Make Your Own Inexpensive Energy Efficent Ubuntu Linux File Server: Part 1/4 – Introduction and Planning

I ran across this web site where a guy had done something similar and had bought the same box to put it all in. It was supposed to be a 3 part blog post, but he never finished his third blog post. Most importantly, he had put Ubuntu on there, so I knew it was compatible. A few websites around the web had recommended the same box for a cheap server. It has a 150W power supply, an Intel Atom dual core processor, and I chose the WD Caviar Green Drives to try and help with making this a low powered device. I’m not a tree hugger, but I wanted to save on energy costs. The box only has room for two full sized drives, which became a slight challenge in getting what I wanted.

When I was planning this out, I decided I wanted three total hard drives. I wanted two big drives which would be running in a RAID1 array to hold all of my important data. Hopefully if one of those drives died, the other one would still have the identical data on it, and I could recover the data easily. I wanted to have the OS sitting on one drive by itself. If I had to, I could pull the data drives out and be able to get that data off of them if something bad happened to the computer. Linux runs its own RAID, so I wasn’t concerned with a hardware RAID controller, besides those cost more.

Because of the limited physical space, I had two options for my third drive. Either some kind of solid state memory, or an external drive. I didn’t want to have things plugged in on the outside, so I went with putting a USB key inside the box for the OS to run on (USB keys are cheaper than solid state drives, and I only needed a couple of GB for space). Since this drive was just going to be running the OS, it didn’t need to be big. I realize that USB key drives don’t live long with high amounts of read/write, but I hoped that it would last a while. Most of the OS would be running in memory anyway. If it did die, well, it wasn’t a catastrophic loss. A new drive would be cheap, and I already had all the steps documented on how to get it back up and running.

I ordered all of my pieces from Newegg. They all arrived within a few days and I began putting this small beast together.

If you don’t have a copy of Ubuntu Linux yet, you can get one free from the Ubuntu website. The easiest way is for you to download an ISO of the Ubuntu operating system. An iso is a CDROM image of the installation disk that you can use to burn an exact copy of the CD. You can either download it directly from their website, a mirror, or use bit torrent to get it. Bit torrent is the recommended and quickest method. Personally, I decided to go with Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope. At the time I did this, 9.10 was the latest and just released, but it had several bugs that I couldn’t get around. Go ahead and let this download while you are getting your box put together.

Things you will need:

  • Foxconn CPU (comes with power supply, power cord, motherboard with integrated processor, video, audio, and ethernet,)
  • 1 stick of RAM (2 GB is the most that will work)
  • Two full sized hard drives
  • Two USB key drives. One large enough for your OS to be installed on, and another to use to install the OS
  • One USB cable with female and male ends
  • One drive bay adapter 5 ¼ in. to 3 ½ in.
  • One ethernet cable
  • One keyboard and monitor (temporary for setting up only)
  • A copy of Ubuntu Server Edition 9.04

Check out part 2, Building the Computer

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