Raspberry Pi: the Perfect Home Server

Peripherals

The first order of business is to get the external storage device mounted. Use dmesg to look for where the storage device was found—it almost certainly will be /dev/sda. I like using automounter to handle mounting removable storage devices, as it is more flexible about handing devices that may not be present or ready at boot time:


>> sudo apt-get install autofs
>> sudo nano -w /etc/auto.master 
======/etc/auto.master======
...
/misc /etc/auto.misc
...
======/etc/auto.master======

>> sudo nano -w /etc/auto.misc

Note, my external storage device is formatted with ext4—modify this for your needs if required:


======/etc/auto.misc======
...
storage         -fstype=ext4            :/dev/sda1
...
======/etc/auto.misc======
>> sudo /etc/init.d/autofs restart 
>> ls -lat /misc/storage 

Optionally, create a symlink to shorten the path a smidgen:


>> ln -s /misc/storage /storage

Backup Repository

At the top of any home server feature list is providing rock-solid backups. With the RPi, this is pretty simple, due to the wide range of network-sharing options in Linux: Samba/CIFS for Windows machines, NFS for UNIX-based devices and even SFTP for more advanced backup clients like deja-dup. Because the RPi has only 100Mb Ethernet, and the storage device is on USB, it's not going to have super-fast transfer speeds. On the other hand, good backup clients run automatically and in the background, so it's unlikely that you'll notice the slightly slower transfer speeds.

My home network includes one Windows 7 machine. For it, I exported a backup directory on the RPi's external USB storage device via Samba. Because the backup utility in the basic version of Windows 7 doesn't support network drives as a backup destination, I used SyncBack Free to set up automated, daily backups.

Configuring Samba is simple.

1) Install the samba and common-bin library (which has the smbpasswd utility):


>> sudo apt-get install samba samba-common-bin

2) Use smbpasswd to let your local ID have access:


>> sudo smbpasswd -a YOURUSERIDHERE

3) Edit the samba configuration file:


>> sudo nano -w /etc/samba/smb.conf

4) Change the workgroup = WORKGROUP line to match your Windows workgroup name.

5) Comment out or delete the [homes] and [printers] share. (Printer sharing will be done later via direct CUPS access.)

6) Add an entry for the Windows backup paths. Here's my example, which I placed at the bottom of the file:


======/etc/samba/smb.conf======
...
[win7pc] 
comment=Backup for windows PC
path=/storage/win7pc 
writeable=Yes 
create mask=0777 
directory mask=0777 
browsable=Yes 
public=Yes 
valid users=YOURUSERIDHERE
...
======/etc/samba/smb.conf======

7) Restart Samba to implement your edits:


>> sudo /etc/init.d/samba restart

8) Test connectivity from the Windows machine by mapping a network drive from the file explorer.

For Linux devices, deja-dup is brilliantly simple to set up and use. It's been installed by default on both my Fedora 18 and Ubuntu 12.10 installs. While the package name is "deja-dup", the front end is simply called "Backup". Although the RPi easily could support NFS export, I've found that using deja-dup's SSH option is easier and more portable, and it eliminates the need for an additional service on the RPi. Specifying a deja-dup encryption password is probably a good idea, unless you like the idea of all your files walking off if someone pockets the storage drive:


>> sudo mkdir /storage/linuxlaptop
>> sudo chown -R YOURUSERIDHERE:YOURUSERIDHERE /storage/linuxlaptop

From the client Linux machine, launch the backup utility, choose "SSH" as the backup location, and enter the RPi's IP address and the storage location you just created. The first backup will be slow, but future runs will be sending only incremental changes, which is significantly faster.

Figure 2. Deja-dup Client Setup

Multimedia Server: DLNA

Now that everyone's files are backed up safely, let's move on to some fun! A DLNA server will give you a central place to store your movies, music and pictures. From this central repository, DLNA clients from every screen in the house can play back this content with ease.

At least, that's the promise. The reality is that the DNLA specs don't quite nail down many important things like which formats or encodings are supported. Each client typically has a slightly different idea of what formats and server features it would like to support. A much higher-power server might be able to transcode local content to device-supported formats on the fly, but that's not possible on the RPi, and the on-the-fly transcoding often messes up other features like pause, fast-forward and rewind. In general, higher-powered devices like the PS3, Xbox and WD TV devices can handle most formats without any transcoding. Lower-end devices like smart TVs or Blu-ray players support a much more limited list of codecs.

