So today is a public holiday.  Labour day it’s called.  For no particular purpose.

Anyway, prone as I am to procrastinating, I’ve done almost nothing productive on my day off.  No work on my exhort.  No work on writing up more information about my New Zealand trip.  A token amount of cleaning up around the place ready for my rental inspection next wednesday.  Some long overdue washing up.  And I watched the pilot of Stargate Universe.  Anyway, I blame the cleaning up part of my day for my latest time waster.

I had in my closet of computer stuff my old Thecus N2100 which I’d long since retired from its duty of file serving.  I also had an old Apple Airport Extreme base station that ceased functioning, and in some point in the past had been dissembled by yours truly.  Given the N2100 has a mini-PCI slot, and the Airport Extreme makes use of a mini-PCI wireless card, I decided I’d try to get them to work together, and make one useful thing out of two currently useless pieces of electronics.

One small problem – the hard drives that I’d originally used in the N2100 to install debian had long since been re-purposed, leaving the N2100 inoperable.  I knew that in the past I’d seen information on soldering a serial connection onto the circuit board, and google led me to the appropriate page.  I still had my soldering iron out from assembling my Ice Tube clock, and I knew that somewhere in my pile of electronics I had a male RS232 socket.  After a bit of hunting around, I found it, and soldered it to the board.

The next step took a bit of work.  I needed to set up a TFTP server so the low-level Redboot bootloader on the N2100 could load and execute the debian installer.  Easier said than done.  For a software package with the word ‘Trivial’ in it’s name, getting a TFTP daemon running on linux was anything but.  I eventually gave up, and successfully located a TFTP server for OS X.  Five minutes later, I had a TFTP server going.

The instructions for booting the N2100 via redboot that I followed can be found on this page.  Once I had the linux kernel loaded (a typo meant my first attempt didn’t boot), running the debian installer was pretty easy.  Unfortunately debian stable includes only the 2.6.26 kernel, and the Ath9k wireless driver needed to run the mini-PCI wireless card from the Airport Extreme (detected as an AR5416) required a minimum of 2.6.27.

So more searching of google was required to determine how to install a more recent version of debian.  The Arm Eabi Howto directed me towards the appropriate installer, and so the process has begun again.  Of course, there’s no guarantee that this version will work with the wireless card either, but who said procrastination had to be productive?