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Re-purpose, from old to new

Del lnspiron 531

Re-purpose the old to make it look like new., its a great feeling to take an old computer and make it look like a brand new system. A work colleague, gave me an old Dell Inspiron 531. The Dell Inspion is a fine example of a great renovation project. The particular project was worked to create and re-purpose an old computer into a newer version of itself. The newer version runs Open Media Vault. OpenMediaVault is a free Linux distribution designed for network-attached storage. I have already posted a few articles on this particular Linux Distribution.

When I re-purpose an old computer, I think about the environment, and the fact that we can still bring life to an old system and use it for a few more years before it does end up in a landfill.

Why re-purpose an computer? If you can still use it, then use it. Do not discard it. However, if you still wish to discard it, then give it to a person like me that knows how to re-purpose and recycle the computer and it’s parts. My personal opinion, one of the key aspect of re-purposing is to save you some money in the long run and still use what you originally purchased a few more year pass its life-cycle.

Re-purposing also prevents hazardous and toxic-waste from being discarded into landfills. Computers do have toxic and hazardous waste. When you trow electronics away, please think about the impact that such electronics will bring to our environment. Dispose of your electronics the right way. Back to re-purposing a computer. Re-purposing, is to find another use other than its original intended use.

You can re-purpose from one operating system to another. You can re-purpose your old computer from one function (desktop) to another (server). In the case if the system that I’ve first mentioned above (old Dell Inspiron 531)., I decided to re-purpose the computer from it’s original intended use (home computer) to an attached network storage device, using open media vault. This will allow me to use this system for a few more years before I decide to either re-purpose it again or to properly dispose of it. Remember, think about the environment before you discard your computers (electronics) if you can re-purpose then by all means do so.

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Servers, challenging, fun and … boring too

I have two Linux servers running at home. One it’s just an experimental box, which I use to test different headless Linux Desktops. However, for the past month, I’ve installed, and have been running OpenMediaVault. This particular distribution creates a network attached storage (NAS) which is based on Debian Linux. Open Media Vault works great. It works so good that I sometimes forget its even here. Running your own NAS its not a science. However, having said that, you must configured it right from the beginning. Afterwards, its just a matter of occasional updates.

My personal installation recommendation would is to use a 120Gb SSD and two additional SSD’s or Hard Disk. You can install in any Raid configuration you would like to see. However, with this type of setup I recommend the Disk mirroring. Disk mirroring, also known as RAID 1, is the replication of data to two or more disks.

The second server is a bit more elaborated, however, as I mentioned above, the trick is in the initial setup. Additionally, you’ll have to do a few more things, like updates and some tweaks. The second server as with the first works flawlessly. I even forget that I have two servers in the house. Having and running your own server is fun, but boring too. The initial installation process is both challenging and fun. Afterwards, it becomes a bit boring because things work without hardly ever having any issues.

OMV Server

Both of the servers have been on-line for a few weeks without having to reboot. However, whenever I update the packages, OS upgrade, or install new security patches I always reboot the system. In many instances you don’t need to reboot, Linux just doesn’t bug you to reboot like Windows does., even after installing system updates, that is because the system library are updated immediately in the process.

Photo description (left) Network Attached Storage 

However, I reboot the system just to ensure that the changes are set in stone, even, knowing that is not required. However said, reboots, in some instances may be necessary. Just think in the sense that any of the libraries being updated are still in use, therefore, a reboot will ensure that the old libraries are replaced with the new ones.

In closing, even if you don’t need to reboot, do so for the reasons mentioned in the above paragraph. However, if you are in a production environment, find the best time to reboot that will not disrupt connected systems or users.

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It’s Back-up time

I had a minor mishap early this morning. I’ve decided to reboot the desktop and upon the system rebooting, the system was in Rescue mode. I hate when this happens.

Apparently, I had mistakenly enabled “BlueTooth.” Upon rebooting the system was looking for the Bluetooth files to no avail. Prior to this, I had logged in as root using the root password and used the journalctl command. This command allowed me to review the systemd’s logs. That’s when I discovered the “BlueTooth” issue. A few commands more and I was able to restore the system.

With this problem behind, I started to think about back-up. Therefor to resolve future situations I installed the rsync which allows me to create a backup into a remote device. Rsync is nothing more than a utility, which efficiently transfers and synchronizes files between a computer and an internal or external hard drive. Rsync also allows one create back-ups remote networked storage devices or other computers. I’m not going to discuss in full details what rsync does, this is a subject you can easily search using your favorite search engine. However, backups are important and do save you from losing data.

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Open Media Vault

This is a first one for me. I’m writing this blog using my cell phone’s voice recognition app. I’ve have tried voice recognition years ago. It was not perfect, but today, it’s near perfect. I had only to do minor editing. However, this is not the point of this article.

In this article, I would like to discuss something. Something, new to me, because I didn’t have any knowledge of Open Medial Vault. I always knew and know about “FreeNas.” FreeNas, it’s FreeNAS is a free, open-source network-attached storage server software. FreeNas is based on FreeBSD and uses the OpenZFS file system. However, FreeNas is not what I’m here to talk about today.

