Debian NSLU2 upgrade Etch to Lenny

So it’s time to upgrade the slug’s Debian NSLU2 from Etch to Lenny. Every upgrade carried a risk, depending on how much you have customised the installation. In my case, the risk was small since I have made little change to the default install. In spite of that, the hassle and significant time penalty in making a fresh install was a main factor of consideration. A little extra effort to ensure a fall back path in case of failed upgrade went a long way.

Backup backup backup

I am frequently amazed by people who complaint about a failed upgrade. Why didn’t they backup the installation before making this major change? The ease in which an upgrade can be made could be the reason for this complacency.

Also important is to verify that the backup is functional before going forward. In other words, once the backup is made, be sure to check that the backup can be restored to working condition.

If you have been following my “Hacking Linksys NSLU2″ blog posts, you would find that I have hacked the slug to make it considerably easy to backup. The installation is on an USB thumbdrive, which could be easily removed.

After plugging the thumbdrive into a PC, I did a direct disk dump of the entire partition to an image file.

sudo dd if=/dev/sdb2 | pv | sudo dd of=image.file

/dev/sdb2 is the root partition of the install (as it appeared in the PC);
pv is an application that allowed the data transfer to be monitored.

At the same time, I already have the internal boot flash image dump (refer to Debian NSLU2 post-install part 1 for more info on how to create this and recover, if necessary).


Upgrading was extremely simple. I followed the instructions here. It took about an hour, and I have to answer a few questions during the process. These were mainly about whether I wanted to keep the configuration files which I have made changes on.


The upgrade completed successfully. I have yet to use the new Lenny install for any significant amount of time, but thus far it appeared to be working. The “beep IP” customisation I made is still functional, but the “USB port beep and LED control” were not. I guess I would have to look into the script again.

Comments 10

  1. ajmixto wrote:

    Maybe this is a goot time to make a fresh install and not an upgrade because the arm port of debian will dissapear after the release of Lenny.

    To install Squeeze you will need to use the armel port, so I think that if you do not have a very customised system, it is a good time to try the Lenny armel port.

    Posted 16 Dec 2008 at 3:42 pm
  2. chewearn wrote:

    hi ajmixto
    Thanks for the suggestion. I didn’t know the Debian arm port will be discontinued. Also, have only heard about the armel port, but didn’t know what it is.

    I guess it’s time to pay more attention to what’s going on. :)

    Posted 16 Dec 2008 at 9:39 pm
  3. Alan wrote:

    The armel port is a lot quicker handling floating point operations. If you compile on the NSLU2 don’t forget to use the CFLAGS=-mcpu=xscale.

    Posted 25 Dec 2008 at 4:47 am
  4. dA78 wrote:

    the upgrade (etch –> lenny) didn’t work for me.

    At my NSLU2 “the kernel doesn’t fit in the flash” error message occurred with the “linux-image-2.6.26-2-ixp4xx”. Not good. ;-(

    At the moment i search for a solution…

    Posted 06 Aug 2009 at 3:29 pm
  5. chewearn wrote:

    hi dA78
    Perhaps some significant things have changed since I wrote this post (was Dec 2008). Unfortunately, my hacked NSLU2 has been a paperweight for many months now; I am not finding any use for it. As a consequence to that, I have not update the device or even turned it on at all.

    Previous comment by ajmixto suggested clean install the Armel port instead. Could be something worth looking into.

    Posted 06 Aug 2009 at 3:56 pm
  6. dA78 wrote:

    hi again,

    now the upgrade works. I found a solution for my problem.



    Posted 06 Aug 2009 at 5:50 pm
  7. dA78 wrote:

    Hi chewearn,
    thanks for your advice. >But you see i have already found a solution.
    For me is my NSLU2 an important device/server at my homeland intranet. ;-)
    Not really fast but nice and frugal.

    The link wasn’t displayed?

    Posted 06 Aug 2009 at 7:56 pm
  8. chewearn wrote:

    hi dA78
    Thanks for the update. I fixed the link.

    Posted 06 Aug 2009 at 8:20 pm
  9. Kim Rostgaard wrote:

    Check out Martin Michlmayr site, he has a better and faster way of installing Squeeze now using a tarball of a complete userspace and upslung for flashing the kernel.


    Posted 17 Aug 2011 at 10:53 pm
  10. chewearn wrote:

    hi Kim
    Thanks for the pointer. It has been a long while since I fiddle with the slug, but if I eventually got back to it, it will be useful to know.

    Posted 17 Aug 2011 at 11:49 pm

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *