Debian Lenny on LS-CHLv2

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This guide will explain how to install Debian GNU/Linux "Lenny" on the Linkstation Live LS-CHL (=LS) using the Debian "debootstrap" procedure. The original kernel will be preserved, as well as the original bootloader (U-Boot).

Basic idea:

  • create a Debian system with debootstrap
  • replace the old filesystem with the new one

This guide will ask to open up the device case, reformat partitions, delete existing data, etc. All of these actions may void your warranty, destroy your data, etc. In general you can receive help from the community of from the Buffalo forums but bear in mind that every problem you may encounter is ultimately up to you to solve. You do it at your own risk.

This guide worked on LS-CHLv2 and LS-XHL.

This guide suggests to install the blstools instead, a small set of utilities developed for this hardware and enable some operations which would not be possible from a plain Debian install:

  • turn the unit off from the on-off-auto switch
  • turn unit blinking LEDs to still blue when boot is complete
  • resume blinking when the unit is shutting down
  • use the USB port

Please note that the Armel Debian "micro_evtd" package will NOT work on LS-CHLv2 and LS-XHL because of different hardware.

Preliminary steps

Don't update the firmware

If possible don't upgrade firmware to version 1.21 as you will not be able to easily get console access to the LS. Kernel

Obtain root access to the linkstation

You are supposed to start from an "open" Stock Firmware, that is stock software that you can telnet to,

Follow this guide to get telnet root console access to the LS.

Note for firmware 1.33 (and possibly others) Busybox isn't linked to ar so the debootstrap step below will fail - fix this by executing

ln -s /bin/busybox /usr/bin/ar

as root.

Backup the LS

If you have any important data on the LS you definitely need to make a backup.

Even if you don't, you'd better take a snapshot of the vital disk partitions (first and second partition). So you will be able to easily revert to the original stock distribution. [forum post] explains how to do it.

Prepare a Debian Lenny root filesystem


This is derived from original debootstrap docs.

From the linkstation console download the Debian debootstrap utility and install it with dpkg:

dpkg -i debootstrap_1.0.13~jaunty1_all.deb

dpkg will complain of missing dependencies. Ignore it.

mkdir debian-armel-rootfs
debootstrap --verbose --arch armel lenny debian-armel-rootfs

This step WILL take time. At the end you should get the following message:

I: Base system installed successfully.

Completing the debootstrap and preparing the rootfs

Most commands will be run in the chrooted environment of the newly created Debian Lenny install. In order to enter the chroot type

LANG=C chroot debian-armel-rootfs/ /bin/bash

to leave type exit.

Copy kernel modules from stock kernel

Kernel modules reside in /lib/modules/<kernel version>. Here we are using the stock kernel so we must copy them from the stock initrd to the new rootfs. This must be done from within a chrooted environment in the new system - won't work with stock software.

cp /boot/initrd.buffalo debian-armel-rootfs/tmp/
LANG=C chroot debian-armel-rootfs/ /bin/bash
cd /tmp
dd if=initrd.buffalo of=initrd.gz ibs=64 skip=1
gunzip initrd.gz
mkdir INITRD
mount -t ext2 -o loop initrd INITRD 
cp -R INITRD/lib/modules/ /lib/modules/
umount INITRD
rmdir INITRD
rm initrd*

Adding missing devices

Still in the chrooted environment.

Mount the proc filesystem - it can be mounted a number of times - and run the command to create device nodes in /dev (TODO: investigate dynamic devices with udev?):

mount -t proc proc /proc
cd /dev
MAKEDEV generic
umount /proc

This will also take some time while all device nodes are created.

Configuring locale

Install and configure the locales. Suggestion is to install at least the en_US.UTF-8 and your native language locale (e.g. it_IT.UTF-8, de_DE.UTF-8, etc).

apt-get install locales
dpkg-reconfigure locales

Editing /etc/fstab

Edit the static filesystem table file /etc/fstab (e.g. with nano) and make it look like this:

# /etc/fstab: static file system information.
# file system    mount point   type    options                  dump pass
/dev/sda2        /             xfs     defaults,noatime         0    1
/dev/sda1        /boot         ext3    ro,nosuid,nodev          0    2
/dev/sda5        none          swap    sw                       0    0
/dev/sda6        /home         xfs     defaults,noatime         0    3
proc             /proc         proc    defaults                 0    0
devpts           /dev/pts      devpts  gid=4,mode=620 			0    0
tmpfs            /tmp          tmpfs   defaults                 0    0
sysfs            /sys          sysfs   defaults                 0    0
  1. /dev/ram1 on /mnt/ram type tmpfs (rw)


Edit /etc/network/interfaces to match your LAN configuration. My LS gets all information from DHCP:

# Used by ifup(8) and ifdown(8). See the interfaces(5) manpage or
# /usr/share/doc/ifupdown/examples for more information.

