07 Sep 2015 @ 7:43 AM 

This is a write up about some of the computer work that I did for our home at the beginning of the year. It will be nerdy, so don’t expect it to be entertaining unless you like this kind of stuff.

Back in early 2010, I built my first linux server. It was a Foxconn R10-S4. It ran on an Intel Atom 330 processor. It has worked fine for starting out and for moderate usage. However, I’m starting to find more things to ask of it, and I need to use it for something else. Around the first part of this year, I built a new server. Here is a list of the parts for the new server. Here is a link to the list of what I bought.

  • CPU – Intel Xeon E3-1246 V3  (3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor)
  • MB – ASRock H97 PRO4 ATX
  • Memory – Crucial Ballistix Tactical 16 GB DDR 1600 Memory
  • HD – WD Red 4 TB HD (two), WD Blue 1 TB 7200 RPM
  • Case – Inwin PE689 ATX Mid Tower
  • PSU – Corsair CSM 450W 80+ Gold
  • Fan – Cooler Master 120 mm

I also put a couple of WD Green 2 TB hard drives in there that I had been using in the old server. They will be holding local backup data.

I chose to put Ubuntu 14.04 on my new server which is the latest LTS for Ubuntu. I had previously been using Ubuntu 12.04 on the old server. Because of my familiarity with Ubuntu and its wide support, I chose to stay with that distribution. As a server should be, it is command line only.

Some of the software packages I’m using it for:

  • Subsonic – streams personal music library
  • Serviio – media server, mostly for videos and photos locally
  • Backuppc – local backups of computers on network
  • Transmission – BitTorrent server for legal BitTorrents
  • Piwigo – Web based photo library for family to view photos remotely
  • Owncloud – Drobbox replacement for accessing/synchronizing files across computers/devices
  • Crashplan – Cloud backup
  • Samba – Access to the network drives
  • Apache – web server
  • OpenSSH – for accessing the server by command line through the terminal
  • Pydio – web based interface for accessing network share, mostly for the Chromebook

I have now turned my old server into a Pfsense router. Now that I have children at home, I want to be able to filter the Internet traffic to make sure they aren’t coming across things I don’t want them exposed to. I also wanted to be able to have a guest wireless network. The Pfsense software package allows me to do some more control of QoS and create a guest wireless network.  Pfsense is a very robust piece of software that runs on BSD. It is very powerful and suited for use in large comercial settings, but it also adaptable for home use. Since Gigabit Internet service is already in Salt Lake, I believe it will make its way out to the suburbs some time soon. According to the documentation for Pfsense, this hardware will not be able to handle Gigabit speeds as a router. In the mean time, using my old server will give me something to work with. I am moving from a Linksys 54 router with Tomato custom firmware installed.

Since the wireless radio I was using was on my old Linksys down in the basement, I added a wireless access point to the network. I bought a Ubiquit Unifi AC AP. I  ran an ethernet wire from my basement where the router is, up through the top floor of our house, and into the attic so the new access point would have good coverage of the whole property. I get signal on both floors of the house as well as all of my front and back yards.

Once I got all of that put in, I built a new desktop computer for me. The primary decision for selecting what I wanted had to do with wanting to play games. Specifically Arma 3, Star Citizen, and DCS World. I was tired of playing on my old system which ran not too smoothly at low graphic settings. The parts I bought for the new system are as follows:

  • Intel i7 4790K
  • Asus Z97 Pro ATX Mother board
  • Two Gigabyte GTX 970s running in SLI
  • Samsung 850 EVO SSD 500 GB
  • Western Digital Black 3 TB HDD
  • Crucial Ballistix Tactical 16 GB RAM DDR3-1600
  • Phanteks Enthoo Pro ATX Full Tower Case
  • Corsair 850 W 80+ Gold Powersupply
  • DAS 4 Pro Keyboard
  • Three Asus 24″ monitors

Since I wanted to play games and also use the computer for other things, I decided to dual boot the computer with Windows 8.1 and Arch Linux. I installed Windows first because that is what was recommended. This enabled me to make sure all of the hardware was working correctly.

Then I began the journey of understanding and installing Arch. It is what is known as a rolling release distro. That was one of the reasons I chose it as software packages are released as soon as they are ready instead of waiting for a distro to add it to its repository. I also wanted to learn more about how Linux works. Understanding how to install Arch forces some learning. Arch is not a Linux distro for the novice. There is no on screen guide to help you install it. Everything is done by the command line. I used the Arch Beginner’s Guide Wiki to help guide me along the way. It didn’t answer all of my questions, but it got me most of the way through the installation process. I took notes along the way in a Google Doc in case I had to do it again or needed to go back and change something.

The new desktop runs really well. I am still having frustrations in getting everything to run on Arch like I want it to. Like the triple monitor setup often gets reset to all three monitors showing the same thing when I reboot, but it doesn’t happen every time. Also, I haven’t been able to get WebEx meetings to work on it as I use that for some continuing education that meets online. I chose to use KDE’s Plasma 5 for my desktop environment. I like it a lot and I have more to learn to customize it if I ever get the time for it. I’ve also become a big fan of Cairo Dock for my app launcher / panel.

