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Need advice for a custom home server

post #1 of 18
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I'll soon have a secondhand LGA 1366 system available, so I was thinking about turning it into a jack-of-all-trades home server. I'll need it handle the following things:
  • File server
  • VM server
  • HTPC

Unfortunately, I'm at a bit of a loss as to the following issues:
  1. OS: Too many choices here. On the Windows side, I legally have everything from Windows 7 to WHS to Server 2008 R2 Datacenter. I'm also familiar with Linux, but I suspect that would cause problems with the less technically inclined when it comes to using the system as an HTPC. Ultimately, what would work best?
  2. Drive setup: The mobo has 8 SATA ports (6x Intel ICH10R, 2x Marvell 6.0 Gbps). I was thinking of using the 2 Marvell ports for the scratch disk and the optical drive, leaving the Intel ports free for one big RAID 5. Or should I go with a separate disk approach, create a VM to act as the file server, and let it deal with the RAID?
  3. Permissions: This is the biggest headache - I'd like to isolate the HTPC from the rest of the system. Ideally, I'd like to set it up so that when someone other than myself logs in to the machine, they immediately get dumped into an HTPC VM in fullscreen mode, with no way exit fullscreen mode or access the underlying host OS beyond reading from the file server's network drive.
The Ancient
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post #2 of 18
Sounds like you really need a separtate standalone (windows) server from your htpc. Then start running some domain policies to control the logins for what they can and can not access. If you are savy enough you can build the windows server and then have your HTPC PXE boot a linux squash file to run a light linux OS with XBMC. You will not even need a HDD in the htpc since the PXE boot will load it all in to RAM, the more RAM the better.
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post #3 of 18
tbh I think he needs two Linux servers. One running something like XBMC Live and the other for running your VMs and file shares off
post #4 of 18
I'm happy to hear suggestions for Linux on your server(s); it seems like most people on OCN run Windows Home Server because it's easier to manage. I'll say don't be too shy with linux, there is lots of helpful support out there and we weren't born experts wink.gif

I would also agree, that it would be best to perhaps run the HTPC on another machine. But my suggestion for keeping things separate on one machine (within a linux environment) is at least two different accounts. One has the HTPC (XBMC likely) installed. That account will be limited in almost every respect (Disk usage, etc.)

The other account would be set up as an administrative account that would be used for setting the permissions and run the VM software within a 'screen' session. 'Screen' keeps processes running after loging out. I use it to run minecraft on my Ubuntu server. I recommend Ubuntu simply because of it's vast user base.

I'm not sure if what I described is exactly as you would like, but it is a suggestion, let us know what you end up doing!
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post #5 of 18
to be honest I run FreeBSD on my home server, not Linux. But the skills are transferable.
post #6 of 18
+1 on the separated HTPC/ server issue....
A server, IMO, should be just a server....keeping stability at max.....

Personally, I run XP pro as file server/+++, and I use a Acer Aspire REVO r3610 with OpenELEC XBMC on it (boots in 10 sec)
    
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post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
Well, I finally got the hardware. For the time being I'm using Ubuntu Server, simply because Ubuntu seems to support more hardware out of the box than most distros do.

Unfortunately, VMware Workstation on Linux is clearly a second class citizen - it's nowhere near as fast as the Windows version. I'd move to VirtualBox, but a lot of things are still buggy (DirectX) or broken (snapshots). I'm now looking for suggestions on VM software that will work properly on Linux...

As for the HTPC, I need to scrounge up some hardware that's powerful enough to play 1080p video - I'm pretty sure the Athlon 64 and Pentium M systems I have lying around won't cut it.
Edited by Peon - 12/1/11 at 12:38am
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post #8 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peon View Post

Well, I finally got the hardware. For the time being I'm using Ubuntu Server, simply because Ubuntu seems to support more hardware out of the box than most distros do.
There shouldn't be any major differences in hardware support as drivers all run in the kernel and they all share the the major distros would be running a near-vanilla kernel.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peon View Post

Unfortunately, VMware Workstation on Linux is clearly a second class citizen - it's nowhere near as fast as the Windows version. I'd move to VirtualBox, but a lot of things are still buggy (DirectX) or broken (snapshots). I'm now looking for suggestions on VM software that will work properly on Linux...
DirectX doesn't exist on Linux, so I'm really not sure why you even raised that, and snapshots work find on VirtualBox (I've use VirtualBox heavily for years and never once had a problem with snapshots).

As for alternative suggestions: depending on what you want and how technically minded you are, there's Xen and KVM. Neither are easy to use but both a very powerful. There might be a GUI configuration app for them, but by default it's all CLI (I only say this because I don't know how confident you are with Linux smile.gif )
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peon View Post

As for the HTPC, I need to scrounge up some hardware that's powerful enough to play 1080p video - I'm pretty sure the Athlon 64 and Pentium M systems I have lying around won't cut it.
They should do. All you need is an average graphics card to render to screen (the 1080p decoding will be hardware accelerated anyway as pretty much every single graphics card comes with a MPEG decoder chip).
These days any old system can play back 1080p (even a $25 ARM board: Raspberry Pi Playing 1080p Video). the only hitch there is if you're playing MKV et al - but an Athlon would still easily decode that in real time anyway)
Edited by Plan9 - 12/1/11 at 2:44am
post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Plan9 View Post

There shouldn't be any major differences in hardware support as drivers all run in the kernel and they all share the the major distros would be running a near-vanilla kernel.

That I didn't know. In that case, is there any particularly interesting server distro?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Plan9 View Post

DirectX doesn't exist on Linux, so I'm really not sure why you even raised that, and snapshots work find on VirtualBox (I've use VirtualBox heavily for years and never once had a problem with snapshots).

