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Which NSLU2 firmware to choose?

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  • Rod Whitby
    I often get asked to recommend a distribution for the NSLU2. Here is some objective information on each of the five different firmware distributions created
    Message 1 of 7 , Dec 29, 2007
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      I often get asked to recommend a distribution for the NSLU2. Here is
      some objective information on each of the five different firmware
      distributions created or supported by the NSLU2-Linux project. In the
      end, it usually comes down to which applications you want to run, or
      which hardware you want to connect. It's not one-size-fits-all.


      Unslung (through the installation of Optware packages) has about 1000
      packages to choose from, each of which has been specifically compiled
      for the NSLU2's unique blend of capabilities. Unslung is available in
      big-endian mode only, and has a very old 2.4 kernel and a very old
      version of glibc, so support for hardware accessories is hit and miss,
      and there is nothing you can do to fix it if it doesn't work. Unslung
      has a web user interface. There is a tiny amount of room left in
      internal flash after installation, but Unslung is meant to be run from
      an external storage device. If the external device fails, Unslung falls
      back to running from internal flash.

      SlugOS has about 5000 packages to choose from - 4000 from OpenEmbedded,
      which have been specifically compiled mainly for handheld, limited
      memory devices, and 1000 from Optware (as per Unslung). SlugOS is
      available in either big-endian or little-endian modes, and uses a
      2.6.21.7 kernel and a recent version of glibc. SlugOS does not have a
      web user interface. There is a small amount of room left in internal
      flash after installation (enough to run some small server applications),
      but installation of large packages will require an external storage
      device. If the external device fails, SlugOS falls back to running from
      internal flash.

      Angstrom has the same 4000 OpenEmbedded packages, but is built using the
      EABI version of the ARM application binary interface, and therefore has
      much better floating point performance than any other distro for the
      slug. Angstrom is available in either big-endian or little-endian
      modes, and uses a 2.6.21.7 kernel and a recent version of glibc.
      Angstrom does not have a web user interface as such, but some packages
      are available that provide web interfaces to some applications. There
      is a small amount of room left in internal flash after installation
      (enough to run some small server applications), but installation of
      large packages will require an external storage device. If the external
      device fails, then either a reflash or a serial console is currently
      required for recovery.

      Debian has well over 10000 packages, but they have been compiled for
      desktop systems, and are therefore not optimised for the small-memory
      NSLU2. Debian is available in little-endian mode only, and uses a
      2.6.18 kernel and a recent version of glibc. Debian has some packages
      that provide web-based interfaces. Debian can only run from an external
      storage device (which means that there is no recovery ability other than
      a reflash if that external device stops working).

      OpenWrt has just under 2000 packages to choose from - about 1000 from
      Optware, and about 1000 from OpenWrt. OpenWrt is available in
      big-endian mode only, and uses a 2.6.21.6 kernel and uClibc. If you
      want to do wireless or sophisticated routing, then you can't go past
      OpenWrt. It is also the only 2.6 kernel distro for the slug which has a
      web user interface (X-Wrt) included in the installation image. OpenWrt
      has a significant amount of internal flash left after installation
      (since uClibc uses so much less space than glibc), so it is very good
      for disk-less applications. You can also run it from an external
      storage device if you choose. If the external device fails, then either
      a reflash or a serial console is currently required for recovery.


