An old piece of equipment made itself available to me this past weekend, and, while the rest of the family was firmly ensconced in the family room watching the San Antonio Spurs trounce the Miami Heat, I wondered if I could eke out more life from that obsolete CPU.
Sure enough, it was easier than I expected. The old CPU had the following:
- 4 gigs of RAM
- 500gig hard drive
- 64-bit machine
- a slow processor
I currently have it running Crunchbang Linux. If you are unfamiliar with Crunchbang it is a low resource Linux Distribution based on Debian. I chose Crunchbang because of how much I like Openbox as a low resource window manager and Cruchbang comes with Openbox configured nicely.
Another use I have for my home server is to act as a media and file server. For media I run Plex, which allows me to stream my music, home movies and DVD copies to my Roku boxes and Android Smartphone. I already had several Roku boxes and Plex is currently one of the best ways to stream media to them. As a file server I just connect using SFTP and do manual backups of my data.
Installing Plex wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be, especially with these instructions:
1) Install openssh to allow me remote control from any machine via SSH:
sudo apt-get install ssh
This was actually quite cool. I’d used ssh to connect my local Linux machine to remote servers, as well as my Raspberry Pi device, but what I didn’t know was how to use Midnight Commander (sudo apt-get install mc) to copy files from one Linux machine over ssh to the media server…a nice trick to know and a lot faster than using SCP command line. To do it on Midnight Commander, simply type in:
It would look like this:
If you just want to connect to your server–not using Midnight Commander–you would type:
You can get the IP address by typing ifconfig at the command line on the server.
2) Install Plex Media Server by…
a) Adding the following to /etc/apt/sources.list (sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list)
deb http://plex.originet.eu/ stable main
b) Install Plex Media Server:
sudo apt-get install plexmediaserver
3) Connect to the Management web page on Plex:
This will allow you to add folders on the server that correspond to video/audio content.
4) Connect to the “Streaming Side” of Plex:
Now that I’d copied my content–see my note about Midnight Commander, although you can just hook up an external USB hard drive and copy content onto the server if you prefer– into a Movies and Music folder on the media server, I was able to connect via multiple mobile devices. The interface is quite nice and I was able to access the web site via my house’s wireless network. Streaming speed was great!
GET TO YOUR MEDIA FROM ANYWHERE
Furthermore, you can use Plex apps on Android ($4.99) and iOS ($4.99) devices to access your content from anywhere using your Plex account…or your computer at no additional cost.
Here’s what Plex looks like from a non-home network computer via http://plex.tv/
Total cost to implement this solution for home/remote use? $0.00. Absolutely wonderful! I’m sure there are other solutions but this is what I was able to setup fairly quickly. What’s even nicer is that I can add support for my Android tablets with the right app.
Also, Plex has just added Camera upload from Android phones! So, when you’re snapping pictures, they all get put on your Plex home server. Wow!
Ah, if only my video collection was more than just family videos!
You may also want to read this nice write-up via ErgoHacks.
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