For the RPi, your best bet is simply to encode to the standards your primary DLNA device supports and then test your other DLNA clients. If they won't play nicely, the tips in the next section may help. In my case, my PlayStation 3 acts as the DLNA client, which plays nicely with the compact .m4v files generated by Handbrake.

Minidlna is a great choice for the RPi DLNA server. It's already in the Raspbian distribution, is quite simple to set up and uses minimal server resources while running:


>> sudo apt-get install minidlna
>> sudo nano  -w /etc/minidlna.conf

Here are the relevant sections of my /etc/minidlna.conf:


...
# I found keeping video + audio in different paths helpful
media_dir=V,/storage/dlna/video 
media_dir=A,/storage/dlna/music 
...
presentation_url=http://192.168.1.10:8200/
...
friendly_name=MyRPi
...
# Since I add new media infrequently, turning off 
# inotify keeps minidlna for polling for 
# content changes. It's simple enough to run 
# sudo /etc/init.d/minidlna force-reload
# when new content is added.
inotify=no

Once done editing, tell minidlna to restart and rescan for content:


>> sudo /etc/init.d/minidlna force-reload

Minidlna has the ability to provide movie-poster thumbnails for your movies for devices that support it (like the PS3). It makes finding a specific movie when scrolling through dozens of movie files much more convenient. I've found that the most compatible file layout is to have one directory per movie, containing just the movie file plus the thumbnail image named "Cover.jpg". Using a format like "MovieName.m4v" and "MovieName.jpg" works fine for the PS3, but it breaks VLC (if you can convince the VLC uPNP plugin to find the server in the first place).

From the PS3, you can test connectivity by going to "Video" on the XMB bar. The "friendly_name" you set previously should be visible when scrolling down in the Video section. If you cant find it, test to ensure that Minidlna is up by going to http://192.168.1.10:8200/ with a Web browser.

Multimedia for Non-DLNA Devices

Once you get DNLA working with some of your devices, you may find devices it doesn't want to work with, so a multimedia plan B is a good idea. The nginx Web server has an MP4 plugin that tries to improve streaming over plain-old HTTP, but browser playback performance varied widely, and fast-forwarding within a movie didn't work consistently either. It seems like the lowest common denominator for multimedia sharing across fussy or non-DLNA devices is a good-old-fashioned Samba share with guest read-only access.

Here's an sample section from /etc/samba/smb.conf:


[dlna] 
path=/storage/dlna 
read only=yes 
browsable=yes 
public=yes 

After defining the share and restarting Samba (sudo /etc/init.d/samba restart), you can start to test out your clients.

I tested the following clients with a mix of videos encoded with Handbrake as m4v files:

  • Android 4.0.4 phone: "ES File Explorer" with "ES Media Player" (player comes with install).

  • Android 4.1.2 tablet: "ES File Explorer" with "ES Media Player" (player comes with install).

  • Linux devices: automount ://192.168.1.10/dlna, then use VLC or MPlayer.

  • Windows: mount //192.168.1.10:/dlna, then use VLC.

All devices were able to start playing almost instantly and fast-forward with no delays.

Print Server

The RPi runs CUPS quite well, so it's easy to share an older printer that doesn't have native networking features.

Install CUPS and any packages needed by your printer. I needed hplip-cups since I have an HP inkjet printer:


>>  sudo apt-get install cups hplip-cups

Update the "Listen" line and add the Allow @LOCAL block to the Location directives as shown below (so you can use other machines on your LAN to administer CUPS):


======/etc/cups/cupsd.conf======
#Listen localhost:631  #Comment this out
Listen 192.168.1.10:631 #Add this line
...
<Location /> 
  Order allow,deny 
  Allow @LOCAL 
</Location> 

# Restrict access to the admin pages... 
<Location /admin> 
  Order allow,deny 
  Allow @LOCAL 
</Location> 

# Restrict access to configuration files... 
<Location /admin/conf> 
  AuthType Default 
  Require user @SYSTEM 
  Order allow,deny 
  Allow @LOCAL 
</Location> 
======/etc/cups/cupsd.conf======

Add your local ID to the lpadmin group so you can administer CUPS:


>> sudo usermod -a -G lpadmin  YOURUSERIDHERE

Restart CUPS:


>> sudo /etc/init.d/cups restart

Then, go to http://192.168.1.10:631/ and click "Adding Printers and Classes" to set up your printer. My printer was auto-discovered on the USB, so all I had do to was click "share". Also access https://192.168.1.10:631/admin, and make sure to check "Share printers connected to this system".

