A server at home!?

I don’t have one of these…
Wikimedia image © William Viker

I’ve mentioned my home server and before I get into all the details of what I’m setting up I thought I’d explain what I mean. Don’t think that I’ve got a data centre in my garage or anything like that… not yet. It’s just a computer that’s left on all the time to perform tasks that don’t need direct interaction via screen and keyboard.

That sounds very geeky, and not something your average person would want, but think about it – chances are you’ve already got a device that meets that definition. Even a Sky+ box is just a specialised computer that’s left on all the time – it has a hard drive, processor and memory and has to be left on – even in standby – in order to record programmes on schedule. Network storage devices like the Apple Time Capsule are also small specialised computers. Even your home router qualifies.

Stepping up from that, devices like the Synology NAS are closer to traditional servers. As well as pure file storage they run applications to work as media servers and can run other applications that would otherwise require dedicated devices, such as CCTV recording.

You don’t have to be a geek to run a server, and you can easily end up with several devices that are, to all intents and purposes, specialist servers.

If you are a geek, though, you’ll probably want to run a small PC with a general purpose operating system and combine several functions into a single device with total freedom over which software packages you use. You can explain it away as a useful learning exercise, a way of building skills that might be useful to your career, or a way to save money as an alternative to multiple devices but you might as well admit it – it’s your hobby, it’s fun, it’s what you do.

I have one of these…

It doesn’t mean leaving a noisy and power hungry desktop PC on 24×7. A lot of this stuff can be done on a Raspberry Pi with some storage, and there are a number of vendors who sell slightly more powerful devices that are still reasonably power efficient. I chose the Acer Revo One – a model with 8GB of RAM, 1TB of disk and a quad core i5 processor. It’s small and neat, but can be expanded to take up to three drives in total for plenty of storage.

Of course, the first thing I did was remove Windows and install Linux. There’s no need for a screen or keyboard and it’s just tucked away next to the router.

So far it’s running a media server, the Zoneminder CCTV system, an ESB and a web server to run a couple of small applications. It also acts as a file server for backups from my main PC, with selected files automatically backed up to Dropbox.

That’s the background, and this blog is largely going to be about how I set it up in the first place and what I’m doing with it next.

in Home Automation

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