VMware translates DirectX from Windows guests into OpenGL - Mac OS X doesn't have DirectX either and VMware Fusion has no problems playing Windows games. I don't know how VirtualBox does it, but if it relies on passing commands directly through the host then I can see why DirectX wouldn't work.

As for snapshots, here's a post I made on VirtualBox's forum a year ago that still has not been answered (or for that matter, fixed): https://forums.virtualbox.org/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=31314
Quote:
Originally Posted by Plan9 View Post

As for alternative suggestions: depending on what you want and how technically minded you are, there's Xen and KVM. Neither are easy to use but both a very powerful. There might be a GUI configuration app for them, but by default it's all CLI (I only say this because I don't know how confident you are with Linux smile.gif )

I used to do LAMP and Ruby on Rails web application development, so I'd say I'm semi-familiar with the CLI (mainly Bash) - at least as far as day-to-day tasks like grep and ps and basic server tasks like scheduling cronjobs. My preference for GUI vs CLI has more to do with convenience than the learning curve - I don't mind reading man pages or Googling, so long as it somehow pays off in the end.

Xen has always piqued my interest (in particular its support for VT-d) and this is the first time I've heard of KVM, so I'll definitely look into them.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Plan9 View Post

They should do. All you need is an average graphics card to render to screen (the 1080p decoding will be hardware accelerated anyway as pretty much every single graphics card comes with a MPEG decoder chip).
These days any old system can play back 1080p (even a $25 ARM board: Raspberry Pi Playing 1080p Video). the only hitch there is if you're playing MKV et al - but an Athlon would still easily decode that in real time anyway)

My video library is roughly:

30% 480p/576p AVI - no problems here
60% 720p MKV - occasional stuttering, a slideshow in rare instances
5% 1080p MKV - not gonna happen
5% Other (everything from 1080p AVI to 10-bit h.264 MKV) - let's just forget about this for simplicity's sake

But I suppose I should ask about this part of the problem in the HTPC forum instead.
Edited by Peon - 12/4/11 at 3:38pm
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post #10 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peon View Post

That I didn't know. In that case, is there any particularly interesting server distro?
I've heard good things about Proxmox, but never had any personal experience with it.
Personally I use FreeBSD (partly because of ZFS and partly because I love FreeBSD), but I wouldn't recommend that for yourself give your requirements and the preferences you've already stressed smile.gif
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peon View Post

VMware translates DirectX from Windows guests into OpenGL - Mac OS X doesn't have DirectX either and VMware Fusion has no problems playing Windows games. I don't know how VirtualBox does it, but if it relies on passing commands directly through the host then I can see why DirectX wouldn't work.
AFAIK what you're describing isn't possible. More likely what's happening is the guest is using the VM suites graphics card drivers which the host OS can then tie to it's own hardware drivers. But such a method would be transparent to whether your guest is running DirectX, OpenGL, or any other rendering methods.

The only other time I've heard about directX specifically is for the output rendering onto the host's screen, but that really isn't anything more sophisticated than the host OS having a DX canvas to render onto as opposed to using Win32 API calls. There's definitely no guest->host pass-through in those instances.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peon View Post

As for snapshots, here's a post I made on VirtualBox's forum a year ago that still has not been answered (or for that matter, fixed): https://forums.virtualbox.org/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=31314
I wouldn't be surprised if that was some weird bug in canonical introduced when porting the OSE to Ubuntu. I've been using VirtualBox for a good number of years on a multitude of platforms (Arch, FreeBSD, Nextena (GNU/SunOS), OpenSolaris, Windows, etc) and never once experienced that problem. Nor have has anyone I've known run into these problems.

I'm not saying VBox isn't without it's bugs (there's no such thing as bug free software), but what I am saying is your problem is not even remotely a common bug - let alone normal (hence why nobody on that forum was able to help you). So it would be wrong to assume that VBox typically suffers from said glitch smile.gif
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peon View Post

I used to do LAMP and Ruby on Rails web application development, so I'd say I'm semi-familiar with the CLI (mainly Bash) - at least as far as day-to-day tasks like grep and ps and basic server tasks like scheduling cronjobs. My preference for GUI vs CLI has more to do with convenience than the learning curve - I don't mind reading man pages or Googling, so long as it somehow pays off in the end.
That I can sympathise with; I'm a great believer in the philosophy of "why make life more difficult than it needs to be" smile.gif
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peon View Post

Xen has always piqued my interest (in particular its support for VT-d) and this is the first time I've heard of KVM, so I'll definitely look into them.
Just FYI, VBox supports VT-d too.
Xen (and KVM I believe) also does proper paravirtulisation, which VBox does not.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peon View Post

My video library is roughly:
30% 480p/576p AVI - no problems here
60% 720p MKV - occasional stuttering, a slideshow in rare instances
5% 1080p MKV - not gonna happen
5% Other (everything from 1080p AVI to 10-bit h.264 MKV) - let's just forget about this for simplicity's sake
But I suppose I should ask about this part of the problem in the HTPC forum instead.

What hardware and software is that running on (full specs). I ask because HTPCs don't need to be powerful. Even my tablet can play 1080p and that's only a 1.5GHz ARM. The Raspberry PI I linked to above is less than a quarter of that spec and plays 1080p as well. So your Athlon should cope so long as you have it set up as a HTPC (eg running XBMC Live) rather than running a full blown Windows Vista install with a sluggish media player.

I mean, if you want to fork out for a new computer anyway, then be my guest. But if you're trying to do this on a budget then you can get away with the Athlon
Edited by Plan9 - 12/5/11 at 1:37am
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