A new machine… and what comes next

I have been a bit slow on the update front recently, because I am currently in the process of setting up a new computer. It is a desktop machine, which is here to serve two main purposes: one is to be an everyday large-screen computer and back-up rig when my laptop goes bust (as experienced recently), and the second is to operate as a file server for backup purposes. The goal of this latter functionality would be to backup my cellphone and laptop without resorting to shady cloud services or constant external drive plugging/unplugging, while the desktop itself would still be backed up in the “traditional” way. For your geeky pleasure, additional information follows…

Hardware specs have been chosen so as to optimize speed and disk throughput, while maintaining reasonable reliability and keeping the thing quiet…

  • PSU: HKC V-550 (IMO, 75% efficiency sucks in 2012, but I have yet to see its fan spin)
  • Mobo: ASrock H77 Pro4-M
  • CPU: Intel Core i3-3220 w/ stock cooler
  • RAM: 2x4GB DDR3 PC10666
  • Mass storage: 120GB ADATA SSD system drive + Hardware RAID 1 of 2x500GB 7200T Western Digital HDD data drives
  • Screen: ASUS PB238Q (23″ IPS LCD, a pretty nice birthday gift from my brother)

As for software, I have admittedly privileged the desktop use scenario over server performance and stability by using my current favorite desktop Linux distro, Mint 13 XFCE 64-bit. But so far, it’s been behaving pretty well.

Desktop performance is excellent, as can be expected since Linux, like other modern desktop OSs, is unnecessarily reliant on the availability of fast storage devices. As for server performance, I’ve been playing with it as a Bittorrent + Tor node, but the real stress test will come once I get a working backup setup and start to push gigabytes of data on this thing over the network. Noise is, for now, a weak point: the HDDs emit quite a bit of it, to the point of surprisingly being the main source of noise on this machine (usually it’s fans), I’m going to test tonight if it makes sleeping problematic, if so I’ll just turn off the machine at night (which will sadly reduce room for networking experiments) since laptop HDDs are still too slow and 500GB SSDs are still too expensive.

But going back to the backup thing now, which is currently work in progress. The idea is to try to do the most with the least amount of package configuration paperwork. As it turns out, phone sync is the limiting factor here: after multiple failed attempt to set up a SyncML setup for my Android phone using free or cheap software (and FreeDNS for dynamic DNS matters), it appears that a a combination of CalDAV and CardDAV sync is probably the best option in the end. Once we have to use those, it would make sense to use the underlying WebDAV functionality for laptop backup matters, by mounting it as a filesystem and pointing any backup software worth its salt in that direction. Curiously, however, few FOSS *DAV servers will let you do just that. So far, candidates which I have found is Apache’s mod_dav and ownCloud. OwnCloud does not strictly rely on Apache as a web server, seems more fun to administrate and offers more room for future experimentation, so I’m tempted to try that first, and revert to something else if it does not work.

And that’s where I am now. Next step: setup a Cherokee web server and find out how much this ownCloud thing is worth :)


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