Home Server Project: Part 1

I recently stumbled upon a HP ProLiant DL360 server, and after using an old ThinkPad T400s as a mail server I felt it would be a worth while investment.
Although this purchase was made without thinking about all the details in full such as the sound of the server and the weight and size.104684Specifications

  • CPU: 2x Xeon 5150 @ 2.66 GHz
  • RAM: 20GB (Mixture of 2 & 4 GB sticks)
  • HDD’s: 6 x 146GB SAS drive (876 GB SAS Total)
  • PSU: 700W
  • Storage Controller: Smart Array P400i Controller

hp-proliant-dl360-g5-1x-quad-core-xeon-e5440-2-8ghz-4gb-raid-700w-1u-rack-server-2-31583-p

So overall it is a decent bit of kit for the price, but the next step was deciding what to do with it. I had a number of ideas but was limited due there only being 4 CPU cores. After a small amount of research and a quick check on eBay there is the option to upgrade to two 4 Core CPU’s for between £10-£30.

Buy upgrading the core count it will alow for a much greater amount head room in regard to Virtual Machines. Ideally the server will run Ubuntu 17.10 Server and utilise a number of headless Virtual Machines to run the rest of my intended operations.

I have decided definitely on a Plex server to alow for distribution of media around my house and with Plex Pass outside of the home. This is something I have set up a number of time and feel that by running it through a VM will make it easier as I will be able to remote into a Visual environment. I have seen a number of posts online mentioning the creation of a headless Plex server but to keep it simple when using an external drive I have decided to use Ubuntu Desktop.

Then there will be a virtual environment that will run my mail server, this will be done with iRedMail for no other reason than top keep it simple and easy. As iRedMail is a kind of all in one solution adding all of the packages required and create a web system for admin and accessing emails.
I could use PostFix and create the entire server bit by bit, but have found this solution to be more tedious and not as efficient. The mail server its self-will not require anything to fancy and the web-based access will be very rarely used, as Thunderbird or Android email will be used to send and receive mail.

This leaves me with a couple of other options that I am debating, one of which is a small NAS back up server for both mine and my partners Laptops. This wont require all that much storage space as it will only really be for crucial documents and potently documents we need to share. So it would only be 150GB or so. I have not looked too deep into this yet as I am still debating buying a dedicated NAS system.

I would also like to host a small web server to potently host Michael Talks Tech from my own server, I am aware that using WordPress is probably a much more reliable system. But I feel that if I have the capabilities I should at least consider it, I am also working on a number of projects that will require dedicated web hosting. So to reduce cost and control my data a small web server is a potential idea.

This project will be on going and Part 2 will be mainly focused on the initial setup and installation of the system and Virtual Machines. I would love to hear any other suggesting that I might not have considered.

 

 

Lenovo T400s: Ubuntu Machine Part 5

So after using the T400s as my daily driver for the past week I have found that the small screen is a slight limitation. Largely due to the fact that i tend to use it on a desk and have to lean in occasionally to see certain things.

Then I remembered that I had an old 21.5 inch monitor lying around somewhere, and I could find it then i would be able to utilise it in my set up. As part of the setup I modified an old file box that i had lying around by cutting 2 slits into it one on the front and another on the back. The purpose of this was to not only raise the T400s screen to around about the same level as the monitor but to also alow for me to attach a keyboard and mouse with out the being cables all over the place. I then found a USB hub that i placed within the box that the mouse and keyboard connected to. This mean that when the T400s was in the ‘Dock’ only one of the rear USB ports was being used.

When I connected the monitor I was unsure what would happen, as is the case with windows that you can occasionally be greeted by either an extended display or and extension of the primary display. But this wasnt an issue, as soon as the VGA cable was connected the monitor sprung to life and extended the desktop onto the monitor. This was a very pleasant experience as not only was i able to use a full size keyboard and mouse but for some graphical work i needed to do. So after using ubuntu across 2 screens and on more of a desktop based manner, I have the intention of installing Ubuntu to my main desktop PC that is currently running windows 10. This will of course be in the form of a dual-boot as im not yet ready to commit myself fully to ubuntu due to the requirement of specific software that i use not being available on Linux. But unless I need to use them certain application there is a high chance i will be using ubuntu because the dual screen felt smooth and clean.

 

Lenovo T400s: Ubuntu Machine Part 4

I have been using Ubuntu as my daily driver now for about 4-5 days, and i had not really had to touch on productivity applications and other utilities of this nature. When you install Ubuntu it comes pre-packaged with a nice free office suite called LibreOffice. I have only really touched on the word processing application and was plesentaly surprised. Although it does look rather basic in comparison to other office packages such as the most common Microsoft office.

It does how ever have all the features needed for a nice writing exsperiance, i have not written any large documents on it yet but feel it will be nice and accessible when it come time to write some larger reports. I have also been able to download drop box to my Ubuntu system, this was nice because i can back up all of my word documents and images to my dropbox starlight from the file directory on the system. This is great because it means I can use these documents on a number off different devices quickly and easily, but it also means that if I decided to uninstall Ubuntu to do a fresh install it won’t effect any of ,y documents.

I have been using my Ubuntu machine to write most of these blog posts as well and was surprised and deleted to find a WordPress as in the Ubuntu Software Center. This is basically just a port of the website, but it is nice to have your browser and blog software somewhat separate. I found this useful during research stages as to not keep clicking on word press. It works well as I said it’s just the word press website but it has a nice logo and fits well in the launcher bar. 

I am still finding my feet with Ubuntu and have not yet hit any limitations as to what I can and can’t do within it. And as I keep exsplorimg I will keep finding solutions to the issue I have.

Lenovo T400s: Ubuntu Machine Part 3

Another worry before delving into Linux is the lack of support for game, this turned out to be a common misconception. I will expand on that further in the next section, the first place for anyone wishing to play computer games these days is to download Steam. You can do this by either going onto the steam website, or the slightly more time-consuming way by going into the terminal and adding it that way. I opted for the quicker and more straight forward way as I didn’t see the requirement to use the terminal when steam offers a direct download.

After i installed steam and logged into my account i was concerned about the availability of games that i will have access too. And out of the 250ish game that i have connected to my steam account around 110 where available to play on my Ubuntu machine. For the record these where majority indie games such as Game Dev Tycoon and Software inc. Both of these games require low hardware specification, but i was very surprised to see ARMA 3 was available. I feel this could be largely due to steam trying to push Steam OS (Steams Linux Based OS) but there where still a vast amount of games to play. This was a genuine surprise to me as i was very much under the impression that Linux didn’t have game or supported them very well. I have not yet checked the compatibility of other game distributors such as GOG and Origin.

Another option is to use the Ubuntu software center i have only briefly looked through the games there and downloaded one to see what it was like. although it is a limited selection of games when you’re not paying for them it isn’t to much of a worry if you only download it to kill a little bit of time. playing games on Ubuntu wasnt without its challenges though, one of the games i attempted to install just would not load, and the download speed was terrible. I have a 10mb connection but was averaging 100kb-300kn max. This was frustrating because my windows Laptop on the same network was downloading games at about 8mb. After reading into this it is a common fault and there where a number of methods to fix this. I simply rebooted the device and it seemed to sort its self out that time. But if the problem persists then i will pursue the solutions i have found on-line.