Debian on the WD TV Live – debian-wdlxtv-live

Earlier this month playdude made an interesting comment on the WDTV Live firmware development page. It intrigued me and I brought up the debian guide on debbootstrap, but never really went into it much further…Until a user on wdtvforum, Bob, went through the process and posted his results. Now Debian on the WDTV Live was back at my attention. I brought up the firefox window that had been sitting alone (yes, still) on an unused desktop awaiting my return. What was the next rational step you wonder? WDTV Live booting right into Debian of course :D

I started out by debbootstrap’ing a mounted ext2 root.bin to Lenny, then copied in every file that makes up wdlxtv–so that, you know, in addition to just running Debian we can also view videos and stuff :D Once I had the root.bin produced it took a bit of debugging and a couple small tweaks to get everything working, but its pretty stable now. The root.bin is 1GB, so be prepared when unzipping it. This firmware does not flash itself, instead it runs ‘live’.

NOTE: If you aren’t already stoked from what I’ve said so far then this is probably not for you. This is a full fledged Debian Lenny system and will require actual Linux knowledge to get anything done. The sky is the limit though ;)


debian-wdlxtv-live is based on WDLXTV-LIVE-, in the future I will release an update script so you can update debian-wdlxtv core files without having to use an entirely new bin file.

root password is wdtvlive.

Similar to ext3-boot-live (development version of wdlxtv-live) the root.bin must be located on the device which your WDTV Live detects as /dev/sda1. So if root.bin exists on /dev/sda1, then debian-wdlxtv-live will be loaded evidenced by:

cat /conf_src/version

This means instant access to everything Debian offers, like rtorrent, nzbget, lighttpd, python, gcc, etc.

Big thanks to Debian for making an extremely diverse operating system!!!

I’m working on live filesystem booting, to get away from the root.bin, but there are a few issues I still need to work through with that–therefore it doesn’t work yet. Soon.

Coming soon, ;)

I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time hacking the WD TV firmware[s], so if you appreciate my efforts please donate a little something using the link below : ) Thanks & enjoy.

November 27th, 2009 09:09

thank you (B-rad and Bob) for your efforts !

Is there a way to shrink the root.bin’s (DEBIAN-WDLXTV-LIVE) size ? I want to try this on a 1GB pendrive.

I’m not familiar with linux so I’m waiting for the optware “thing” for WLive (maybe it’s easier to set up).


<<< edit:
dd if=/dev/zero of=new.root.bin bs=1024k count=768
mke2fs -F -L debian-wdlxtv new.root.bin
mkdir /tmp/big /tmp/smaller
mount -o loop root.bin /tmp/big
mount -o loop new.root.bin /tmp/smaller
rsync -avHS /tmp/big/* /tmp/smaller
umount /tmp/big
umount /tmp/smaller
mv root.bin root.bin.old
mv new.root.bin root.bin

;) –b-rad >>>

November 27th, 2009 12:45

just downloaded a linux system (kubuntu), and tried the method you wrote.

I’ve got a problem with 2nd line (mke2fs …).
Terminal gave me this error message:
“mke2fs: invalid fragment size – -L”

Tried google, so I tried 512, 1024 etc. No luck.

1024 result was:
“Warning: fragments not supported. Ignoring -f option”….
“new.root.bin is not a block special device
Proceed anyway? (y,n)”

512 was:
“invalid fragment size”

Maybe my linux distribution is not the perfect choice… but could you help me with this problem?

<<< edit: sorry, big eff instead of little. Original post corrected. –b-rad >>>

November 27th, 2009 12:56

OMG b-rad, thanks a ton for all of your work! Your progress is truly amazing. You really should be working for WD and make this stuff official! :D

Do you think this could be also expanded to work with the WDTV?

The WDTV seems so hackable… If it’s possible to get a debian system running, I wonder it would be possible to run other distros running, get gnome working, or even *gasp* VLC running. If a mips compilation of VLC were used maybe people won’t be locked into the limitations of the codecs that come with the official firmware. Think something along these lines could mean DTS support for the WDTV (since it’s not using the built in official player)? Maybe VLC under gnome would be too much, so possibly a framebuffer could be used instead?

Just wondering what your thoughts were on this. Sorry in advance if my questions have been answered already or if they’re just dumb.

Thanks again, you rock!

(P.S. – It seems like you made this version a live version only because it was too big for the internal flash, but I personally like “live” versions better, like the ext3-boot. They’re easier to swap different versions and easier on the life span of the internal flash. Would it be too much work to have 2 versions of every release you make – one flashable and one live?)

