May 04

Using an Eee PC as a Server

Tag: linuxSymon Rottem @ 6:50 pm

Well, it’s been an interesting week this week; visited Dublin (good beer, good music, crazy stag/hen’s groups), lost a camera (oh, I’ll miss you my digital SLR!) and bought an Eee PC to use as a server.

Huh? An Eee PC as a server?!? I know – it sounds a little weird, but there’s logic behind the choice.

We like having a file and print server around the house and it’s good to have a LAMP and Mono development environment we can expose to the internet as a staging environment through our router. We had a nice little ASUS Barebones machine doing that job for the last couple of years but the motherboard gave up the ghost recently and we had to go out and find a replacement.

Since we live in a very small apartment (jeez, it’s in the middle of Paris, OK?) running a server running around the clock it can make it difficult to sleep, so the logical location is the room farthest from the bedroom which, in our case, happens to be the kitchen. The only place there that we can safely put a machine in there is under the kitchen bench so it’s out of the way and protected from splashes and other little accidents (it’s an inch or so off the floor too so it’s safe from spills). Small apartment, small kitchen; the maximum size of machine we can fit in there is 41cm x 41cm x 15cm, hence the Barebones I mentioned earlier.

Replacing the Barebones has turned out to be more painful than you’d expect; since our other machines are notebooks we don’t have a screen, so setting up a new machine requires lugging it to the office and back or buying a screen that will see 20 minutes use when setting up and then never again. Same goes for a keyboard. Also, the local computer shops sell plenty of PCs and parts to build your own system, but nothing that fits into the form factor required. So I started thinking…

An Eee PC, is tiny – it fits easily into the space required. It’s doesn’t have too much grunt, but it’s certainly plenty to run a LAMP install, file server and print server. It has a built in screen and keyboard and although the built in ‘disk’ is only 4Gb we can expand the storage through external USB drives to our heart’s content.

What’s more, since it’s designed as a portable unit it’s also designed to run of batteries, so if the power fails we also have a built in battery backup for a couple of hours.

I don’t know how long the machine will last running 24×7, but it was cheap at 300 Euros and it’s a nice little experiment.

Now the really interesting part begins; I have to set up the OS and have chosen to go the linux route – something I know little about, so it’s a great learning experience.

I’ll post more on that as I make progress.

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