Super UserWhat can I do with a home server?
[+41] [24] Joel Coehoorn
[2008-09-05 17:15:38]
[ home-server ]

I have an old 700 MHz Pentium III at home running Windows 2000 Server, with a home router set up to pass incoming requests to it and a DynDNS account set up so it's easy to find.

Right now I'm using it for a number of things:

The question is: What else could I be doing with this machine?

Additional ideas based on the suggestions:

Just a note that this server was recently upgraded to an Atom330 with 2 GB ram and bigger hard drive. For all that's slow for a "modern" CPU, it should still be much faster than the old Pentium III [4] and the expected power savings should make the upgrade essentially free over the course of the next year or two. Also, it's now running Windows Server 2008.

[+16] [2008-09-05 17:19:44] Rob Rolnick

Even without a DVR you can use it as a media slave. Put a bunch of large hard drives in there, and put all your media on it. Then you just need devices (like nearly any modern game console), and you can stream the media off of it. If you had a lot of money to spend, you could tie a sonos [1] into the system.


[+10] [2008-09-05 17:18:28] community_owned

Since you are installing SVN, I'm assuming you do personal projects. You could make it a build machine.

[+10] [2008-09-05 17:29:06] community_owned

If you are using iTunes, you can have it serve music to your stereo and use an iPhone or iPod Touch as the remote control. LifeHacker posted a good article [1] recently on how to do just that sort of thing.


[+9] [2008-09-05 18:30:48] Joseph Sturtevant

I use my home server for:

  1. Domain Controller (Using Windows 2003) - My home network is a sight to behold!
  2. File & Media Server
  3. SVN (Using VisualSVN [1])
  4. SSH (Using VanDyke VShell [2]) - Much better than FTP for remote file access. Also, great for tunnelling traffic on unsecured networks!
  5. SQL & MySQL Server
  6. Apache Web Server
  7. VNC Server (Using RealVNC [3])

Of those, I would most strongly recommend SSH and SVN.


[+8] [2009-01-11 01:51:24] Michael Stum

A home server? Sounds like a good case for Continuous Integration [1]. Not sure what programming language you're using, but if it happens to be .NET based, then [2], Cruise [3] and TeamCity [4] are the obvious products to name.


(3) Hudson is also really good. I've got it running on my home server. - Jamie Penney
[+7] [2008-09-05 18:11:40] community_owned

Another way to serve up music is a Squeezebox. [1] It will stream music over the network, so you don't move a noisy PC into the living room or run really long RCA cables.


[+6] [2008-09-15 14:44:39] Joel Coehoorn

New item:

Proxy server for web surfing when you're away from home and stuck with filtered Internet access.

Combine this with the proxy client on a usb key/netbook, tunnel it over HTTPS and you've got a more secure way to access sensitive resources remotely (wireless even) - basszero
[+5] [2009-01-11 01:53:49] ccook

You could format it to a Linux box and make it an overkill router/firewall/HTTP proxy/cache/packet prioritizer/roomate-kid watcher/content filter/Linux intro.

Every single one of those things I can do with the current OS, even the linux intro via virtual machine. - Joel Coehoorn
true. could do it though :) - community_owned
(1) But it is really easier with Linux. - Johan
No, it's really not easier with linux. - Joel Coehoorn
[+5] [2009-09-22 04:44:21] Sergey Aldoukhov

Running BitTorrent [1] or EMule [2] is very convenient on the home server. You can download stuff with no interruptions and have the storage where you need it.

Another nice thing enabled by 24/7 availability is Windows Live Sync [3]. Live Sync requires both computers to be online to be able to sync, so if you'd like to sync your stuff to your work machine, and do not want to keep your home computer running, this is the way to go.


[+4] [2008-10-09 21:54:04] community_owned

I use mine to act as a SSH tunnel gateway when I'm in the office so I can reach my primary desktop. Also to get around the firewall (before I became admin), I setup a reverse tunnel to my gateway at home, and from my desktop I was able to follow the reverse tunnel to access my machine in the office.

Office Workstation -> Firewall -> Interwebs -> Home Gateway then Home Workstation -> Home Gateway -> Interwebs -> Firewall -> Office Workstation

In the office I ran LogMeIn [1] which gave me the ability to restore my crazy tunnels in case of a network hiccup.

I also use the server at home as my scratchpad if I want to share links or something and don't have my VNC up, or if for some reason I forgot to turn my home workstation on. I'll just SSH in, open up the scratchpad in Nano and paste. :-)


[+4] [2008-10-10 01:09:57] community_owned

You can also setup a private chat server running Jabber/XMPP Openfire [1].

