Raspberry Pi - My New Lightweight Home Server

1 year ago by Sebastian

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Up to a few weeks ago I was running home services on a power-hungry always-on medium tower PC with 650W power supply. With rising energy prices, it was about time to replace it and finally let it go to sleep for most of the time. Enter Raspberry Pi!

I’m not running very resource consuming services. Most of them are really small load projects, usually home automation related and hosting them on full-fledged desktop computer with modest graphics card and a set of RGB cooling fans was not exactly smart. The moment it was turned on, it was consuming at least 100-150W on idle, bloating our energy bills significantly.

On the top of that I could not decide on the purpose of the machine. On one hand, it was used as home server and it would be perfect to do it with Linux. On the other hand, I still wanted to maybe play some games. That resulted in overcomplicated setup, running Home Assistant, Homebridge and similar stuff on Windows 10 with Windows Subsystem For Linux or even worse - natively.

In the Search of the Pi

I almost immediately started asking around where can I get a Raspberry Pi in a normal price. The reason for that was the very steep prices I encountered almost everywhere. The most reasonable and funny reply I’ve got was I need to go back in time to 2020. Back then you could get a new one for even less than €100. Now it was virtually impossible. After some searching I’ve decided to buy a used one for a bit over €100. A sheer fluke. There are of course different models. Mine is Raspberry Pi 4B. It has 1.4GHz quad-core processor, 2G of RAM and an ethernet port. It’s also capable of output to two displays via two miniHDMI ports and has four USB ports. The amount of memory made me reluctant at first, but it came out just fine. The set also included original power supply and 64G memory card with operating system. There was no original enclosure, but instead of that a nice aluminium one with teeny-tiny silent Noctua fan.

The Setup

For the initial configuration I had to connect it to the display to enable ssh server.

After that, I’ve reconnected all the cables so I could hide the computer in the TV stand. My wife was adamant it cannot make any noise so I was very pleased the tiny Noctua was indeed indetectible. That’s usually not the case with small form factor fans.

After connecting all the cables I decided I will complete the setup with a portable USB-powered hard drive for more storage. The doors could be now closed in hope to never open them again, at least in the near future.

The Services

The set of services we run is really small and lightweight, rendering the previous host PC even more ridiculous.

  • Homebridge - a small home automation software written in NodeJS allowing the connection of non-HomeKit devices to Apple system. We use it to control Electrolux air purifier, Denon AVR and chinese YI webcam with custom, bloatware free software.
  • Home Assistant - another home automation solution to control old Sony TV
  • ADGuard Home - a DNS sinkhole to cut off network traffic to popular advertising servers
  • Transmission - a web BitTorrent client
  • Plex Media Server - a self-hosted server to stream media files to Apple TV
  • Cockpit - a little web panel to administer Raspberry Pi in a more humane way

I was maybe not sure if the little computer managed to carry Plex transcoding, but it was doing just fine. Homebridge, Home Assistant and Transmission are not very resource consuming so I was not worried at all. The new component is the DNS Sinkhole for some of the Internet browsing comfort. The entire system is barely utilizing the processor and using maybe half of the available memory.

For the management console, Cockpit was the first I tried and it instantly grew on me. I later approached Webmin, but it was to heavy for the little Pi and Ajenti didn’t even want to start.

Conclusion

I’m very happy with the choice made. Before that, during work my entire desk would consume up to 250-300W just idling.I could finally send the PC to sleep, saving some precious power.

I still use it, of course, but I only turn it on when I wan’t to play a game or for an indoor cycling session. Running services on Windows 10 was annoying, cumbersome and not so stable. Little Raspberry Pi has been rock-solid from the start, using fraction of the energy and hopefully, it will stay this way.

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