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I'm thinking about buying a cheap router and setting up OpenWRT with apache and ftp on it. My idea is to buy an ethernet enclosure & a HDD and hook it up to OpenWRT to replace flash root filesystem. Will this enclosure work as I expect?

Or perhaps I can abuse ethernet port with "etnernet to USB" connector, hook up an USB HDD, boot OpenWRT and mount the HDD as USB HDD?

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The enclosure will likely work except for the fact that you mention wanting to replace the root file system. That part isn't going to work so well. Even if you could work out the driver modules in the kernel and root-device rotation during boot, you wouldn't want your root file system on a network device.

I suggest you probably want to look into some other embedded linux board with either a compact flash or real IDE header if you want something to run apache on and need disk space. There are plenty of players in this field.

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