Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Linux on Pogoplug

I was tempted by the Pogoplug Family deal and got myself a Pogoplug  classic for $29.95. They advertise it as a "free device" with Pogoplug Family but in reality you are buying the device for the above sum. Don't forget to cancel the service after receiving the device. Otherwise it would be more expensive than actually buying the same device outright.
After getting the device I evaluated it for about a day. I got the grey version of the Pogoplug Classic with Marvel Chip, 256MB of ram and 128MB of flash. The device itself is snappy and works reasonably well. It recognized my USB hard drive and went to work on it, apparently indexing the content. I measured transfer speed and using my old router with 100Mbit Ethernet, the transfer speed is around 9MB/s which is not bad. The device is silent and consumes very little power.
The companion software on the other hand is terrible. It is very much useless for backup as one can not control what is being backed up. You can only specify the top directory and everything under that directory is backed up. I thought about using the drive feature to backup with Microsoft Sync Toy but somehow it makes for a very slow backups. This device appears to be made for a completely computer illiterate person who never used any NAS devices. It also requires connection to the Pogoplug servers and I would imagine opens files on your "cloud" to snooping by the company. Over all I found the "Pogoplug Cloud" concept is sorely lacking in the implementation department. It does not hold a candle to the simplicity of Dropbox or Google Drive.

I actually got this device to replace my very old Cobalt Qube microserver which is showing its age. In that role Pogoplug Classic performs really well.
Most people appear to have good luck with the Arch Linux Arm and that is what I decided to try. I used a Centon 4GB flash drive as my root drive and WD drive in USB enclosure as my data drive. Installation of Arch Linux Arm is very simple and described on the web page. The Pogoplug Classic model number is POGO-E02 which is one of the supported devices.
The installation went smoothly and the box appeared operational but it would not acquire  IP address. Due to the bug in the Ethernet driver and my old router the device kept disconnecting and reconnecting to the network. After some search I found the solution. If your Pogoplug appears to boot but fails to acquire IP address add following line to the dhcpcd.conf file : nolink. Linux, samba and python occupy around 740MB on the flash drive. I did not install git but instead use my custom copy of the MyMedia server.

Now my Pogoplug is booting Linux and can act as NAS device with up to 4 USB drives and can run MyMedia server for Roku. It is much snappier than my old MIPS box but obviously not as fast as my desktop. It is worth $30 in my opinion if you can install your own Linux on the device. Similar devices would easy cost north of $50.

If I decide later to change my mind and use the "Pogoplug Cloud", reverting back is as simple as removing the USB flash drive and rebooting the device. The original system is preserved in the flash along with the original uBoot bootloader.

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