[Freedombox-discuss] Opinions on the Excito B3

Philip Hands phil at hands.com
Mon Nov 8 09:13:30 UTC 2010

On Sun, 31 Oct 2010 15:29:16 +0100, Francesco Poli <frx at firenze.linux.it> wrote:
> Hi all,
> I would like to experiment on the home server front and would like to
> do it by installing Debian on a little, silent, and energy saving box,
> that would act as a gateway/firewall/DHCP-server/caching-DNS-server
> (and then probably, mail server, web server, and so forth, as well...)
> between my ADSL ethernet modem and my LAN switch.
> I think this project has some similarities with the freedombox one,
> hence I am writing here.
> N.B.: I am not subscribed to the list, please Cc: me on replies!
> I would like to know what you think about the Excito B3 product as a
> possible hardware platform for my project and/or for the freedombox
> project:
> http://www.excito.com/bubba/products/technical-specifications.html
> http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=excito_b3&num=1

I just bought myself an OpenRD-Ultimate which has a similar spec, but
has the advantage of being a development system, so the serial console
is provided on a mini-USB socket:


Not quite as neat, but less of a pain for doing testing on.

I got this with the intention of testing a client system that I'll be
auto-installing, which will probably make use of the smaller, and
cheaper, Sheva plug:


but those are too small to take a hard drive, so I thought I'd go for
the OpenRD-Ultimate for testing, which would also let me do the
FreedomBox stuff and experiment with using disks or SD as storage.

So far, I've managed to install Debian on an SD card, which was
non-trivial as they come shipped with an outdated version of uBoot,
which must be updated before it'll boot from SD.

This does open up an alternative install method though -- if one creates
a minimal system that can be written to SD, then it could be "installed"
by copying it onto the SD card.

I must note that it took _ages_ to install Debian on SD (at least 4
hours for a non-X install) because writing to SD is _slow_)  I'm not
sure this is something we want to inflict on end users, so if we were
going to have an SD based version, it should be pre-installed.

On the other hand, if we are able to provide an SD image that can just
be zapped onto an SD card, and then (assuming the shipped uBoot will
support it in future) shoved into a brand new box, that would be OK.

For people who are hearing alarm bells about SD cards wearing out, I've
installed flashybrid, which turns Debian (after a bit of tweaking) into
a mostly ramdisk based thing, that only writes things to flash on

So, in conclusion, the B3 looks great, but may be a pain to develop on
if you don't get access to the serial console, so you might want to get
an OpenRD for the development phase.

On the other hand, you could just ask the folks at Excito how they do
the development, and mention that you are looking for platforms on which
to develop FreedomBox -- that's what I'd do if I'd not just bought
something else.  Judging from their web site, I'd guess that they would
be happy to help, and they might even get involved directly, which would
be no bad thing.

Cheers, Phil.
|)|  Philip Hands [+44 (0)20 8530 9560]    http://www.hands.com/
|-|  HANDS.COM Ltd.                    http://www.uk.debian.org/
|(|  10 Onslow Gardens, South Woodford, London  E18 1NE  ENGLAND
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