you can customize the web interface. I just use the internal lighthttpd and symlink folders with permissions. You can do php or many things with it. Just note that it is a 200mhz ARM processor with 32mb of ram.
For network boot, you should be able to compile a tftp server for network boots or network installations.
I am not sure if the WB is fast enough to run an os off of efficiently.
I too suffered a world book that did not work.
I purchased 2 of the 500GiB, not too long ago and the first one worked perfect. The second one worked for about 3-5 min and then would never come back on. The blue light started blinking randomly and then just stopped while the drives were spinning. They are clearanced and hard to find but luckily I was able to get a replacement.
Interestingly enough, the one that worked was wrapped in clear plastic, and the one that failed was wrapped in pink plastic.
Then my other world book has an issue while on DHCP, it will randomly change its ip to broadcast (.255) and the routers would not recognize it, hard coding the ip fixed the problem. The other one does not experience this.
Also my original working one is a different firmware version, but both say there are no upgrades avail… As does the WD upgrade site with any version of firmware passed to it.
But I have had no hardware based issues since that original bad one.