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How To: Hacking the Linksys NSLU2 - Part 1

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Figure 1: The Linksys NSLU2

When I first read the review of the new Linksys Network Storage Unit device (NSLU2) I was definitely interested. It looked to be small, silent, inexpensive and flexible enough to provide backup and file storage to my network.

My only concerns were reports that it would only work with Microsoft Windows and that it formatted its disks with a proprietary filesystem . But throwing caution to the wind, I found a deal on the web, ordered it and a couple of days later, it arrived in the mail.

After I hooked up an external drive, connected to it with my web browser and configured it using the web interface, the NSLU2 was serving files on my home network in no time. Despite Linksys' documentation to the contrary, using it with MacOS X and Linux was no problem, since both operating systems support the Microsoft SMB file server protocol used by the box. Installation complete, right? Wrong. I was just getting started.

As nice as this tiny silent unit was, I couldn't leave well-enough alone. I knew it had more potential since internally the little box ran Linux. With dual USB 2.0 ports and a 10/100 Ethernet connection, this little box has many possibilities. How about NFS along with SMB ? Or maybe a print server to go with the file storage?

Using a USB/Serial converter I could use my X10 interface unit to do some simple home automation. A USB/Ethernet converter could turn the unit into a little router, or a USB/802.11bg converter could create a wireless access point. Full control of the USB ports would really open up new possibilities, but how to get into it?

NOTE!Disclaimer: It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway. Exploring the NSLU2 by looking at its internal file structures using any method that doesn't modify its code should leave your warranty intact. But modifying the NSLU2 in any way will void your warranty.

SmallNetBuilder, Pudai LLC and I are not responsible for any damage that the information in this article may cause to your NSLU2 or any data it manages.

So download a copy of the current firmware before you start, and don't go trying to get help from Linksys if you break it.

Related Items:

How To: Hacking the Linksys NSLU2 - Part 5- Moving to Unslung
How To: Hacking the Linksys NSLU2 - Part 2 - Adding NFS
Hacking the Linksys NSLU2 Part VI - Installing a Media Server
How To: Hacking the Linksys NSLU2 - Part 4- Customizing the Flash
How To:Hacking the Linksys NSLU2 - Part 3 - Adding an iTunes server