Modernizing my home computer network

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.

MLB.TV fails again

MLB.TV you disappointed me again. I was gullible enough to sign up for your MLB.TV service a few years ago, and I fell for temptation again here at the end of the season with your $10 sale. Now I remember why I didn’t subscribe again. All of those stupid blackouts of when I can’t see a live game. Tonight, I was going to sit down and watch the Cubs game and you sold your soul to ESPN instead of letting your fans enjoy a game. This only affirms why I stopped watching baseball a few years ago.

Cotting Creek Completed

Last fall I started construction on an 80+ foot long water feature for our back yard. I hired Brian Male of Alchemy Group to help me with it. Most of the rocks came from my parent’s yard who had a water feature that they didn’t want any more. Some rocks were also found in my yard. It has a switch with a photo sensor that turns on at sunset. It is set to run for 4 hours into the evening so we can here it when we got to bed at night. The switch also supports a remote control for us to turn on when ever we like. Mostly, we just enjoy sitting out on the back porch and enjoying the sound of the water.

What is true joy or hope?

These are some spoken lyrics from a band that I like called Wolves at the Gate from their song East to West.

What is true joy or hope? Where can it be found? Is it a promise of golden streets? Is it in escaping the fires of hell? No. All things are worthless in view of the surpassing value of simply knowing God and being known by Him. Oh, that I may know him! To one day see the Savior who purchased my life by His very own blood, to see the King who suffered to die for a sinner like me..."
What is true joy or hope? Where can it be found? Is it a promise of golden streets? Is it in escaping the fires of hell? No. All things are worthless in view of the surpassing value of simply knowing God and being known by Him. Oh, that I may know him! To one day see the Savior who purchased my life by His very own blood, to see the King who suffered to die for a sinner like me…”

What is true joy or hope? Where can it be found? Is it a promise of golden streets? Is it in escaping the fires of hell? No. All things are worthless in view of the surpassing value of simply knowing God and being known by Him. Oh, that I may know him! To one day see the Savior who purchased my life by His very own blood, to see the King who suffered to die for a sinner like me…

Phillipians 3:10, 20-21

 

Pioneer Day 2015

Today in Utah, its Pioneer Day. For the LDS people its a big historical celebration of their ancestors crossing the plains to settle here in UT. It is also a state holiday. For us gentiles, its a random day where things aren’t open and epic amounts of fireworks are shot that rival the 4th of July while I try to keep my dogs from freaking out because they think that once again this month the world is coming to an end.

Bicycle tire inflation

A question for my cycling friends about tire pressure. I have had two tires this summer where the bead of the tire tire has come unseated, and the tube has come out causing it to pinch and leak. They have both been on the rear tire. They were both Continental brand tires. The latest one, I bought a replacement tire that is a Continental Grand Sport Race tire. It says that its max PSI is 120. Before each ride, I air my tires up to their max tire pressure. Today, on this tire’s second ride, the tire came unseated, the tube pinched and leaked within my first mile. What I want to know is since I’m a big rider (250+ lbs) do I need to step down from the max PSI as I am assuming that my body weight on a the bike increases the pressure that is in the tire from the unweighted air pressure I measure during airing it up. Thanks

Little Cottonwood Canyon non stop

After two days off from riding, my legs were feeling pretty good today so I decided to go up Little Cottonwood Canyon again. It has been a goal of mine for a while to be able to make it all the way up without stopping to catch my breath. Today, I was able to make it the whole way up without stopping. Average speed from home to top was 5.2 MPH. Average speed going from top to home 32.4 MPH