Now I work as a software engineer and because of the covid-19 lockdown I am spending even more time in front of computers at home and I thought that – finally – this was the moment to make proper use of the NSLU2 NAS decvice I bought more than a decade ago.
But it turns out that this supports a now dead version of Samba/CIFS so isn’t much use. So, I thought, flash the thing and use one of the various FOSS options, but these seem to be either dead or close-to-dead these days.
So is there any way I can get decent use out of this device?
I don’t want to be like a wet blanket – I really love the Raspberry Pi and the idea you can get a bare bones but entirely functional computer for less than thirty quid and hook it up to your HD TV with a £1.50 HDMI cable.
But, having spent the day trying to get it to do some pretty basic things – like play some video or audio – I have to say that a lot of educationalists seem to be vesting far too much hope in what is, after all, a testing board.
It’s true that you can boot the thing up quickly and easily and that it comes with Scratch (though I haven’t tested that, yet). But I suspect most kids will get frustrated very quickly with it when they find it cannot do lots of things on the internet that they take for granted.
Using it is like regressing a decade or so in the Linux experience – lots of things don’t work (I still have not got mine to play any sound via the HDMI cable) or the software is not (yet) available.
I could see how it could be a low spec web server (after all I got a Dreamcast to be one of those) or a management board for NAS, and I’d love to play around with the GPIO stuff, but I would worry that many children would be put off if things that they expect their programs to do just do not happen because of some problems with the drivers.
The idea is a very sound one, though, and I am sure that in six months time it will be worth considering, but I wouldn’t bet my ICT budget on a fleet of these things yet.
(In my own case my idea, that I could use the board as a micro alternative to a projector by having it display presentations and video on our office HD TVs is on hold for now, as the software is just not available as far as I can see.)