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Thread: IPCop on a $5- box, Torrent Servers & NAS: Server hardware is cheap now!

  1. #1
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    IPCop on a $5- box, Torrent Servers & NAS: Server hardware is cheap now!

    I think this thread is appropriate here as IPCop (Linux distro) & FreeNAS (FreeBSD OS) are not Ubuntu.

    I've recently discovered how cheap PII & PIII's have become from the local recycler's (the rubbish dump), this opens up a whole world of server possibilities for the home user at negligible cost. $5-/server here!

    There are great applications that have been built on stripped down distro's & OS's that are perfect for our cheap home servers, I'll share what I have been upto for the last week, perhaps some of you have used some of these purpose built distro/OS's & could tell us about your setup & experiences?

    I started what is now a long thread here, on setting up IPCop, (which is a dedicated firewall & caching web proxy that has quite a few add-ons available for it), on a $5- box (Dell Optiplex GX150 - PIII 731Mhz/256Mb RAM/10Gb HDD CD & floppy drives/3Com NIC on board).

    The $5- box is going great, the CPU rarely does more than idle & 256Mb RAM is more than needed (in my small network anyway). Because our internet speeds are quite slow when compared to HDD data read/write speeds, the vast majority of home users could connect to their modem with a 10Mbit NIC & never get anywhere near maxing out the NIC's bandwidth. So you can see that a PII (low power usage) is a brilliant piece of gear for a server, particularly one that deals with web traffic.

    Installing & setting up IPCop is really not hard, there is excellent documentation on the IPCop site, it is separated; there is the Quick Start Guide, the Installation Manual (which includes instructions for using flash media), & there is the Administration Manual plus other documentation as well. There is also an active forum, as many businesses use this software. If you know what you are doing you will be up & running inside of 30 minutes.

    The knowing how to get to the point where it is working great took about 6 days of on & off, style work, web research & waiting on 2 very helpful supporters in the Ubuntu/Server forum & one key helper in the IPCop forum for me.

    This was mainly due to my very limited knowledge of how this kind of server works. Having only had experience with very simple, p2p, small office networking, which only used a file server. Only one of my customers ever ended up needing to move to serving applications from the file server.

    All of this was windows based, & the only firewall was ZoneAlarm & when they went to broadband we also used what was available in the modem/router - NAT & some firewall settings. So I new all but nothing on the subject of using a standalone computer as a configurable firewall.

    So with IPCop I am learning some new stuff; I have never needed Bridge Mode in any, let alone my own nasty little modem/router, & putting the protected system (my home LAN) on a different subnet than the modem/router, to get it to work properly, (which is so easy to do once you know but) cost me some time (before I did know about it). Which my setting up IPCop thread shows.

    I highly recommend the use of IPCop, it is a tiny cut down distro' weighing in at about 35k, it is very mature & powerful, & really quite easy to install & set up, you don't need to know what you are doing, I've proved that, & if you do have a go at it, post questions in my thread & you will get help. It really should not take you the kind of time it took me, far from it. Knowing what I know now, I can install it & set it up easily inside of 30 minutes.

    There is fantastic web based administration software that you use a client to log into, so your firewall/proxy server just sits somewhere headless & without keyboard (never needs a mouse).

    Because IPCop is a Linux distro, & Linux handles data packets much better than windows & windows based modems/routers, there is an improvement in data throughput when on the net, plus the use of a caching web proxy will also speed things for all but the most unusual uses of the internet.

    Using the proxy will cause a reduction in data throughput, which translates into less latency & a more efficient use of your monthly download limit, if you have that kind of account.

    There are a lot of add-ons for IPCop, though at this early stage, I am thinking I will only need to use Advanced Proxy, (once I work out how to get it on there using SSH & scp) as it enhances the IPCop squid web proxy capabilities, though the number of add-ons I end up using could change as my familiarity with IPCop & the size of my network grows.

    [Edit:] As of writing this "edit", I have been using IPCop for 10 months, during which time I have found that our small home network does not have anywhere near the amount of traffic to even be able to use the proxy capabilities already built into IPCop. So unless you have a network that's load is registering on the inbuilt IPCop Proxy Graphs, don't waste your time with the Advanced Proxy add-on.

