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Under the covers

I recently picked up one of those little devices that measures electricity usage of a plugged-in device. Using this little box, I measured the usage of the NetCenter at 12 W while in use and 4W when the drive spun down after 10 minutes. So think of it as using about the same amount of electricity as a night light.

In terms of the hardware used on the box, I usually like to open up the case to photograph the main board, but the NetCenter's case was tightly sealed with plastic compression clips. I didn't want to risk breaking or marring this loaner unit, so I used software techniques to get some hints about the hardware.

Like nearly all consumer NASes, it was clear that the NetCenter runs Linux internally. A port-scan of the box told me the OS used is based on a Linux 2.4 kernel. But for more detailed information about the software running on the box, Western Digital provides a download link where I grabbed the GPL components used in the product. Those brave enough to build their own custom firmware will also find a full compilation tool-chain at this site.

Digging through the provided source tree turns up the usual components found in these products. For basic utilities, busybox is used and CIFS support comes courtesy of Samba. The tree also contains utilities for managing a Reiser filesystem, so that's a strong hint regarding the internal filesystem. I was also interested to see an FTP server and number of utilities related to the use of VPNs, but I found no evidence that these features used internally.

The presence of these unused packages may just indicate that this source tree is used in other products, or it could also give some indication of future direction for Western Digital with this product. It was fairly clear that the internal processor used on the box was from Broadcom. A number of Broadcom directories were present along with references to a 4710 chip which provides the main CPU as well as network connectivity. In another Broadcom directory, I found an IDE driver for an Acard ATP864 chip.

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