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One Home Server To Rule Them All!

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Last response: in Open Source Software
March 3, 2008 7:49:02 PM


I have some hardware and a dream...

To build a linux home server to rule them all (my network connected devices).

What I want it to do.

1) Wireless/Wired Firewall, Gateway, Router and DHCP server "a la" DD-Wrt. Including SSH access to my home network.
2) SMB file server for PC and Mac Clients, also serve web, ftp & whatever (not worried about this already know it can be done).
3) "JetDirect" like IP Printer port print server functionality for parallel port.
4) Torrent box, always on for serving & Downloading.
5) Have some sort of X gui / desktop (or great web management).

Would also be nice if it:

5) Could take over for my VOIP box.
6) Provided VOIP Fax Service.
7) Could add PVR (mythtv?) function later (with a bump to the hardware usb1.1 mpg2 tv tuner?).

Here is what I have.

Compaq uATX Pentium III 933 system w/ 384 MB SDRAM (3 PCI slots)
2 ethernet interfaces (1 on board, both compaq, 1 with wol)
1 dlink PCI wireless G card. (DWL-520)
1 SIL based PCI SATA software Raid 1 / 0 card. 4 Sata 2 eSata (max 4 Drives).
40 GB IDE Boot HDD (May go compact flash or SSD)
CD Rom drive.

I am definitely adding SATA HDDs 500GB to 1 TB at at time.

My questions:

0) Can this be done?
0.5) Without a huge knowledge of linux? I run a hackInt0sh and am somewhat comfortable sudo'ing at the command line.
1) What flavour of linux and why?
2) Is my system capable of this?
2.5) Would I be better off using one of my PCI Slots for USB2/1394 and hanging HDDs (& wireless, tv tuners etc) off of that rather than the wifi card or the sata card? I know usb eats processor cycles for brakfast what about 1394. 2.8) How is USB driver support in linux?
3) Anyone think this will save power over a bunch of small dedicated devices?
3.5) I am a relative n00b, will doing this make me 1337? (joking)

Let me know what you think,


More about : home server rule

March 3, 2008 10:24:16 PM

Ubuntu 7.10 Server + Webmin + TorrentFlux = WIN! I've built a few of these in VMWare with success (When you lack spare hardware, go virtual!).

Check out this guide -

March 4, 2008 7:46:25 AM

Nice little guide there Mr K. In answer to the questions:

0 - Yes. Many people have before.

0.5 - You should be fine.

1. Ubuntu would work well. If nothing else it is well documented and you will be able to find somebody has written some documentation for just about all of that list. Also the method for installing software is easy.

2. Yes. Quite fine. If you had a little more RAM to throw at it great but really you have enough.

2.5 I would personally avoid hanging storage off the USB bus as it is just too slow for me. 1394 is better than USB in the processor cycles game but I don't think that would be much of an issue to you anyway. Rule of thumb PCI bus = easier time than USB bus.

2.8 Ahh. Not perfect. You would be well advised to do a bit of homework before buying a tuner card or the like. My suggestion would be to get the file print side up and working before you worry about this. You could then always use the USB device with the Mac and store data on the newly built server.

3.Not much if any. A small NAS would use a lot less juice and do most of what you want. You mention WRT so I'm assuming you have head of SLUG and the like. One thing you would get though is far more flexibility and a full Linux environment in which to build. Over time you could look at moving the setup to something like a dedicated Mini ITX system to draw less juice. However if you are looking at this from an eco warrior view point using old HW that uses more juice can be off-set against the energy required to build new HW. Get ruthless with the power management options and spin down the disks etc and you can take the edge off things.

3.5 More so than buying an Apple TV ;) 
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March 4, 2008 1:23:12 PM

Thanks guys, seems like Ubuntu is the way to go.

Can anyone address the wireless access point part of the build?
Can I create an infrastructure mode wireless network with wap using a desktop pci wifi card and linux? If so how?

Also - anyone have experience with cheap pci sata raid cards in linux? Will my drives mount at /dev/hdx or whatever?
March 5, 2008 7:54:41 AM

Not done it myself but it can be done. The issue here is driver support. To be honest you will spend enough time looking for the right card that buying a router or AP might be the easier option. It would also mean you could power down the server and still have wireless. I'd be interested to see what others have to say on that point.
March 5, 2008 10:08:51 PM

I'm looking at building one of these myself with some hardware I picked up cheap. I've picked up a PCI ADSL modem to plug my phone line into so I can ditch my D-Link router... Current plan is to build it inside a car rim, back a 16 port switch into it and call it "The Hub" :D 
March 9, 2008 4:58:30 PM

knightrous said:
Ubuntu 7.10 Server + Webmin + TorrentFlux = WIN! I've built a few of these in VMWare with success (When you lack spare hardware, go virtual!).

Check out this guide -

Excellent Idea, I'm doing it now on parallels on my Hacint0sh. I figure with 4 cores and 4GB Ram I can run a couple VMs in a virtual network and test the entire configuration b4 my storage hardware arrives.

Interesting thing with parallels and ubuntu server, you get a kernel panic, seems U-server needs PAE on the processor (go figure I am only giving it 384 GB ram and no swap space).

Here is how to fix:

"If you get this error on Mac OSX when using Parallels:

Kernel panic: CPU too old for this kernel.

Set the image to boot from CD (or iso file). In rescue mode open a shell and run the following to install a new kernel:

apt-get update
apt-get install linux-386
apt-get remove linux-server "

One more Idea, seeing as my server install is less than 1 GB, I think I am going to get a fast 4GB Compact Flash Card and an IDE adapter to try running the OS of an "SDD", It will save heat, power and noise and might even be faster than my current old 20GB boot drive. I think just not using a swap file (partition) should save sufficient write wear and tear on the card to make it feasible. Do it eeePC stye.


