Turning My Passport Wireless Pro into a computer (using ArchLinuxARMv7 and chroot from USB)


#1

Hello everyone. Wanting to travel light, in other words with a Tablet (iPad) and WD MPW only, I was still in need for some missing software (in my line of work as academic researcher I require citation software with actual citations and econometric tools that iOS/Android can’t provide). After going tthrough the web of the WD community and doing some research on my own, I have compiled a sh script that will be able to temporarily turn WD My Passport Wireless Pro (or any similar device provided the same architecture) into a sort of desktop with the possibility to install own software.

Contrary to the solutions I found on the web, my approach:

  1. doesn’t violate the WD Warranty as it changes nothing in the system (all is done via chroot – switching to external system). However, the suggested use of the product is non-standard and may potentially (in the long run) cause some changes to hardware (quicker wear) and battery (quicker drain).
  2. is very simple. The principle is to use an USB device as an additional disk containing two partitions: a) the “alternative” system (a full-fletched ArchLinux ARMv7 contrary to the rudimental buildchroot? on the My Passport Wireless Pro), b) swap partition as additional RAM (the My Passport Wireless Pro has less than 512 MB). Basically, you plug in any USB drive of sufficient capacity (8 GB at least), run the script via SSH and you have a functional system! The system works from the USB and uses the hardware and internet of the My Passport Wireless Pro, changing nothing in the My Passport Wireless Pro.
  3. You can still use the drive normally together with the chroot.

The solution requires:

  1. My Passport Wireless Pro
  2. A USB flash drive you are ready to sacrifice (I suggest at least 8GB, better 16GB)
  3. Knowledge of SSH and the ability to configure the system (not so difficult as it seems)
  4. VNC client for desktop applications

NB Why USB? From my experiments so far, when the My Passport Wireless Pro finds other than its own system files on disk (I mean on mounted /dev/sda2, not on the root partition), it starts to behave erratically. I cannot explain it but I constantly ran into this problem and needed to perform a full reset to fix the situation.

The current state of the project:

  1. There are three scripts.
  2. The first one a) formats and partitions the USB (no previous knowledge required – reboot may be needed), b) installs ArchLinux ARMv7 on it, c) mounts the necessary folders and preform the chroot. The SH script is ready.
  3. The second script configures ArchLinux ARMv7 on first start: a) pacman gnupg keys, b) system update, c) installing missing software (parted, atop, xorg-server, fluxbox, tigervnc and QEMU) and starts VNC on chroot. The SH script is ready. VNC works well, graphics not so good though.
  4. Next step will be virtualization with the help of QEMU for x86 software. Since My Passport Wireless Pro is based on the 32bit ARMv7l 1GHz chip, you can install LibreOffice Fresh on it but not Zotero or any of Windows software (via Wine), they require another chip which can be emulated with software called QEMU (It will be slow but it will work).

NB If you are worried about the graphic card, it’s not the issue here – the headless servers run without them.

I’m writing this to give something back to the community for their help. So in case you are interested in this solution and administrators consider this post appropriate in terms of license, I can share the script under the GPL.


#2

Hi Richard,
It sounds like a very neat approach and I would love to give it a try.
Do you think you could please share the scripts?
Thanks!


#3

Hi Richard,
I would love to try your approach! I am looking at a way to install emby server (as an alternative to Plex) on the WD My Wireless Pro, and think that your approach might work for me. Would you be able to send me your scripts?

Thanks,
Hans-Göran


#4

Hello @richardprosto please share link to ur scripts/stuff.
thanks a lot!