Silent, fast, long-living USB storage devices for use as NSLU2 hard drive?

As I recently bought a NSLU2 ("slug") for 24/7 server usage and random ARM-based development (more on that later), I'm looking for a suitable storage device to use as the root filesystem for a complete Debian system.

The requirements are:

  • Large enough (>= 1 GB).
  • Silent. Hard disks are not an option (no IDE, no SATA, no USB, neither 2.5" nor 3.5")
  • Low power consumption.
  • As fast as possible.
  • USB-attached (the slug only has 2 USB connectors).
  • Should live as long as possible.

The last item is the most important.

The obvious choice is a USB memory stick, but unfortunately those are flash-based and only survive a certain number of write cycles. Thus I'm looking for something which at least survives enough write cycles to make it usable for a few years...

I do know several ways to reduce the number of writes via software, that's not what I'm currently interested in. I'd like to know which storage types will survive the longest amount of time (because of their hardware properties).

Some options:

  • USB memory stick, obviously. Usually quite slow, but there are quite fast ones (read 33 MB/s, write 22 MB/s), too. Some seem to survive 100.000 or even 1.000.000 write cycles, but that may not be enough. Are there any sticks with more possible write cycles?
  • Any other USB-attached (via external USB card-reader if necessary) silent storage type: SD, MMC, Transflash, Memory Stick, Compact Flash, whatever. Does any of those survive more write cycles?
  • Any other viable option?

Has somebody else done something like this before and can share some experiences as to which storage type is best suited for such a scenario? I suspect my slug will be mostly idle, but there might also be phases where it runs on 100% CPU and heavy disk I/O for multiple days in a row...

Google Summer of Code and LinuxBIOS

LinuxBIOS logo

We're happy to announce that the LinuxBIOS project will have the possibility to take part in this year's Google Summer of Code™ (GSoC) program. coresystems GmbH was accepted as a mentoring organization for the GSoC and will mentor all LinuxBIOS-related projects.

There is a GSoC page in the LinuxBIOS wiki which collects a few ideas for student projects, among others:

  • Booting Windows and other Operating Systems in LinuxBIOS
  • Port Grub2 to work in LinuxBIOS
  • SCSI booting in LinuxBIOS
  • CMOS Config / Device Tree Browser Payload
  • LinuxBIOS graphical port creator
  • Open Firmware payload for LinuxBIOS
  • GNUFI or TianoCore payloads
  • Boot OpenSolaris, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD or other free OSes
  • Improve Linux as a BIOS

Feel free to post more ideas and wishlist items to the LinuxBIOS mailing list.

If you're interested in applying for a project, you need to hurry up. The deadline is March 24, 2007!

LinuxBIOS with X11 server, completely in Flash ROM

LinuxBIOS and X11 screenshot 1
LinuxBIOS and X11 screenshot 2

Now, this is one cool project (and video) from Alan Carvalho de Assis (and friends), as announced on the LinuxBIOS mailing list: LinuxBIOS with X Server Inside (YouTube video).

The setup: LinuxBIOS + a Linux kernel + BusyBox + a tiny X11 server (Kdrive) + the Matchbox window manager + rxvt.

All of this in a normal BIOS chip (2 MB), without any hard drive connected (who needs hard drives when you can fit everything in the BIOS just fine)...

The thing boots into BusyBox in less than 6 seconds, then in ca. 2 seconds into X11 + rxvt. There's probably even room for improvement there...

It seems there will be an OGG Theora version of the video soon, and I hope a small HOWTO about the project, too.

More LinuxBIOS-related screenshots and videos are available in the wiki btw., and a bunch more will follow soon...

LinuxBIOS talk video recording from FOSDEM 2007

LinuxBIOS logo

Highly recommended for anybody who might be even remotely interested in LinuxBIOS:

There's a video recording (OGG, 234 MB) of the LinuxBIOS talk at FOSDEM 2007 by LinuxBIOS-founder Ron Minnich.

The talk is about LinuxBIOS, its history, how it works, what the main challenges are, where it's used today and what the future will likely hold. Watch it, you won't regret it.

And if you want to know more, or maybe even consider contributing, head over to linuxbios.org or contact the mailing list.

Capturing and replaying console/terminal sessions with script and scriptreplay

Have you ever wondered how you can easily capture a console session on Linux (and probably most other Unix-like OSes) without the need for special video recording software?

Here's how: you can use the script(1) command (part of the bsdutils package).

  • Start the script command. Without parameters the sessions will be logged to a file called typescript. You can also supply a filename on the command line: script mysession.log.
  • Type whatever you want to record...
  • End the recording session with exit or CTRL-d.
  • You can now view the file with less -r mysession.log (it contains line feeds, escape sequences etc., so a simple text viewer will probably display garbage). You can even print it with lpr(1). Or simply display it on the terminal with cat mysession.log.

An even cooler feature is that you can replay a script with the correct timing information:

  • First you have to also record the timing information using the -t switch: script -t 2>mysession.timing mysession.log.
  • You can then replay the script: scriptreplay mysession.timing mysession.log.

See the script(1) and scriptreplay(1) manpages for more details.

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