How To Set Up A Home Server With Amahi [Linux]

   How To Set Up A Home Server With Amahi [Linux]For a number of years now I’ve been running Microsoft Windows Home Server on a spare machine I had, as it’s a great way to use up all the spare hard drives that I find lying around the house. It has served me well as a networked storage device and streaming media server, as well as providing me with automated nightly back-ups (of my Windows systems at least).

However, the Home Server team recently announced that they would not be including the disk pooling technology in the next release, so I’ve been looking for an alternative. Amahi Home Server – a Linux based solution – might just be the answer.

First off, let me explain why anyone would even need a server for their home.


In the modern home, there are sometimes a lot of media and computing devices. At one point last year, my home network consisted of:

  • An Xbox 360 and Playstation.
  • A network connected LCD TV in the living room.
  • 2 laptops.
  • 2 desktops.
  • 1 iPad and 2 iPhones.
  • A number of guests who would bring their machines round.

Admittedly, that is a lot for anyone – but even with just a few connected systems, they all need to access shared media (movies, music and such) and all could benefit from a backup every now and again. A home server can provide:

  • A central place to store files and media and well as stream those on your home network.
  • A central backup location for computers.
  • Printer sharing.
  • Much, much more.

We covered setting up a home media server with Linux or Windows, or as a UPNP device for streaming media, but nothing that really ties it all together in one package.

   How To Set Up A Home Server With Amahi [Linux]

Of course, all that media storage means lots of hard drives, and this is where Microsoft Home Server really excelled. Normally, when you add a hard drive to a computer you must partition it, assign drive letters (like C: for your system, D: for data). Not so with “drive pooling” technology. With pooled storage, you simply throw another hard drive in and tell the computer “here, use that as you wish”.

Curiously, Microsoft announced that this amazing functionality would be GONE from the next version of Windows Home Server – the excuse being given that “business users simply don’t have need of it”. At that point, I officially began searching for a suitable replacement, and would like to show you what I found.

Amahi Home Server

Before we begin, I must tell you that it is no surprise that this alternative is based upon Linux, and as such will require a degree of “fiddling” to get things right, and even such simple tasks as adding a hard drive can become confusing with a mountain of disinformation that the Linux community provides – but let’s take that journey together, and let me guide you through the basics of getting your server up and running.

Since I approached this with zero experience of Linux, I think you can too. In future articles, I’ll show you exactly how you can accomplish more advanced tasks like setting up a printer, adding hard drives, setting up backup etc.

agedashi sshot   How To Set Up A Home Server With Amahi [Linux]

Quick Install Guide

I find the guide on the Amahi page rather lacking, so here’s a quick summary.

  1. Download the Fedora 12 DVD (more download links). Boot from the DVD – the install is fairly basic with help at every step.
  2. I assume you are setting this up on a dedicated machine, so select “use entire drive” when it asks how you’d like to set up the drives. You will lose all data currently on the drive.
  3. When you reach the “software repositories” install stage, stop and click on the “Add additional software” button.
  4. Enter Repository Name: Amahi and Repository URL: http://f12.amahi.org
  5. You will need to be plugged into your network, with the Internet on.
  6. Walk through the rest of the install and select to sync with network time.

When you first log into Fedora, there will be some icons on your desktop. Click the one labelled Install Amahi and you’ll be off. You’ll also need to create your free account at amahi.org, and note down your network settings to create an install code. If you don’t know the network settings for your network you can read the tutorial here to find out. Most home networks have their routers on 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1, so enter this where it says “Gateway”. The field is simply where you can make up an address for your Amahi server – it defaults to 192.168.0.10, but I changed mine to .101 just because I have a lot of devices and thought it might conflict. If you only have a few systems, sticking with .10 is fine.

gateway settings   How To Set Up A Home Server With Amahi [Linux]

You’ll then be given a short code to enter into the Amahi installer on your server desktop. After you’ve entered your code and run through the installer, you’ll need to restart.

After restarting the server and other computers on the network, everything is basically set up. I was able to log into the machine remotely at http://hda, so theoretically you could now disconnect the monitor and put the server in the cupboard.

