Hacking the CE-507, Part 1

About a week ago, I posted a kind of offhand remark about how the “hackability” of non-wireless network hardware seemed to be largely under-explored, unlike the hundreds, literally, of wireless routers that have been hacked and modded. I pointed to obsolete – or at least “unsupported” – hardware as a potential untapped source of hackable, moddable devices for the cheap and curious. One of the devices I specifically pointed at was the Cisco Content Engine CE-507, a long-unsupported rackmount box that’s regularly available on eBay for $30 or less, and whose potential is largely unexplored.

Well, to make a long story short, a friend who reads this site dropped me an email, offering a well-used CE-507, free…

After vacuuming out a huge amount of dust, and replacing the CPU heatsink and fan, I’m the proud owner of a fairly beat-up but working CE-507. Now, I just have to get it running an OS. 🙂

While there are an IDE and a floppy connector onboard, there aren’t any power connectors for the drives themselves, so you’re stuck with either using SCSI, or an IDE-flash card adapter. I have a bunch of SCSI drives that will fit… but none that are bootable on an x86 system, doh. (And I have some SCSI drives that’ll boot on x86, but they won’t fit in the Cisco…) So, at the moment I’m waiting on a compact flash-IDE adapter to actually get something running on this box. I do have a Cisco “console cable”, and have confirmed that the box works, but without anything to boot on it I’m at a bit of a temporary impasse. It seems to support netbooting, but I don’t really want to dink around with that.

Out of the box, such as it is, it’s an, erm, enterprise-quality 600MHz PIII with 256MB of ECC RAM. It may not be the smallest or quietest bit of computer hardware out there, but with two onboard 10/100 ethernet ports, I have a sneaking suspicion that this will make a great M0n0wall box…

If anyone out there can provide any insight into what any of the jumpers on the motherboard are for, I’d appreciate it; they don’t seem to be covered in any of the documentation I can find online…

Published in: Geekiness, General | on February 24th, 2009| 1 Comment »

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  1. On 4/2/2009 at 10:31 pm Dominic Said:

    Hi!
    I have a CE-590 that I’ll be playing around with. It has 1gb of ram, a PIII-600, 2x36gb SCSI drives, etc.
    It also has the same on-board ports (floppy, IDE, VGA, PS/2). I have worked out that it cannot boot from an IDE CD-ROM drive and, since I don’t have a floppy drive lying around, I’ll be trying to get it running off a n IDE HDD.
    Did you end up making any headway with yours?

    Kind regards,
    Dominic