The Linksys NSLU2. NSLU2 stands for 'Network Storage Link for USB 2.0 Disk Drives' and is one of several similar devices which allow hard drives to be networked via a USB connection. It costs around 50 UK pounds or under 100 US dollars.
However, the NSLU2 (nicknamed 'Slug') can be easily re-flashed with different firmware with several different approaches to choose from - see www.nslu2-linux.org and perhaps the NSLU2-linux FAQ to start with.
As the Slug is now fully supported by Debian I chose to take the full Debian/NSLU2 system route.
This is the FAQ page specifically for Debian/NSLU2.
The latest installer can be downloaded from slug-firmware.net with an installation guide here. This is largely available thanks to the excellent work completed and documented by Martin Michlmayr.
Here is a pair of my Slugs. One is currently running the Debian 'Etch' distribution and the other 'Lenny'. The important stuff is mirrored using rsync. The Slugs run Samba for local file serving, Leafnode for local news, the Lighttpd webserver, which is used to serve a few, very low volume websites and, finally, Postfix for public mail. The harddrives are housed in modified Antec caddies, originally designed for use in conventional 5.25 inch bays and use external IDE/USB adaptors and power supplies. The external 12V 80mm fans are run at 6V and are very quiet.
I have a third Slug running Debian Lenny using an 8GB USB flash memory device instead of a conventional hard drive. This silent, very low power consuming combination is used mainly with a networked webcam and motion detection software. It also uses lighttpd to serve the resulted captured images.
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