Have you ever needed a small power efficient Linux server? Just something simple to run a Apache, Samba, NFS, irssi, screen, tmux, or maybe even your own personal cloud? Good. Now that you’ve answered yes to either of those questions then let’s get to it. First though, let’s take a look at a few different devices that I’ve tried.
While there are thousands of embedded Linux devices on the market, and most of them are hackable to some degree, not all of them really fit my personal needs. For example the late great Buffalo LinkStation HD-HLAN v2 with a 400MHz MIPS processor, 64MB. While it did exactly what it was suppose to, once loaded with additional software it really brought the processor to it’s knees. This is a great device for a simple Samba, NFS, or maybe even an internal home Apache server. I’m not sure that I would trust it for much more than that.
The Insignia Infocast 3.5 is also another really inexpensive choice. I was able to purchase one from Amazon for $20 with free shipping. Clocking in with a whopping 454MHz ARM9 processor, 64MB of ram, and 1GB of internal storage. This truly is an amazing little device for the price, and when loaded with Zurk’s firmware you have the ability to run the Chumby in offline mode. Sadly I never got a chance to do much more than that. A month after I received the device it died a sudden and tragic death. For whatever reason the device now refuses to power on. I’m sure someday I’ll open it up to have a look. Thankfully the Amazon seller refunded my money, and just told me to keep the unit.
So here I was, back on the hunt for an inexpensive hackable embedded Linux device. I had known about the Pogoplug, and at the time of release I really wanted one. Weighing in with a 1.2Ghz ARM processor, 256MB of ram, and 128Mb NAND flash it was clearly the most powerful machine of the three. However, I wasn’t going to pay $99. Since the original Pogoplug has been out for some time now, and the price reflects it, I was able to grab a refurbished one from eBay for $25 with free shipping. Now that I had my new device in hand, I took the advice of Famicoman from the IRC channel, and loaded the device with version of Arch Linux ARM.
Installing Arch on the device really is a painless process. However, you do always run the risk of bricking (read: fucking up) your device. If you’re not comfortable following directions, or the command line scares you, then you should probably just stop right here. Still here? Good. First, you’re going to want to find the model number on the bottom of the device. Then you’re going to want to head over to http://archlinuxarm.org/ and find that device under the “Platforms” menu. In my case I have the POGO-E02 model so I’ll follow the directions located here http://archlinuxarm.org/platforms/armv5/pogoplug-v2-pinkgray. Once you’ve finished the installation you’ll want to head over to http://archlinuxarm.org/support/guides/system/first-steps and familiarize yourself with your new system. You might also want to visit http://archlinuxarm.org/support/guides/applications , and check out the how-to articles for a few commonly installed applications.
One thing that you might have noticed, is that you’re device no longer shows up on my.pogoplug.com. This too can be solved. Thanks to pshevrin, and a couple of the engineers from CloudEngines. Just head on over to this thread on the forums http://archlinuxarm.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=2895, and follow the instructions. Note: you’ll need to replace the existing xce.ko file located in /usr/local/cloudengines/bin with the one attached here. You should now have the majority of functionality back. Below is quick screenshot of an htop session running on my Pogoplug.
In short. If you’re looking for a small power efficient always on linux server, and you can’t get your hands on a Raspberry Pi, then give the Pogoplug a look. I feel that for the price you really can’t go wrong. I realize that I didn’t explain the step-by-step instructions on installing Arch to the plug, however my reason for writing this article wasn’t to create another how-to. I just wanted to cover another embedded Linux device which I consider to be on par with the Raspberry Pi, and the new influx of mini ARM based computers. If you have any questions feel free to post a comment below, and I’ll do my best to answer them.