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alternative OS's for the Cabolt Qube 2 and the Gateway Microserver

This is the process I used and information I have gathered. If you decide to use the information I am providing I am not responsible for anything that goes wrong. I have done my best to give accurate information and outline the procedures I used to get the results I show here but I cannot cover every situation and there may be diffrences from my system to yours so use this information however you wish but know that there is a risk that it may be different for your system

I ran across a gateway microserver for cheap started to check it out and right away knew that the customized firmware from gateway was not going to cut it. If this thing is a server it must serve! I didnt like the limitations that their web interface gave and wanted to see what my options were so first I researched the system itself then some of the different OS's that were out there for each i took into consideration the ease of installation and the functionality it provided. I really wanted to see what I could do with this server. The server is really more of a home server than commercial but it was a fine start to my computer collection at a good price. I however wanted more than just a file and mail server. I wanted it to run apache and SQL and also wanted to set up a GIT server on it as well as see what else I could make it serve. This was just not possible with the web interface that was provided by Gateway.


First thing to do was to research the server itself see what it had and what it was capable of. When I first started there wasnt as much info out there as there is now so Ill include the newer info also.

To start I found out that the Gateway Microserver is simply a Re-brand of the Cobalt Qube 2. A rebrand is when they change the case and the OS. and call it there own. The Cobalt Qube 2 and the Gateway Microserver are both the same system just 2 different cases for the same system. We dont care much about looks so This should work on both systems without any troubles.I will in this document refer to it as the Qube from now on but know that both systems work the same. I also believe the RaQ 2 is the same machine in a different case not sure though so do some researchbefore trying it. In fact as stated before I am actually running a Gateway Microserver.

The specs:

■single ATA66 IDE socket
■64Bit MIPS RISC CPU QED RM5231-250Q (superscalar, 250MHz) 32 MB bus and no L2 cache
■System Controller: Galileo GT-64111
■PCI-ISA Bridge/ATA Controller: Via VT821C586 (Apollo VP)
■2x128MB Max RAM (EDO 3.3V, SIMM-Modul 72 Pin, proprietary)
■Maximum memory: 256MB
■Ultra-ATA 10.2GB hard drive (Seagate ST310212A)
■Maximum fixed disk capacity (BIOS limitation): 30GB
■2 network interfaces (Tulip) DECchip DC21142 10/100baseTX-FDX
■6-key-panel + 2x16 LCD-Display
■1 high-speed serial port (SubD9)
■1 PCI-slot (proprietary)
■1 housing fan (4x4 cm, 12V, unsettled)
■1 small, external 36 Watt power supply unit (12V, 3A)
■Dimensions: 18,4cm x 18,4cm x 19,7cm
■Weight: 2.8kg
■Power supply: 100-240V, 50/60Hz
■Power input: 25 Watt
■Operating environment: 5-40°C, 10-80% air humidity
■Non-operating environment: -10-50°C, 5-93% air humidity

Note about the memory

If you have two memory stick and one is bigger than the other the bigger stick of memory must be put into slot 0 in the system or there could be problems. Remember max memory is 256 MB that is 128 MB for each stick.

The memory works strangley in this system although there are one two memory banks on the child board the system will divide each memory module into 2 banks. Therefore the system will show 4 memory banks 0 and 1 are the first memory bank each will be half of the memory sticks size and banks 3 and 4 as reported by the system will be half the size of the second memory stick if you have one.

Serial access

the Qube2 and RaQ/RaQ2 provide a serial console port (originally running at 115200 bps, 8-bits, no parity, 1 stop bit). To enable this during the startup, hold in the "password reset" button whilst powering the unit on. On RaQ machines this button is behind the hole on the lower right corner of the LCD (use eg a pin to operate). When "Console ON" appears on the LCD panel, power-cycle the box. From now on you should see the Cobalt firmware (or CoLo) starting up.

COMING SOON Make your own Serial Cable!!!


The Qube2 can happily accept any PCI SCSI card that will physically fit inside the case in place of the modem
however the original firmware only recognises the Master IDE HDD plugged into the onboard socket. Other operating systems can provide support for additional hardrive controllers and even raid drives Im told.
Colo Bootloader

Peter Horton is the author and current maintainer of the CoLo boot loader. CoLo, unlike the original bootloader, has no limitation on the size of kernel to load, and also features support for initial ramdisks, EXT2 and EXT3 support, as well as loading kernels over NFS and TFTP (network or serial). It can be configured through the use of scripting, with the capability to chain scripts together, ask questions on the LCD panel and perform various tasks. If you use this bootloader you will not be limited to 30 GB hardrive size!! using the CoLo Bootloader will also give you some other advantages. You could alternatively flash your BIOS chip however this has many dangers and is not recommended instead if you use the CoLo Bootloader the BIOS will chainload the CoLo Bootloader automatically and bypass the restrictions of the original Firmware for your BIOS.
OS Choices

Cabolt OS (Modified RedHat distro)ver 4.0

Easy to install
install takes short amount of time
easy to use wen interface to administer your server
no need to know linux OS's to admin
limited 30 GB hardrive on old Firmware
Sets up alot of unnessecary stuff in your OS
Limited hardware can be used to install ( unless install is modified )
no longer maintained very few updated packages come out thus outdated packages

Choose this OS if you are uncomfortable working with shell. If you want an easy to use web interface this is the choice for you however it does limit what you can do on the system. Also this OS will only detect one harddisk this is the disk you have plugged into the onboard IDE controller. and maximum HD size is 30 GB limited by the BIOS.
The OS must be restored by netbooting or a serial line. The problem is there is a very limited number of network cards that are compatible with the Qubes netboot process. I am running a Compaq Armada E500 this system works well to netboot and restore the operating system.Here is a list of known compatible NIC's ( network cards ) that work with the netbooting process.If you dont have any of the available hardware below please read the Cabolt OS section below. The OS restore disk allows for loading additional drivers it may be of some use I will go over the process in the future and show what I could make work.

Intel PRO/100+ Server Adapter (PILA8470B)
Linksys EtherFast 10/100 LAN Card (LNE100TX)
Netgear Fast Ethernet PCI Adapter (FA312TX)
3Com OfficeConnect Fast Ethernet NIC (3CSOHO100-TX)
3Com Fast EtherLink XL PCI NIC (3C905B-TX)

Netgear Fast Ethernet PCMCIA Adapter (FA410TX)
3Com Megahertz 10/100 LAN PC Card (3CCFE574BT)
Xircom CreditCard Ethernet 10/100 (CE3B-100BTX)

LAPTOPS:(internal cards)

If anyone has used any other network adapters successfully please let me know so I can add them to the list. If there was anything special you had to do to get it working please let me know that as well and Ill add it here so others can know.

Report another adapter


the version reports back as:

Cobalt Linux release 4.0 (Fargo)
Kernel 2.0.34C53_SK on a mips

UNAME from telnet reports:


the server has redhat distibutions up to kernel 2.2

the restore disk can be downloaded Here in a zipped ISO file which can then be burned to a cd if you dont have software to burn an ISO to a cd then try ISO Buster if your running a windows machine the program is free and will allow you to burn the cd needed to restore or change your operating system on your Qube 2(or Gateway Microserver)

This is a modified redhat distrubution. One good thing about this OS is the restore disk allows you to load additional network drivers which means you may be able to do it with the hardware you have available. it comes with a web server and discussion group services which cannot be turned off (from the web interface they provide). It also comes with these services:

■Frontpage service extentions
■SNMP Agent
■Legato File Backup
■DNS Server
■DHCP Server
■CRON managment

The stock firmware on the Cobalt servers is basic to say the least. It supports netbooting using DHCP & NFS, as well as booting off the hard drive. The firmware expects to see a kernel image called 'vmlinux.gz' on the root directory of the first partition on the first drive. It can only read EXT2 revision 0 partitions (create them using mke2fs -r 0 /dev/BLAH) and cannot load kernels of over 675kB in size.
It is setup so that certain webpages can't be accessed remotely The information page, the admin section, and the admins personal profile are not accessable except for through the local network even when hosting across the internet. This is actually a good security feature but also means If you want a remote admin you will need to modify things a bit.

For the process I used I had the following hardware:

The Qube 2 (actually a gateway microserver)
A compaq armada E500 laptop ( used for netbooting )
a patch cord
the OS restore disk (download from above)

I will also show you how to do it without a patch cord. You will however need two regular ethernet cords and a router instead and alot more useful stuff :D
The following videos will show you the whole process and show you how I set it up.

This tutorial shows how to install the Cabolt OS version 4 using the OS restore disk which can be downloaded Here using a patch cord and a network boot. You will need a compatible network card to perform this restore. If you do not have a compatible network card see my upcoming video below on how to load additional network drivers to install this OS.

Heres an overview of the process:

■Plug in the crossover cable between the Qube 2 and the machine you are netbooting with.

■Start the netboot machine with the restore cd in the CD drive. Leave the Qube 2 powered off for now.

■Agree to the terms and continue with the on screen instructions.

■Hold down the right and left arrows on the Qube 2's panel (near the LCD screen) while holding both arrows down power on the Qube 2 and wait for the message "Netbooting" to appear on the LCD screen of the Qube 2. Once you see this message you can let go of the arrow keys.

■Now its time for a cup of coffee this could take a while depending on your systems memory and many other things. you can see in the video what it shows as it installs the new system. It will delete anything on the harddrive already create new partitions and format them then write the operating system to the harddrive. This is great because its totally automated from here on out nothing we need to do now until it asks for the network settings.

■When it does enter an IP for the server. In the video I set mine to Your will most likely be 192.168.1.x were x is some number between 2 and 254 is most likely your routers IP address. There may be cases where this is different if you cant figure out how to set this up then leave a comment below and I can help you through it.

■After this is setup you want to login to your router and make sure the server always gets the same IP address by setting up a static IP for the server. This allows us to be able to access it in our network without having to look up the ip address each time and also we will need this if we plan on hosting across the internet which I will show you in another tutorial soon.


This shows how to install the Cobalt OS when you dont have a patch cord available. For this we will still use a network boot but we can instead use two regular ethernet cords and a router. Ill show you the settings we need to accomplish this in the following video.

Launch WMV file in external player

Download webinterface overview video in WMV format


Launch WMV file in external player

Download webinterface overview video in WMV format

Next I will show how to install SSH. Its a good idea to replace your telnet connection with SSH instead. I will show how to download and install SSH to this system and also how to turn off Telnet on the Qube in the follwing videos one using the GUI and the other using a telnet shell.


This video shows how to install the operating system even when you dont have a network card that is in the compatible list above. The compatible list is actually just what network drivers load with the restore cd by default. I'll show you how to start the process, stop to load the correct network drivers then install the operating system as normal.


Replacing Telnet with SSH is a good idea when it comes to security. Ill show you how to install it very easily using the web interface provided by this operating system.


Replacing Telnet with SSH is a good idea when it comes to security. This video shows how to install SSH from your telnet command prompt.

Installing packages to your system is easy. This adds programs and functionality to your system.

A repository of packages for the system can be found HERE

a repository if you dont know is a place to get updates for your system. The repository is old because noone makes software or updates for this system since it is an obsolete system but that wont stop us from having fun with this system!






The "unoffical" Debian way
In mid 2002 Paul Martin published a How-To to install (the at that time new) Debian Woody 3.0 on the cobalt machines. He also provided the necessary files and a 2.4.18 kernel (supporting ext2- and ext3-filesystem) for the base installation. The Cobalt machines aren't officially supported by Debian Woody - but are doing well running their MIPSel flavour after base-installation is done.

The "new" Debian way

The limited hardware of the Cobalt installer is of no worry
The installer can use any computer running linux that can run a NFS server and a DHCP server
not limited to 30 GB hardrive
kernel size restrictions are bypassed with CoLo
you can install with ethernet ( NFS server ) or modem connection ( TFTP server )
serial debugging during installation
maintained updates thus better security and updates for your programs
php5 installed by default
Harder to install
need an active internet connection
takes a long time to install everything
Need a router or a computer with 2 network adapters
requires alot more configuration of the secondary machine before we can install
no GUI for administration

Debian officially supports MIPS-based Qube and RaQ. It includes its own installer but requires another system for acting as NFS and DHCP server. This is actually a better option than the Cobalt OS because this OS has maintained packages this means more updates and one of the main concerns in running a server is security. These updated packages will definitly help in that sense. The bad thing is this OS is quit a bit harder to install. I have got it to install and will be releasing a video soon on how to do it. The install however will take much longer than the Cobalt OS installation this install could infact take hours depending on alot of different things such as the memory you have installed, your internet connection, etc

I eventually did get this working I will be outlining the steps soon on this page. It was pretty difficult to get working, what I found is that many of the tutorials left me with alot of questions as I am not a linux power user. This operating system however is alot better if you want a more customized OS. The cobalt OS is ok but because of their already customized front end it is easier to use this OS instead of removing theirs to build your own frontend. In the case of this OS you can build those customizations without having to work around an already existing framework. As mentioned this distribution is fully maintained at this time which means there are more packages that we can install and also more security updates which is very very important as new vunerabilities are being discovered all the time. I have an irc server with services running on my machine now and they run pretty smooth also running webserver services and database services. I use it for only a small team of individuals so there is no major load on the system as the memory capacity is low :( But this OS seems to work terrific for what I need. There is no user frontend but one can be built very easily once you set your webserver up you can make yourself a nice graphical frontend to manage the device if you wish. Otherwise there are other remote administration services available such as ftp, telnet, or ssh just to name a few of the more common options. Below will be an outline of how I installed it and I hope to answer some of the questions that I had when I was trying to get this OS installed and to help others get it installed correctly.

Other distros

Cross Linux from Scratch will also run on a Cobalt, in either 32-bit, [64-bit or multilib (o32/n32/n64) mode.

µClibc's buildroot also can be used to build a 32-bit userland that will run on a Cobalt machine.

There is also a Gentoo distro for the Qube servers but it wont run on this model because this model has a 64 bit processor and 64 bit processors are not supported by the Gentoo distro


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