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Linux Wall Wart Works Wonderfully
A Computer in a Wart
February 19, 2010
It's no secret that Linux runs behind many consumer devices, and embedded Linux fits in the tiniest of places. One of the latest ways to get your Linux fix comes in what looks like power wall wart from TonidoPlug. Under the cover you'll find essentially a Marvell SheevaPlug with a 1.2 GHz CPU, 512MB of DDR2 memory and a 512MB flash disk. On the outside you'll see a single USB port and an Ethernet jack.
At the most basic level a TonidoPlug is a Network Attached Storage (NAS) adapter. The basic cost is $99 for the device. You'll have to add your own external USB disk to supply the storage. Underneath the covers the TonidoPlug is a full-fledged Linux computer running a standard distribution (Ubuntu 9.04). What you do with that is totally up to you.
The idea is to just plug the thing into a wall outlet, connect an Ethernet cable and an external USB disk drive and you're ready to go. There's even a separate power plug to use if you don't want to plug it into the wall. You can use an external USB hub to connect multiple devices like USB memory sticks and external hard drives. It is recommended that you use a powered hub to avoid any potential overloading issues.
To get the TonidoPlug running you literally just plug it in. Connecting to the device from another computer on your network couldn't be easier. All you do is type in the setup URL (http://www.tonidoplug.com/ip), and it will find the device on your local network. Click on the Tonido link, and you're presented with the admin home page. The first time you connect to your TonidoPlug you must configure a few things including a password for the admin account.
At this point you're given the option to create a Tonido profile. This connects you with the Tonido service for things like automatic updates of the base OS and applications and a remote access option. Remote access works either by setting your home router to port forward the external IP address to your TonidoPlug or by using their remote relay service. This is the easiest and requires no work on the user's part.
Connecting external hard drives is really plug and play. We were able to connect USB keys and different hard drives using a small Logitech USB hub. We used a ThermalTake BlacX two-slot SATA disk adaptor to test out multiple drives and it worked great. You could connect two 2-GB SATA drives through a single USB connector for a 4-GB NAS drive. The Tonido Explorer web-based file program presents a list of USB devices and lets you browse, create a directory or upload a file. You can also download a file to a local drive from a web browser using a right mouse click and "save as" method.