Tweaking Voyage Linux on PC engines’ ALIX

ALIX is a small-factor, low-power x86 platform designed and sold by PC Engines. I’ve set up one such system with my call-home scripts, and I plan to use it instead of (or alongside) those netbooks: it’s more compact, and it’s cheaper (around $150 for a box).

Voyage Linux is a Debian OS distribution adapted for such small-factor platforms. It mounts the flash drive in read-only mode by default, and also the kernel loads all necessary modules to support the ALIX board.

After setting up Voyage as described in their README, I do the following steps to optimize the setup (after issuing remountrw command):

0. Edit /etc/apt/sources.list and select a nearer mirror, e.g.

deb squeeze main contrib non-free

1. Adapt the DHCP client configuration so that it re-tries faster if DHCP service is unavailable:

# /etc/dhcp/dhclient.conf
# <other options skipped>
timeout 10;
retry 20;

2. Install NTP service. This is important because the board does not have a battery-powered RTC clock.

apt-get update
apt-get install ntp

3. Add a user for myself, add it to sudoers with NOPASSWD: option, and then remove the root password completely.

4. If I want to use X11 forwarding through SSH, there’s one problem: my home directory is by default on a read-only filesystem, and xauth tries to create .Xauthority in my home directory. To avoid that, I do the following:

sudo apt-get install xauth
sudo cat >> /etc/ssh/sshd_config <<EOT
PermitUserEnvironment yes
sudo service ssh restart
cat >.ssh/environment <<EOT

5. Install additional stuff as needed:

sudo apt-get install dump git wireshark

6. Reboot, test, and backup the filesystem by using dump command (don’t use dump compression, as the CPU is rather slow).


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