Once you're done, you can set up your clients the usual way. My Linux clients auto-discovered the printer and picked the right printer drivers once I entered the hostname. On my Windows 7 machine, once I selected "Network Printer", I had to click "The printer that I want isn't listed", select "Select a shared printer by name" and then enter the URL from the CUPS Web interface: http://192.168.1.10:631/printers/HP_J4500.

Conclusion

With a minimal amount of additional hardware and configuration, the Raspberry Pi can be a highly capable, compact home server. It can bring the wide range of enterprise services offered by Linux into a home environment with minimal hardware expense.

______________________

Comments

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I have

Damianus's picture

I have a raspberry pi but I never got to do something with it, I even have a little dongle which I assume is for wireless communication. But I wanted to use the raspberry as some kind of hub, for example I wanted to connect my printer and my external hard to the raspberry then access it as a NAS and print from any computer in my house but like I said I never got around to do it.

Damian from SmartIT

RPi

JohnSn's picture

Well, this is a great article. Too bad I did not find it earlier.
It would have saved me a LOT of time 8-)
Anyhow, I finally got my first Rpi.
Media center, BANG!
Well, not so fast. I found that making it a file server with a share work a lot better form me.
It took a while before I had it working. I am a newbie a Linux so finding all the commands, apps, whatyamagot to get it working.
But I got it up and running without problems. I am using a WD Live as media center, the RPi as the (windows)storage. And it is all connected to a 1 GB cabled network.
I have no buffering (like with Netflix and Amazon). I even tried to overload teh share by copying files to it while copying other file from it WHILE playing a movie. Still no delays, no buffering.
I now have 6 RPi's up and running with diferent configurations from File Shares to Mail server, Webserver, a monitor that keeps an eye on my routers, Another media server. And all this is a self-made case that is smaller than a case of cigarettes.
I all, it has been a great experience. I highly recommend this for folks who like to tinker a bit.
If you do not like to tinker, not a problem, there are hardware choices for cases and several distros you can use without too much hassle.
Anyone who has negative things to say about the RPi, either has not used one and is judging by what he/she read somewhere/sometime LONG ago, or they just do not like the tinkering aspect.
This is MY opinion and if you don't like it: *PFFRT*
See y'all!!!

Awesome RPi Use

iOS Jailbreak's picture

Since the launch of RPi in public, I wanted to use it in my real-life, and recently, I was looking out ideas for which I can use RPi.

I am planning to equip my sound system with RPi, and install an AirPlay receiver, or AirServer type application, which actually allows me to listen to music from my iPhone, MacBook Air, or iPad directly with sound system. At the other end, the Media Center idea is also great. As I have couple of devices in my house, and it is very hard to copy / paste date in every other device personally.

Must be amazing

Joey Stawlen's picture

Wow that must be amazing.
Where can i get pi servers? Is it possible to install in existing home servers?

www.solarpowernotes.com

I am blogger.

Regarding above post.

Hammad Baig's picture

I've been using some of these small form factor home servers for personal uses like media centers, media hosting for around the house, it works great if its for internal use only, as far as it being an actual production server for web and such, its good if you're hosting like a couple pages lol.
Regards,
Hammad Baig
Covershub

I think there is some problem

fashion fur hats's picture

I think there is some problem in cooling system . .

There is no cooling problem.

Anonymous's picture

There is no cooling problem. It does not need it.

Hello, I have browsed most of

AC Maintenance Contract's picture

Hello, I have browsed most of your posts. This post is probably where I got the most useful information for my research. Thanks for posting, maybe we can see more on this. Are you aware of any other websites on this subject.

Nice Server

Tahir's picture

I like this server. I am also thinking to become familiar with Pi perfect home server shortly. nabard.org

Media Center

Jamaica Joe's picture

I have serial doubts about if Raspberry will be a decent Media Center, Does anyone has tested with HD multimedia? What if I want to play a 6Gb file from a BRrip? Or Netflix HD Streaming?...

