Swapping between Pogoplug Original and Custom Firmware

I’ve successfully booted Arch Linux Arm (ALARM) on my Pogoplug V2, after following the installation instructions. I’ve used an old 1 GB USB Memory Stick for the installation.

If the Pogoplug is booted while the USB stick is attached, it boots the Arch Linux. But if it’s booted while the USB is detached, it simply boots the original firmware, and I can see my Pogoplug on my.pogoplug.com as normal.

I was wondering if I can swap between the original firmware and ALARM without having to detach/attach the ALARM USB stick.

uBoot (the boot loader) identified the bootable USB by trying to mount ext2 filesystem on the first partition of every attached USB stick/disk. If it can mount the first partition as ext2, it then checks if a kernel exists at the following path (case sensitive):


if a kernel is found, it loads it and continues the booting process. But if no kernel is found on any of the attached USB drives, it simply boots the original firmware.

Hence, we can have uBoot booting ALARM by keeping the kernel file. And we can have uBoot booting the original firmware by renaming the kernel file, so that it can’t find it.

If we are using an initial ram disk file (uInitrd) along with the kernel file (uImage), then we need to rename uInitrd file same as we do with uImage in the following example.

check Booting Pogoplug From The Correct USB Disk for more information on why we may need to use uInitrd file.

Here is an example for this process.

Suppose we have already booted ALARM, and we just want to reboot into the original firmware:

We login to Pogoplug using SSH as the root user, and run the following commands to rename the kernel file and reboot:

mv /boot/uImage /boot/uImage.hide

Now Pogoplug should boot the original firmware.

Now suppose we want to go back to ALARM:

We login to Pogoplug using SSH as root user, and check the mounted disks (the original firmware auto mounts all the attached USB drives).

-bash-3.2# mount
rootfs on / type rootfs (rw)
/dev/root on / type jffs2 (ro)
none on /proc type proc (rw)
none on /sys type sysfs (rw)
none on /dev/pts type devpts (rw)
none on /tmp type tmpfs (rw)
none on /proc/bus/usb type usbfs (rw)
/tmp/.cemnt/sda1 on /tmp/.cemnt/mnt_sda1 type ext3 (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,noatime,data=ordered)
/tmp/.cemnt/sdb1 on /tmp/.cemnt/mnt_sdb1 type ext3 (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,noatime,data=ordered)
/tmp/.cemnt/sdb2 on /tmp/.cemnt/mnt_sdb2 type ext3 (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,noatime,data=ordered)
/tmp/.cemnt/sdb3 on /tmp/.cemnt/mnt_sdb3 type ufsd (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,noatime,nls=utf8,uid=0,gid=0,fmask=22,dmask=22,nocase,force)
/tmp/.cemnt/sdb4 on /tmp/.cemnt/mnt_sdb4 type ufsd (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,noatime,nls=utf8,uid=0,gid=0,fmask=22,dmask=22,nocase,sparse,force)

If we have more than one USB drive, then we check the first partition of each one to see which of them is the ALARM USB.

In the case above, it’s sda1, so we browse to the kernel directory, and rename the kernel file back to its original name, sync changes, and then reboot

cd /tmp/.cemnt/mnt_sda1/boot/
mv uImage.hide uImage

Now Pogoplug should reboot into ALARM again.

With this simple approach, we can go back and forth between ALARM (or any other custom Pogoplug firmware), and the original firmware without having to detach/attach USB sticks. Which is wonderful if you are already accessing your Pogoplug remotely.

9 thoughts on “Swapping between Pogoplug Original and Custom Firmware

  1. Before I attempt to do it, does this trick work on Pogoplug V4 A3?
    I am sorry if I have missed it anywhere on your blog, but I am trying to find a way to restore (from ALARM) my original Pogoplug V4 firmware permanently. Any guide/link with reliable instructions?

    Thank you in advance!

  2. if you look into permanent rollback to original firmware, then I guess the way to go is as explained in (http://archlinuxarm.org/platforms/armv5/pogoplug-series-4) “Advanced” tab.

    But if you look into swapping between the two systems, then I suggest to unplug the flash and try booting and see if it boot into the original firmware. If it does, then I think the above technique will work as well. (which simply hides the kernel of ALARM from uBoot).

  3. I have tried the simple technique described on ALARM’s website, but it did not work. I am curious to see if it has worked for other people.

    Honestly, I do not want to experiment with hidding files since I am not a Linux guy. I would do it, if this approach had been tested before successfully on Pogo V4.

    Thank you for your help!

    • This is strange!
      And does it boot successfully to ALARM in the first place?
      If it does, then it’s possible to check the uboot parameters and see what’s wrong.

  4. this didn’t work.

    i followed this step:
    mv /boot/uImage /boot/uImage.hide

    and now my pogoplug won’t boot – with or without the flash drive. I’ve had trouble getting into the stock firmware before, so I was running it on arch the last 2 years, but now I can’t even boot that.

    I don’t have a serial cable and can’t ssh into the box anymore.

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