The installer mentions turning off the DHCP function on your router, but in my case that wasn’t necessary. You may need to log into your router or cable modem if you’re having problems, but try without first.

Exploring the full range of features available in the server is subject matter for a future article, but suffice to say the server is now operational, so you should start to add some media files to the network shares. Should you feel adventurous, there’s a support forum on the Amahi site, and a directory of apps you can enhance your server with.

If you’re already running a home server, tell us about it and your experiences in the comments.

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

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48 Comments -

Fred Drake

I’ve just used a generic Windows machine with Drobo as my disk storage. Drobo isn’t the cheapest thing in the world, and their DroboShare is pretty horrible, but I wanted a truly hot-swappable device that provided a RAID5 type of redundancy and didn’t care that my disks were totally different sizes. For me the cost was totally worth it and has been rock solid dependable for two years now.

James Bruce

Yes, dedicated hardware is always going to be a more reliable option but I do like to have something to tinker with a little! There’s no fun if it “just works” (that’s what I have my macs for, tro-lo-lo-lol)

Anonymous

For people who are willing to tinker there are other alternatives as well. My priority has always been data safety, so I’m never going to be running anything that doesn’t have ZFS on tap for the data storage drives on my central storage machine. I’m willing to settle for slightly lowered bells-and-whistles count for that.

James Bruce

Any distros you care to share? Something with a GUI, please!

uSlackr

cr0ft,
Not all my data (in fact most) needs ZFS reliability. My photos and Quicken data maybe, but not my video files. Photos and finance data are backed up off-site PLUS they are on replicated on every greyhole drives. Video files are added to the pool as a single instance.
The beauty of the pool is that each drive has a stand-alone file system. So even in a disaster (multiple drives of the pool lost) I can take the remaining drives, mount them one my one and pull off complete files.
Back to your initial point – Amahi is certainly a tinkerer’s system.

\uSlackr

cookieman

cookieman

James Bruce

Thanks for the alternative cookieman – a quick peruse of the documentation shows it’s entirely command line though? Is there some kind of GUI to manage it all?

I might be tempted to try it anyway, a comprehensive solution with slightly better enterprise features would be perfect – Amahi is very much home centred.

James Bruce

MY bad, it does have a web management interface it seems. Will need to check this out!

cookieman

Although it is mostly aimed at small businesses/startups, I have found that it works well for small home networks as well. In addition to its built in website, document, email, port forwarding, VPN, Samba, and group policy features, you can download packages such as Teamspeak Server that provide additional functionality. Note that SME is slightly less user friendly than Amahi as you may occasionally need to use the command line (over SSH) for advanced configuration. It is also highly secure by default, requiring complex passwords for all users (though this can be changed), and most sharing features are initially disabled.

Anonymous

Interesting. I used sme for about 5 years or so. I stopped about 3 1/2 years ago. We were having some issues we couldn’t resolve (concerning the kernel and the server I was using at the time) and the guy who helps me with my IT was concerned about the lack of development activity and we thought it might be time to move on. ( I was using it in conjunction with Goldmine. I now use Zimbra.) I’m going to have to reexplore sme.

uSlackr

I may need to build one of these just for fun.

\uSlackr

James Bruce

Thanks for the alternative cookieman – a quick peruse of the documentation shows it’s entirely command line though? Is there some kind of GUI to manage it all?

I might be tempted to try it anyway, a comprehensive solution with slightly better enterprise features would be perfect – Amahi is very much home centred.

Thumos

Robert

I have been using FreeNAS for close to a year now, and has been working fine for me. Started out using an old Dell Optiplex Pentium II 400 mhz with 256 mb of ram and used an add on SATA card with a couple of 500 gb hard drives for storage and it is not too bad to setup, I have since moved up in my system to an actual server IBM X345 with 2 72 gb hard drives, and now have a dual Opteron system running the FreeNAS, it has been a learning experience getting the FreeNAS set up with the various systems I have moved it from.