Or a Ventrilo/Teamspeak voice communication server.


[+4] [2009-02-15 09:11:58] Omar Abid

You could install IIS. It's powerful. I have done so and I'm running a server with ASP.NET [1], PHP, Ruby, Python and also FrontPage Server Extensions [2].


[+4] [2008-09-15 16:05:58] community_owned

I run my home automation system (or at least major parts of it) on my Windows Home Server.

I also run my CCTV-DVR (security cameras) on it. The infinitely expandable storage of Windows Home Server makes this really great because I can record months and months of video from my 6 cameras and never really have to worry about running out of disk space. I use this capture card & sw [1].


[+4] [2008-09-05 17:57:08] community_owned

Throw in a couple of modems and make it run asterisk [1].


What is this "mo-dum" of which you speak? Is that like the Internet for old computers? - community_owned
I think a proper PBX setup is much more than a couple modems, real hardware can be pretty expensive - basszero
Remember: this is for Windows 2000 Server. But a phone system is a good idea and asterisk is a good answer for the more general case. - Joel Coehoorn
[+4] [2008-09-05 17:19:58] Dillie-O

Put iTunes or some other software on it and use it to serve up music. That way you don't have to boggle down your laptop/desktop with all the mp3s.

Then you can realy geek out down the road and pick up one of those new stero reciever type units that will connect to computers setup like this and you can pump the music through your stereo.

If you're into gaming, most of the "big dogs" have a "dedicated server" option. You can setup your server on the third machine and then connect to it over the network. This will save a few resources on your own machine and you don't have to worry about your vid card freezing at the wrong time.

[+3] [2009-09-03 23:22:57] alpha1

If you are going for a media server then switch to Linux and go for MythTV [1].


[+3] [2008-10-28 07:38:59] bob

Some other software that I run:

  1. VibeStreamer [1] - to stream my music (only browser needed)
  2. Trac [2] - to keep my projects organized

[+2] [2010-09-09 19:51:05] community_owned

I own a Dell Poweredge 2500. Runs Debian, have had it for about a year. This is what I do with it:

  • First and foremost, it's my router. I have 3 NICs, one for the cable modem, one to my wired LAN, and one to my wireless router configured as a bridge.
  • Also, it's my firewall. I have iptables set up to do NAT and only accept traffic I want.
  • Secondly, it's my home network's DNS and DHCP server. Runing BIND and ISC DHCP.
  • Thirdly, it's my fileserver for my network. Samba fits the bill nicely. Everything encrypted with dmcrypt.
  • I have a LAMP stack running various web apps, including Ajaxplorer for remote file sharing (no FTP), Ampache for music sharing, and OMSA, Webmin and PHPMyAdmin for management.
  • I have Adito functioning as a web-based SSL VPN which allows me to access my network remotely from anywhere as long as port 443 is open and I can run unsigned Java applets.
  • Have Azureus running in command-line-only mode.
  • Sometimes I'll run an virtualized instance of Windows Server 2003 using qemu.
  • Use OpenVPN in bridged mode to allow trusted others to access my network directly.
  • Also IRC bouncer.

It's a busy system.

[+2] [2008-10-09 21:14:06] community_owned

My home server runs Ubuntu Server 8.04 and uShare--an open source UPNP media server that's compatible with the XBox 360. I'm slowly using Handbrake to fill my 2 TB of hard drive space with DVD rips.

Using the 360 as a front end to the media server is actually a rather pleasant experience.

David! I didn't even realize this was you until today! - Joel Coehoorn
[+2] [2008-09-05 17:16:28] Thomas Owens

If you had a TV tuner, you could use it as a DVR.

On a similar note, you could dump all your video and music files to it and use it as a home entertainment center. You'd just have to be able to connect it to decent speakers and/or a TV. I'm not sure of the hardware you would need for that, though.

[+2] [2008-09-05 18:23:32] community_owned

Put on an UPnP MediaServer (such as the one from PacketVideo/TwonkyVision) on the machine and stream your music, photos and video in the home to UPnP MediaRenderers. iTunes is also fine if you live in the Apple world.

[+1] [2008-10-28 07:23:38] Eli

Install Alarm++ and use it as an alarm clock.

[+1] [2009-10-06 14:16:05] ianfuture

Run a BOINC project or multiple projects on it to donate your "spare" CPU cycles. Join my team? ;) TeamBluefairy

[+1] [2010-03-27 10:24:45] akira

Run your own DNS server / DNS cache for your LAN on it (I do it with my *BSD machines, but you can do it on Windows as well).