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You Should Have a Server

Tuesday July 11, 2023

I think the best thing I ever did for myself was turn an old PC my grandfather gave me into a home server. Even though it was done very poorly and was soon replaced by a newer PC, it was the true beginning of my experience with Linux and I’ve learned a ton since then. At this point I don’t even know what I’d do without my home server.

Why?

I realize that this post is for a pretty niche audience. If you understand what I’m gushing about then you probably already have a server, but you don’t then you probably have no desire for one. If you’re the type of person who uses Google Photos and Netflix, I’m probably not going to convice you that you need a server. However, if you hate the fact that you rely on those services, maybe there’s a chance. Not only do you learn more about computers in general, but you start to realize how many services are bullshit, overpriced, or easy to recreate on your own.

Imagine paying for Minecraft Realms. The mere thought makes me want to puke. Vanilla Minecraft servers can be set up in like 10 minutes. I bet I could write a script to do it for me. Hosting games for you and your friends is one huge perk of having a server, if you’re into that.

You might think having a server is overkill, but think about something as simple as transferring files to multiple devices. Copying a file to a home server and then copying that file to other devices in your home takes no time at all and is so simple the average person probably wouldn’t even know there’s a remote connection happening at all. Compare that to uploading a file to some megacorporation’s server, and then downloading it multiple times on the same network through a bloated web UI or app. A server that does literally nothing but store my files was the gateway into this shit. If you don’t see the appeal, just start off there and the rest will come later.

If you’ve been thinking about trying Linux but you don’t have the balls to install it on your main computer, this is what you’ve been waiting for. You’ll learn the command line and you’ll FUCKING LIKE IT. For real though, you actually will like it.

A Brief History of My Servers

The history isn’t really all that complex to begin with but I wanted to go into more detail about the machines I have used.

The Compaq Shitbox

The Compaq Shitbox

I think that is the only surviving picture, which is a little sad. I hate how many pictures I’ve lost. God knows why I even took that picture. Anyway, the specs on this thing were terrible. The only thing I remember is that it had 1GB of DDR2 RAM. I installed fucking Ubuntu Desktop on it. I had a monitor connected to it and everything. Do not do this. Do not access your files remotely via Samba by using Hamachi to fake a local network. Do not store your shit and everyone elses shit on the desktop, basically creating a new “/home”. Like I said, I’ve learned a ton since this attempt. I eventually put 4GB of RAM in there but that didn’t stop it from sounding like a jet engine every time someone joined the Minecraft Server.

The Dell Optiplex 990

The Dell Optiplex 990

It’s the smaller one right under the Wii. I got it for free like 8 years ago and it’s still going strong. I’ve wiped it clean a couple times now. Usually my cycle goes like this:

  1. My install gets really messy
  2. I learn from my mistakes
  3. I reinstall
  4. I make new mistakes

I have always used Ubuntu Server but I’ve recently tried Debian and realized I like it more. I mostly just hate snaps.

The Future

The next PC I build will be a server. Something more power efficent with way, way more space for hard drives. So many drives, bro. I can’t really justify upgrading now because the only time my server struggles is when running a modded Minecraft server with a bunch of people on it. Minecraft servers only have a lifespan of a few months, so it’s not crucial. A NIC with 2 LAN ports could be cool.

“Sounds like a super fucked up rabbit hole, where do I start?”

Uhhh just install Ubuntu Server I guess. If you’re new to Linux prepare to beat your head against the wall a lot. There are many tutorials that will explain things much better than I can, but like I said before, start small and try to make a file server. If you have a Windows PC you’re gonna want to use Samba. It’s hard to dig deep into my brain and try to remember being a complete beginner, so sorry if my advice isn’t super clear.

Here is a great list of stuff you can host yourself. Ease of installation varies from program to program, but keep this page in mind when you’re looking for new stuff to do.


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