James Bruce

Thanks robert, thats another worth checking and probably more suited to home users. Seems to offer all the basics including a torrent downloader and UPnP server. Do you know if there’s a way to make bootable backups on it? How do you use it youself – just for file storage? Thanks for the tip, I’ll put it on the to-do list!

GL

anyone tried running Amahi as a VM?

my experience with WHS and then with Vail is that you use the server heavily during specific periods of time (backups, media server play time, major torrent downloads etc but these tend to be off-hours or everyone’s focused on that one thing). My issue is that I’ve built out a reasonble server box with enough resources to do more than just play traffice cop to “home data”. Is a VM just too risky for this sort of thing?

p.s. I’m running Vail right now (bare metal, not VM) and i must say, I’m less than impressed:

1. M$FT is likely to drop the <whatever all=”” big=”” disk=”” disks=”” feature=”” is=”” it=”” like=”” look=”” makes=”” one=”” that=”” the=””>. pretty much already decommited.

2. the client software sucketh!! (i have an AX2 with Vista on it and the disk has been spinning almost non-stop since I put the Vail agent on it. the backups are long done bu the system now consistently sits at 1.5GB of RAM consumed and pretty much *nothing* is running!). XP machine behaved a little better. it is beta software and the WHS release version (win server 2003, 32-bit based) is much friendlier to resources)

3. Media server options are marginal.. my opinion. I’m sure YMMV.

4. the beta wants an install from scratch every month or so. crikey. kidding me?
</whatever>

GL

anyone tried running Amahi as a VM?

my experience with WHS and then with Vail is that you use the server heavily during specific periods of time (backups, media server play time, major torrent downloads etc but these tend to be off-hours or everyone’s focused on that one thing). My issue is that I’ve built out a reasonble server box with enough resources to do more than just play traffice cop to “home data”. Is a VM just too risky for this sort of thing?

p.s. I’m running Vail right now (bare metal, not VM) and i must say, I’m less than impressed:

1. M$FT is likely to drop the . pretty much already decommited.

2. the client software sucketh!! (i have an AX2 with Vista on it and the disk has been spinning almost non-stop since I put the Vail agent on it. the backups are long done bu the system now consistently sits at 1.5GB of RAM consumed and pretty much *nothing* is running!). XP machine behaved a little better. it is beta software and the WHS release version (win server 2003, 32-bit based) is much friendlier to resources)

3. Media server options are marginal.. my opinion. I’m sure YMMV.

4. the beta wants an install from scratch every month or so. crikey. kidding me?

James Bruce

interesting, I did try running Amahi as a VM when I started to write this article, but then gave up and just built a test system instead. I think the fact that it wants to take control of the network settings kind of prevented it running properly in a VM.

Sorry to hear Vail is looking like poop. Really, WHS was of the few good things to come from microsoft in years, and now it seems theyve gone and royally ?!>{ that one up.

uSlackr

Microosft has already announced drive pooling will not be supported in release version of Vail. If you upgrade beta’s you will loose the feature. See the WinSupersite for details on how to extend your current beta period.

James Bruce

interesting, I did try running Amahi as a VM when I started to write this article, but then gave up and just built a test system instead. I think the fact that it wants to take control of the network settings kind of prevented it running properly in a VM.

Sorry to hear Vail is looking like poop. Really, WHS was of the few good things to come from microsoft in years, and now it seems theyve gone and royally ?!>{ that one up.

Super_c

Another alternative that has not been mentioned is Lime Technologies UnRaid. UnRaid can be setup with a parity drive and two data drives for free and uses a flash drive to boot. More storage can be added but Lime does charge a modest price depending on the amount of drives you need. You can build your own system from a old PC or purchase various parts up to and including complete systems from Lime. Although Linux based, it does require Windows to setup the flash drive. It`s advantage over conventional RAID is that it allows you to combine drives of any size and type so long as the parity drive is equal to the same or lager than the largest data drive in the system. The system is very simple to setup and use and more features are constantly being added. For more information go to
http://www.lime-technology.com/home/51-digital-media-storage-solutions

frank

seems pretty stupid to say small business owners do not need the service when Windows Home server is for home users… DUH!!!

