Ah, the sound of a dead drive. That’s what my 200GB Western Digital drive said to me this morning as I rebooted. This was after I realized that I couldn’t access any of my source code. dmesg was yelling at me about having trouble accessing /dev/hde. This drive contained my source code (almost all of which are on remote SVN or CVS repositories, of course) and all my media (audio, video, images).

I just chuckled.

A very short while ago, a matter of weeks really, I had this bad bad feeling that I was going to lose all my data. No real reason, but I started getting very paranoid about it. I looked around and after factoring in cost and laziness, I picked up a 1.0TB Buffalo Terastation, which is a cute little machine. It’s a PPC-based Linux RAID-enabled NAS, basically, with SMB, FTP, and AppleTalk support. After RAID5, I was left with about 700GB. I immediately copied everything I truly cared about to it (media files, basically). While most places sell this for $1000, I found it just over $900 at Comp-U-Plus.

It arrived and I set it up. I have to say, I like it. It just works. It has gigabit ethernet, for when I finally get around to upgrading my network. You just set it up over the web. Users, groups, permissions, mounts, RAID configuration, formatting, diagnostics, optional periodic status e-mails, etc.

One nice thing about the Terastation is that it has 4 USB ports. You can connect a printer to it and have network printer sharing. You can also connect up to 4 USB hard drives and set up a second RAID array, expand the current array, or back up your array. Nice and expandable. It also has support for hooking up to a UPS system, so it can shut down gracefully.

So with the Western Digital drive dead, I shut down, pulled the drive, and rebooted. I then proceeded to play some music and think to myself how glad I was I bought this thing earlier this month.

Now, the Terastation isn’t perfect. My main complaint was that I couldn’t use symlinks, due to SMB not supporting them (or at least this particular version?). That wasn’t a huge deal, considering it’s mostly media files, but I wanted the option, damnit!

I looked around and found a coupel sites on hacking the Terastation. The main one with all the info is a nice wiki at terastation.org. I went to the section on gaining root access and saw that he soldered dip switches onto his Terastation’s motherboard to make the serial port actually usable. I wasn’t ready to do that just yet. Or ever. Maybe if this thing was a few years old and I had another solution.. Maybe.

I checked back today and looked over the firmware pages. It turns out that Buffalo, the makers of the Terastation, provide a zip file with a image.dat, which is just a password-protected zip file containing a tarball and some other stuff. The passwords are available at the aforementioned wiki. The wiki also has some nice instructions on taking an existing firmware image, adding a sudoers file and an ssh server, and repackaging it.

Feeling stupid, I decided to give it a try. I figured that even if I bricked the Terastation, which I very much doubted I would do (given that I was just installing another server and a sudoers file), I would at least still have my drives, so no data loss. I packaged up the new image, compared the old and new tarballs a few times, and then put it back into the firmware zip file. I went over to my Windows machine and ran the updater. It found my terastation and, after a few moments, I clicked the button.

And waited…

And waited…

They really need a little thing underneath the rarely updating progress bar saying, “Don’t panic, everything’s okay, we’re just really slow. Get some coffee, it’s alright.”

I ran back and forth between my work room and the living room and watched as the Terastation rebooted itself a few times (as was documented in the README). Finally it stopped doing that. I stared at it, daring it to blink. It didn’t blink, but it didn’t have the Red LED of Doom, either. I went back to the Windows machine and it happily indicated that the firmware update was successful!

I ran back into the work room and pinged the Terastation. It ponged! I mounted the shares… I could access my files! The worry was over, but the shaking continued for a few minutes still. One last test… I tried to ssh in.


Huzzah! Life is good.

And now that I have a little hackable Terastation to play with, I think I’ll play with the NFS packages available for this. More to follow, maybe.

Oh, and if anybody has a Terastation and wants a known working hacked 1.08 firmware file, let me know. If it doesn’t work, though, I claim no responsibility whatsoever.

7 thoughts on “*CLANK* *CLANK* *CLANK*

  1. Hi there,

    I would like to mount my TerStation as a an external USB Drive. I wonder, does this require anything more than just USB roll-over cable?


  2. I ♥ my terastation. I can’t bring myself to play with the hacks for it…. I’m not willing to risk messin it up.


    Because your terastation has four hard drives inside, to get it to work as an external USB drive, you have to use four USB cables. Go buy yourself four cables. Two of them go in the front USB ports, and two of them go into the back USB ports. Plug all four cables into your PC. For simplicity, you can plug them all into a USB hub and then plug the hub into your PC.

    Good Luck,

  3. You can’t use the Terastation as an external USB drive. Mitch is wrong and trying to wire it like he says will damage the Terastation if you can even locate the cables. The ports on the front and back are USB host only ports and you need USB slave ports. The NEC USB controller inside isn’t capable of operating in USB slave mode.

  4. How do people power off the Terastation. Is this something suggested? Should it be left on all the time? I am wondering how to power it down safely.

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