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Virtual Homesteading – Part 3

To distract myself from excruciating pain while paining for a dental procedure, I figured I’d go over what an ideal end state for my personal cloud would look like. Let’s start by looking at what devices I’ll need to be worried about as head of IT in my household.

Devices to Support

DeviceOperating SystemStorage Space (GB)Notes
Pixel 2 XLAndroid64GBMost of this photos/videos taken w/ the camera app that I need off the phone
Old Samsung tabletAndroid32GB (estimate)Possibly going to be retired soon. Screen isn’t easy to read and it’s not fast enough to keep up with software bloat.
iPhone ?iOS128GB (estimate)Wife’s cat and flower photo collections must be treated with equal importance to financial records
iPadiOS256G (estimate)Used for audio books and researching supplies and materials for remodeling
Macbook AirMacOS256GB (estimate)Floater laptop that shouldn’t have much on it
Macbook ProMacOS512GB (estimate)Important information and video editing
Custom 4U serverLinux8TBThis will be the server handling the cloud. It is the one that needs to be greater than all the other devices attached. Can’t be larger than 8TB at the moment due to that costing too much to backup w/ current hardware.
Dell XPSLinux256GBFloater laptop for serious software engineers who also value battery life
System76 Serval WSLinux1TBUltimate badass laptop with a cooling system louder than jet engine with matching power
This table doesn’t include devices that don’t nee to be synced up with the cloud. All the Raspberry Pis don’t need complicated backup and syncing.

Observations

  1. All systems are *nix systems. That affects nothing, but does make me happy.
  2. I’ll need, at minimum, 6TB to handle everything as is. I’ll therefore want 8TB in the server for allow for growth.
    • Going above 8TB gets expensive, as single external drives larger than that are very expensive. Having two 8TB drives to rotate through is much more affordable.
    • I can always add another 4TB drive to the RAID for a total of 12TB down the road. I’ll have to reconsider my backup plans potentially.
    • This should keep me covered on space for a few years. Will definitely need to upgrade within 5 years, but no sooner than 2 years.
  3. This will create a lot of network traffic
    • I was considering splitting the home network into multiple isolated networks:
      • Private network for me and my wife
      • Guest Network for friends and family
      • IoT, Smart TVs, and other devices with histories of atrocious security
    • Doing this ahead of time would definitely be feature creep for the “build my own cloud” project.
    • Might just put the guests on the same network as the IoT, as neither are to be trusted.
    • I’ve got a Raspberry Pi or two laying around for building a custom router

Conclusion

My goal is to get this new system up and running before 2021Q2. However, hardware is becoming harder to get one’s hands on. That’s why I expect this to take some time. I’m also expecting my tax return won’t be arriving before beginning of March.

Virtual Homesteading – Part 2

https://pixabay.com/photos/calculating-machine-calculator-370777/

An Upgrade Is In Order

My current server is running a Intel(R) Core(TM) i3-2100 CPU. Based on archeological evidence and carbon dating, experts estimate that it is around 10 years of age. It’s had minor upgrades over the years with a respectable 4 × 2TB drives setup in RAID5 for 6TB usable. However, it’s simply too long in the tooth. It’s been working flawlessly for so long, I seem to have taken it for granted.

I really only thought about it when I’d occasionally have to reboot it every couple months. Looking at it that way, I almost feel bad putting out such a long running workhorse to pasture.

End of the day, I should feel proud that I built a system that worked near flawlessly for a decade.

Mission accomplished. What’s the next mission?

Requirements

I’ve become a simple man when it comes to servers. All it takes me is half a dozen cores, heaps of memory, and terabytes of space to be happy. I’m wondering how much the hardware game has changed since I last went down this road. I’m hoping I’ll be left with the end result of a reliable workhorse for many years.

Off the top of head, here are requirements, typical workloads, and tasks the server will encounter:

  • Building the personal cloud that spawned this thread
  • Storing over 9,000 new photos and videos daily from my wife’s phone of our 8 month old cat.
  • Video stabilization and other processing of grainy VHS home movies
  • Secure storage of personal documents
  • 3D scanner processing
  • Minecraft server
  • Git repo to avoid relying on Github too much

Here’s what I’m thinking will be sufficient:

Parts List

Total: $1,000 estimated

Conclusion

If I can get 5 years out of this build, I’ll be happy. There’s a leap year in there. That’s a savings of $0.0003 per day. Cost of ownership should be around $0.55/day ($1,000 / (5 × 365 + 1)).