While the CPU might be slow,

Anonymous's picture

While the CPU might be slow, the GPU is not. I've played several blue ray rips w/o any issues at all.

Great for media centers

Gerardo V's picture

I've been using some of these small form factor home servers for personal uses like media centers, media hosting for around the house, it works great if its for internal use only, as far as it being an actual production server for web and such, its good if you're hosting like a couple pages lol.

LowFormfactor server.

berry.whitetiger's picture

I hear that there is a 100Mb network card you can add onto the raspberry to improve the throughput. Im using a low form-factor Linux box made from D-link DNS-320 called "ShareCenter" running some version of linux. Small Linux systems are replacing those noisy servers now days. I looked seriously into this after lighting took out all my beige boxes. You might want to consider it for your next home media share center.This is an interesting application that is very similiar and less DYI.

RasPi server

LinuxUser_1's picture

Brian - great article!

Couple of comments - long time Linux user, first time "headless server" guy. Neat! I've never had much "luck" with autofs and devfs setups for ubs drives, so I just set up the usb drive in /etc/fstab as "auto".

I was backing up my big linux box to the RasPi, and tried copying over some files from another machine to a SMB share - whoops, timed out and died. Worked later when the backup was finished.

Speaking of backup, deja-dup is great for backups over ssh, but the lack of multiple profiles is really bugging me. I'd like to backup and encrypt my home dir (~15 GB), but I don't need to encrypt my music archive (~300 GB). Can you recommend another backup solution that works over SSH? I might just go to an rsync script if I have to.

don

Thanks for the feedback, Don!

Brian Trapp's picture

Thanks for the feedback, Don! I actually ran into problems with automount after a few weeks of use (see an earlier comment) where minidlna was triggering a remount every few minutes and making the filesystem require a fsck at boot - so I'm on board with your plan to just use /etc/fstab.

For multiple profile support, I haven't seen anything really great yet that supports encryption and multiple profiles. I would suggest keeping deja-dup going for anything you want encrypted (/home, /etc), but use something like rsync to keep things like media directories in sync. *Not* using deja-dup on media dirs is nice because a) its not the kind of thing where incremental backups make sense in the first place, and b) an rsync-ed dir on the RPi server end can be easily shared via minidla - can't do that with the deja-dup incremental files.

My very first rsync command ever I had backwards, so I wiped my local dir instead of copying it over, so make sure you pre-backup your backup :)

Thanks for the reply! You

LinuxUser_1's picture

Thanks for the reply!

You can't be too careful with rsync. Looks like deja-dup combined with samba shares and rsync scripts will provide my long-sought centralized home backup server. Amazing little $35 linux computer. Probably rates pretty good on the old "bogomips" benchmark.

we're not quite there yet

Tim's picture

Respectfully, a "server" which is bottlenecked by Class10 (10Mb/sec) USB flash drive + USB 2.0 external drive (~25Mb/sec) ...is a bit off the mark of "perfect".

I suppose 'perfect' is subjective :)

Brian Trapp's picture

Well I wouldn't use it to host Reddit, that's for sure. But for home use (my home, at least), my primary needs are serving streaming media, backups, and sharing a printer.

I used to use a leftover server with a dual-core cpu, gigabit ethernet, and sata to do those things... but after switching to the Pi, a) nobody noticed any speed hit (backups run in the background, and media streaming takes only a wee bit of bandwidth at a time) and b) I'm saving money on the power bill and c) I get to play around on ARM instead of x86 for a change.

So it won't be perfect for everybody, but there's a lot you can do within the RPi's capabilities that will let you benefit from its great price and super low power appetite.

Thanks for the marvelous

excursion marrakech's picture

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External HDD NTFS

PeterReed's picture

Using am external HDD with NTFS filesystem type needed the ntfs-3g package installed to enable read-write access described in the Peripherals section.

NTFS

Brian Trapp's picture

Thats a good point. I was using ext4 since it was only going to be used by a Linux system, but NTFS would need that extra set of libraries.

Yeah I was aware of the

Pearse's picture

Yeah I was aware of the ntfs-3g requirement and completed that, still not getting the file system unfortunately

samba

pearse's picture

Hi, great easy to follow guide for novices like me. I'm having problems getting Samba installed. When I run the prompt it tells me file cannot be found on the http://Debian.net/wheezy/main samba armel 2:3.6.6-2
http://i1055.photobucket.com/albums/s520/pearse67/20130831_111933_zpsafa...

