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The new Soekris net6501

Posted by Stephan Saathoff on Tuesday, September 27, 2011

First of all: This is an english re-post of our last article about the net6501

Notice: This article refers to a pilot series of the net6501.

The new Soekris net6501 has arrived at bytemine these days and we were dying to play with it.

First clue: The uManager, which has not been in focus of the previous news; the uManager provides a LOM (Lights Out Management) for the net6501.

Using the uManager is quite easy: On a connection with the COM port simply type the escape sequence +++ and wait a second. Afterwards the uManager prints out a list of available commands:

comBIOS Monitor.   Press ? for help.

> +++

uManager Monitor Rev 0.6  110906.  Press ? for help.

# ?
uManager Commands

?/Help               show this help

exit                 exit uManager

reset                reset main processor

power off|on|cycle   power control main processor

update               update uManager firmware

download             download and update system flash

df [adr]             dump flash content

#

The main advantage of this LOM is that the Soekris can be restarted via the COM port without having it connected to a remote power switch (a power outlet that can be switched on and off remotely). (e.g. 'power cycle') This is even possible if neither the operation system nor the comBIOS is accessible, because the uManager operates independently from the rest of the system.

Furthermore the new Mini-PCI-Express-/mSATA sockets are very interesting: The board contains two of them, both capable of dealing with mSATA and USB devices, and one of them is fully compliant with Mini-PCI-Express devices.

A useful warning for this case: Please check the compatibility before buying hardware for one of the Mini-PCI- Express sockets. We bought two devices for testing, a Mini-PCI-Express wifi card with Atheros chip, and a Transcend mSATA SSD with 16GB memory. The Atheros card was running very fine on OpenBSD 5.0, but the SSD was not recognized by the comBIOS. At the moment we're not sure if we either got a dead on arrival SSD delivered, or if there is a problem in the comBIOS. It's probably the latter, since there are several known bugs with the comBIOS in this pilot series.

People that followed the news about the net6501 might wonder about the missing MicroSD slot: This has been replaced by another, bootable USB socket. That is leading us to another feature of the net6501: Booting from USB.

On the Soekris website one can read about the ability to boot from USB devices. Although this has not been implemented on our test boards Soekris is stating the feature will be implemented within the next weeks. An USB flash drive, for example, has not been listed in comBIOS as a bootable device, but after a PXE boot we were able to install OpenBSD on this drive. Only booting from this drive is not possible at the moment.

The board will be available in our online shop soon: net6501 in bytemine shop The appropriate cases will also be available within a short time.

And finally here is a picture of the new net6501 with the above mentioned cards inside the expansion slots:

net6501 in the wild

Links: The net6501 manual The net6501 on soekris.com