Friday, 22 March 2013

Adventures with my WD My Book Live (A PowerPC Debian Linux Server with 2 TB HDD)

I shoulda known to googled before probing at the CLI with stuff and I would have found out what I needed to know. but oh well damage done. What I needed to know was that it's a debian Linux (quite up to date!) with the standard perl/python/sqlite installed. CPU and RAM ain't super impressive but if you are just looping through text files I doubt that it matters a lot. Heck it's roughly equivalent to a older gen of Raspberry Pi with 256 Mb ram

The My Book Live is based upon the APM82181, a 800 MHz PowerPC 464 based platform (PDF). It has a host of features which are not utilized by the MyBook Live. For example, the PCI-E ports as well as the USB 2.0 OTG ports are fully disabled. The SATA port and GbE MAC are the only active components. The unit also has 256 MB of DRAM.(Source

It's such a shame that the PCI-E ports and USB ports are disabled but at the least the root account isn't disabled which opens up possibilities to install and hack the system into a low power device with a 2 TB HDD to do a bit of bioinformatics eh?

Imagine shipping someone's genomic data in one of these babies that allows you to slice and dice the fastq file to extract pertinent info! After all it already is a web server, won't be too much of a strain to make web apps or just simple web interface as a wrapper for scripts to generate graphical reports (*Dreams of putting galaxy webserver on the WD mybooklive*)
or perhaps use HTSeq or Erange to do something that doesn't strain the 256 Mb of DRAM

Post in Comments what you might do with a 800 Mhz CPU and 256 Mb Ram with Debian under it's hood.

UPDATE: Unfortunately I have managed to brick my WD Mybooklive by being overzealous in installing stuff that required the HTTP webserver as well. DOING that to a headless server with NO terminal/keyboard access is a BAD BAD idea especially if it breaks the SSH login if it hangs at boot up :(

Sigh hope to fix it soon and will be more careful in trying to test packages on my Ubuntu box before trying it on the mybooklive

MyBookLive:~# cat /proc/cpuinfo
processor       : 0
cpu             : APM82181
clock           : 800.000008MHz
revision        : 28.130 (pvr 12c4 1c82)
bogomips        : 1600.00
timebase        : 800000008
platform        : PowerPC 44x Platform
model           : amcc,apollo3g
Memory          : 256 MB

MyBookLive:~# apt-get update
Get:1 squeeze Release.gpg [1672B]
Get:2 wheezy Release.gpg [836B]
Get:3 squeeze Release [99.8kB]
Ign squeeze Release
Get:4 wheezy Release [223kB]
Ign wheezy Release
Get:5 squeeze/main Packages [6493kB]
Get:6 wheezy/main Packages [5754kB]
Fetched 12.6MB in 1min17s (163kB/s)
Reading package lists... Done

MyBookLive:~# perl -v

This is perl, v5.10.1 (*) built for powerpc-linux-gnu-thread-multi
(with 51 registered patches, see perl -V for more detail)

Copyright 1987-2009, Larry Wall

Perl may be copied only under the terms of either the Artistic License or the
GNU General Public License, which may be found in the Perl 5 source kit.

Complete documentation for Perl, including FAQ lists, should be found on
this system using "man perl" or "perldoc perl".  If you have access to the
Internet, point your browser at, the Perl Home Page.

MyBookLive:~# python
Python 2.5.2 (r252:60911, Jan 24 2010, 18:51:01)
[GCC 4.3.2] on linux2
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.

MyBookLive:~# sqlite3
SQLite version 3.7.3
Enter ".help" for instructions
Enter SQL statements terminated with a ";"

MyBookLive:~# free
             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:        253632     250112       3520          0      53568      52352
-/+ buffers/cache:     144192     109440
Swap:       500608     146048     354560

Ok if you are interested below is the exact model of WD MyBookLive that I own right now.

Related Links
Hacking WD My Book Live


  1. You should be running your .NET applications on you My Book Live: Running a .NET application on a My Book Live device...

  2. how might .NET applications help with what I am doing?

    1. You wrote: "Post in Comments what you might do with a 800 Mhz CPU and 256 Mb Ram with Debian under it's hood."

    2. Ahhhh haha ok sorry was expecting more of a bioinformatics audience response there ... nice blog ... inspiring hacks :)

  3. ACtually, the PowerPC Architecture is vastly faster than the Raspberry, even if they have comparable clockrates. ARM/PPC are for different markets, tho...

    If you solder a 3 Pin-Header to the MBLs Board, it's nearly unbrickable, as you get its serial console (and the bootloaders console!)
    I'm using it (apart from being a NAS) as a telephony-server (Asterisk) and a Hylafax FAX-Server (over T38 with an ISDN/Network-Gateway). It's a marvelous device, keeping in mind it's targeted at "dumb consumers" ;)

    1. Hey, do you a picture you could show us of where you soldered the 3pin header to. i need to access my MBL via serial as ethernet not workign correctly.


  5. I'm looking to run rtorrent on it. A self-sufficient downloader!


Datanami, Woe be me