Hopefully that is legible. Any ideas how I can get around this problem?
Thanks

samba

Brian Trapp's picture

That looks like maybe one of the mirror is just down temporarily? I'd try again today.

re

Pearse's picture

hi, thanks for the reply, got it sorted, I hadnt ran the update correctly so the version was incorrect. sorted now although I'm struggling with Samba, i think..., Ive set up samba.conf as instructed above and my win7 machine cant access the server. It's picking it up ok but getting a prompt to enter network username and password- I've tried everything, from my Pi login to the Smbuser username and smbpasswd and nothing is working

samba

Brian Trapp's picture

Yeah, you should be using the id/pw you setup at the 'smbpasswd' step.

Anything useful in the logs (/var/log/samba) as far as why the W7 box can't connect? Does the samba userid have at least read access on the dir?

re

pearse's picture

hi, how can I check whether I have given my userid has full access t the dir? I suspect this is close to what my problem is because I dont think I set any permissions during the setup process

re

Brian Trapp's picture

Try accessing the directory and files *locally on the Pi* as the user you setup in the smbuser step. If you have read (and maybe execute?) you should be able to view them from te SMB side too.

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Tuning home server

Pyplate's picture

I've been doing some tuning on my Raspberry Pi - I'm getting pretty good results. I've been testing using 800 concurrent users in siege. I posted the details at server cluster tuning

for Android phone users that have a Pi server, or any web-server

TouchFreePhotoHomeSync's picture

for Android users that have a Pi server, or any web-server
and want to build an automatic photo gallery at home:

I looked in the marketplace for any App that would backup my pictures without the need to have a specific manufacturer's phone (or) a specific manufacturer's NAS drive, or a SAMBA share.
There was none.

This was the need for the app TouchFree Photo HomeSync.

You can choose to upload from multiple phones to the same server, or to different servers, all in the LAN wifi. And browse your collection from a browser.

Thanks

Reply to comment | Linux Journal

cocinas modernas's picture

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Hey guys, let me tell you

Alicia Dickerson's picture

Hey guys, let me tell you something for an example. I got a Samsung mobile phone and I got all the essentials features in it so why should I go for iphone?

I use my Pi without a hard disk

Pyplate's picture

I've got my Pi set up as a web server at raspberrywebserver.com. Instead of adding a hard disk so that I can store media, I just upload my media to Tumblr, and embed it in the pages in my site.

Thanks for sharing

hello's picture

Thanks for the information. Keep on writing.
hello

Another setup

Björn Ruberg's picture

Hello,

I suggest a little different setup in my blog here:
https://btux1984.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/build-your-own-6-watts-home-se...

It does not provide a hardware raid and it uses more expensive 2,5 inch harddisk. However, it demonstrates the usage of the pi together with two harddisks using only one power supply. As every power supply causes power loses, this setup is a little bit more power saving.

As suggested in the article, my maximal power usage is six watts, what is a little less than the eight watts mentioned here. That's more than 20% :)

Raspbian and codecs

Marcel G.'s picture

I have been thinking of using a raspberry pi as a home-server too.

I just wonder how Raspbian copes with codecs. I remember removing debian from my home server (laptop) a few years ago, because I had problems getting mpd to stream mp3-files. Is that possible with raspbian?

Regards,

Marcel

Client codecs

Brian Trapp's picture

If you use Minidlna (or any other DLNA solution) then the codec requirements are all on the client side, not on the RPi - same if you're sharing via network mounts.

I haven't done direct playback myself, but a quick seach of the Raspbian distro shows it has mpd and some frontends, plus lame and mpg321, so it seems like mp3 support should be pretty solid.

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Innovative Thinking

Adam Phigit's picture

I had not thought of using Raspberry Pi as a home server. You are right that other peripherals cost a lot less. I will get the team to do some experimentation at work for some other innovative business uses - instead of the home based server.

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Advice about automount

Brian Trapp's picture

One suggestion I'd like to add to the above article - I eventually moved away from using automounter for the storage device to a regular entry in /etc/fstab. The way minidlna was polling for new data meant the drive would mount/unmount a *lot* and eventually push me into a fsck at each reboot. By having it permanently mounted, it gets pushed over the fsck check limit at a much more reasonable interval. Hope that helps!

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