I here to write about Open Media Vault(openmdiavault). As I mentioned last week, I was in the middle of installing the Amahi home sever. I have done this installation a few time. However, I have to say, that I’m not impress with Amahi. However, please don’t take me wrong, I do like it, but it’s not my thing. Actually, I never got anywhere with it. In fact, I dropped the Amahi home server set up.

I completely erased the installation and decided to install open media vault (openmdiavault) instead. This article is about OpenMedialVault. In fact I have to say that I was not aware of this server software. I learned about OpenMediaVault from The YouTube, Techno Dad Life video blog.

As I just mentioned I dropped the Amahi home server set up and I never got anywhere with it. I completely erased the installation and decided to install open media vault (openmdiavault) instead. The set-up was straight forward, without any problems.

The Open Media Vault was straight forward and it was up and running within 5 to 10 minutes. Below is a screen shot of the login screen.

Going back to the installation. In actuality, as I just mentioned, I used the Techno Dad Life, YouTube’s video blog installation instructions which turned out to be quite good. I do recommend “Techno Dad Life,” thereforee if you are thinking of using OpenMediaVault, I suggest you take a look at Techno Dad’s life blog.

The title for this particular video blog is “Openmediavault 4 Install and Complete Setup: Current Version.” In Techno Dad’s video blog he takes you step-by-step through the Installation process, from beginning to end., (take a look at the screen shot below of the main screen). He offers very good tips, such as how to get the share ready,. Basically by the end of the video you should be able to do your have and own an Open Media Server installation.

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8Gb to Amahi

Yesterday, I’ve completed the Amahi Home Server Install.  However, the previous installation was incomplete, due to lack of memory.  I had an issue with the final installation process.  The final process of the installations runs an internal configuration, I believe this part of the installation process pre-configures the server shares. However, in my case with only 2Gb of Ram, the process took longer than expected.  I had turned off the the computer and aborted the installation. I had to scramble and purchase 8Gb of DDR2 memory, which took a few days to arrive. 

Amahi is software operating system based on Linux that runs on a dedicated central computer.  When we say dedicated, it means it will act and work like a server to your home network.  This server basically will handle your entertainment, storage and other centralized home computers needs. It will also act a Dynamic host controller, (DHCP), therefore you can have the server act like a router.

Once the memory arrived, I added the new memory, and reinitiated the installation from the beginning.  Within a few minutes I had a fully operational, Intranet ready Amahi home server with all of its pre-configure shares.  The developers recommend minimum of 1Gb.  However, I do not recommend you try to install Amahi Home Server with only 1Gb.   Whenever possible always ad a minimum of 8Gb, the installation and subsequent OS processes will run smoothly.

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Events and Notifications

The ClearOS server has an events and notifications app, that its quite handy. This app provides an interface for other apps to listen for events three types of events, informational, warnings and critical. These events are the internal and external events that occur in real-time in the server. You can view them understand the servers health in terms of security.

As home server administrator is imperative and very important that you constantly review the events and notifications. You can create bulk reports or e-mail notifications. These events and notifications alert you of certain illegal events that may be taking place. Therefore, you can immediately take remedial actions like creating block list. Stay alert!

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Memory is a Factor

Either, I’m out of touch with the realities of a server install or things have changed with time and I just happen to miss something. The minimum server install specifications (back in the days) were something like a 512MB or 1Gb of Ram with a lower-end processor. Today we are looking at a minimum of something like a 1.4Ghz 64-bit processor, 512 MB of RAM with a an estimated disk space of 32 GB.

The reality is far from the truth. I’ve just completed an Amahi home server install with an 64-bit AMD processor and 2Gb of RAM. The install was successful, however, the performance was less than desirable with a 2Gb of Ram. I turned around and decided to try Free NAS., to my surprise during the installation Free NAS displayed an error message – “You have 2 GB of Ram, Free NAS requires a minimum of 8Gb.” What the …

This left me thinking that the 64Bit PCs requires more memory than a regular 32-bit. Since, I’ve been living in a 32-bit world for who knows how long. Frist, thing, RAM to me was like limited in the sense of the amount that I’m accustomed to work with. Thus having more ram is necessary.

I should have verified the specifications prior to instilling the software. With all that said, memory is a factor in today’s high powered Linux distributions. Just about every Linux distributor has moved in support of the higher 64-bit CPU’s and from what I’ve seen is that the norm is a minimum of 8Gb. Keep, this in mind if you will be doing your own server install start with a reasonable amount of memory that will allow the sever software to operate and not create bottle-neck.

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Amahi Server Install

Yesterday, one of my work colleagues gave me an old cannibalized computer case. After a good clean-up of the case, I replaced the motherboard’s CMOS battery, added a new hard disk, and installed Amahi Server. The memory battery (aka motherboard, CMOS, real-time clock (RTC), clock battery) is generally a CR2032 lithium coin type cell. Amahi is a media, home and app server software known for its easy-to-use user interface. Amahi has the best media, backup and web apps for small networks.

