April 3rd, 2006
Like most people who collect mp3s, my collection has grown to huge proportions, now being too big to fit on the hard drive of my laptop; it sits on a 200gig USB hard drive. This solves the storage issue, but is a pain because every time I want to access an mp3 I have to drag out the USB drive, attach power, connect it to my laptop, and wait for windows to detect it and show it as a drive. Even worse, once I got all of that done and could access files, I then could only play the music on my nasty little laptop speakers, or else on my headphones. What would be great is if I could play the music on the *good* stereo in my lounge. I could do this with the clever Airport Express, but I would still be stuck with the awkward USB hard drive dangling off my laptop. It would be better if there was a system that stored all my MP3s, is always available, and could play music on my stereo in my lounge over a wireless network? Well I put together such a system, that can do all that and more, and it cost *less* than an Apple Airport Express. All it took was a bit of Linux haxoring and some patienceâ€¦
The Linksys NSLU2 (or â€˜Slugâ€™ for short) is a cheap NAS (Network Attached Storage) device. It is a small box about the size of a paper back book, which you attach a USB hard drive to, and plug it into the Ethernet network. Then the contents of the USB driver are shared over the network. Normally, you buy a new USB hard drive, plug it into this thing, and it automagically detects it, formats it, and shares it so that you can store files on it. Great for storing MP3 or picture collections, backing up important data, or sharing a data store between multiple computers.
As it is sold, the NSLU2 was not quite what I was after, but the best thing about it is that it runs LINUX. The version of Linux that the NSLU2 runs out of the box is a custom Linksys build, which is contained solely in the flash memory of the unit, and designed to share external hard drives and nothing else. However there is a community of developers reprogramming with more flexible and generic flavours of Linux. Most of the hard work has already been done in terms of porting popular Linux packages.
Continued on next page, The System
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