      -- Rod Whitby
      -- NSLU2-Linux Project Lead
    • vivekv
      ... the Rod Thanks for the info. would be be possible to run a poll on nslu2- linux.org to see who uses which firmware? That would be an interesting
      Message 2 of 7 , Dec 29, 2007
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        --- In nslu2-linux@yahoogroups.com, Rod Whitby <rod@...> wrote:
        >
        > I often get asked to recommend a distribution for the NSLU2. Here is
        > some objective information on each of the five different firmware
        > distributions created or supported by the NSLU2-Linux project. In
        the

        <snip>

        Rod
        Thanks for the info. would be be possible to run a poll on nslu2-
        linux.org to see who uses which firmware? That would be an
        interesting data to know

        Regards
        Vivek
      • Rod Whitby
        ... The download statisic information (which is recorded automatically) gives us a much better indication compared to an optional poll. Even though some people
        Message 3 of 7 , Dec 29, 2007
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          vivekv wrote:
          > Thanks for the info. would be be possible to run a poll on nslu2-
          > linux.org to see who uses which firmware? That would be an
          > interesting data to know

          The download statisic information (which is recorded automatically)
          gives us a much better indication compared to an optional poll.

          Even though some people will be downloading twice, or trying out
          multiple firmware before settling on one, it's the best indication that
          we have, and will still be far more accurate than a poll.

          And really, you should be basing your choice on your own requirements,
          not on some popularity figure :-)

          -- Rod
        • Yann E. MORIN
          Hello there! ... [--SNIP--] ... [--SNIP--] ... [--SNIP--] ... [--SNIP--] ... [--SNIP--] ... [--SNIP--] Thank you Rod for these explanations! Very nice to read,
          Message 4 of 7 , Dec 30, 2007
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            Hello there!

            On Saturday 29 December 2007 10:13:48 Rod Whitby wrote:
            > I often get asked to recommend a distribution for the NSLU2.
            [--SNIP--]
            > Unslung
            [--SNIP--]
            > SlugOS
            [--SNIP--]
            > Angstrom
            [--SNIP--]
            > Debian
            [--SNIP--]
            > OpenWrt
            [--SNIP--]

            Thank you Rod for these explanations! Very nice to read, and straight to the
            point.

            I'll add a sixth one: DIY (Do It Yourself).

            DIY follows a different route than other distributions. With DIY you build
            your firmware from source, adding and building the packages you need,
            configuring them the way you want. DIY is targeted at very advanced geeks
            that know their way through JTAG, kernel, building packages, etc...

            The way to go for DIY is as follows:
            - confirm JTAG access to the slug
            - confirm serial access to the slug
            - grab a toolchain (or better yet, build one from source)
            - grab APEX sources, configure and build APEX
            - flash APEX, using JTAG, overwriting existing RedBoot
            - confirm APEX is working (serial console)
            - grab latest kernel sources, configure and build kernel
            - transfer kernel to slug (serial, or ethernet with latest APEX)
            - confirm kernel is booting (down to panic while mounting root)
            - grab busybox, configure with only a shell, and build
            - build a file system (JFFS2, ext2, as you wish) with busybox
            - transfer the file system to slug (again, via serial or ethernet)
            - boot kernel with init=/bin/sh on the comand line
            - confirm shell is working (type some commands)
            - go on with more complex stuff, increasing complexity one step at a time.

            This is how I've gone to setup my toy-slug. Merely a proof a concept though.

            Regards,
            Yann E. MORIN.

