Some devices are compatible, but the network becomes unstable (stops after few minutes). I still don't know why this happens, or how to solve it.

Installing Debian in Agestar without serial port

NOTE: this method (web update method) only works on agestar, other models can work by using serial port and latest patch for kernel source (2.6.29 or later).

Currently the only available method for installing Debian or any other operating system on Agestar is by using a serial port. The major problem is the bootloader can not be accessed from the network, so we can not boot a new kernel without using serial port. Modifying the bootloader should be possible if we have the source code, unfortunately the source code is not avaible.

The installation idea is simple: I prepare a firmware, that  will boot to a  partition labeled with "/" (slash). If you want to install Debian (or Gentoo) or something else, prepare the installation using your Linux PC, then install the firmware to Agestar. If the firmware can not find '/' partition, then it will boot a minimal firmware which you can telnet or ssh, so you can restore the firmware.

Please be very careful, if you still doubt something, please contact me (Yohanes) before continuing (yohanes [at] gmail.com).

Why should you use Debian on your Agestar

  1. Install any software that you want (thousands of software packages available)
  2. Optimally use your agestar, just like NSLU2.

Why should you NOT use Debian on your Agestar

  1. The network is currently slower.
  2. You must now be careful to shutdown agestar before plugging it to your desktop. The original firmware is completely in ROM, so you can't hurt it by unpluging from network and plugging it to PC. Your Debian will be in your harddisk. If something is corrupted, you may not be able to boot your agestar Debian box.


  1. Please backup all of your data on your external hard drive to somewhere else.
  2. You MAY brick your Agestar if you are not careful. You SHOULD be able to fix it if you have a serial port.
  3. After instaling Debian, you should not shutdown your agestar forcefully (see notes bellow).

Method 1: Using Linux on your Desktop

You need to have  Linux on your desktop. This can be:

  1. Installed on your hard drive,
  2. Installed on your virtual machine, or
  3. Booted using Live CD/DVD

This will be used to prepare the Debian partition and root filesystem for Agestar on your Linux desktop. After preparing it, just install a firmware to agestar that acts as a bootloader.

Partition mapping between your Desktop Linux and Agestar

This knowledge is required for setting up fstab.

Lets assume that you have a harddisk called X. This X is the harddisk that is or will be inside your agestar. When preparing, you can  take X out from agestar, and put it inside your desktop, or you can just connect agestar through USB to your PC. When plugged in to your Linux PC, Linux will assign a device name/id to X.

If you plug it as USB, it will be given an device name such  as /dev/sdX (X can be a-z, /dev/sda, /dev/sdb and so on). If you are using IDE disk, you will have a device name in the format /dev/hdX. For each partition, it will give it a number (such as /dev/sda1, /dev/hda2, and so on). You can have this device name by running Gparted.

When the agestar is booted, the agestar will always assign these names:
  1. If there is only hard disk inside it, and nothing attached in the USB: The device name is /dev/sda for hard disk inside the agestar.
  2. If there is no hard disk inside it, and something attached in the USB: The device name is /dev/sda for the disk attached to the USB.
  3. If both are present: The device name is /dev/sda for hard disk inside the agestar, and /dev/sdb for the disk attached to the USB.

So, in the next step, just write down the note/write down the partition number where you want to install Debian. When you are using USB in the desktop you will see something like /dev/sdb2 the letter b can be different just remember the partition number number where you want to install Debian.


Make several partitions, three is recommended:

  1. One for Debian itself (1 - 15 GB, depends on how many softwares you want to Install on it). One gigabyte is the minimum. This partition must use EXT2/3 partition (EXT3 is highly recommended).
  2. One for swap (100 Mb should be enough, more is OK)
  3. And one for your data (the rest). You can use EXT3/FAT32. EXT3 is better supported by Linux, but if you use Windows only, you need to install addition software to access your disk via USB. You can use FAT32 if you want to use USB in Windows/MAC.

If you are an experienced Linux user use cfdisk/fdisk/sfdisk to create your partition, if not, use GParted, a partition editor with Graphical User Interface.

Here is an example partition (the swap partition in this example is too big, 100mb is enough):

Disk /dev/sdf: 500.1 GB, 500107862016 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 60801 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sdf1               1         125     1004031   82  Linux swap / Solaris
/dev/sdf2             126        1950    14659312+  83  Linux
/dev/sdf3            1951       60801   472720657+  83  Linux

Label the boot partition

Use e2label to give label "/" to root partition

desktop_pc # e2label /dev/sdf2 /

This is needed so that the partition is recognized as boot partition.

Create Swap

Note where your swap partition is (for example: /dev/sda1), and from the command line type:

mkswap /dev/sdf1

Extract Debian Root Filesystem

Download Debian filesystem from here rapidshare mirror is available here (most of the time rapidshare is faster), you can also try this hotfile mirror.

Mount the Debian partition and extract the files to the new partition. Assume that debian-etch-base.tar.bz2 is in /root

desktop_pc # mount /dev/sda2 /mnt
desktop_pc # cd /mnt
desktop_pc # tar -xf /root/debian-etch-base.tar.bz2

Edit Some Files

Edit /etc/fstab in the agestar partition to match your partition layout, here is one example:

desktop_pc # cd /mnt/etc/
desktop_pc # vi fstab
# <file system> <mount point>           <type>  <options>               <dump>  <pass>
/dev/sda1       none                    swap    sw                        0       0
/dev/sda2       /                       ext3    defaults,noatime          0       0
/dev/sda3       /home                   ext3    defaults,noatime          0       0
proc            /proc                   proc    defaults                  0       0

Put in the new firmware

To put the new firmware, install it using the web firmware updater.

Download the new firmware from here.

When you upgrade using this firmware, it will say that the upgrade failed. Don't worry, thats normal (because I still can't make it work smoothly).

Login using ssh

Just fire up your ssh client to connect to the agestar ip address. Debian will use DHCP

desktop_pc # ssh -v root@ipaddress

password is root

From this point on, the commands are performed in the agestar using ssh


Update your SSH keys:

star # rm /etc/ssh/ssh_host_*
star # dpkg-reconfigure openssh-server

Change your timezone:
star # tzselect

And do whatever you like with your Agestar


Decided that you don't like Debian?

SSH to your Agestar.

Get this backup mtd file, i have also included it in the debian tarball. If you have not installed debian yet, don't use oldfirmware.bin through the web updater, only use oldfirmware.bin using dd

Write it to your agestar

star # dd if=oldfirmware.bin of=/dev/mtdblock1

wait until the command finished (it will take a few minutes).

Method 2: Installing using debian installer

Not finished yet. Still trying to build netboot image.