# We always want the loopback interface.
auto lo
iface lo inet loopback
# DHCP for Ethernet connection 
auto eth1
iface eth1 inet dhcp
# Example static IP setup: (broadcast and gateway are optional)
# auto eth1
# iface eth1 inet static
#     address
#     network
#     netmask
#     broadcast
#     gateway

Choose a hostname and write it /etc/hostname (must be created).

Edit /etc/hosts as follows:  localhost.localdomain localhost

Install SSHD

apt-get install openssh-server
passwd root

Edit /etc/ssh/sshd_config and make sure that the following line is present and uncommented:

PermitRootLogin yes

Prepare the rootfs archive

Clean up the installation, leave the chrooted environment and tar it up:

aptitude clean
cd debian-armel-rootfs
tar zcvf ../lenny-armel-rootfs.tgz *

Now you have a complete rootfs for Debian Lenny armel.


Removing the HDD

Turn the LS off and open the LS case. Will require patience and carefulness in order not to break the plastic notches. Take this page as a reference on how to open the case.

Remove the HDD from the Linkstation. Connect it to a Linux Desktop PC e.g with a SATA-to-USB adapter.

Installing the Debian rootfs

Let's say that the LS' HDD device will be /dev/sdg and the partitions will be /dev/sdg1, /dev/sdg2 etc. Change sdg to match your environment.

The following instructions will copy the lenny-rootfs.tgz file created on the LS on the local system, will FORMAT the second HDD partition and will create the Lenny rootfs there:

sudo -i
mkdir /mnt/sdg1
mkdir /mnt/sdg2
mount /dev/sdg1 /mnt/sdg1
mount /dev/sdg2 /mnt/sdg2
cp /mnt/sdg2/root/lenny-rootfs.tgz .
umount /mnt/sdg2
mkfs.xfs -f /dev/sdg2
mount /dev/sdg2 /mnt/sdg2
cp lenny-rootfs.tgz /mnt/sdg2/
cd /mnt/sdg2/
tar zxvf lenny-rootfs.tgz
rm lenny-rootfs.tgz

Installing an empty initrd

Must make an empty initrd in LS' boot partition. Otherwise the stock initrd will start and runs scripts to check for a stock setup. Indeed an initrd is not needed in this Lenny installation as everything can be found on the root filesystem.

"empty initrd" means an initrd with no filesystem. It is not an empty file.

For this you need the mkimage command. (in Debian/Ubuntu just install the package uboot-mkimage).

mkdir x ; cd x
find . | cpio --quiet -o -H newc > ../x2
cd ..
mkimage -A arm -O linux -T ramdisk -C gzip -a 0x0 -e 0x0 -d x2 initrd.buffalo
rmdir x ; rm -f x2
mv /mnt/sdg1/initrd.buffalo /mnt/sdg1/initrd.original
cp initrd.buffalo /mnt/sdg1/

Unmount all partitions:

cd /
umount /mnt/sdg*

Turn the HDD off and put it back into the LS.

Post-installation setup

Configuring timezone

dpkg-reconfigure tzdata

Useful packages

Anyone would need these:

apt-get install sudo less usbutils bzip2 mc linuxlogo psmisc


Ntpd ensures that your Linkstation clock stays in sync with global time servers.

apt-get install ntp


As told above, blstools are a set of utilities which enable LS-CHL/XHL hardware-specific features otherwise unavailable from a plain Debian Lenny installation.

In order to install blstools you have to download the package from the blstools project page, put it on the LS and run, from the command line:

tar zxf blstools-0.1.0.tar.gz
cd blstools-0.1.0
sudo ./
sudo reboot

The following features are installed:

lsmonitor (/etc/init.d/lsmonitor)

This is a daemon that is automatically started when the system boots. You don't need to call it directly.

lsmonitor stops the blue led from flashing and provides a reassuring, still blue light. Also, when you move the switch in "off" position lsmonitor initiates system shutdown (which is nice isn't it?)

usb (/etc/init.d/usb)

Powers on and off the USB interface.

When you want to connect a USB disk to the Linkstation you should first call:

sudo /etc/init.d/usb start

and then you will be able to mount the USB drive to the desired location (generally, the device will be /dev/sdb1). Once done, in order to save power you can unmount the mounted volume and issue:

sudo /etc/init.d/usb stop

to disable the USB device.