All posts by Matt

Ultimate Home Server Part 6 – Download Server

We’re now firmly in the realms of having a really usable server. It’s storing our data with redundancy, it’s accessible from other devices on our network and it’s serving up media to our connected devices.

But we can do more, in this part I’ll show you how to set up your server to act as a central download server.

This might seem like a strange role when you can just download pretty much any file to your PC, laptop or mobile phone, but there are some advantages.

For one, if you have a slow internet connection it means you don’t have to leave another device on when you’re downloading large files. Your server is designed to run 24×7 anyway, so it’s important it’s doing as much as possible in order to be as green as possible.

We’re going to use a program called Transmission to fulfill the “download server” role. It’s a great open-source application which can download torrents (including via magnet links) as well as download files directly from websites just by copying the link to the file.

Installing Transmission

The first step is to add the online repository for Transmission. A repository is a place for developers to store their application so that it can be downloaded by ordinary users. By adding the repository to our Ubuntu system we’re basically saying “check this repository when you look for updates”

Open a terminal (or an SSH session) and type the following:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:transmissionbt/ppa

Next, update repositories so that your server checks for files:

sudo apt-get update

Next type the following to install Transmission:

sudo apt-get install transmission-cli transmission-common transmission-daemon

You may be prompted to confirm installation of packages, press Y.

Once the installation is complete you’ll need to configure Transmission.

Configuring Transmission

The first step is to stop the Transmission-daemon from running so that you can make changes to the configuration files:

sudo service transmission-daemon stop

Next you’ll need to open the Transmission configuration file:

sudo nano /var/lib/transmission-daemon/info/settings.json

The configuration file for Transmission will open in your terminal window.

You’ll need to change a few settings from the default for security and usability

The default username and password are both “transmission”. You can leave these as they are, but if you want to restrict access to the web interface you can change them by ammending the following two lines:

"rpc-password": "{62b16db87b89a91dd49a5110a7cafc06d20eb4f2wtK6kqPj",
"rpc-username": "transmission",

Just change the text inside the inverted commas on both lines to change the username and password.

The next step is to add your home networks IP range to the whitelist so that other devices on your home network can connect to the Transmission web interface. Find the line:

"rpc-whitelist": "127.0.0.1",

And ammend it to include addresses on your home network, you can use an asterisk as a wildcard to allow a range of devices permission to connect:

 "rpc-whitelist": "127.0.0.1,192.168.0.*", 

You’ll also need to change a line called “umask” from the default reading of “18” to a new reading of “2”. This gives all connected users permission to access files and folders created by Transmission:

"umask": 2,

Lastly use Ctrl+O to save the changes to the file, then Ctrl+X to close the file.

The last stage of configuration is to restart the Transmission daemon so that the configuration changes take effect:

sudo service transmission-daemon start

Using Transmission

If everything has gone to plan you should be able to open a web browser from any machine on your network and access the Transmission web interface by typing in the following:

http://*your server IP*:9091

You’ll be prompted for a user name and password, use the credentials you saved in the configuration file, or the defaults of “transmission””transmission” if you didn’t change them.

You’ll be presented with the Transmission web interface:

There are a few steps we need to complete before we can download anything. Click on the Spanner in the bottom-left toolbar, a menu pops up:

Change the “Download to:” field so that it matches a location in your RAID array. If you’ve followed the previous parts in this guide then the folder above will work.

Click on the “Network” tab in the Window and you’ll see the following:

The Listening Port needs to be open in order for Torrent downloads to work. In some home setups this will be automatic and you won’t need to do anything.

But if the text above reads “Port is Closed” then you’ll need to setup port forwarding for port 51413 on your router. The process for doing this is different for every router, so if you don’t know how to do this the best thing to do is Google “port forwarding” and your router model, you should find a usable guide to help you.

With these changes complete Transmission is now setup properly and you should be able to use it to download Torrented files directly to your server.

To download a Torrent, Magnet or online file from within the Transmission web interface click on the Blue folder on the toolbar at the top of the screen:

The following window will come up:

If you have a Torrent file for your download, click “Choose Files” and click Upload.

If you have a Magnet link or a link to a file online, paste the URL into the text box and click Upload.

You’ll be returned to the main Transmission window and should see the download job queued up. The progress bar and information will show how much of the file has been downloaded. When a line reaches 100% you’ll be able to see it in the Downloads folder on your server.

And that’s it for Part 6!