    The only add-on I use is Copfilter which integrates perfectly with the IPCop browser interface, & provides many more possibilities, most of which I don't need, but I do use Privoxy & ClamAV, both of which come with great configuration scripts & DO NOT slow down browsing on our LAN (though I don't know why they don't?).


    For anyone who has got interested since the first link back there in the 3rd paragraph, below is a link to the IPCop thread, which educated me past a few problems on how to get it up & running, it could save you some time if you choose to go down the IPCop path, it will also hopefully cover the installation of add-ons soon. :

    http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=998490
    ____________

    Next I want to make a dedicated $5- torrent box, probably something along the lines of K.Mandla's how-to:

    http://kmandla.wordpress.com/2007/05...nt-like-a-pro/
    ___________

    Then I'm going to make a NAS or two out of $5- boxes from the recyclers.

    The NAS will be based on FreeNAS which looks to be a great little 35K FreeBSD installation.

    [Edit:] I have now had a FreeNAS system for many months; it installed easily, is easy to configure via its client side browser based configuration/observation system (similar to IPCop), it is reliable as can be. I'm using a 2GB drive to boot FreeNAS & a 1TB drive for storage. I can play a movie over the 10/100 speed LAN from the FreeNAS box no trouble at all.

    Our tip (recyclers) is closed one day a week, on Monday, so every Tuesday morning I will be off to the tip, 15 minutes round trip driving, to see what has come in on the weekend, I suspect that xmas time could be a time for good pickings.

    [Edit:] It wasn't, it has taken 10 months to find a box worth looking at from our local tip, which is a PII with no RAM, that I haven't seriously looked at yet!?

    At $5- each, I think I may build up a supply of about half a dozen, & have backups pre-setup to take the place of a failed box.

    K.Mandla has a story or two to tell, as he is big time into encouraging people to get the most out of what many consider to be redundant hardware if you haven't been there yet you should check out his blog:

    http://kmandla.wordpress.com/2007/03...mputer-useful/

    http://kmandla.wordpress.com/2007/09...-old-computer/

    ________________

    So tell us what you have got going on a cheap box?

    It will help broaden some of our imaginations, at least mine anyway & offer inspiration for us to go & save some computers from becoming landfill, & as far as PII & III's are concerned, now is the time to get them, because if they are worth next to nothing, it won't be long before it is a rare one that hasn't already been put in its grave.
    Last edited by handy; September 29th, 2009 at 02:00 AM. Reason: disambiguation & expansion

  2. #2
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    Re: IPCop on a $5- box, Torrent Servers & NAS: Server hardware is cheap now!

    I picked up a Celeron 466Mhz/64Mb RAM/8.6Gb HDD/52xCD/floppy box for $5- at the tip this morning.

    I stuck another 64Mb of PC100 RAM in it, a CR2032 battery for the BIOS & a PCI NIC, (all of which I had laying around the place) so now its ready to have windows ME overwritten with some FOSS goodness & to be transformed into either a NAS box or a torrent server. I'm not sure yet, though I think the torrent path will probably suit this box well.

    I've been doing more research on NAS, & have found that apart from FreeNAS, there is another very good looking product which I've been looking at called OpenFiler, it is further developed than FreeNAS is at this stage.

    OpenFiler is also available for free, though the company charges for support contracts & such. It is a Linux kernel based distro, which is quite a bit larger than FreeNAS. From what I have read it is also faster than FreeNAS at the moment.
    Last edited by handy; December 10th, 2008 at 10:55 AM.

  3. #3
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    Re: IPCop on a $5- box, Torrent Servers & NAS: Server hardware is cheap now!

    8.6GB HDD? I would recommend you buy a larger disk, as due to Christmas, hardware has gotten very cheap.

  4. #4
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    Re: IPCop on a $5- box, Torrent Servers & NAS: Server hardware is cheap now!

    Quote Originally Posted by Grant A. View Post
    8.6GB HDD? I would recommend you buy a larger disk, as due to Christmas, hardware has gotten very cheap.
    That actually depends on the Motherboard. Some older motherboards can't handle over a certain amount of GBs on a HDD.
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    Re: IPCop on a $5- box, Torrent Servers & NAS: Server hardware is cheap now!

    Quote Originally Posted by Grant A. View Post
    8.6GB HDD? I would recommend you buy a larger disk, as due to Christmas, hardware has gotten very cheap.
    I have other drives. I don't want to store data on it, I want it to be an rtorrent server, which I'll drop torrents into over the network from my main box, after which rtorrent will control the torrents & save them onto a NAS that I will make as soon as I find the right bit of gear at the rubbish dump for the job.