This is not my first Amahi install. I’ve have installed and tested this home-server software several times. My first Amahi server install was through a virtual console, it worked flawlessly. The second time around it was directly into a pc and this third time around into another pc.

The installation is straight forward, once configured, it will reboot several times until it gets all of its dependencies and packages installed. Once all that its completed then you access the server via a clients web browser. The rest is history as the server is very easy to configure. I’ll come back later with more on this install and how it will end up.

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Cyber Attacks

One of the most scary things about running a home-server are cyber attacks. According to Jeff Melnick, another blogger from (netwrix blog) he defines cyber attacks as: “cyber attack is any type of offensive action that targets computer information systems, infrastructures, computer networks or personal computer devices, using various methods to steal, alter or destroy data or information systems.

Exposing a server or any type of device to the Internet is subject to disgruntled individuals or rouge organizations that have only one interest in mind. That interest is to get “illegal access” to your device (in this case your home-server). On a daily basis my server is getting somewhere around a thousand plus attacks. Attacks like “Authentication failure for root via sshd from 49.88.112.90,” “Failed login attempt for invalid user fake from 134.209.157.186 (ssh2)” etc. This means that one has to be on our toes when it comes to our home-server security. Unfortunately, in my case, most of the attacks originate from hackers of Chinese origin. There are few from India and Vietnam. However, I’m sure that my listing have attacks from from other various world locations.

I recommend several things that one must do in order to stay on top of these cyber attacks. To stay on top of cyber attacks, ensure that you have downloaded and installed the latest attack detector, intrusion detection system, and intrusion prevention system. Those software packages will help a lot with the systems security. For e-mail use Anti-malware software package. These software packages in some cases and depending on the operating system you are using are open-source. Some software packages have an IP blocking feature. In my case the security software packages are part of a download and install system provided by ClearOS.

Additionally, routinely change your password, use passwords that are a bit difficult to figure-out. Routinely check and download the latest security patches. Routinely, update the server OS to the latest stable version. The point is that running a home-server does require some extra work.

There are many ways to track and seek out information of your attackers. You can directly google “whois” the IP and you’ll get a lot information from various legit sources. There are thousands of Internet sources with a lot of good information about types of attacks and types of counter measures you can take. I suggest you do some reading about the types of attacks and preventative measures. One of my favorite sites to track malicious IP’s is “Black Hat Directory.” However, most of the times I prefer a direct google search using the term “whois followed by the IP address.” You’ll be surprise how much information is uncovered.

The list is of attackers and IP’s is indeed large. However, below is a list of the most frequent attackers to my server, their IP’s and some identifying information with locations. Note that the acronyms ISP is followed by a either a company or domain. The ISP may not be necessarily involved in the attacks, it’s either the individual(s) or organization(s) that hide behind the Internet Service Providers (ISP). The IP shown may not be the attackers own IP as they can be spoofing their IP’s. Spoofing is the act of disguising a communication from an unknown source as being from a known, trusted source.

List of most frequent visitors:

222.186.42.15, ISP, ChinaNet Jiangsu Province Network Zhenjiang, Jiangsu
112.85.42.227, AS4837 CHINA UNICOM China169 Backbone
49.88.112.90, ISP, ChinaNet Jiangsu Province Network
134.209.157.186, ISP, DigitalOcean LLC, Bangalore, Karnataka, India
139.198.122.76, ISP, V6Yun (Beijing) Network Co. Ltd , v6yun.com, China
222.186.30.165, ISP, ChinaNet Jiangsu Province chinatelecom.com.cn Network, China
222.186.31.136, ChinaNet Jiangsu Province Network, chinatelecom.com.cn, Zhenjiang, Jiangsu, China
103.125.189.143, ISP, Hypernet Vietnam Technology Company Limited, Hanoi, Ha Noi , Vietnam

The latest attack (Oct 5) comes from Russia, Authentication failure for root via sshd from sib-ecometall.ru

As I previously mentioned the list of attacking IP’s is large, I cannot sit here all day write IP after IP. The one’s mentioned above are the most frequent attackers to my server. There are ways to extract information out of Linux OS into text files that I could use to write-up a comprehensive listing, but that would be something to do another day.

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Should You Run A Server-Home?

This is the question that many of you initially have when you start thinking about running a server is: Should You Run A Server At Home? Certainly, it’s a serious question and lots of thoughts go behind this question. I’m not going to meddle on this aspect a lot, because there’s no sense from my point-of-view to write about it when others have already done that. Thus, I’m going to point you to three good on-lines articles I found about this subject. Perhaps reading those articles will give you and idea if you want to run your own server from home.


List of Articles:

Should You Run A Sever at Home? Cost & Benefit Compared

How to have a Linux Home Server on the Cheap

How to Build a Linux Web Server with an Old Computer