Installing Ubuntu 1404 to Intel SS4200 NAS on external pendrive

The Intel SS4200 is a, now already discontinued, NAS product, with the advantage that it is an x86 computer, designed to hold 4 SATA HDD drives, which makes it ideal candidate  to install Ubuntu Server on it.

After the unsuccessful installation to a bulit in  CF card in my previous blog, finally I decided to install the operating system to an external pendrive.

Here is how to install it:

Install Ubuntu Server 1404 on the pendrive

The easiest way is to set up a virtual machine on your PC (I have used VMWare Player), where you connect the pendrive to the virtual machine, connect the Ubuntu Server Install CD image as the CD rom and simply install the Server to the pendrive. In the SW selection select OpenSSH, Samba and LAMP, the later for the case if you would like to do some custom web interface to your box. When installing GRUB, install it to the MBR of the pendrive.

After installation, try if it is working in the vitrual machine, but as VMWare Player do not boot images from pendrive, you have to use the Plop boot manager CD image to boot from the pendrive.

If everything is OK, then we are ready for booting on the SS4200.

Booting up the SS4200

Plug in the pendrive and press first the reset button, then power up the box. You need to hold the reset  button for approximately one minute, or if your pendrive has a LED, then until you see, that is is active for at least 5 seconds.
You do not see the progress of the booting, but can check if the SS4200 has already an IP address, by looking into your routers client list. As soon as the SS4200 appears there, you can try pinging the unit and then you can SSH into it using Putty or whatever your favorite client is.

Making the system boot automatically from the pendrive

In the normal boot order, the SATA hard drives are before the USB disk for the SS4200, so we have to make sure, that none of the installed disks has any active (marked for boot) partition on it. This may not be enough, because the MBR created on Linux, somehow even when no active partition is on the disk, tries to boot that disk and then fails. For this reason, we should replace part of the MBR from a disk formatted in Windows. To do this, you have to build in or connect externally trough an USB enclosure a disk formatted on Windows and copy the code from it  to the Linux formatted disks.

  1. Identify your HDDs with sudo fdisk -l 
  2. Copy the MBR with sudo dd if=/dev/sde of=/dev/sdb bs=446 count=1
Make sure you replace the /dev/sde with your Windows formatted disk and /dev/sdb with your Linux formatted disk. Do this for all Linux formatted disks.

When you are ready, you can reboot the box and it should boot the the new and shinny Ubuntu 1404, even without pressing the reset button.

Some initial customization

From here it behaves like any normal ubuntu installation so you can follow my previous description on what I used to install on a fresh Ubuntu.

One important step, that there are some error messages coming when you are sudo-ing, to disable it you can do the following: run "pam-auth-update" and remove "SMB password synchronization". 

I hope this helped and you are enjoying your nice SS4200 box.


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