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Sunday 18 March 2018

Ubuntu on a ReadyNAS Pro 6

Steps and mis-steps taken to install Linux on my NAS.

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 The software on it was rather out of date, so rather than update it to the latest (but unsupported on this hardware) Netgear OS 6, I decided to install Ubuntu Server.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:

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 install toram at the boot: prompt instead of typing help.

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 descriptively.)

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:

So now I have Ubuntu installed! Yatta!

I have a small list of things to do next: