Home server OS

Choosing the hardware took a while but that was nothing compared to tracking down a Linux distribution to use! I’m a big fan of DSL and, being damn small, it runs a treat on the Netvoyager but it’s purpose in life isn’t really as a home server. So began a hunt for a Damn Small Home Server Linux distribution which has eventually led me to…

SLAMPPLite uses the XAMPP server suite, and is low fat version of the “instant home server” SLAMPP. Sounded promising! So far it’s lived up to expectations, running the XAMPP samples without any noticeable delays- here’s how it looked with everything running (though not necessarily doing anything!)…

top - 02:55:44 up 9 min,  1 user,  load average: 0.49, 1.38, 0.94
Tasks:  80 total,   1 running,  79 sleeping,   0 stopped,   0 zombie
Cpu(s):  2.6% us,  3.9% sy,  0.0% ni, 93.6% id,  0.0% wa,  0.0% hi,  0.0% si
Mem:    119544k total,   116608k used,     2936k free,     9428k buffers
Swap:        0k total,        0k used,        0k free,    55916k cached

So a pretty tight squeeze, but on a £95 box (they reduced it after I bought one!) I’m more than happy. As an added bonus, SLAMPP/SLAMPPLite are based on SLAX, which made recompiling the broker for publishing CurrentCost data a snap, plus you get some handy tools for customisation, including the MySlax Creator gui for those of us who spend too long with Windows, so I’ve been tinkering with an extra lite version! (I may well be installing SLAX on my venerable old ThinkPad 240 as well since it seems so flexible.)

Now that I have the LX1000 BIOS password, thanks to the very helpful Netvoyager customer support, I should be able to get it set up to boot back up after a power cut as well. Andy has also been asking about file serving but I haven’t given that a try yet. Plenty more to do!

Update: Another quick look at memory usage, this time after stopping a few unwanted services:

# free -t -m
             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:           116        100         16          0         17         62
-/+ buffers/cache:         19         97
Swap:           78          0         77
Total:         195        100         94

Cheap low power home server options

Unfortunately my CurrentCost meter only gets hooked up to an aging ThinkPad 240 on a time-share arrangement with Jo; she is currently cursing about how slow the web is, so my graph on the power meter page is blank. Other people have a more reliable connection and are tracking down 3KW spikes and 100watt-ish blips. Good excuse for a(nother) gadget I reckon!

Current thoughts, in roughly ascending price order:

  1. SLUG: £57 (as recommended by @andysc)
  2. Netvoyager LX-1000: £130
  3. MicroClient Jr.: $214 (same case as above but includes 2 RS232 ports which is nice. Not sure I can be bothered with importing one… but more than one? Maybe.)

Out of the running (probably) are:

  1. Minifsk: $200+ (Looks neat and claims to have a serial port but in the US again)
  2. TinyTuxBox: cheapest seems to be about £193
  3. Asus EEE PC: better value at around £200?
  4. Linutop 1: €250+

And finally, Dale suggested a Pocket PC option earlier and Steve suggested an ASUS WL-500g. I must admit I’ve not looked in to either of those. I do have a Palm V kicking around but not sure that’d be up to the job! I also have a Linksys WAG354G but that is gainfully employed and doesn’t have any USB/Serial ports.

Decisions decisions.

Update: I’ve been very happy with the choice I made (a Netvoyager) but if I had to make the same decission today, it would be much much simpler: the Viglen MPC-L is a steal at £79! In fact, it’s such a good deal that I caught myself contemplating buying one as a second home server yesterday, which is obviously crazy. (30 November 2008)