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a potpourri of mirth and madness

Free software is so easy…you don’t even need a keyboard!

For some time now, I’ve been using a LinkSys NSLU2 as a file server for my home network. It’s very small, has no moving parts, and uses relatively little electricity. Combined with a large USB-attached hard disk, it has worked very nicely overall. My only issue has been that it is somewhat underpowered: with a 266MHz CPU and only 32M of RAM, it just wasn’t as responsive as I would like.

This weekend, I finally got around to replacing it with a newer unit based on the Babbage 2 design, with an 800MHz CPU and 512M of RAM. This should be much faster, and let me run more services than just Samba and rsync.

The only trouble was, the console interface on the new system is VGA and USB. I have a VGA monitor at home, but I don’t have a keyboard. I used to be the sort of person who had cabinets full of spare computer parts at home. Before my transatlantic relocation, I lightened my load substantially, and have only one small box now. This box did not contain a USB keyboard, and our only computers at home are laptops and netbooks.

Fortunately, the unit had a build of Ubuntu installed on its internal flash, configured to log in automatically to a graphical desktop. Using a dust-covered USB mouse I found in the bottom of the parts box, I copied and pasted letters from the gnome-terminal help files to install openssh-server, so that I could login over the network and finish setting it up.

It has now replaced the NSLU2 and is much snappier.

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Written by Matt Zimmerman

October 4, 2009 at 17:33

15 Responses

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  1. Is this device for sale?

    jldugger

    October 4, 2009 at 17:50

  2. “Using a dust-covered USB mouse I found in the bottom of the parts box, I copied and pasted letters from the gnome-terminal help files to install openssh-server”

    Dude. That’s *insane*.

    Bugsbane

    October 4, 2009 at 18:13

  3. hilarious

    rory

    October 4, 2009 at 18:19

  4. Doesn’t Ubuntu come with an on screen keyboard by default? I know “gok” isn’t installed but for some reason “onboard” seems to bring up a simple keyboard for me, and I have no recollection of installing it anytime.

    And I’m very curious to know how one would paste in a password required for sudo for installing openssh-server.

    Also, wouldn’t it have been so much more easier using synaptic :)?

    Anirudh

    October 4, 2009 at 18:40

  5. You may have found the Character Map accessory to be a lot easier way of doing keyboard input via mouse :-)

    Roger

    October 4, 2009 at 18:41

  6. Heh, just last week I was installing Debian in a virtual machine using the graphical d-i, and the keyboard just died at a certain stage, so I noticed I could copy and paste characters from the installer and paste them in the text fields, so I ended up installing Debian purely with (a lot of) mouse clicks :)

    Jonathan Carter

    October 4, 2009 at 18:41

  7. No onscreen keyboard?

    ethana2

    October 4, 2009 at 18:45

  8. Thickie question, but what’s the babbage 2? I’ve had a quick Google which wasn’t very helpful. I’m guessing it’s some kind of NAS box A la Netgear Readynas.

    mattj

    October 4, 2009 at 21:04

  9. I’m programming an on-screen keyboard to replace (and be better than) onBoard. But you should have just used onBoard this time. Must have been a pain in the ass.

    Keiichi

    October 4, 2009 at 22:17

  10. One word: Dasher! :)

    Neil

    October 5, 2009 at 09:20

  11. It sounds like I’m not the only one who needs a netbook with a video in and kb/mouse output. I find it very frustrating to be stuck in front of a server with no monitor or keyboard when you’ve got a laptop or netbook which has both:

    http://www.peppertop.com/blog/?p=587

    MarkC

    October 5, 2009 at 11:45

  12. What is this device? I’d like to get one, depending on cost.

    David

    October 5, 2009 at 15:54

  13. […] Free software is so easy…you don’t even need a keyboard! Fortunately, the unit had a build of Ubuntu installed on its internal flash, configured to log in automatically to a graphical desktop. Using a dust-covered USB mouse I found in the bottom of the parts box, I copied and pasted letters from the gnome-terminal help files to install openssh-server, so that I could login over the network and finish setting it up. […]

  14. See, that’s how a programmer sees the world. “Look, an ‘a’. I need that!” *copy*

    Anderlan

    October 6, 2009 at 03:06

  15. […] Free software is so easy…you don’t even need a keyboard! (mdzlog.alcor.net) […]


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