A month ago I decided to give a try to Sheevaplug, the so great single board computer from Marvell.
The Sheevaplug is a very small embedded computer (actually one of the first such computers on the market), running a 1.2 GHz Marvell Kirkwood 6281 ARM-compatible CPU. It can run Linux distros based on Debian such as Ubuntu (up to version 9.04) and features basic network connectivity, USB, and an SD card slot.
This device seemed the ultimate low footprint and portable Linux box to carry around in pen testing, data storage at home etc… using pwnie express suite or Debian with a few tools.
- CPU: 1.2 GHz Marvell Kirkwood 6281 (ARM) L1: 16K L2: 256KB;
- RAM: DDR2 400MHz, 16-bit bus 512MB DDR2;
- Storage: 512MB NAND, SD Card Slot;
- Power input: 100-240VAC/50-60Hz Max. 20W;
- Connectivity: 1x USB 2.0, 1x Gigabit Ethernet, JTAG, Debug Interface via USB.
- Dimensions: 110mm (L) x 69.5mm (W) x 48.5 mm (H).
- Very small and low power consumption for a “computer” capable of running a full-featured Linux;
- The possibility of expanding the internal storage a lot via SD card slot;
- Enough CPU power and RAM for most tasks,
- Can easily run a network share and a VPN server, a torrent client and some other things that usually take a standard computer to run.
- Power supply (PSU)
The standard PSU packed on the Sheevaplug has a long history of issues, if you search around you’ll easily find people complaining about PSU burning, breaking their boards or just malfunctioning.
Some companies that sell Sheevaplug nowadays, tried to improve the PSU but the problem still remains. From personal experience, I can assure you that it’s better to run it with an external power supply.
- Mechanical design
Sheevaplug is just a small white plastic box with everything inside, but its design is very poor starting with a lot of wasted space in the plastic box around the PSU and ending up in PCB design.
At the PCB you can easily spot design mistakes like components placed in wrong places causing them to melt down. The best example is the location of the SD Card slot: it’s located near the ARM CPU that runs really hot and doesn’t have any cooler or heatsink… I had to replace some SD cards because they just stopped working after a few hours. The device is not properly cooled too and the CPU runs really hot without any proper heatsink.
- Old CPU (almost useless)
Since you’re using an old kernel, you can’t do everything you want with the Aircrack-ng suite, you will only have wifi drivers for Alfa AWUS036H (RTL8187) and other common chipsets. Injection is only available on the latest Ubuntu kernel and its buggy.
Also, there is no floating point around here, you can forget about encoding and decoding, math and all because it won’t work fine…
- Old, useless tools, unavailable documentation…
- No support of any kind, not even community
- sheeva.with-linux.com: Your source for kernels…
- Debian ISC DHCP Server
- BackTrack 5, pwnie express suite, and pen testing…
There are some really great boards that can replace Sheevaplug, you can check a very good comparison between them here from raymii.org website.
- Raspberry Pi (35$)
Broadcom BCM2835 system on a chip which includes an ARM1176JZF-S 700 MHz processor, VideoCore IV GPU, 256MB of RAM, HDMI with full-hd output, USB, standard 3.5mm headphone and microphone jack, 100 Mbps Ethernet port and an SD card slot for primary storage.
- ODROID board (129$)
Sheevaplug was one of the biggest disappointments I’ve ever had in this kind of hardware… if you want a very small Linux box save your money, don’t buy Sheevaplug because it’s USELESS.
If you want to do pen testing, run new Linux systems or have general UNIX fun you should get an ODROID board (129$). If you just want something small and quick to run a network share and a VPN get a Raspberry Pi (35$).