A little while ago I was looking to build a home server, and was very grateful to receive a Netgear ReadyNAS Pro 6 as a gift. The software on it was rather out of date, so rather than update it to the latest (but unsupported on this hardware) Netgear OS 6, I decided to install Ubuntu Server.
I’ve installed Ubuntu on desktops and servers loads of times, so I’m pretty familiar with using it in a normal setting, but this presented a couple of unusual challenges.
Firstly, the box doesn’t have anywhere to plug in a monitor. Now, it’s not needed once the NAS is up and running, but it is important for the installation. It does have a suspiciously-VGA-port-shaped plate on the back, however…
Jaroslaw Zachwieja’s related blog post very helpfully explains that there are some Nvidia graphics card breakout cables that can be installed to get this working. He lists them as “XFX part: MA-BK01-LP1K”. It proved very hard to find that item in stock anywhere. I finally found a listing on eBay under the name “VGA SVGA Video Graphics Adapter Card Slot Bracket Header Cable 15 Pin 16 Hole”. Catchy. I snapped one up. I’ve just checked: now they’re sold out too.
If you’re trying to do this, and are unable to get hold of (or make) the required cable, then you might have luck using the serial port on the back instead.
With the VGA cable installed I was able to plug in a monitor, watch the default OS boot, and do a little victory jig.
After that, a had some false starts. I discovered that:
- To boot to the live USB, one must hold down the “Backup” button while turning on the machine.
- The NAS is picky about USB sticks. A Kingston DataTraveller (100 G3) 8GB did not work, but my Sandisk Ultra Fit 128GB did.
- On boot, Ubuntu showed an error and a prompt:
graphics initialization failed Error setting up gfxboot boot:
The advice online was to type
helpat this prompt, but that failed for me on Ubuntu 16.04. It turns out that
gfxboothas improved since 16.04 came out, so 17.10 got me beyond this point, despite displaying the same error.
- One of the USB ports was faulty.
I had intended to install from one USB stick to another, using the internal 128MB drive as a boot partition. The faulty USB port meant I could only plug in one USB stick and a keyboard.
I found out that I can install to the USB I booted from
if I boot with the
toram boot option. The way to do this was to type
toram at the
boot: prompt instead of typing
The standard Ubuntu Server image failed to format the USB it was running from
with this method, but it worked a treat on the Ubuntu 17.10 Network
installer. (Confusingly, the file was called
mini.iso, unlike the other Ubuntu downloads, which, on the whole, are named
The installation went swimmingly from there on. I thought things might have gone wrong a couple of times, but nothing turned out to be an issue. Notably:
- The installer seemed stuck at 20% of “Creating swap file”, but it did eventually get moving again.
- My concern that automatic updates would fill up the
/boot/partition with old kernels, was based on out of date information, so I was able to turn them on.
- I was asked what software I wished to install. I selected “OpenSSH Server” (which is required to SSH into the machine over the LAN) and “Basic Ubuntu Server” (which, in retrospect, I probably didn’t need).
- Installing Grub to the Master Boot Record didn’t seem to cause the chaos I thought it might.
- Now that it’s installed, nothing after the BIOS appears on the monitor. I just get a blank screen. I suspect that there is an incorrect video setting somewhere. That doesn’t cause me any issues, however. I’m able to SSH in, and I do not plan on having a monitor plugged in.
So now I have Ubuntu installed! Yatta!
I have a small list of things to do next: