9.3.11

Seagate Dockstar - Teardown

I ordered a Seagate Dockstar on ebay as a playground for some experimenting with OpenWrt. This device is particularly well-equipped compared to similar ARM-based NAS/routers with its 128MB DDR2 SDRAM and 256MB Flash. Sadly though, the original purpose of the Dockstar seems badly established: your local NAS can only be managed through a web interface on dockstar.pogoplug.com, with local management support completely missing. I am not really happy with this option as I do not believe that it is safe at all.

Nevertheless the hardware is a state-of-the-art ARM-based board equipped with 4 USB 2.0 ports and gigabit Ethernet interface and strong enough to even support standard linux distributions. Debian and Gentoo have already been successfully installed. 
The box itself is nicely designed, the board is in a modern-look minimalistic box. The miniUSB port on the fits in some Seagate's external harddrives, however some third party boxes can be used, too, it takes only a ruler to figure it out.

Important!

Before going any further: NEVER ever connect the Dockstar to a network with public internet access. According to many reports it tends to "phone home", that is making automated software updates. This is a problem because the ssh access gets disabled and only serial console remains. This actually happened to me so consider this issue confirmed! Preventive measures include either a separate switch or subnet dedicated to the device or manually disabling routing to Dockstar on the gateway.
Update: I managed to resolve the problem, ssh access is regained. For details, jump here.

An inside look

Anyway, let's look inside! The top part of the casing holds with eight claws (two each side). After popping it off, the connector of the top mini USB port has to be removed, and the entire PCB becomes accessible. Below there are the main circuits on the two sides of the PCB that I pinpointed and figured out their purpose. For everyone who likes to visualize things, I have  also spotted them on the high-res PCB photos.



Top layer:
  • Marvell Kirkwood 88F6281 ARM926 compatible SoC;
  • Nanya NT5TU64M16DG-AC 128MB DDR2 SDRAM;
  • Two Marvell dual switching power supply circuits.
On this layer we also find the dual LED, the reset button and the UART/JTAG service header. The supply input is a standard single pin connector with the center pin positive and the shield negative. The factory provided external power supply brick outputs 12V 2A. The serial/JTAG header pitch is 2.0mm, a rarely used standard, however available at most distributors.

Bottom layer:
  • Marvell Alaska 88E1116R Gigabit Ethernet PHY;
  • Micron 29F2G08AAD 256MB Flash;
  • Genesys GL850G 4way USB 2.0 hub;
  • Atmel AT24C02B I2C EEPROM;
  • Monolithic MP8708 switching power supply;
  • Marvell 88PG8227 dual switching power supply.

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