Saturday, November 27, 2010

ebox 4300

On a certain day a friend* of mine showed me a smaller-than-a-tinny-tupperware box and claimed It was a fully functional PC!


In order to believe him I bought this little piece of hardware which is the "server" you were connecting right when visiting the old site.
As you can see I its so small and its based on a non-mobile-parts design:
  • No hardrive (its optional).
  • No noisy fan.
  • Compact flash bay (card not included).
  • Video card, 3 usb ports, 1 ps2 port
  • Ethernet port and wifi (optional)
  • Via Eden 500 Mhz & 512 MB RAM (included!!:)

Installing Debian

So as you might guess you can run linux in a compact flash card. I chose Debian, among the possible installing options I took a netinstall one based on a booting pendrive. In order to achieve this you can follow this howto: following the steps from chapter 4.4.2. to 4.4.4.
The problems you might get are that when booting the pendrive It might not detect your Compact Flash Card reader and the card inside. I managed it to work by using the following files in the root of an already partitioned fat16 pendrive:
  • initrd.gz
  • ldlinux.sys
  • mini.iso
  • syslinux.cfg
  • vmlinuz
You can get all these files I used in the following compressed file Ebox4300_Deb_netinst_files.rar . Don't forget running syslinux command as the howto suggests!
With all said you can get your compact flash card recognized by the system and proceed to install Debian on it

Tweaking for performance

After the installation I applied the following tweaks to improve the performance having in mind that this machine's physical drive is just a compact flash memory and therefore does not have the i/o capacity of a traditional hard drive.
  • Edit file /boot/grub/menu.lst as follows (elevator parameter for the kernel being started at boot time)
title           Debian GNU/Linux, kernel 2.6.18-6-686
root            (hd0,1)
kernel          /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.18-6-686 root=/dev/hdc2 ro vga=791 '''elevator=noop'''
initrd          /boot/initrd.img-2.6.18-6-686

  • Edit the file /etc/fstab, and instruct debian to mount /tmp and /var/tmp files in RAM memory. Some howtos recommend /var/log as well but then all the logs generated wont be kept after a reboot (hmm I would ask tmpfs developpers that maybe would be a good idea to allow changes to be written to permanent storage when poweroff or reboot is issued. Observe the noatime option as well that will prevent debian to change file access time everytime a file is accessed (maybe in a forensic scenario this is not good, but in my case hopefully no "crime" is committed here!!)
# /etc/fstab: static file system information.
# <file system> <mount point>   <type>  <options>       <dump>  <pass>
proc            /proc           proc    defaults        0       0
/dev/hdc2       /               ext2    noatime,errors=remount-ro 0       1
#/dev/hdc1       none            swap    sw              0       0
tmpfs           /tmp            tmpfs   defaults           0    0
tmpfs           /var/tmp        tmpfs   defaults           0    0

As you can see I also commented the line that mounts the swap partition as I dont want it neither for the sake of the overall system performance as swap is mapped to the compact flash in this machine.

Where to get it

You can get this stuff or other interesting stuff under Norhtec's web page The name they give to this machines is MicroClient Sr but I guess the genuine name is Ebox 4300. You can find this unit as it is (without hard drive or wifi) from 200$ (excluding shipping costs) but you can customize it with addons. The support from Norhtec company was great and we don't have any troubles in the shipping. By they are Thailand based so don't mislead the name with a North American company.

Some fun

psp-ssh allows you to run a ssh client on your PSP!
I grabbed [ this version] for my PSP (It may differ on you PSP firmware version,so read the psp-ssh documentation)
Next drop the folder in the following dir (windows based)

One important thing version 380 does not work without static ip wireless configuration...don't ask me why.
You will have to generate a random number. With the start button a keyboard will appear

The result


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