In the last part of this series I’ll show you how to setup your server as a private cloud server, allowing you to sunc important files and documents across all your devices, while ensuring everything is backed up for good measure!

So, Where Were We?

What a stroke of luck. After pretty much giving up hope of ever reclaiming this web address I managed to contact the current owner and made him an offer to buy it back.

For those not in the know, TechMadeEasy.co.uk is a website that I set up in late 2009 while living in Budapest. It seems strange as I type this to consider that 2009 was over a decade ago now, but I digress.

Continue reading So, Where Were We?

Antec P101 Silent Review

A while back I was promised a P101 by Antec, the first review sample I would have received since deciding to blog again. Problem is they never actually sent it, I had a meeting scheduled with their PR guy which was cancelled, and then silence.

I’d already commited to the idea of using it for a home server build, so I’d have to go out and buy it myself… It better be good.

Continue reading Antec P101 Silent Review

Ultimate Home Server Part 5 – Media Server

Now that we have our server setup and we actually have some media installed on it following the steps in Part 4, we now need a way to serve up that media to devices on our network.

Fortunately there’s an extremely popular application for doing just that; Plex.

Plex is designed to catalogue your media on a server and then pump it out to client applications on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android and most brands of Smart TV. It’s quickly becoming ubiquitous in the media streaming game and it’s the perfect choice for our server.

A word on Plex; the software itself is free to download and use (mobile apps require purchase). It does also offer some features to premium users who subscribe to a Plex Pass. My advice would be to research whether or not you need these features before committing to a subscription. I got along for years on the free service, only eventually upgrading because I wanted to be able to store content within the Plex app on my phone and I wanted to be able to use the advanced DVR functionality (more on that later).

Installing Plex is a relatively painless task. The first thing you’ll need to do is add the Plex repositories to the list Ubuntu checks for updates:

echo deb https://downloads.plex.tv/repo/deb public main | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/plexmediaserver.list 
curl https://downloads.plex.tv/plex-keys/PlexSign.key | sudo apt-key add -

Run each of these commands in turn and you’ll add Plex’s repository to your system. Not only will this allow us to install the Plex software, it’ll also allow us to update it via a sudo apt-get upgrade command.

Next you’ll need to actually install the software;

sudo apt-get update 
sudo apt-get install plexmediaserver

Once the installation has finished Plex is installed, simple!

To test your installation you’ll need to navigate to Plex’s web interface via the browser on any device on your home network. Open a browser and type in the following:

<your servers IP address>:32400/web
Example: 192.168.0.2:32400/web

You should be prompted with Plex’s splash screen. Even if you’re using the free service it’s still a requirement for you to setup a Plex account. Once done you’ll then be able to setup your media libraries.

There is little point in me replicating the excellent work that the Plex team have already done in showing how to setup your system, so instead I’ll just link to their setup guide here, you can ignore step 1 as you’ve already covered that off by reading this guide!

And that’s Part 5!

Our server is now beginning to actually function inside our home. It’s storing data which we can access from other devices and now it’s streaming our media library to them as well.

In Part 6 we’re going to look at a slightly more complicated task; setting up our server as a personal cloud, allowing our data to automatically sync between our devices and our server.

Stay Tuned!

Ultimate Home Server Part 4 – Setting up Network Shares

Now that we have our RAID array setup and working it would be nice if we could actually STORE some data on our home server. In this part I’m going to show you how you can setup some folders on your array from the command line and then share those folders across your network.

Once this is setup you’ll be able to drag and drop your files from any other Windows, Mac or Linux machine.

Continue reading Ultimate Home Server Part 4 – Setting up Network Shares

Ultimate Home server Part 2 – Operating System + Remote Access

In Part 1 of this guide I showed you one way to put together a home server using off-the-shelf PC hardware.

In this part I’m going to discuss the various options for operating systems before making a recommendation and then taking you through the installation.

Because most home servers will operate “headless” (with no monitor or input devices attached) I’ll also take you through the process of accessing your server from another device on your network so that you can make changes to it.

Continue reading Ultimate Home server Part 2 – Operating System + Remote Access

Ultimate Home Server Part 3 – RAID Arrays

Setting up a RAID array is an important step in setting up any home server. Doing so will ensure that your data is protected if one (or more, in some circumstances) of your hard disks fails.

What’s more there are usually some performance benefits to a RAID setup as data can be sourced from multiple drives, effectively increasing performance beyond that of a single drives normal read speed.

Continue reading Ultimate Home Server Part 3 – RAID Arrays