Archive for June, 2012

Plug Computer: Part 4 Lift Off

June 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Getting Putty to work with the dream plug and JTAG and SSH

Lets just get this bit out the way. I can confirm that the instructions here do work. It  is a pain but you only have to do it once and it works.

Upgrading the DreamPlug

So to recap, the plug computer seem a cheap way to have your own bit of the cloud both in terms of capital cost and running costs.

The DreamPlug works. I know this because I can log into it through the JTAG connection. I also know it has an old version of bare bones version of Debian (Lenny) on it. Usable but not for much.

The first thing I wanted to do was upgrade the OS to something more recent but still stable. So Debian Squeeze seemed a likely candidate. There are a number of ways to change the OS on the DreamPlug. You can even multiboot from external memory be it SD card or USB stick. I wanted to keep the interfaces free so that meant storing it on the internal memory. Again there are (probably) a number of ways to do that, however since the internal memory is just an internal SD Card I decided to remove it and reimage it. Removing the four rubber pads from the DreamPlug gives you access to four small screws. Remove this and the case comes apart pretty easily revealling the SD card.

Images can be found for varios sizes of SD at the NewIT website. I used the instructions from the website to copy the image across from my laptop to the SD card. This involved using a linux command shell and I used the OpenSUSE build for that.

Booting the device through with the JTAG attached showed no problems so on to the next stage.

Joining the network

Out of the box, the DreamPlug is configured to to use DHCP to get an IP address. Connecting it to my network via ethernet posed no problem and it picked an ip address. Looking at my Fritz!box router allowed me to determine which one and from that point on I could connect via ssh rather than the JTAG module using Putty. At this point you are going to have to learn how to use a text editor with a command line interface. I haven’t used one in years but you are not going to get anywhere without using one. I used “vi” but there are others available. My intention was to give the DreamPlug a static IP address and this along with other sytem changes requires changes to a number of text configuration files. However after following the instructions here and here it steadfastly refused to stick with the address I gave it. (actually i had misconfigured the “interfaces file” as it turned out. The perils of using command line text editors made abundantly clear). In the end I reserved an addess in the Fritz!Box router and tied it to the MAC address the DreamPlug. The Fritz!Box has a “sort of” DNS server. You cannot change the domain name which is “” unless you hack under the skin. I could not be bothered changing it so the local IP address resolved to the DreamPlug hostname appended to the domain name. for example. From this point on, the DreamPlug hardware has become inconsequential an it behaves like a standard Debian linux machine connected to the internet. I followed this HOWTO to set the server up. This gives me a Webportal to manage the server and I no longer feel like I have to do keyhole surgery using Putty. I haven’t thought about any other functionalty for the DreamPlug yet – such as a media server for example as I am still playing with what I have already installed. But what I do have is a fully capable server sitting next to my toaster in the kitchen. The hardware is not a consideration now as it behaves as any normal server would. Don’t believe me – Try here if you don’t believe me (assuming it is still working :-)).

The only remaining hardware related things to do will be to turn off the laser bright LED’s and the Bluetooth and Wireless connections. They draw power, I don’t need them for now and they are security attack vectors.

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