House server

Dear Lazyweb

I’d like some sort of house server thingy. scribb1e and I both have laptops, so we’d like somewhere to back-up important stuff. scribb1e has read the Pragmatic Programmer book and would like to keep her life under version control, which I think means Subversion here (not quite as good as Perforce, but free). I have the vague idea that we could connect something to the stereo and play my extensive collection of mp3z through it. We’d like the box to be more or less silent and quite small.

Possible candidates include the Mac Mini and the NSLU2, affectionately known as the Slug. With the Slug, I’d buy a big external drive onto which I would put a proper Linux distribution, as described on the web page. You don’t seem to be able to buy small and quiet server boxes if you don’t want to mess around with ordering the bits and building them yourself, which I don’t.

The Mini’s standard disk size is a bit small, but other than that it certainly does everything we want. However, it’s somewhat pricey for a box we’re not going to use interactively. The Slug is a lot cheaper but will require me to resurrect my Linux-fu (and if I want sound output, get into the sort of horrific kernel nargery that made jwz buy a Mac). I could buy the Slug and some networked other audio output thingy as I’ve heard you can get those these days, but I’ve no experience with them.

This must be a fairly common thing in other geek households. What have the rest of you done?

5 Comments on "House server"


  1. FWIW, I’m not sure this actually is such a common geeky thing. Rather, among those I know, using old machines as firewall/backup server/etc. after upgrading seems the thing to do.

    I’ve been looking into buying a new machine lately – my current one being nearly four years old and struggling slightly with some of the more recent software – and it seems quite popular now for geeky vendors to offer system units without any OS preinstalled and without peripherals. Presumably if you go down that route when upgrading, that leaves you with a serviceable but lesser spec’d box that can be splatted with Linux/Subversion/Apache/MySQL/whatever other server-ish software you want to run, and driven by remote control…

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  2. I’m currently considering getting one of these to back-up my life onto.

    I only tend to regularly back-up essential stuff, so get rather annoyed every half-decade, or so, when my hard-disk starts making chip-munk noises and my music/photo/etc. collection disappears so I think RAID is the way to go!

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  3. Subject: Version control
    I think I’d go for the extra cost and buy a Mac Mini. It’s silent, small, reliable and, well, just works 😉

    For version control, darcs is your friend. Apparently it’s based on some proper mathematical theories, which has to be good. The philosophies are that all repositories are equal, and any repository is only a collection of patches. This means that patches can generally be applied in any order. Darcs is great for one person working on multiple machines, when you’re not really sure which is the server and which is the client. It was introduced to me at Europython last year, and I use it for all my projects now. It’s written in Haskell, which is cool, but means that you have to install ghc first. Simple using Ports, but my powerbook’s been compiling it for about two hours now!! The G4’s really are slow at compilation…..

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    1. Subject: Re: Version control
      I’m very tempted by the Mini, it must be said.

      It’s unlikely that we’d be doing a lot of patching between branches (which is the place where Perforce wins over Subversion, simply because Perforce maintains a notion of what you’ve already ported when you’ve got a tracking branch), we just want the ability to go back in time.

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