Virtual Homesteading – Part 1

For a few years now, I’ve been gotten complacent and lazy due to Google’s services. Free space on someone else’s server was too tempting, regardless of privacy concerns. It’s time I do something about it by creating my personal cloud for my household. This is a big enough undertaking that I might as well write down my thoughts in this blog.

Requirements

  • Automatic syncing of photos from our mobile devices
    • Apps will need to be available for both iOS and Android
  • Easily securely share files with third parties
  • Works well with syncing large files
  • Zero external dependencies
  • Back up and restore procedure in place
    • Automatic syncing of all data to an offsite location
    • Offsite backup should be encrypted
    • Incremental backups to external hard drives

Known Unknowns

  • How to test the backup and restore procedure?
  • How to sync the backups to an external location?
    • Probably looking at a Raspberry Pi based solution with an 8TB external hard drive.
    • Looking at around $250 for both.

Evaluating Options

The above requirements hint at me needing two main pieces of software. I can’t only worry about the cloud software. If my server dies, I’ll need a rock solid plan for restoring from a backup.

It’s also been maybe 6 years since I’ve done a major upgrade to my server. At this point, I’m thinking of replacing everything except the case. I like my giant black rock sitting on the shelf, and it’s got plenty of space for loading up drives.

On cloud software front, I’m a bit torn between Nextcloud and ownCloud. I’m leaning towards ownCloud because the documentation seems a bit nicer. There aren’t really any other viable options for open source software that I’ve been able to find.

The backups remain a mystery to me. Up until now, I’ve been using a Raspberry Pi based computer and SyncThing to automate partial backups. That’s not going to work well. I also don’t want to have to use a GUI to backup. Currently I’m leaning towards using BorgBackup. It seems pretty feature rich.

Closing Thoughts

The general plan of attack will be:

  • Upgrade server hardware with bare install of OS (do not immediately start copying files back!)
  • Create backup and restore procedure, and test that it works
  • Install and configure ownCloud
  • Reload all the terabytes of old data into the new cloud
  • Set up my phone to sync with my new cloud to disentangle myself with Google as much as possible

Thinking each of those deserves its own post, so we’ll leave it there for now.

New Years Goals

It’s very easy to miss the mark if you don’t know where you’re aiming.

To that end, here’s some goals for the year:

  • Create a private cloud for me and my family
    • Google’s notorious for cancelling services without little warning.
    • Facebook and Instagram don’t always act in the best interests of their users.
    • I don’t want everything I take a picture of being uploaded to someone else’s server farm.
  • Create another robot
    • I did a bunch of work on designing different robots over the years.
    • Buying a house right before getting married during a global pandemic was distracting.
    • This is mostly an excuse to purchase a laser engraving and cutting machine.
  • Finish first pass of remodeling my house
    • Living room, main stairwell, and dining room remain.
    • Kitchen, master bedroom, office, and guest bedroom are mostly done already.
    • Link to everything that I used to help others. Utilize affiliate links where possible to profit if deserved.
  • Write a post for each major goal
    • Writing down goals and evaluating keeps me honest and me keep moving forward.
    • One’s ability to write can help or hinder one’s progress through life. Might as well Git Gud™.

First Time Home Owner Regrets

The original regret.

It’s been almost a year since becoming a first time homeowner. It’s been pretty great. However, some mistakes have been made.

I neglected to take photos of rooms before I moved things in. I really regret not having proper before and after photos of past renovations.

My record keeping was also shoddy. It would have been nice to go back and look at what materials were used. Adding affiliate links to the Lowes, Amazon, and other purchases would have been a nice option in the future.

Not all hope has been lost. I’ve only renovated a single bedroom. The rest of the stuff I’ve done has been replacing electrical outlets and adding half a dozen or more circuits. There’s still plenty of projects to do.