<<< edit: Its ‘live’ because apt-get and a lot of other pieces of debian rely on writeable root, where the internal NAND is read only. I wouldn’t be worried about lifespan either; I’ve probably flashed my original wdtv thousands of times, plus I’ve bricked it a handful of times requiring manual intervention–and its still just like new ;) As for ext3-boot-live? Hmm…well…ok, just for you: ext3-boot-live. –b-rad >>>

November 27th, 2009 13:10

Sorry ignore my previous comment (except for the part where I say how awesome you are hahaha). I just found out there’s no framebuffer. :(

<<< edit: Theres no X. The WM is microwindows, now known as nanoX. The biggest problem is that even if everything fell into place and there was a desktop and X there would still be no acceleration using the 8655 since that is closed off and proprietary. Have you ever tried watching a 1080p mkv on a 500MHz computer with 200MB ram? –b-rad >>>

November 27th, 2009 14:47

The same chroot trick will also work with the original WDTV. I successfully chrooted into Debian into my WDTV and was able to compile rtorrent and transmission in there.

<<< edit: I’m about to backport a lot of wdlxtv-live changes into wdlxtv, I’ll see about making a debian root.bin for original. –b-rad >>>

November 27th, 2009 17:04

Succesfully chrooted into debian, compiled rtorrent, but now I can’t see my ext. hard drive. Can you please tell me, how to mount it?

November 27th, 2009 20:18

I’ll answer myself: “Just mount your ext. hard drive, before you chroot”

November 28th, 2009 02:51

can’t make it to work

i have wdlxtv-live i put the root.bin on a usbstick fat32 put it in usb1
than reboot then i only see the background no menu no nothing

<<< edit: try, try, then try some more. -b-rad >>>

November 30th, 2009 02:18

Great stuff b-rad. I must get round to dropping a donation your way.

Has anyone been brave enough to ‘upgrade’ sid? I gave it a go, but haven’t had time to check it very much.

Getting warnings about libssl and libcrypt not being built with version numbers.

Once again, thanks!

November 30th, 2009 04:23

That’s what happens when upgrading from Stable to Unstable. Library versions will break and all sorts of dependency issues occur. So how about aiming for the middle and going with Squeeze? It works :D .

I’ve always dreamed of chrooting into Debian Squeeze on a mipsel machine. After running debootstrap from my Lenny PC to generate a Squeeze file system for mipsel, I copied it to my wdtv Live, and not hoping for much, did chroot. To my surprise, I was able to chroot into Squeeze. So this was good news. Squeeze must have been happy with kernel of the wdtv Live. Running debootstrap again brought Squeeze up to date and ready for some apt-get action! Now it was time to see if my dream would come true. Would I be able to run deluged on it? With fingers crossed, I waited impatiently after running apt-get install deluge deluged. And to my surprise again, it went without a hitch. Time to run deluged. I knew it wouldn’t run. Surely lightning wouldn’t strike three times. Well, it did run. Now I dared to hope. Started the deluge webui, and it ran without any issue too. Logged into the webui at port 8112. Worked too. Now this was getting ridiculous. Something would go wrong. Tried logging in using the GTK interface, and that worked too! What was going on?

Now I have deluge set it up to download 4 torrents at a time. Now I can add 10 or 20 torrents more without worrying about flooding my machine with connections and using up resources because the Queue function of deluge will take care of it.

Should we start bragging that our wdtv Live machines are the first embedded media players capable of running Deluge 1.2.0-rc3?

November 30th, 2009 07:49

My comment was deleted.

I was wondering, with the introduction of Debian do you think it would be possible to run XBMC.

<<< edit: never –b-rad >>>

November 30th, 2009 14:49

Haha.. great.. let’s see if I can remember the commands from my old slackware days ;-)

B-rad.. thank you very very much for pushing the wdtv towards it’s full potential!

November 30th, 2009 16:08

I got deleted too…

Any chance that Debian on the WDTV Live will lead to YAMJ support of some kind?


<<< edit: completely unrelated & impossible atm. –b-rad >>>

December 2nd, 2009 02:34

playdude: is it possible to publish your workaround (and the compiled files…) to running Deluge on WDTVLive /especially for linux newbie users/ ? :)

December 2nd, 2009 09:15

b-rad: Thanks for the clarification

December 2nd, 2009 11:29

Is there a way to browse the web with the wdtv live, with debian or custom firmware? Any hope or solution maybe in the future?

<<< edit: yeh, install lynx ;) -b-rad >>>

December 3rd, 2009 23:03


Here are the instructions. They’re still very messy. Hopefully you won’t get too confused by them. Cheers.

December 4th, 2009 00:38

playdude: thank you ! I will try tonight. (google could help me if I get stuck :) )

December 4th, 2009 10:39

Hi b-rad,
Sorry for going Off-Topic, but did you take a look at the WDTV Gen.2 firmware if it is possible to crossflash your WDLXTV Live firmwares onto it?
The only difference for an outsider like me seems to be the missing LAN port on the WDTV Gen.2 compared to WDTV Live?

