A tour of the 5Big

On the outside, the 5Big is quite impressive to me, compared to my skinny ED Mini V2. If features:

Internally, the 5Big has 128MB SDRAM and 4MB (yes, that's 32Mbit) FLASH -- that's big enough to get a kernel and minimal rescue rootfs.

The 5Big bootloader

As the 5Big came bare (the two drives provided were empty and, hopefully, were throughly erased before being sent to me), I had no operating system to rely on as I had with the ED Mini. The only thing installed on the 5Big was its bootloader inside its Flash memory. Fortunately, LaCie had provided a serial-to-RS-232. theoretically, I just had to plug the cable onto the serial header on the 5Big PCB and into my ARM-OCD-USB's RS-232 plug and get going -- except the ARM-USB-OCD serial interface saw nothing when I turned on the 5Big. Turned out there was an electrical level issue, which I solved by switching to a dumb GoldX serial-to-USB adapter.

Once that was solved, I could boot into the LaCie 5Big bootloader...

Not much of a surprise there: just as it is in the ED Mini V2, the 5Big bootloader is U-boot. A good choice -- I'm very biased in favor of DENX, and I've worked with Wolfgang Denk's ELDK as well as U-boot since around 2003. Plus Wolfgang's a nice and helpful person.

That was the good news. The bad news is: the 5Big's U-boot is a LaCie-customized version. No bdinfo, ni iminfo, for instance. There's progress with respect to the ED Mini V2's LaCie U-boot in that now the protect and erase commands work; I won't have to do a double stunt to upgrade the Bootloader if I want to. And saveenv works too out of the box.

Also present are environment variables to select the machine type (although LaCie still uses 526 as a production machine type for both the ED and the 5Big -- not the right way to go, if you ask me. Worse yet, some of the environment variables seem to be write-protected: you can modify them from the U-boot prompt, and you can do a saveenv, but next boot they will have reverted to their original value. And yes, most variables controlling boot are write-protected.

For the time being, I'll bear with it, first because I can create my own variables and I just need to do a run n to get U-boot to bootstrap Linux the way I want it to, and second because I don't have the GPL source tarball... yet.