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Manufacturer Linksys
Type NAS
Release date June 15, 2004
Retail availability 2004 - 2008
Operating system Linux based
Power 5V DC Adapter
CPU 266 MHz ARM Intel XScale IXP420
Storage capacity External hard drive/flash disk
Memory 32MB SDRAM, 8MB Flash
Connectivity USB, Network
Dimensions 2.1 x 9.1 x 13 (cm)
Weight 0.2 Kg

The NSLU2 (Network Storage Link for USB 2.0 Disk Drives) is a Network-attached storage (NAS) device made by Linksys introduced in 2004 and discontinued in 2008. It makes USB Flash memory and hard disks accessible over a network using the SMB protocol (also known as Windows file sharing or CIFS). It was superseded mainly by the NAS200 (enclosure type storage link) and in another sense by the WRT600N and WRT300N/350N which both combine a wifi router with a storage link.

The device runs a modified version of Linux and by default, formats hard disks with the ext3 filesystem, but a firmware upgrade from Linksys adds the ability to use NTFS and FAT32 formatted drives with the device for better Windows compatibility. The device has a web interface from which the various advanced features can be configured, including user and group permissions and networking options.


[edit] Hardware

The device has two USB 2.0 ports for connecting hard disks and uses an ARM-compatible Intel XScale IXP420 CPU. In models manufactured prior to around April 2006, Linksys had, for an unknown reason, underclocked the processor to 133 MHz, though a simple hardware modification to remove this restriction is possible. Later models (circa. May 2006) are clocked at the rated speed of 266 MHz. The device includes 32 MB of SDRAM, and 8 MB of Flash memory. It also has a 100 megabit Ethernet network connection. The NSLU2 is fanless, making it completely silent.

[edit] User community

At stock, the device runs a customised version of Linux; Linksys was required to release their source code as per the terms of the GNU General Public License. Due to the availability of source code, the NSLU2's use of well-documented commodity components and its relatively low price, there are several community projects centered around it, including hardware modifications, alternative firmware images, and alternative operating systems with varying degrees of reconfiguration.

[edit] Hardware modifications

NSLU2 Side View

Unofficial hardware modifications include:

  • Doubling the clock frequency on underclocked units.[1] As of summer 2006, the NSLU2 was sold without the "underclocking"
  • Addition of a serial port
  • Addition of a JTAG port
  • Enabling extra USB ports
  • Addition of extra memory
    • NSLU2 units that have had their memory upgraded are commonly referred to as 'FatSlugs'[2]
    • Devices have been successfully upgraded to 64 MB but not stable operation with 128 MB and 256 MB of RAM[3]
    • The version with 256 MB RAM and 16MB flash (twice the standard amount) has been nicknamed 'ObeseSlug'[4]
  • Forced Power On[5]
  • Adding an HD44780 Character LCD display[6]

[edit] Alternative firmware

NSLU2 Mainboard/PCB

There are two main replacement firmware images available for the device: the first is Unslung which is based on the official Linksys firmware with some improvements and features added.[7] Optware packages are available to expand functionality. The other is SlugOS/BE (formerly OpenSlug), which is based on the OpenEmbedded framework.[8] SlugOS/BE allows users to re-flash the device with a minimal Linux system including an SSH server to allow remote access. Once installed, the operating system must be moved to an attached hard disk due to the lack of space available on the Flash memory. Once this has been done, a wide range of additional packages are available to be installed from an Internet repository.

It is also possible to run OpenWrt[9], Debian[10], Gentoo[11], FreeBSD[12] and NetBSD[13] on the device.

The ability to run an unrestricted operating system on the device opens up a whole new range of uses. Some common uses are a web server, mail server, DAAP server (iTunes), UPnP AV MediaServers, BitTorrent client, FreeSWITCH, asterisk PBX[14] and network router (with the attachment of a USB network interface/USB modem).

[edit] Problems

  • Along with most NAS's, the device isn't directly compatible with Windows Vista, as it runs an older version of SAMBA that uses an authentication mechanism that is by default disabled in Vista.[15]
  • Later builds of the system use firmware made more recently than that downloadable from the official websites, of which the UK website has even more outdated firmware than the US website[citation needed]
  • The device on stock firmware has some compatibility issues with certain hard drives[citation needed]

[edit] Awards

The NSLU2 won the "Most Innovative in Networking" Reader Award in the Tom's Hardware 2004 Awards.

[edit] References

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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