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Homelabs, and Distros, and Hardware, Oh My!

Hey all!

It’s me, again, making yet another topic. This time in regards to homelabbing, Linux, and a few projects I have in mind. This post is mainly to reach out to the community to see what suggestions you all have for me.

Scenario: I’m tearing down my existing gaming PC build and moving over to an older generation gaming console (in this case most likely an Xbox 360). When I say “tearing down” I mean I’m removing the dead GPU and setting up a server of sorts. I work in IT and I find myself wanting to do a lot more projects and whatnot, more than PC gaming. I love Linux, and would run it on my laptop if it wasn’t for me owning a MacBook Pro, I digress, but would love to run it on my soon-to-be server.

i7-4790k processor
12 GB of RAM
256 GB SSD
1 TB HDD (media storage)
H81M-P33 motherboard

I know that for the most part, the most important thing to have running is Plex or Emby, but I don’t really know beyond that. I want to start messing with DevOps stuff, Cybersecurity, etc., but not sure how to start. Seeing as how I only have two HDDs, one of which being the storage drive, that really limits what I can do. I would really like to know if I should even attempt to run a hypervisor, or if I just need to stick with centOS (or some other recommendation) for running any other containers, etc.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions or advice you can all give me and have a good day/night/etc.


I would just get everything you initially want set up, then move on from there.

Maybe get into self hosting stuff, as that can be a way to learn more. Like pick something from this list, figure out how to install it, configure it, secure it, back it up and update it. Then build it from source yourself, then automate building it with a self-hosted CI server, which then you need to learn how to install, configure, use, secure and update.

Also, if you want cheap storage, and live in the US, check these out-
Get a pair or two then you can make a decent-sized array on the cheap. You would also need to get a dell h310 or something and flash it to HBA mode, and that would do you for upto 8 sas drives.


Can you explain in muggle tongue why these are “not for pc”?

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They have a serial attached scsi(SAS) port rather then a serial ata(sata) port to connect to the motherboard. SAS has more features then SATA, but is correspondingly more complex and therefore more expensive to support. Most of the features are mainly useful on servers, so that is where you will find support for SAS.

The sellers are trying to stave off people that do not know the difference between SAS and SATA and also people that do not pay attention from buying drives that will not work out of the box with almost all desktop computers, which are refered to a PCs, even though many servers that these drives are from are PCs.

You can get PCIe expansion cards that will work with these drives for under $30 USD used. Be aware that there are some SAS cards that only work with 2tb or smaller drives.

Also, SAS cards work with SATA drives, although not the other way around.


I too went for sas for my homelab. Imho it’s the way to go instead of SATA. One reason is, the interface is full duplex, so you can read and write at the same time. With the drive size compatibility, make sure you pay attention to the cluster size on disk relative to controller. Older controllers used 512b clusters where newer is 4k. I’m running 8tb drives on a close to 10 year old LSI based controller, just had to re-flash it.

There’s more to Plex/emby that can be done. You can automate the acquisition of media files for either, so all you need to do, is to add what you want, to a list. Check out, radarr, sonarr, jackett, ombi and transmission. Works great when configured.

I’m self hosting my own git server, where I save all I do more or less. Bitbucket works great, and is really cheap, $10.

Host your own cloud server instead of giving Google/Ms/Apple all your data.

Choose a distro where you have a stable core installation, I went for Debian, this way I had to setup a lot myself and didn’t have to rely on others deciding what’s best. Learned a lot, really fast.

I haven’t regretted for a second starting to work with containers. They allow for rapid configuration in case of a fuckup, which happen on homelabs. The other day I reinstalled my server os, took 40 minutes from scratch to finish, with all services running.

For cyber security, virtual machines, virtual networks, and setup your own router using route and iptables. When that’s sorted, get some cheap used hardware and build your own router. Will outperform close to everything consumer grade you can get, while you at the same time learn so much.

If you want to learn hacking, read psychology books, seeing that the weakest link is located around 50 cm from the screen.

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That’s what I was curious about, since I only have 1 SSD, and a 1TB HDD, is it even worth setting up a Hyper-visor or is it better to use centOS and then Docker?

Thank you so much for that link, that has exactly what I was looking for in terms of projects! I am beyond excited for that link, had no idea that existed, but will help narrow down what I want to do more.

I’ll be honest, except for a few items, I’m not really interested in the used PC parts market. I understand the cost difference, but for reliability’s sake I’ll stick with newer HDDs and the like.

I figured that’s what it came down to, but I’m thankful @alwaysFlOoReD got to asking before I did!

I appreciate the input! I’ll be sure to check out the further settings of Plex and Emby, it’s more-so to server my already existing media.

I’ve thought about this as well, but I suppose I’ll need to get a couple of more HDDs before I can safely do anything like that.

I was trying to choose between centOS, Ubuntu Server, and Debian. I’m more comfortable in the CLI, it helps me get the concepts down instead, not sure why, but it does. So I’ll be sure to check out Debian and do some more research.

I’ve heard that quite a bit actually, and that’s kind of where I’m at currently. I want to use containers to make sure if something happens it’s easy enough to roll-back, and it’s overall a good skill to have I think.

It sounds like I’ve got a long while to go before I can start performing a lot of what I want to do, since it requires a lot more hardware, but I suppose that’s what birthdays and Christmas are for.

Thanks to (@hem and @TheCakeIsNaOH) the both of you for your replies, it’s helped me narrow down a little bit more of what I want to do. It also helped answer the question of do I need more hardware, which is a resounding yes in this case.

cenOS with docker is pretty much a hypervisor. Especially if you are running virtual machine(s). The main options for hypervisors are Linux+kvm(pretty much any distro, although UnRaid and Proxmox are purpose configured), ESXi, or Windows+HyperV.

With the main options for Hypervisors, am I looking at needing more than just my two-disk setup right now, or can I get started right away? I have some projects I want to start, but don’t want to begin and then have to restart because my root OS won’t be “optimized”. I love the Proxmox interface, so maybe I could use centOS and then install some sort of web front-end for it? Thanks!

The two disks are fine for now, you just will run out of space quickly if you actually put large amounts of production data on the system(ie all of your movies for plex). It is totally fine for testing, and for most stuff, just there are a couple things that need more space, such as videos.

Since both are single drives, make sure to do fairly frequent backups. 8tb WD external drives can be had for a good price in the US. Many also can also be “shucked” ie removing the case and using as a normal HDD.

Take a look at cockpit, it is available on CentOS. Also, I would wait till CentOS 8 is released in the next couple weeks. Proxmox would also work if you want a GUI, or maybe it would be best to do everything CLI as a learning experience? Up to you really, whatever you want to learn about.

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Unfortunately I do use a majority of the disk space for Plex storage. I’ll have to see if maybe I can snag an old HDD (even a slow 2.5" drive to start with) as some extra, OS disk storage.

Already done haha, the data that is most important (which is honestly just media in this case), is already backed up onto an external HDD in a fireproof safe. The next step is seeing how to get the best bang for my buck when it comes to grabbing new storage drives.

Cockpit was exactly what I’m looking for actually, thanks for that suggestion! I’ll probably hold off until centOS 8 then, and I’ll make sure to check on Proxmox again, as maybe it will suit me more than I realize. Again, thank you for all the help, I’ll keep the post updated once I make the OS choice in the coming weeks here.