March 9, 2008 5:00:04 PM

One more question: in ubuntu server - what does the DNS server option add to the install in terms of services and their funtions?
March 10, 2008 1:03:46 PM

linux_0 said:

You do not normally need a name server on a home storage server

GL :) 

Ok, so it is as simple as I thought...
How do you get the server to handle DHCP & Name services for the network?
I use Dynamic DNS service to find my home network from the "intarwebs". Can I get my server to let me use stuff like, or and have these point to different machines?

Currently I use Nat and port forwarding to achieve this so the webserver is on port 80, but remote desktop for each machine has to sit on a different port (that I have to remember).


March 10, 2008 1:47:28 PM

Running your own name server would not really help with that, you would still need to use dynamic DNS from an external provider since you do not have a static IP.

GL :) 
March 10, 2008 2:01:20 PM

linux_0 said:
Running your own name server would not really help with that, you would still need to use dynamic DNS from an external provider since you do not have a static IP.

GL :) 

I understand that I don't need to run DNS/BIND.
What I'm wondering is how do I get "" to point to, and "" to point to

Right now I use different port numbers and NAT to convert "" to and "" to

Also: Anyone know how to set up an Ubuntu print server as "raw socket" ip printer port (:9100) rather than CUPS or Samba. I would like to keep my printer looking like a "jet direct" print server, It has been working that way for years. I've seen some linux print server images floating around that do this, but they dont seem to explain how to set it up on a linux install rather than as a stand alone appliance.


March 15, 2008 2:47:56 AM

March 15, 2008 11:11:27 AM

With the DNS issue I don't think you will really be able to improve the situation. Both machines have the same external IP so at some point you have to specify the port. All I can suggest is having a trawl through the docs on dyndns, although I've not managed to see anything from a quick look.

In terms of the printer this should be fairly easy for you. The default print manager (System->Administration->Printing) allows you to add a new printer via Appsock / HP Jet Direct. I've not got the HW to test but I just set up a dummy one pointed at localhost and it looks good to go. It was just a click and fill in the gaps process and you get the option to specify the PPD file for the printer. Ubuntu forums or the Wiki will have it documented I'm sure.
April 21, 2008 4:58:45 PM


I have put together a low end MythTV PVR/Server. Right now it has one TV Tuner (that I pulled from my vista media center), and runs TorrentFlux web based torrent client/server, samba windows file sharing, mythtv backend with mythweb, ssh and webmin.

From the original spec, I have not included any router function as I seem to have to keep the wireless router to act as an access point at minimum and If I have to use it, I might as well leave it alone.

I would have to change phone providers and buy hardware to change any of my VOIP setup, so that is on hold.

I have not played with my printer setup, but I feel better just knowing I can get a USB printer now without worrying about how I would network it (my existing print server is parallel only).

I'm loving Torrentflux and the centralized samba storage, seems my Ubuntu box talks to my Mac and PC much faster than they talked to each other. (PC connected via wifi, but working well enough for now).

Currently using dyndns and ssh to connect to my home network from outside. Not feeling secure enough to expose the server to teh Intartubes yet. Aside from having to carry around a preconfigured putty setup on a usb stick with me it seems to be working well.

knightrous: How is your system/setup going? any progress?

My system specs:

Intel 815 series Mobo with onboard video (MythBuntu does not work with this Mobo, must install Ubuntu, then add MythTV)
Intel Onboard Nic
Intel PIII 933 CPU
384 MB PC100/133 ram
WinTV PVR-150
20 GB IDE HDD (800MB Swap, the rest ext3 root)
Silicon Image PCI SATA RAID Card (w/ 2 Seagate 500GB 7200.10 SATA HDDs)
Adaptec/Texas Instruments ieee1394 PCI host card
April 21, 2008 9:26:18 PM

You might want to take a good look at the printers on offer nowadays. I'm sorry I've not got the models but I remember PC Word here in the UK were doing ones with ethernet interfaces for under £170 a while back. A few of the low cost NAS units will also allow you to run a printer off the USB connection so there are a few options open to you.
April 22, 2008 7:48:51 AM

knightrous: How is your system/setup going? any progress?

It's been on the back burner for a few months... dug out the parts last week, decided to bench it all for now, still chasing a stick of 1GB DDR400. Was gonna run it all off a 2.5 "40GB drive, but I'm probably just gonna dump a pair of 3.5" 500GB for storage and an pair of 4GB flash drives in RAID soldered to the USB ports on the mainboard. Still need to get a tiny PSU for it, but they are so 'spensive :sweat: 
April 22, 2008 2:59:33 PM

knightrous said:

Was gonna run it all off a 2.5 "40GB drive, but I'm probably just gonna dump a pair of 3.5" 500GB for storage and an pair of 4GB flash drives in RAID soldered to the USB ports on the mainboard. Still need to get a tiny PSU for it, but they are so 'spensive :sweat: 

Tried Running mine off a 133x High Speed 4GB CF card attached to the IDE Bus. Didn't like the performance. Flash memory != SSD. I was also afraid of putting a swap file on the CF card for fear of wearing it out too fast. Now running it off an old 20GB Seagate 3.5" IDE Drive, using 800MB swap space and will migrate to a 2.5" IDE Drive when forced to.

What are your system specs, looks like a mini ITX. How much ram do you have now? You can't need more than 512 for this can you? Even w/o swap 512 should be fine.
April 23, 2008 9:03:18 AM

It's a VIA PC1, a 1Ghz processor (C7 IIRC) on a Gigabyte GA-PCV2 board and I'll be slapping a 1GB stick of DDR400 into it since it's dirt cheap, and you can never get too much memory :D  I actually have a pair of these systems. The other one I'm considering using for another project.