    Quote Originally Posted by smartboyathome View Post
    That actually depends on the Motherboard. Some older motherboards can't handle over a certain amount of GBs on a HDD.
    I tried Arch on it today on both the original drive & an 80Gb IBM Deskstar, & could not get it past a kernel panic when it attempted to format the partitions.

    So I downloaded Ubuntu Server 8.10 & it failed, I tested the CD & it failed the test. So I just downloaded & burned Ub Server 8.06, & it just froze up when checking the CD as well.

    I don't really think that there is anything wrong with the CD's unfortunately.

    Anyway, if I can't get past this problem, for $5- I will have picked up some useful parts for my growing PII & PIII collection.

    It's funny really, a few years ago, when I closed my business, I gave away most all of the stuff that I'm now happily collecting again.

    You never know what the future will bring eh!?

    [Edit:] The motherboard in this old box accepts both the AT & the ATX PSU's, it also has both CPU slot & socket & an AT keyboard plug.

    So I think I can safely say that it is a mongrel of a motherboard.


    [Edit2:] The mongrel motherboard is beyond redemption from its designed for windows hell. So I'll see what the tip man has put aside for me next Tuesday.
    Last edited by handy; December 12th, 2008 at 01:38 AM.

  6. #6
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    Re: IPCop on a $5- box, Torrent Servers & NAS: Server hardware is cheap now!

    Finally a potentially useful box was available at the tip, unfortunately it's an evil Compaq Deskpro. But hey, for $5- I'll buy & have a look at any PII & above box.

    I remember when I used to fix computers that I had a true dislike for the big manufacturer's rigs; Compaq, HP, Packard Bell, Acer, IBM, DEC, Del, as they usually didn't comply with the otherwise universal standards for computer component design.

    You could find that an ATX PSU from any one of these companies would be a non-standard shape, &/or may have a non-standard directly connected power switch, though the ATX standard is to have the motherboard controlling the PSU; the Deskpro has this abnormal switching feature.

    You could also find the PSU's power to the motherboard plug to be on a particularly short set of cables which of course makes sure that the PSU will only work on a tiny number of other motherboards; this is also another feature of the Deskpro.

    You would also find that some manufacturers included a tiny non-standard partition at the beginning of the hard disk drive, that had tools installed without which the HDD is unable to boot; the Deskpro has this feature as well.

    Being able to access the BIOS on some machines needs a special boot floppy, which I'm sure you guessed already that this is also a feature of the Deskpro.

    & last but not least, in the bad old days the BIOS batteries were very often soldered onto the motherboard, I bet you can guess how the Deskpro's battery was fixed? No simple pop out, pop in, replacement of a CR2032 here.

    So I stripped out the little that was of use in the Deskpro & will return the carcass to whence it came.

    Hopefully some good suitable boxes will turn up after xmas / new year, for me to build a backup IPCop box & a combination FreeNAS torrent slave box, with a backup (apart from the drives) box for that job too.

    If not I will have to spend money on the problem & build up the NAS/torrent box.

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    Re: IPCop on a $5- box, Torrent Servers & NAS: Server hardware is cheap now!

    Thanks for this useful Post Handy. I'll have a look at IPCop.

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    Re: IPCop on a $5- box, Torrent Servers & NAS: Server hardware is cheap now!

    Quote Originally Posted by Onopoc View Post
    Thanks for this useful Post Handy. I'll have a look at IPCop.
    No worries, I think you will be suitably impressed, it is so well refined.

  9. #9
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    Re: IPCop on a $5- box, Torrent Servers & NAS: Server hardware is cheap now!

    I use PFSense on a crappy old Dell laptop with a Celeron processor and 256MB of RAM. That thing is a rock.

  10. #10
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    Re: IPCop on a $5- box, Torrent Servers & NAS: Server hardware is cheap now!

    Depending on the services running & the number of computers using the gateway, on these firewall/proxy servers the CPU barely & rarely goes above idle, even though they are using slow old PII's or even slower.

    I'm finding this new area I'm playing in to be quite an education.

    I setup FreeNAS on my test machine today just to play around with it, & it too has a beautifully polished web interface. It is so much better than I thought it would be, I'm very impressed.

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