Regarding the USB DOK setup, you basically need to place one of the distro tarballs on the DOK (un-tarred), the rest was already done for you. Use it as a reference if you like.
The ESIA is basically based on the sheeva Installer but extends the usability by allowing users to place different distros on the DOK and install one that they like.
There are several potential users:
1) plug newBs that wana try some distro out
2) potential customers that can use the web based installation scheme
1. I cannot get the Device page to display any info on my plug, it can "see" it but all the details are N/A. Does this work yet?
This could be tricky since the ESIA tries to intercept the uboot reboot countdown, you can try reset and click on the rescan button from the menu bar. I find the best way to close the ESIA , open a console and manage to stop the uboot countdown, then close the console application and open the ESIA .
2. Reading the instructions, it seems that I HAVE to install a USB stick on the Sheevaplug on all operations, even if I am loading a kernel from a "web" address. The sheeva plug has to load something from the USB stick that enables it to d/l from an IP address HOW? WHY? If the final D/L fails, does the plug get restored to the original state?
The ESIA uses the DOK as the way to transfer the binaries to the plug, if you only need to update the kernel I would just wget it, the ESIA is best for uboot burning and full distro burn. You could also upload the distro from the plug (backup option), place the new kernel in the backuped image and burn it back but that seems to me like a waist of time.
The backup option is not functional so it is not an option now.
3. How can I set load addresses for the down loadable information. i.e. how do I set parameters?
If you referring to load addresses, you would need to modify the ESIA source code, there is no configurable option.
4. Can I build systems on SD and USB sticks or is ESIA limited to D/L to nand?
The ESIA supports burning the kernel/distro to nand/mmc.
5. If I just want to reload a new uboot.bin, where do I put it? Do I need to build the complete "app" directory
Place the new uboot in the c:\Program Files\ESIA\uboot\uboot.bin
directory (or the equivalent path in Linux based ESIA installation)
6. Can this do a "bare iron" re-install or does the Plug have to be running a system?
The plug does not have to be running anything, it can be bricked. The ESIA sets the uboot parameters to make the plug load the initrd from USB and continue burn operation as was done by the Sheeva Installer.
7. Why can't the ESIA generate the md5 checksums, instead of the user having to do it?
The reason for this is that we assume you downloaded the kernel/distro and should have downloaded the md5 too, the ESIA perform validation of this MD5. If it was doing the MD5 there would not be any validation on the binaries.