Unfortunately, with children, one being an infant, I haven’t had much time to enjoy playing games on the computer. It was a consideration as I was deciding on the parts, but when I do get the time I will be able to play without the frustration of a slow computer. This is also why it has taken me most of the year to get around to writing this up.

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Categories: Linux, Tech I Use, Technology
Posted By: jason
Last Edit: 07 Sep 2015 @ 07 43 AM

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 18 Jun 2015 @ 5:26 PM 

If you are not a computer nerd, don’t bother reading this.

I’ve been struggling with getting my Backuppc setup working again. My documentation that I had used for previous setups wasn’t working. Specifically, logging into the client from my server via SSH without using a password. After many hours of tracking down what I was doing wrong, I finally figured out that the rsa keys stored in the ~/.ssh/authroized_keys2 have a new home. Since the release of SSH 3, the file it looks for is now just ~/.ssh/authorized_keys.

Any easy fix once I knew what was wrong

cp authorized_keys2 authorized_keys

Tags Categories: Linux Posted By: jason
Last Edit: 18 Jun 2015 @ 05 26 PM

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 20 Dec 2014 @ 5:41 PM 

I’m going to be making some changes to the computers here at home. As a Batman fan and a nerd, I have decided to go with a Batman them for the names on the network. Below is what I’m thinking about so far:

  • Wayne Manor – private wireless network
  • Arkham Asylum – guest wireless network
  • Oracle – new Ubuntu server
  • Batman – Pfsense firewall/router
  • Alfred – new desktop computer
  • ? – old laptop computer
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Categories: Around the House, DIY Projects, Linux, Technology
Posted By: jason
Last Edit: 24 Dec 2014 @ 10 19 AM

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 18 Sep 2010 @ 10:37 PM 

I spend a lot of my time on the computer. I also spend a lot of time exploring to find out what I can use to make my computing time more enjoyable and more efficient. I think others can benefit from the things I have found, so this is my first of posts that I will make to highlight hardware and software technology that I have and I like.

KeepassX logoMy first post will be about a piece of software I’ve been using for about a year now called KeepassX. This is a program you can use to keep your passwords organized. It’s free, its open source, and best of all, its cross platform. More and more sites these days make you sign up to use their service. Whether its a forum you participate in, you bank, credit card, email, Facebook, Twitter, servers, websites, the list goes no. Some folks have a separate user name and password for each place they log into. This can be hard to keep track of. I personally have some passwords that are tough for me to remember. KeepassX will help you keep track of that. Have you ever forgotten what user name or password you use on a website? KeepassX is your solution.

Is it safe to keep all your passwords in one place on your computer? I believe it can be. The file that KeepassX uses to store your information in is encrypted with Twofish or AES. You must remember one password to get into this file. It is a lot easier only having to remember one password instead of a whole list of them. If you don’t want to use a password, it will allow you to use a keyfile as well.

This method is also safer than keeping a word or excel document on your computer with all of your passwords. This is also better than the piece of paper some people keep by their computer (like my wife used to do before we got married).

There’s lots of features that you can explore about it if you like. For example, it can remind you to set a new password after a certain length of time. It can generate a password and tell you how strong the one is that you are using. One of my favorite features is when you open the program, you can right click on the list of logins and have it copy the user name or password to your clipboard. Then you can paste it into the form field without having to type it in. For security, it clears your clipboard after about a minute.

I use two computers in two different environments on a daily basis. Overall, I use Mac OSX, Ubuntu Linux, MS Windows, and Android on my phone. All of those environments have a version of KeepassX that will allow you to access your logins and passwords. You can keep one file that has all of your information in it. I have a file server that I had been using to keep my keepass file on that I could use to share the file between computers. I recently started using a program called Dropbox to keep the file synched between computers. I’ll write more about that in a later post.

You can download KeepassX from the website for free for what ever of the popular operating systems that you use. The android app is called KeePassDroid and is developed by someone else, but uses the same file format.

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Categories: Android, Linux, Mac OSX, MS Windows, Tech I Use, Technology
Posted By: jason
Last Edit: 18 Sep 2010 @ 10 37 PM

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Part 3 – Installing Ubuntu Linux

In part two, we discussed putting together the hardware of your server. Now that your computer is put together, plug in your power cord and your Ethernet cord to your router. Since you don’t have anything on this computer yet, you will need a spare keyboard and monitor while you set this up. Go ahead and plug these in too.

You will also need to have a copy of Ubuntu Linux Server edition so you can install it. If you would rather use the desktop edition, that is your choice, but this tutorial was written for the server edition. Also, I did this within a month of Ubuntu 9.10 coming out. It was very buggy at the time, and I had issues with it. So I decided to use 9.04. You will need a second USB key to make the install as there is no optical drive on this computer. If you have another kind of external drive (hard disk drive or CD Drive), you can try using that. This computer’s bios does support booting from USB.

