you enabled DHCP using the web console before you "updated the firmware", it will still use DHCP after booting, normally getting the address it got the first time (DHCP clients always asks for the same IP they got the first time from a DHCP server), or being given the static configured DHCP IP address you've configured on the DHCP server (which IMHO is the right thing to do).

The username/password is installer/install. You end up on the "Network console for the Debian installer". Here you can select either "install it damnit" or "install (expert mode)", or "start shell".

You select one of the install options, and you're on your way.

The point of this blogpost is that the installer takes some time (like in the 4 hour range!). And just the formatting of a 1TB disk takes at least a full hour, where at least 95% of the time the progress bar shows "33% finished"! This makes one wonder what is happening.

What is cool, is that one can log in once more to the installer. This time, select "Start shell". Now tail the syslog:

cd /var/log
tail -f syslog

.. or, when the device is formatting your disk, which takes ages, instead tail "partman". Ctrl-C to stop. Since the Slug has very little memory, you should not do much creative stuff with the shell you've got there during the install, or else the installer itself might be terminated by Linux' OutOfMemoryKiller.