Posts Tagged ‘DreamPlug’

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.


Plug Computer: Part 3 DreamPlug, JTAG and Windows 7

May 23, 2012 Leave a comment

I was probably getting ahead of myself but I have committed myself to plug computer. At least in the financial sense. It came down to the dirt cheep Sheevaport or more expensive DreamPlug. In the end it was down to connectivity. As a home server it will need to be able to do a lot of stuff. None of it will be heavy duty but it needed to be versatile, or at least have the potential to be able to be versatile. So the DreamPlug won the day. Besides if this project fails, I think it would be easier to sell. Not that I am planning on failing but you never know. Aesthetically it looks more impressive too. The spec according to NewIT where I sourced it is:

  • Marvell Sheeva core 1.2GHz speed
  • 512MB 16bit DDR2-800 MHz
  • 4 GB on board micro-SD
  • 2 x Gigabit Ethernet 10/100/1000 Mbps
  • 2 x USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 x eSATA 2.0 port -3Gbps SATAII
  • 1 x SD socket for user expansion
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g
  • Bluetooth BT2.1 + EDR
  • Audio Interfaces

I’ve also bought a JTAG module to interface with it. I’m not sure it is entirely needed but it provides options.

It arrived 24 hours after ordering. Unboxing it and assembling it was the easy bit. Everything else so far had just been hard. Truth be told I haven’t achieved very much. My instinct is I am highly likely to brick it so I my first task is get the JTAG module operational.

Plugging the JTAG module into my laptop’s USB was as far as I got. The intention was and still is to use Putty to communicate with the DreamPlug via the JTAG interface. To do this you need some USB drivers. Can I find them one that will work? No. Most of the online help points you to various Linux solutions using Minicom. If I have understood correctly, Ubuntu should automatically recognise the JTAG. OpenSUSE 12.1 clearly doesn’t out of the box. Installing another Linux distribution seems a bit over the top but I might have return to that option. So I am still pursuing the Windows option. NewIT has been helpful and very prompt in this respect. They have pointed me at a Wiki article where it seems I might have to doctor the driver files in order to get it to work. It does seem strange I have to do this but at least someone has gone to the effort to explain how to do it.

As I said earlier, the JTAG option may not be needed ultimately but as I am not confident in what I am doing, it would be nice to have the option. Besides, it is good experience, however if this is an indication of what is ahead then this is going to be a long journey.

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