12 May, 2011

A little home server that could

Posted by: Urban In: english|gadgets

My home server is an old EEE 701 netbook with a 2TB WD elements attached. My selection process was mostly guided by three factors: I wanted a small and silent system with low power consumption.

I was considering many alternatives, among them a PC Engines Alix machine (500MHz Geode + 256MB RAM) with only 3-5 watts of power consumption, but eventually I decided on a 7″ EEE, for the following reasons:

  • integrated UPS (laptop battery with >2hrs of life; saved me more than once)
  • integrated monitor and keyboard (priceless when things get dirty)
  • expandable RAM (I installed 1GB)
  • low power consumption (with disabled wifi, screen and camera) at 7-9W
  • slightly faster CPU than Alix (EEE is underclocked from 900 to 600MHz, which should extend battery life. I played with overclocking, but concluded it was not worth the fear of an occasional unexpected freeze)
  • much lower power consumption than modern-day quad cores, but just as much CPU power as high-end PCs 10 years ago (much more is not needed for a file server anyway)
  • small form factor
  • cheap (can obtain a second-hand replacement for a small price, should one be needed)
  • had one lying around anyway, collecting dust.

I run on it a n-lited Windows XP. I gave this a lot of thought and was deciding between XP, Ubuntu and the original Xandros. Still have two of them installed (on separate media: internal SSD and a SD card), but eventually XP won because of the following reasons:

  • On-the-fly NTFS compression (reduces used storage on 4GB SSD system disk from 3.9GB to 2.8GB and my data from 1500 to 1200GB; in other words: with more than 1GB of junk installed in program files, the 4GB internal drive is still only 65% full; NTFS also supports shadow copies of open files and hard links for rsync link farm backups).
  • Some windows-only services and utils I use (EyeFi server, Fitbit uploader, Total CommanderWinDirStat, etc.).
  • Actually *working* remote desktop (as compared to various poor-performing VNC-based solutions).
  • N-lited XP (with most of unnecessary services completely removed) has a memory footprint of <100 MB and easily clocks 6 months of uptime.

I do occasionally regret my choice, but for now familiarity and convenience still trump unrealized possibilities. But upcoming BTRFS might be just enough to tip the scale in favor of Linux.


What I run on it

  • Filezilla server for remote FTP access (I use FTP-SSL only)
  • Rsync server (Deltacopy) to efficiently sync stuff from remote locations
  • WinSSHD to scp stuff from remote locations
  • Remote desktop server for local access
  • Windows/samba shares for easy local file access
  • Firefly for exposing MP3 library to PC/Mac computers running iTunes (v1586 works best, later versions seem to hang randomly)
  • A cloud backup service to push the most important stuff to the cloud
  • EyeFi server, so photos automatically sync from camera to the server
  • “Time Machine server”, which is nothing but a .sparsebundle on a network share, allowing me to backup my Mac machines (tutorial)
  • Gmailbackup, which executes as a scheduled task.


Some other random considerations and notes

  • Disable swap file when using SSD (especially such a small one).
  • No more partitions for large drives: I just “split” the 2TB drive into dirs. The times of partitioning HDDs are long gone and such actions brought nothing but pain when a small partition was getting full and needed resizing. Think of dirs as of “dynamic pools”.
  • No WiFi means no reliability issues, more bandwidth, more free spectrum for other users and more security.
  • WD Elements runs 10ºC cooler than WD Mybook when laid horizontally and is also cheaper.
  • Use Truecrypt containers to mount sensitive stuff. When machine is rebooted, they are unmounted and useless until the password is entered again.
  • Use PKI auth instead of keyboard-interactive authentication for publicly open remote connections.
  • Use firewall to allow only connections from trusted sources.

In any case, this is just a file/media/backup server and I’ve been quite satisfied with it so far (I’ve been using it for over a year). However, all my web servers are virtual, hosted elsewhere and regularly rsynced to this one.

Be Sociable, Share!
  • dare

    i’m impressed. se posebej, da mas cas merit temperaturo diska v razlicnih legah :)
    seriously, mene si preprical. pravis, da se dobijo rabljeni po 100 EUR?

    ej, kaj ce bi tole cross-postal na Obrlizg? men se zdi ful fajn geeky stuff

  • wujetz

    mene tud preprical…

    sam eno vprasanje – a je zadeva dovolj mocna, da postavis gor se kak game server (BF, CS,…)?

  • Urban

    @dare: tole s temperaturo sem odkril slucajno, ker vsake toliko zalaufam odlicen in zastonj CrystalDiskInfo (pove kdaj se v SMART zacnejo nabirat napake, kar pomeni da bo disk odletu). Tam je blo pa z velikimi rdecimi crkami pisalo 60ºC, kar ni good; WD Elements ne pride cez 45ºC.

    za rabljene poglej na bolho; zdele lih edn prodaja za 99eur celo z 2GB rama..

    @wujetz: nimam pojma kok to pozre cpuja; stock frekveca je underclockana na 630MHz, normalna je nekih 900MHz, lahko ga pa navijes celo do 1GHz (enostavno izberes brzino iz menija odlicnega utilitija ).
    Giga je ze solidna brzina, ampak za to mors met neko mal bolse hlajenje (vsaj ventilator na max)

    za kej vec info prever forum zagrizenih userjev:

  • Pingback: Mozaik. » Blog Archive » A better home server

  • jaymemaurice: Old post - but you also lose out on a great multi-threading CIFS implementation by using Samba.
  • araj:  Thanks a lot for the reply and the suggestions will definitely help me.
  • Urban: Unfortunately, no.. I didn't have the slightest idea how to approach such post-mortem diagnostics. USB flash drives use wear leveling, which


Researcher at FE, LTFE,
founder at Obelisk, programmer, photographer,
technology enthusiast, etc.

See what I share on Google Reader, and elsewhere.

Recently added pictures

Tokyo's Fifth Avenue Shinkansens Meeting Fish Orange Buildings Tokyo TV Building Bridge