Untenops

I converted an old 750mhz machine I had laying around into my home server. May not be the best option but I load ubuntu 8.10 on it, back in 2008. Been running great ever since. I backup my desktop and laptop to it. It’s a print server. I stream my music from it with using a daap server and use jinzora2 to stream my music over the net to my office. I have boinc running on it at night when it not really being used for much. I haven’t had a monitor or keyboard plugged into it since I got it setup. Now if I need to do anything I just login remotely. One day I’ll upgrade the machine to something newer, and probably a newer version of ubuntu.

James Bruce

Wow, 750mhz!! That’s absolutely awesome that you can still get good use of it, nice one. Mind me asking how you do your backups? Can you restore or remote boot from them should something go wrong? I’d really like to find something easy that will do that. I guess I need to get my head into linux more.

GL

what do you use for backup in this configuration?

Super_c

Another alternative that has not been mentioned is Lime Technologies UnRaid. UnRaid can be setup with a parity drive and two data drives for free and uses a flash drive to boot. More storage can be added but Lime does charge a modest price depending on the amount of drives you need. You can build your own system from a old PC or purchase various parts up to and including complete systems from Lime. Although Linux based, it does require Windows to setup the flash drive. It`s advantage over conventional RAID is that it allows you to combine drives of any size and type so long as the parity drive is equal to the same or lager than the largest data drive in the system. The system is very simple to setup and use and more features are constantly being added. For more information go to
http://www.lime-technology.com

Weatherman

I highly recommend FreeNas. I’ve been running it at home for well over a year now. It provides shared storage to my ESX servers. It’s rock-solid and I never log into it. Once I got it set up and working, it just, well, ran. It does have a backup utility built in called rsync. You can use it to backup Linux-based systems, including Macs. It can also be used to backup your Windows systems. Instructions on how to do this are available on the freenas.org website. Freenas will not only provide NAS(NFS) storage but also CIFs and iSCSI. It also has an iTunes server, and a Bittorrent client as well as FTP and TFTP. The best part is, you can build whatever features you need into your hardware and then load FreeNAS onto it. It seems like the little dedicated NAS boxes are always missing some feature, like a second NIC, and there is no way to add it to an otherwise perfect solution. Well, now you can build that perfect hardware solution using repurposed, older hardware that was lying around doing nothing, and put a rock-solid platform on it for free.

Weatherman

I highly recommend FreeNas. I’ve been running it at home for well over a year now. It provides shared storage to my ESX servers. It’s rock-solid and I never log into it. Once I got it set up and working, it just, well, ran. It does have a backup utility built in called rsync. You can use it to backup Linux-based systems, including Macs. It can also be used to backup your Windows systems. Instructions on how to do this are available on the freenas.org website. Freenas will not only provide NAS(NFS) storage but also CIFs and iSCSI. It also has an iTunes server, and a Bittorrent client as well as FTP and TFTP. The best part is, you can build whatever features you need into your hardware and then load FreeNAS onto it. It seems like the little dedicated NAS boxes are always missing some feature, like a second NIC, and there is no way to add it to an otherwise perfect solution. Well, now you can build that perfect hardware solution using repurposed, older hardware that was lying around doing nothing, and put a rock-solid platform on it for free.

Marcel

Hi James,

in the picture at the beginning of the text, which case is it ?

Marcel

Hi James,

in the picture at the beginning of the text, which case is it ?

James Bruce

thats windows home server… It’s not free I’m afraid, and though the current works works very well indeed, the next version won’t, so I wouldnt get used it. Best o try something like Amahi now, or the awesome FreeNAS as Weatherman suggested.

uSlackr

cr0ft,
Not all my data (in fact most) needs ZFS reliability. My photos and Quicken data maybe, but not my video files. Photos and finance data are backed up off-site PLUS they are on replicated on every greyhole drives. Video files are added to the pool as a single instance.
The beauty of the pool is that each drive has a stand-alone file system. So even in a disaster (multiple drives of the pool lost) I can take the remaining drives, mount them one my one and pull off complete files.
Back to your initial point – Amahi is certainly a tinkerer’s system.

