A fun little home server project

… or so I thought.

IMG_20150914_174238It started OK; about a year ago, I inherited an old desktop tower case from a neighbour who moved away, a Thermaltake Kandalf. This thing is a monster – almost two feet high and 22 kg, with built-in liquid cooling.

Having spent its life in the Arabian desert, it needed a lot of cleaning to get rid of all the sandy dust, and then it sat in a cabinet until I finally got around to doing something with it last week.

It still needed another proper clean – every time we have a sandstorm here, everything in the house gets covered with a layer of yellow dust.

IMG_20151009_205206There are seven internal 3.5″ hard drive bays ready to use, as well as four or five additional 5.25″ drive bays that could be used with adapters.

One of the planned uses for this server will be as our NAS and backup machine, so having some space to expand is a plus. I already had some spare hard drives from the desktop PC I gave to a friend when we left the UK.

With the addition of a PSU, a veteran gaming motherboard, an Intel i5-4690 CPU and a stick of RAM, we have pretty well everything we need for our home server.

I don’t plan to use the built-in water cooling radiator and connections right now, as the unit is running cool and very, very quiet right now, but the option is there if I need better cooling later – the coolant pipes are tucked away neatly at the bottom of the case.

It had been a while since I last built a PC, but everything seemed to fit together as easily as I remember – if not more so these days. Whilst fitting the motherboard, I realised that the three fans in the front panel have two-pin connectors, which means that the motherboard (having four-pin connectors) won’t be able to control their speed, so I picked up a cheap four fan controller as well.

IMG_20151009_204959 IMG_20151009_205054

OK, now to install an operating system.

Loads of choice out there…  what could possibly go wrong?

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Brave new Ubuntu

With Mark Shuttleworth having closed Ubuntu’s Bug #1 recently, and Canonical raising the heckles of yet more Linux developers and even members of the Ubuntu community by announcing that it is dropping Wayland as the successor to X, in favour of its in-house developed Mir, I wonder if this means we’ll start seeing linux-based malware targeted specifically at Ubuntu distributions.

I hope that’s way off the mark, at least technically, preferably socio-politically as well, but data/financial theft motives aside, there has been a huge amount of malware over the years, designed by malcontents and idealogical opponents of MS, for the sole purpose of bringing down Windows systems en masse. I feel it would be a huge shame if that started happening to Ubuntu-based systems as well.

Just a thought…


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Ubuntu Studio documentation

I’ve been using Ubuntu Studio since I started experimenting with Linux again last November – it’s a great, multimedia-focused distribution based on Xubuntu, and it comes with all sorts of audio, video and graphics applications pre-installed. It also has a low-latency kernel, which (in theory) means that any real-time audio or video processing should proceed without getting interrupted by routine software updates or suchlike.

However, I hate to admit this, but I still don’t find it anywhere near as easy to lay down a quick backing track or indulge in some ad-hoc sound design as it is in Windows 7 or OSX. Part of this is bound to be familiarity – I had quite a bit of experience using both Windows and OSX for audio stuff – but the main issue is that the open-source pro-audio applications available and the linux audio stack just doesn’t seem quite as well-developed. Recording multi-track audio seems more than adequately covered by Ardour, but the electronic music industry has now pretty well embraced VST/AU plug-ins and virtual instruments, and it’s not easy (maybe impossible) to replicate the kind of plug-and-play workflow of applications like Ableton Live, Cubase or Logic Pro using the open source options currently available (yep, including the all-powerful Ardour).

Luckily, one of Ubuntu Studio’s real strengths is the documentation available, including the Ubuntu Studio Wiki, so if there’s a way to achieve a particular task, you can usually find out how in the docs. Another of the things I love about open source software is the opportunity to contribute, and I approached the Ubuntu Studio team last month about helping out – they told me that they could do with some help reviewing and updating the documentation. We agreed that the perfect place for me to start was with the Pro Audio Intro and the Jack Quick Start. I’m working my way through both of these (when I get chance alongside work stuff), but I’m having great fun learning about Ubuntu Studio and audio on linux in general.

UPDATE 27/06/2013: Unfortunately, since I learned that my current contract work contract will be ending soon, my focus has been (and will be for the foreseeable future) on ‘up-skilling’ in technology that’s more relevant to work, so Ubuntu Studio has had to take a back seat for the time-being…

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