            --
            .-----------------.--------------------.------------------.--------------------.
            | Yann E. MORIN | Real-Time Embedded | /"\ ASCII RIBBON | Erics' conspiracy: |
            | +0/33 662376056 | Software Designer | \ / CAMPAIGN | ^ |
            | --==< °_° >==-- °------------.-------: X AGAINST | /e\ There is no |
            | http://ymorin.is-a-geek.org/ | (*_*) | / \ HTML MAIL | """ conspiracy. |
            °------------------------------°-------°------------------°--------------------°
          • Rod Whitby
            ... Once you ve done that, you re ready to be part of the nslu2-linux firmware development team :-) -- Rod
            Message 5 of 7 , Dec 30, 2007
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              Yann E. MORIN wrote:
              > I'll add a sixth one: DIY (Do It Yourself).
              >
              > DIY follows a different route than other distributions. With DIY you build
              > your firmware from source, adding and building the packages you need,
              > configuring them the way you want. DIY is targeted at very advanced geeks
              > that know their way through JTAG, kernel, building packages, etc...
              >
              > The way to go for DIY is as follows:
              > - confirm JTAG access to the slug
              > - confirm serial access to the slug
              > - grab a toolchain (or better yet, build one from source)
              > - grab APEX sources, configure and build APEX
              > - flash APEX, using JTAG, overwriting existing RedBoot
              > - confirm APEX is working (serial console)
              > - grab latest kernel sources, configure and build kernel
              > - transfer kernel to slug (serial, or ethernet with latest APEX)
              > - confirm kernel is booting (down to panic while mounting root)
              > - grab busybox, configure with only a shell, and build
              > - build a file system (JFFS2, ext2, as you wish) with busybox
              > - transfer the file system to slug (again, via serial or ethernet)
              > - boot kernel with init=/bin/sh on the comand line
              > - confirm shell is working (type some commands)
              > - go on with more complex stuff, increasing complexity one step at a time.
              >
              > This is how I've gone to setup my toy-slug. Merely a proof a concept though.

              Once you've done that, you're ready to be part of the nslu2-linux
              firmware development team :-)

              -- Rod
            • vivekv
              ... Rod, Agreed - I am looking at Debian so I can put on a USB Hub and hang some interesting devices off of it. From what I am reading from various posts on
              Message 6 of 7 , Dec 31, 2007
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                --- In nslu2-linux@yahoogroups.com, Rod Whitby <rod@...> wrote:
                >
                > vivekv wrote:
                > > Thanks for the info. would be be possible to run a poll on nslu2-
                > > linux.org to see who uses which firmware? That would be an
                > > interesting data to know
                >
                > The download statisic information (which is recorded automatically)
                > gives us a much better indication compared to an optional poll.
                >
                > Even though some people will be downloading twice, or trying out
                > multiple firmware before settling on one, it's the best indication that
                > we have, and will still be far more accurate than a poll.
                >
                > And really, you should be basing your choice on your own requirements,
                > not on some popularity figure :-)
                >
                > -- Rod
                >

                Rod,
                Agreed - I am looking at Debian so I can put on a USB Hub and hang
                some interesting devices off of it. From what I am reading from
                various posts on the Wiki, I dont think that is a sure shot thing with
                the Unslung firmware.

                Regards
                Vivek
              • Yann E. MORIN
                Hello Rod and all! ... [--SNIP--] ... Already done (and not only on the slug!). Bah, this is part of my day-time job building-up linux-based devices. ...
                Message 7 of 7 , Dec 31, 2007
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                  Hello Rod and all!

                  On Sunday 30 December 2007 22:57:29 Rod Whitby wrote:
                  > Yann E. MORIN wrote:
                  > > I'll add a sixth one: DIY (Do It Yourself).
                  [--SNIP--]
                  > Once you've done that,

                  Already done (and not only on the slug!).
                  Bah, this is part of my day-time job building-up linux-based devices.

                  > you're ready to be part of the nslu2-linux firmware development team :-)

                  Unfortunately, I haven't much time to take active part in such a project. I'm
                  but a lurker in this group. Too many other project I'm already involved in.
                  If I ever lower my involved time in another for any reason, then why not
                  coming here... But until then...

                  From what I've seen and used, you guys already have done a wonderfull job!

                  Regards,
                  Yann E. MORIN.

                  --
                  .-----------------.--------------------.------------------.--------------------.
                  | Yann E. MORIN | Real-Time Embedded | /"\ ASCII RIBBON | Erics' conspiracy: |
                  | +0/33 662376056 | Software Designer | \ / CAMPAIGN | ^ |
                  | --==< °_° >==-- °------------.-------: X AGAINST | /e\ There is no |
                  | http://ymorin.is-a-geek.org/ | (*_*) | / \ HTML MAIL | """ conspiracy. |
                  °------------------------------°-------°------------------°--------------------°
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