\\uSlackr

uSlackr

Microosft has already announced drive pooling will not be supported in release version of Vail. If you upgrade beta’s you will loose the feature. See the WinSupersite for details on how to extend your current beta period.

uSlackr

I may need to build one of these just for fun.

\\uSlackr

GL

what happened to the other comments here? one person said they’d been backing up windows systems for years using a linux-based solution… wondered what they’re using…

GL

interesting “Pocket PC” which might make a nice “server” – http://www.newegg.com/Product/

(not posting as a sls pitch/sp*m. I’m not affiliated with Newegg or Acer etc; just had been looking for something which was less space and power hungry than an old junker PC or something)

GL

interesting “Pocket PC” which might make a nice “server” – http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16883103297&nm_mc=EMC-IGNEFL012111&cm_mmc=EMC-IGNEFL012111-_-EMC-012111-Index-_-DesktopPCs-_-83103297-L0C

(not posting as a sls pitch/sp*m. I’m not affiliated with Newegg or Acer etc; just had been looking for something which was less space and power hungry than an old junker PC or something)

James Bruce

That’s rather too cute for me. I like my servers to have 20 hard drives and fill a room!

Steve

Ubuntu server? I have been running this for about a year now and it is pretty dependable. You get the GUI and “under the hood” command line.

leethenoob

i really really wish you would have talked more about how to actually “start to add some media files to the network shares” as you instructed. I read the whole article for this purpose…

James Bruce

Do you mean you don’t know how to access a network share? What OS are you using and I will try to explain it now.

leethenoob

i’m on windows 7…i was under the impression i needed to first create a mounted hard-drive, use samba and amahi tunes…however i see the folder “add extra parameter” when i get into the share folder..am I on the right track? my server is set up with fedora 12, i’m doing this from the dashboard…your write up was really helpful, by the way.

James Bruce

Hi Lee, I’m afraid I haven’t tried some of the specific media apps like Amahi Tunes.

I would start at the basics and work up from there. First, uninstall amahi tunes and copy some media files directly onto the samba share from within network computers (you should be seeing your amahi server already). Is this working file? Then the problem is probably with AmahiTunes.

If you are using anything but the standard music shared directory, you will need to do a little editing of AmahiTunes config files it seems. Check out this forum post on how to edit those, as the dashboard GUI for the app doesnt let you do it.

http://forums.amahi.org/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=53

basiclaly, you should be able to access amahitunes config page from http://hda:3689 ?

If you cant get it working, I can try at the weekend and write up a tutorial but our publishing schedule means you wont see it on the site for a week or two.

leethenoob

I’m getting hung up on where you say “copy some media files directly onto the samba share from within network computers “. With or without amahitunes, I just want to take the files I have from my hard drive and have it loaded onto the Amahi media server, in which I have set up an old laptop to run. Do I need to configue something from the laptop? I just want to be able to add videos or music to the share folder and access them when I need to, or perhaps stream them to an xbox. I’m very close, just can’t figure out if I’m missing something in “spool” or from another place? Any help is appreciated for a noob like myself!

James Bruce

Hi Lee, I’m afraid I haven’t tried some of the specific media apps like Amahi Tunes.

I would start at the basics and work up from there. First, uninstall amahi tunes and copy some media files directly onto the samba share from within network computers (you should be seeing your amahi server already). Is this working file? Then the problem is probably with AmahiTunes.

If you are using anything but the standard music shared directory, you will need to do a little editing of AmahiTunes config files it seems. Check out this forum post on how to edit those, as the dashboard GUI for the app doesnt let you do it.

http://forums.amahi.org/viewto

basiclaly, you should be able to access amahitunes config page from http://hda:3689 ?

If you cant get it working, I can try at the weekend and write up a tutorial but our publishing schedule means you wont see it on the site for a week or two.

James Bruce

also, this page has the password and username for that amahitunes web interface…

http://wiki.amahi.org/index.ph