<<< edi: There are more differences than that and I guarantee you’d brick your gen2 if you actually managed to somehow flash it. I won’t be working on gen2 unless someone buys me one. –b-rad >>>

December 5th, 2009 07:18


I am looking for a custom version source that I can burn on the WDTVLIVE so that it is locked into my website alone, with a Web Browser feature where I can enter a website name and a web based configuration and lock-in of the setup.

Can you please provide such a version?

I have $100 ready to be sent out using PayPal.


Seshu Kanuri

< << edit: $100 wouldn't even cover a tenth of what you're requesting. --b-rad >>>

December 5th, 2009 09:09


I am using Monoprice dongle which has been confirmed working by others (same thing as Sabrent and Arkview, different name). The dongle works on my PC and seems to be recognized by WD TV. The log saver shows references to it (WDTV-a32b5 user.notice root: [0b95:1780] 1-1( 2.00,480m) AX88178 /000002). However, I am not able to get an IP no matter what I do. I’ve tried everything I could think of: cold boots, resets, passive hubs, powered hubs, direct connect to WD, DHCP or no DHCP, reverted back to every single firmware since, and still no luck. I would really appreciate any ideas you might have, as I’m fresh out of things to try …

Thanks in advance.

<<< edit: why are you posting this comment on the Debian on WDTV Live page? Go to a forum. –b-rad >>>

December 5th, 2009 12:28

b-rad: Sorry, I thought I was on WDLXTV page. Too many windows open …

December 6th, 2009 11:49



That can tell about it. In what here a problem?

<<< edit: You’ve done something bad to the original firmware partition, it can’t boot from the second and it stuck in upgrade mode now. –b-rad >>>

December 6th, 2009 18:10

I’m experiencing reboot problem. When I type reboot -f into console, the WDTV never reach booted up state. But when I unplug the power connector and plug it again, the WDTV boots up normally. I’m running Debian-WDLXTV now, so i think the problem is there, because without Debian it works as it should. Any ideas?

December 7th, 2009 12:23

Why does my WDTV Live display

WDTVLIVE:~# cat /conf_src/version

and not I downloaded the root.bin today. So it’s not because it is outdated.

<<< edit: probably because I neglected to tack on a .1 ;) –b-rad >>>

December 7th, 2009 20:58

Presumably a USB DVB tuner could be used to dump digital TV directly to an attached hard drive?

= WDTV Live PVR?

<<< edit: If you make it happen. –b-rad >>>

December 8th, 2009 03:00

The device still probably to restore? How?

<<< edit: Go to a forum and ask, there is not enough space here for me to give you a detailed writeup on fixing your device. –b-rad >>>

December 9th, 2009 01:41

Thanks to b-rad for all his effort!
One simple question.
Does the debian-wdlxtv-live run entierly from the root.bin file? Is it just like a “live cd” ?
Does it use any of the files internally in the wd tv live at all?


<<< edit: NAND flash is umounted and entire system runs live. –b-rad >>>

Mads Storm Andersen
December 9th, 2009 08:32

Just got the WD TV Live, and within min. it’s running lasted( hacked fw. But I can’t login.
root/ ???? wdtvlive ??

Not working..Something I am missing ??


Mads Storm Andersen
December 9th, 2009 09:35

Got in.. Just a normal telnet without pw..

December 9th, 2009 13:59

Thanks for the reply b-rad.
I have been pkaying with debian-wdlxtv-live, installed nfs-common for my nfs share. I am trying to mount the filesystem on my laptop with sshfs, I read I need openssh server to get it to work but this requires some X related dependencies. What kind of ssh server is already installed in the root.bin? I also see a lot of the same enteries in the fstab, is it suppose to be this way?
One last thing. what is the proper way to shutdown debian? Standby disconnets usb and thats no good shutdown..? can I use “shutdown -h now” ?
Yes I know I have a lot of questions, but I thank you for all your help!!

December 10th, 2009 01:24

I noticed that every time i use a xmount or when booting the system the files /etc/fstab and /etc/mtab are expanded with a mount command to mount the stick
/dev/sda1 /tmp/media/usb/Transcend vfat rw 0 0

and then for each NFS shares and entry is added to the end of the file and strange enough when it added one entry per NFS share on every boot the entries are repeated, i.e. after 7 boots I have 7 entries of every NFS share in net.mounts.

<<< edit: this amongst many other small bugs are being addressed. hang tight. –b-rad >>>

December 10th, 2009 13:03

Poweroff is not really poweroff, it just disconnects power from the USB. Now with Debian this disconnects the root file system ;-) and now how can I wake it up again without power cycle the box?

