Roll Your Own Home Server (Part 2)

11/16/2012 6:19:14 PM

FreeNAS can be configured to inherit users from an Active Directory or LDAP, but I’m assuming that this device will be used in an unmanaged home network, so we’ll assign users with the same names as the Windows login names they use, per FreeNAS’s instructions.

I’ve created a user named Nathan (for myself), and selected “Create a new primary group for the user,” which will let me fine-tune permissions. I set my home directory to the dataset I created earlier, i.e., /mnt/mpcstore/nedstore.

Configure permissions

GO BACK into Volumes and find the dataset you created ear­lier - in my case, that’s nedstore. Click Change Permissions and select the user you just created. Here you can control which users and groups have read/write access to the dataset (image C). Repeat the dataset, user, and permission steps for any users you create.

Description: image C

image C

Set up a Media Share

I’m going to set up a media dataset so i can share my music and movies with the rest of the Windows computers in my net­work. Follow the procedure above for setting up a new dataset (I called it Media), then browse in the navigation pane to Sharing > Windows (CIFS) > Add Windows (CIFS) Share. Create a new share and point it to the dataset you’ve just created (image D). You can either restrict it to specific users or groups, or enable an anonymous Guest Mode. If you have Apple computers on your network, you should also turn on AFP; if you have Linux, enable NFS. You can also enable SSH, rsync (for replication), iSCSI, and more, all from the Services panel.

Description: image D

image D

Map the drive

Now you can map the Windows share you’ve just created. Go to My Computer, right-click, and select Add Network Location. Plug in the IP [the same one in your web console) and share name, as shown in the image (image E). Give it a fancy name. Note that you’ll have to configure permissions so that users have write access if you want to be able to add files and folders via Explorer.

Description: image E

image E

Set up the plugins jail

Earlier versions of FreeNAS contained robust streaming options, such as iTunes, uPnP, and BitTorrent clients. FreeNAS version 8.2 restored that functionality via the use of plugins. The word ‘plugin," however, dramatically overstates the ease of using these. To install and set up these plugins, first go to your storage volume and create two ZFS datasets, one of at least 2GB called Jail and another called Software (image F). The plugin system basically creates a virtualized FreeBSD system inside your FreeNAS system, and by this point if you’re tearing your hair out, you’re not alone.

Description: image F

image F

Next, go back to SourceForge and find the plugins_Jail.pbi file for the release you’re running. In our case, that’s at http://sourceforqe.net/proiects/freenas/files/FreeNAS-8.2.0/ RELEASE/x64/pluqins/. Download the PBI file to your comput­er. Now click the little wrench icon next to Plugins in the Ser­vices menu. That’ll put you through a three-part setup screen. The first one will give you a temporary place to store the PBI you’re about to upload. I just used the root of my mpcstore. The second lets you set up the paths to your jail and software datasets. Point the plugins jail path to the jail dataset and the archive path to the software dataset (image G). The third step is to upload the plugins jail PBI file from your desktop.

Description: image G

image G

You’ll also need to create a separate pingable IP address for the software jail, distinct from your FreeNAS IP address (image H).

Description: image H

image H

Install plugins

Now you should be able to slide the Plugins slider to On and click the Plugins menu at the top. Go back to SourceForge and download the PBI files for the plugins you want to install. Right now the ones available are Transmission (a BitTorrent client), MiniDLNA (a, yes, DLNA client), and Firefly, a no-longer-main­tained iTunes-library service. Once you’ve downloaded them, hit the Install Plugin button and browse to the PBI file and upload it. You’ll see it appear in the Plugins list, with service status set to Off. Create a mount point within the jail pointing to a folder outside the jail (image I). I directed it to the same dataset I’m using for my Windows share, so I can drag-and-drop media that can then be broadcast over MiniDLNA and Firefly. Easy, right?

Description: image I

image I

Now go to the left-side navigation tree and go to Services > Plugins, and select the plugin you just installed. I’ll use MiniDLNA as an example. Give it a friendly name and a media directory. Note that your media directory should use a relative path within your software jail, so it’s best to just type it in manually. I used /media again (image J). Save your changes and turn the plugin on. Make sure the IP address you picked for your software jail is working and you should see the DLNA server show up in your list of UPnP devices (I used VLC to check).

Description: image J

image J

Paddling in the shallow end

So now you know how to set up users, groups, datasets, and shar­ing, and you’ve got your plugins ready to go. We’ve only scratched the surface of what FreeNAS has to offer. Fortunately, there’s a robust community that loves documentation and has its own forum with discussions and FAQs for every part of the FreeNAS experience, from hardware to software to plugins to fine-tuning, and more (bit.lv/OosiiB).

One note: Be sure to back up your NAS data to an external drive. Even with two-disk loss tolerance, you never know when disaster will strike. You can use FreeNAS’s built-in rsync to make sure you have all your data synched to an external drive.

As for the specific hardware I used, it’s probably overkill for most home users. It did enable large-file read and write speeds of over 90MB/s, which is quite nice.

FreeNAS’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness: It’s incredibly complex and granular, with myriad configuration options, plugins, services, and so forth. The average home user may be better off buying an off-the-shelf NAS from Qnap or Sinology, which are easier to configure and often include mobile access apps. But if you have the patience and the inclination, there’s nothing like building your own.


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