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Under the Covers

When I took the device apart to photograph the electronics [Figure 8], I was impressed with its construction. The case was solid, heavy aluminum and the individual pieces fit tightly. All of the interior cables were of appropriate length and I saw no signs of board rework. It became immediately apparent why the Shared Storage is thinner and longer than other units in its class. Maxtor chose to put the main board at the end of the disk drive instead of sandwiched on top of it.

Looking at the board we can see a Broadcom BCM4780 which provides the main processor for the unit. The USB 2.0 support is provided by a Via vt6212 and the IDE controller is an ATP865-A.

MSS Main Board

Figure 8: MSS Main Board
(click for full resolution image)

All of the NAS devices I've looked at recently are based on Linux, and the MSS is no exception. A quick search through the firmware image brought up a number of Linux and Broadcom related strings, indicating that Broadcom at least provided the reference platform. As further evidence, as I started this review I received an email from someone who already has root on his Shared Storage. He was able to attach a serial port to the main board, watch the boot process, log in and modify the flash so that a telnet daemon starts up at boot time.

We can see a number of details on the implementation from his page. The kernel version is 2.4.20, there is 32 MB of RAM, the filesystem used is Reiser, and the CPU is a 266 MHz Broadcom, MIPS derivative. All this leads me to conclude that the MSS appears to be based on the same reference platform that the SimpleTech SimpleShare uses.

Even though it uses the same reference platform as the SimpleShare, Maxtor has evidently chosen to create a simpler device and not make use of the advanced features such as NFS, RAID and encryption capabilities that the reference design provides. And, of course, Maxtor is using its own drive instead of the Hitachi 7200 RPM, 250GB drive with 8MB of cache used on the SimpleShare.

Since Maxtor is using a good deal of GPL licensed software in their box, I expected to see either a source download page or an offer to provide source as required by the GPL license. While source isn't posted as I write this, Maxtor told me "the source code will be made available online on our support site shortly", when I asked them about this.

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