<<< edit: This is the biggest issue since day #1. I’m investigating methods to work around. –b-rad >>>

December 12th, 2009 06:23

I can´t resolve any Hostname with telnet etc … ping is working well.

telnet 563

doesnt work for example. Dont´get any Connect. Any hint?

<<< edit: I’ve fixed hostname resolution, will be included in next release–due out soon. –b-rad >>>

December 13th, 2009 05:11

Ok now all is working fine. Was a right-problem. On my Live runs now the Wired-Client and SABnzbd.


December 14th, 2009 12:08

any chance that debian support may see XBMC on WDTV?

<<< edit: Most likely never. –b-rad >>>

December 14th, 2009 13:44

took me 10 minutes to find work around for standby disconnecting live (root.bin style) filesystem ;> yep, i was lucky ;P

<<< edit: Awesome, this was on my critical to do list–next in line :D Please share, this really opens up everything now. –b-rad >>>

December 14th, 2009 22:42

0x2b55c4 in dmaosd, check mail ;P

<<< ;) –b-rad >>>

December 21st, 2009 20:47

Cool stuff; WD TV Live on HDMI, Debian (with wierd “df” output) on ssh.

But: from my experience, this only works with root.bin on a FAT32-/dev/sda1; I mke2fs’d a 1 TB USB-HDD, put root.bin onto it and — nothing (WDXLTVLIVE ran, USB-HDD was seen as /dev/sda1).

root.bin on an FAT32 2-GB-USB-Stick instead works.

December 29th, 2009 16:03

Very Interesting stuff indeed, I am by no means a linux guru, although I do do some development as a hobby, Im not sure if any of you are familiar with XBMC ( but it is by far the best Media Player Software I have ever used, and they have a bootable live linux version… Do you think there is a way to boot this from a pen drive, its only 500mb, and then then through in a hub? That would be awesome.

let me know your thoughts, cheers

<<< edit: Never going to happen. –b-rad >>>

December 29th, 2009 16:10


How to run XBMC on debian

December 31st, 2009 03:12

Hi b-rad,

thank you for your fantastic work!
It is possible for you to integrate openssl or something like that???

Thx and a happy new year!

January 9th, 2010 01:26

Well.. everybody seems to be asking for something. If Western Digital’ programmers team can’t keep up with all the issues of WDTVLIVE, how can you expect from a single one (an outsider) to do it all ?
Great work, B-RAD, I admire you dedication.

<<< edit: cheers ;) –b-rad >>>

January 14th, 2010 05:23

Hey B-rad, really great work :D

One Question: Is it possible to add kernel sources or kernel headers to build extra modules?

Greetz mitch

January 20th, 2010 03:53

Hi b-rad,
I´f got the FW version 1.01.17 on my WD Live, I can´t boot from USB.
The Stick is on the WDBox but nothing happens.

Thx for help

January 22nd, 2010 03:16

Hi, i have a little problem, i live the wd with debian with rtorrent running and later(many hours) when i go to conect by ssh i not able to log in it give me an error(but an connection error) but if check the downloads rtorrent is working then debian too.

February 20th, 2010 07:06

nice work! but I’m not be able to make it working …
USB pen FAT32 on USB1 with root.bin in the root directory.
Wdtvlive works as original (menu and media center functionalities) but I can’t enter in ssh or telnet.
I need to flash your wdtvlive firmware before trying with debianlive firmware?

Thanks a lot


<<< edit: of course ;) –b-rad >>>

February 26th, 2010 06:50

can I use DEBIAN_WDLXTV_LIVE- with your firmware ?

March 1st, 2010 07:12

Can you port a broswer(firefox or other) to work with hack firmware (not debian) with a virtual keyboard like iphone?

<<< edit: impossible, there is no X. –b-rad >>>

July 11th, 2010 21:18

Hi brad,
very tanx
sorry about my bad english
you told that the gui is nanox ,it is possible to change the application-window completely ?
,also i think there is some 2d acceleration in wdtv are those acceleration usable in new systems (api ready)
so we can port debian and build a light xbmc version to is enough to run mplayer

<<< edit: Have at it then, I’m not putting a single second of effort in as it interests me zero ;) –b-rad >>>

August 10th, 2011 16:15

Is ist possible to use the WDTV with debian as a Desktop Computer? Like Webbrowsing, Email,
and Running a windowmanager?

Sorry ms englisch is not Good…


<<< edit: Zero chance. Theres no X and sigma display engine is proprietary. –brad >>>

January 28th, 2012 09:43

Would it be possible to get windows 8 running with a keyboard and the Metro UI on WDTV?

How about Ubuntu TV?

<< edit: w8, not a chance. –brad >>

January 28th, 2012 09:45

Confirmed. WDTV can display as a pass through box within Google TV. This may open the door to integration with WDTV via apps developed to control WDTV and an IR blaster from Google TV.