A few weeks ago I went through the process of setting up a home server using an old computer, a copy of Ubuntu and Amahi, a free home server that comes with its own repository of extras. Loosely referred to as an “app store” by some, once you’ve set up Amahi, it’s easy to add additional services to your server in just a couple of clicks.
If you’ve just installed your Linux home server or are looking for Ubuntu-specific additions then this article is for you. Not all extras work on the new Ubuntu version of Amahi, and you’ll want to be careful not to install additional packages in Ubuntu itself which can damage your Amahi install and jeopardise your server.
We’ll be taking a look at the must-have free and paid extras that’ll take your home server to the next level.
Installing & Buying Apps
In your personal Amahi settings (accessible by typing hda/ into your browser and logging in with your Ubuntu credentials) there is a list of free add-ons under the Apps menu. Many of these are quality freebies, though don’t be surprised to find them a bit out of date. A better source of more up-to-date add ons is the Amahi App Store, which you can log in to using your Amahi credentials.
Anything you buy or download here will be downloaded to and installed on your home server, negating the need for you to really do anything beyond click a few buttons.
Note: As mentioned above, not all add-ons work with the Ubuntu-friendly Amahi install, which is why James’ older article about Amahi’s extensions might not be very useful unless you’re running Fedora. Be sure to check the compatibility of your server before buying new extras!
If you only spend $5 on your home server, spend it here. DLNA for Amahi is a port of the highly popular MiniDLNA project, optimised for all versions of the home server. If you want to stream music, video and images to DLNA/UPnP devices across your house then this is the software that will enable you to do it.
The one thing this streamer lacks is transcoding ability, which means your server will not convert your content to the best possible format before streaming it.
This means your clients (TVs, games consoles, media centres) will need to be able to natively decode incoming audio and video. This can be a problem if you’re streaming videos wrapped in an .MKV container, though due to the prevalence of H.264 and MPEG4 compression there’s a good chance a lot of your videos will work on newer devices.
A lack of transcoding might be seen as a plus by some, especially if your server uses very old hardware or is lacking in the GPU department. It also doesn’t change the fact that you could transcode the content yourself if you’re desperate to watch something, there are lots of free solutions for this.
The whole point of a home server (for most) is to provide easy access to network drives. The ability to add more storage as and when you need it is just one of the benefits of having your own server, and with all that space it makes sense to put it to use for your download and sharing needs with an app like Transmission.
Transmission is one of the best standalone BitTorrent clients you can install on your non-Windows machine, it’s simple, elegant, comes with a great web UI and according to the developers this Amahi-optimised version “just works” from the get-go. Once set up the web interface works great from tablets and smartphones too, so you can sit on the sofa administering downloads with your iPhone without reaching for a laptop.
The Amahi CrashPlan app serves two main purposes – to back up your PCs locally, for free and to upload data to the CrashPlan servers using the CrashPlan+ service which must be paid for. CrashPlan offer a range of plans and though they’re not the only online backup provider, they’re a very reasonable one. If you’re not planning on purchasing a plan you might still be interested, given what the CrashPlan client can do.
Backup PCs locally and remotely for free – simply enter a friend’s code and keep a copy of each other’s important documents in two locations at once. Optionally you can set up backups from all your main PCs to your home server. In the event of data loss you’ll be glad you had all that data backed up locally, rather than having to download gigabytes of data over the course of hours.
SABnzbd Plus is a Usenet client which enables you to download files using one of the world’s oldest filesharing methods. Sick Beard is a plugin which you may want to install if you’re hot on Usenet. Together, they make an excellent team and ensure you’ve got things to watch even if you haven’t specifically downloaded anything.
Tell Sick Beard about your favourite TV shows and it will automatically search for old and new episodes for you to watch. When it finds one it will send the .NZB to SABnzbd Plus and your download will begin. This is basically a modern PVR, and if you like the concept you might want to check out Couch Potato (also $3.99) which is designed to do the same thing except with movies, though it’s not 100% there on Ubuntu just yet.
Built to sync, share and back up files, Amahi Sync monitors shares of your choosing for incoming files and then makes them available online whenever you need them. Access your shared files anywhere you want, with only the only limitations being the speed of your internet connection and available space. Files are available either via logging in and using the web interface or publicly using your username.amahi.me/Public/ folder which makes sharing files you’ve got at home with friends and family easier than ever.
Android users might want to check out the Amahi Sync for Android app [No longer available] designed especially for use with this add-on in mind.
An app that works in much the same way to Amahi Sync above, ownCloud provides universal access to files wherever you are. The free add-on provides more than just access to files and has built in functionality for music streaming, sharing with others, WebDAV access and basic editing features direct from your browser. Sync contacts, calendars and bookmarks across all your devices using ownCloud on your personal server.
Finally if you’d like to be able to access your media from anywhere with an Internet connection, Jinzora is one PHP-powered solution that’s designed to let you do that. Unlike DLNA above, Jinzora is designed for online media retrieval and supports transcoding to do so. This means you can watch most media files on your smartphone, laptop or other compatible online device.
Coming Soon: Amahi Time Machine ($4.99)
Unfortunately the Mac-friendly backup add-on that turns your server into a ready and waiting remote Time Machine isn’t ready for Ubuntu users just yet, but keep an eye on it if it’s something you’re interested in.
What are you favourite Amahi add-ons? Did we miss any? Add your recommendations in the comments.