SheevaPlug – Computing out of the wall wart

SheevaPlug with USB and LAN port visible

SheevaPlug with USB and LAN port visible

Whether Marvell got the name for it’s ARM compatible CPU core from the Hindu god of destruction or off the character from
the Mortal Kombat game series, I don’t know.

However, the Sheeva CPU core is the heart of Marvell’s System-on a-Chip design called Kirkwood and around that they built a complete computing device the size of a wall wart and called it the SheevaPlug.

The CPU core is running at 1.2 GHz and there are 512 MB of RAM and as much NAND memory. Peripherials are a Gigabit Ethernet port, a USB 2.0 port, a SD card slot and a mini USB port for a serial connection. The SoC is capable of more but the second Ethernet port and eSATA are not available in the development kit that Marvell released in spring this year.

I was reluctant to order one of the development kits since they were only available in the US and even though the price tag of $99 sounds really good, shipping to and taxing in the EU made the whole deal unattractive. Furthermore, there were rumors that delivery takes as long as
two months.

Recently I found out NewIT ships the SheevaPlug from within the EU. The company is UK based, hence no extra taxing and the pricing of the Plug as well as shipping fees to Germany looked attractive so I ordered and the Plug arrived promptly.

The first thing I did was conecting the SheevaPlug to my gigabit switch and the powering up the device by plugging it into the wall outlet.

The SheevaPlug acquires an IP address via DHCP and my router revealed that it assigned an IP to a new device with a MAC address starting with 00:50:43, that’s the ID for Marvell devices. You could also probe your network using nmap, i.e. something like


or in whatever range your DHCP server is assigning addresses.

Once I found out the IP of the Plug I was able to log in via ssh as user root with the preset password nosoup4u. The Plug is preinstalled with Ubuntu Jaunty (9.04) on the
NAND memory.

Another method for getting access to the Plug is connecting a PC to the Mini-USB outlet. Now a serial connection can be established. Check via dmesg on the PC if the FTDI Serial converter driver loaded correctly while you connected the Plug via Mini-USB. If not, you need to load the module manually with

modprobe ftdi_sio vendor=0x9e88 product=0x9e8f

Now you should be able to connect to the serial console with

screen /dev/ttyUSB0 115200

You need to have a bit of patience since the console is quite unresponsive at the beginning. Hitting some keys helps. Should still nothing happen you can check if your Plug is reachable through another tty, i.e. ttyUSB1.

Once logged in through the serial console you can issue a reboot and watch the Plug shutting down. As it boots up again, you can see the bootloader u-boot at work. Hitting a key before u-boot actually loads something will enter into command mode.

nNow I was ready to install Debian following Martin Michelmeyer’s excellent description.

That’s how far I currently got with the Plug. What’s next is definitely setting up NFS/Samba and hooking my USB Drive to the Plug. Then the Plug will be set up to act as a print server. Beyond that, I will get some inspiration by reading around in the net what other people did with their Plugs. Good sources are, (in German) and The latter site is actually running on a SheevaPlug.

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