Dominic Cleal's Blog

Xylogics Annex
I picked up an old Xylogics Annex Els serial concentrator a few days ago with the aim of using it as a serial console server to remotely log into machines. To my surprise, it's been a breeze to get working, thanks to a few useful web pages. The first thing I learnt was that it needed a TFTP server to boot up on the main RJ45 network interface from a packet dump of the bootup procedure. The firmware is available from Nortel's support pages.

Once that was in place, the device booted up and I could then telnet into it. The root/admin password on the device was just the IP address, as noted by Jason Heiss.

For the serial connections, RJ45 socket to DB9 socket adaptors are available cheaply from CPC with part number CNAD45/9F (photo). These are easily connected, with N6UOW's guide on serial connections - available at

The specific connection diagram for PC hardware is the AFDCE92 - the colours listed are accurate on the above CPC adaptors. You should be able to leave out the flow control lines, unless you need them as it requires connecting up pins 1 and 6. I managed it with a soldering iron, but it's messy, especially if you have lots to do. The adaptor can then be plugged straight onto a PC and then an RJ45 patch cable used to link the adaptor and the Annex.

I had to reset all of the ports through the CLI interface on the Annex first, as they were set up to rlogin into another host. When they're reset, you can use them as normal by connecting via telnet and entering the port number required. You can also add history by changing the ps_history_buffer setting in the 'admin' program on a per-port basis.

You can also add the rotary settings, as described on Jason's page above into a config.annex file, which is just placed on the TFTP server. You can also specify a prefix for the TFTP path via the tftp_load_dir Annex setting, e.g. "annex/".
Customisable sshd
Just been looking at lshd, another SSH daemon implementation. It looks interesting as you can use a custom authenticator in the form of an external executable, instead of using PAM/NSS modules to do the same under OpenSSH etc.

I'm thinking of using it as a frontend to the Annex previously mentioned, which I can use to control access to each port easily. I'm also looking at providing logging facilities, instead of the "scrollback" type facility built into the Annex.