Squeezebox Setup

Starting out – what to build?

Starting out with the NAS build is a daunting task.  The first thing you need to decide is – what kit do I need?  If all you want is a squeezeserver and nas there are plenty of off the shelf boxes that you can buy – qnap and drobo both sell stuff that looks pretty amazing.  The advantages of an off the shelf solution are manyfold – but basically boil down to “it will just work”.  The disadvantages are of course that if you want something slightly off the beaten path then you’re out of luck.  And while most of them are hackable to achieve almost anything, once you’ve hacked it you lose a lot of the main advantage.  Plus you tend to get a bit more bang for your buck by building youself, and it’s all a learning experience.

Initially I built my own server using a low power c7 VIA motherboard in a mini itx case.  This was an excellent solution (inspired by this page) but I ran out of space, and I had a hard drive fail.  Happilly the hard drive was good enough to make it very obvious it wasn’t happy with its lot in life, and no data was lost, but I got thinking about two of the advantages of a proper NAS.  Firstly – RAID – which would mean you could be a lot less paranoid about data, and secondly – SPACE.  My itx case could probably have had a couple of drives in it, but a halfway decent NAS can take 4 or 5 drives.  Lots and lots of space.

This made me start looking at NAS gear again – especially things like the qnaps and drobos, where a bit of hacking is strongly encouraged.  But in the end I went for a Tranquil PC barebones server which seemed to be a good all round solution.   It uses the intel atom – which is pretty low power, it takes lots of drives, and I can put whatever operating system I want on it.  I have combined this with some western digital green drives (they spin at 5400 rpm, not 7200, so use a lot less leccy) to build my perfect server.  Finally it has gigabit networking – which means that I’d have gigabit from my desktop to the NAS – in theory 10 times faster than the c7 motherboard.

Most of these intructions will of course apply to any linux build – on an old p3, a c7 or an atom motherboard that you have bought yourself.  When you are getting gear just remember to think about:

  • Noise
  • Power consumption
  • Cost
  • Headless or not

The last point is an intersting one.  Linux can be pretty scary to newcomers, and not having a GUI just makes that worse.  But low power = less cpu power, which means fancy windows stuff is out of the question.  Even with a something like Xubuntu there is still a big overhead to running the front end.  On top of which if you are running the box with no monitor the front end is not much use!  The flip side is that editing things on the command line is not terribly intuitive (especially if using vi).   Probably the best way forwards is to install a full on Linux on your desktop (I like Ubuntu as a desktop OS), and get yourself comfortable.  Every once in a while you need to hit the command line, and eventually it will be second nature.

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