Martin Michlmayr
Conceptronic CH3SNAS from the front

Installing Debian on the D-Link DNS-323 and Conceptronic CH3SNAS

Overview

In a nutshell, the installation of Debian on your D-Link DNS-323 or Conceptronic CH3SNAS device works like this: you use the original firmware of your device to install a "firmware upgrade" which in reality contains the Debian installer. When you restart your device, Debian installer starts and allows you to login via SSH to perform the installation. Debian will be installed to disk and a Debian kernel will be put in flash that will start Debian from disk.

If you follow this procedure, Debian will be installed to your SATA disk and the original firmware in flash will be replaced with Debian and your disk will be erased. Since Debian is installed on disk, your machine will not boot without the disk. Debian does not install a web interface to configure your machine, although it's possible to install such software. Furthermore, the D-Link DNS-323 and Conceptronic CH3SNAS devices don't have a recovery mechanism that would allow you to load a firmware image via the network. If something goes wrong, you'll have to connect a serial console to access the recovery mechanism. Please proceed only if you want to replace your firmware with Debian and if you can make a serial console for your device in case there are problems. If you don't want to replace the original firmware in flash or retain the capability of booting without a disk, you can install a Debian chroot instead.

Requirements and Preparation

In order to install Debian, you need the following:

Making a Backup

You have to make a backup of all the data stored on your D-Link or Conceptronic device before starting with the installation of Debian since Debian will format the whole disk during the installation.

Starting the Installer

First of all, check in the original firmware that your network settings are correct. The Debian installer will use the same settings as your original firmware, so please choose either DHCP or configure a valid IP address, gateway and DNS.

Now you can go ahead and download the installer image to your PC. Please download the right image for your device:

Now you can access the admin interface of your device with your web browser in order to install the firmware image containing the Debian installer. Log in as user admin (the default password is empty), go to Tools and choose Firmware. Hit the Browse button and select the installer image you downloaded before (look for netboot.img). Press Apply and the Debian installer will be written to flash. When the firmware update has completed, restart your device. After a few minutes, you will be able to connect to the Debian installer.

Here's what the firmware upgrade process looks like on the Conceptronic CH3SNAS:

Firmware upgrade: selected the firmware image

Firmware upgrade: update is in progress

Firmware upgrade: successful update

Firmware upgrade: restarting the device

The firmware upgrade page on the D-Link DNS-323 looks very similar:

Firmware upgrade on the D-Link DNS-323

The Installation

After you have flashed the Debian installer image and restarted your device, the Debian installer will start. Since the DNS-323 and CH3SNAS do not have any IO device, SSH will be used for the installation. The installer will bring up the network, start the OpenSSH server and you can then connect to the device using SSH. You have to wait a few minutes after starting the system before you can connect. Unfortunately, the installer currently doesn't use the LED to signal when it's ready, so you just have to wait a few minutes.

Since the DNS-323 and CH3SNAS do not have an LCD, the installer cannot tell you which IP address to connect to or which password to use. With regards to the IP address, the following strategy is used:

Please make sure that your device is on a local network to which only you have access since the installer uses a very generic password, namely install. The user is installer. Connect to the installer (again, replacing the address in the example with the actual IP address of your device):

ssh installer@192.168.1.100

Important note: When you connect to the installer, one of the first screens will allow you to select additional installer modules. Make sure to select the ext3 module. If you don't select the ext3 module, the installer will not work correctly due to a bug.

The installation itself should be pretty standard and you can follow the installation guide. The installer knows about the DNS-323 and CH3SNAS and at the end of the installation it will flash a kernel and ramdisk that will automatically boot into Debian.

Since your device boots from flash you don't have many limitations as to how you partition your hard drive. You can use LVM and RAID and a number of filesystems.

At the end of the installation, the installer will write the new kernel to flash. Afterwards you will get a confirmation that the installation is complete. Confirm, wait for the installer to finish and once your SSH session terminates, wait a few minutes before you can connect to your newly installed system via SSH. You will be able to log in as root or your newly created user.

Success

You should now have a complete Debian system running on your DNS-323 or CH3SNAS. You can use apt-get and other tools to install additional software. The D-Link DNS-323 and Conceptronic CH3SNAS are ARM based devices and the armel architecture is fully supported by Debian.

Finally, make sure to read the tips and tricks about running Debian on the D-Link DNS-323 and Conceptronic CH3SNAS. In case you run into any bugs or problems, you may want to check the list of known issues and bugs.

Go back to my Debian on D-Link DNS-323 and Conceptronic CH3SNAS page.