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Home Server on a Laptop

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Posted on April 1st, 2011 by Victoria Pal in Tech

Home projectI often feel guilty about my home server endeavors. My home projects usually take place in the spare bedroom, involving a lot of old hardware. Old hardware has one nasty property - it consumes a lot of energy.

This simple fact holds me back on some test and projects I would like to try. I put much effort to save energy and wasting it again with pre-2000 hardware doesn't feel right.  Good thing ebay.com and old laptops exist. You can buy an old laptop on the cheap and do tons of things with it. You can get one with a faulty screen. You won't need it much anyway and you will save some money.

Laptop vs. desktopThere are several advantages to laptops. They consume a lot less energy than a desktop machine, they also run quiet, take up less space and run on batteries. With the last feature you basically get a built in UPS, and a good one too. Even if the battery doesn't hold charge, try to drain it a couple of times. You should notice the improvement.

I’ve really enjoyed this project at earth.org.uk. It began as a transition from desktop to laptop server, but it ended up using the SheevaPlug. Along the way some great advances were made. You don’t need to do half the stuff on the journal to save power while running a web server, files server, DNS, Wi-Fi access point, mail server, etc. The author simply decided to cut back on any unwanted services and power drains. He decided to switch to solar power, and was able to take the laptop off the grid for about 50% of the day, further cutting back on overall power consumption.

One of the several things anyone can do, without further investment in solar panel and additional installation costs, is to use Linux and enable all possible energy saving features available. Adding more RAM (also cheap on eBay), should take some load off the hard drive and thus save energy. Enabling laptop-mode, while installing Linux also allows the OS to take advantage of the fact it is being used on a laptop. The author also used an SSD drive in order to lower power consumption and improve performance. There is no need for a newer laptop, but be advised that older hard drives might consume more than a newer SSD drive. Compatibility might be an issue as well. If you are low on RAM and have little room to expand, avoid installing the X window system.

If you feel adventurous, go ahead and try out this project. It might be a bit out of date, but the principle remains the same. So as a weekend project, check how long you can keep your home server online.

Victoria Pal

Doesn't like queuing (particularly at Wimbledon). Likes travelling, tennis and reading. Loves working as a Project Manager at WebSitePulse.

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