Once you have gotten the iso of Ubuntu, you will need to put this on a USB key to install the OS. It will fit on a 1 GB drive. I tried extracting the files from the iso by using Diskmagic and WinRAR and copying them to the USB drive, but that didn’t work. The way I got it to work is by downloading a file from unetbootin, and using that to put the installation files on my 1GB USB drive. Visit this site to make your USB key so that you can install from it: http://unetbootin.sourceforge.net/

SETUP AND INSTALLATION

Once you have the USB key ready, insert it into one of the USB ports on the computer. Power up the computer and you will see the Foxconn screen as it begins its boot up sequence. At this point, press the delete key to enter the setup menu to have a look a the bios. This bios will allow you to boot up from a USB drive, which is VERY important for installing and running the OS as the two disk drives are planned to be used for data only.

First we will edit the system information so we can change the boot warnings. Here make sure that Halt on is set to All Erros But, and have Keyboard and Mouse enabled. Since this will be a headless system, we need to make sure it’s not going to halt the boot up because there is no keyboard or mouse present.

Hit ENTER on System Information

Hit ENTER on System Information

Make sure it says ENABLED by Keyboard and Mouse

Make sure it says ENABLED by Keyboard and Mouse

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Categories: Linux, Technology
Posted By: jason
Last Edit: 02 Feb 2010 @ 09 55 AM

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Part Two: Building the Computer

Our first post in this series covered the planning of building our server.

Lets get started making a server. First, be sure and read the directions that come with this box. I was successful in not breaking anything when I did what it had to say.

There is one screw on the back. A simple Phillips head screwdriver will get it off. This will allow you to slide off the side panel for access to the inside of the box.

Next, we will need to pull of the faceplate. Follow the directions that came with your computer carefully, and it will come off. There are flimsy plastic clips holding it on. They do come off, so don’t force anything. I managed not to break mine.

Now that you have all of the outside pieces off, you need to unscrew the internal drive cage that will hold your 2nd hard drive. It is designed to hold one 5 in optical drive. I bought an adapter that allows you to put a 3 in drive into a 5 in bay.

Inside of computer once everything has been taken apart.

All of the components once it has been disassembled.

Closeup of the inside of the computer

Overhead view of inside of computer

Once you have it all apart, put your memory in.

Memory

Memory

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Categories: Linux, Technology
Posted By: jason
Last Edit: 02 Feb 2010 @ 09 51 AM

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Part 1: Introduction and Planning

This tutorial is about how to make your own Ubuntu Linux file server. If you are wanting to follow along and are curious about the difficulty of this endeavor, I would give it a 6/10, where 10 is some kind of rocket science thing. I did my best to make this a step by step guide for anyone who, like myself, has lots of questions and isn’t totally sure what they are doing. I tried not to leave too much up to assumptions.

I am still a beginner at using Linux, but have been using a PC since the command line days of DOS. The reason I have decided to write this post is because I spent many hours perusing the Internet looking for answers on how to do what I wanted. What I found is that no one had posted exactly step by step for the noob how to do everything I wanted. So I had to take bits and pieces of pages from blog posts, message forums, the Ubuntu documentation, Linux Reality Podcasts, and help from the good folks at ubuntuforums.org to get where I wanted. I documented in Evernote along the way what I was doing so if I screwed up, I wouldn’t have to start all over again figuring things out (it took more than one try to get it to work). I wrote this post because I wanted to help others who may be trying to do something similar but can’t find all the steps. A lot of learning took place for me along the way. I did everything through the CLI (command line interface). It was like writing a book in a foreign language. I had to look up everything as I didn’t know the commands needed to do what I wanted. Once I knew what the commands were, I had to learn how to use them.

Here is what I wanted. A safe place to store my documents, music, photos, financial information, and anything else that I didn’t want to lose without worrying about a disk dying on me or succumbing to a virus. I am fully aware that this doesn’t solve every risk, but it did enough to make me happy for now. (This post might give you some insight to my paranoia with not trusting an external hard drive for my needs.) I also recently got married and wanted to make sure my wife and I both had access to everything in a central location. Since I am now the family IT guy, I wanted to make sure I had her data in a safe place too. This was also going to serve as a print server, and possibly more some time down the road. I wanted this to be virus free, cheap, long lasting, and energy efficient as it was going to be on 24/7. Once I was done getting it going, I wanted to be able to walk away and leave it sitting on a shelf doing its thing without needs for reboots, security updates, etc. I wanted it to be a headless system. That means no monitor, keyboard, or mouse. Just a power cord and an Ethernet cord. I’m sure my task would have been much easier had I just bought a fancy new computer and put windows server something on there or used OS X server, but apparently, I enjoy doing things the hard way (and I’m cheap).

The following is my setup:

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Categories: Linux
Posted By: jason
Last Edit: 13 Jan 2010 @ 10 52 AM

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