home of the madduck/ blog/
Replacing my home fileserver

My home file server, Asterisk PBX, firewall and general router is apparently dying. I am looking forward to replacing it, because it's old and eats too much power anyway. Now I just need to figure out what to put in its place.

Basically I need a low-power machine that'll be always on, with at least two LAN ports (three would be better, but I can also connect the cable modem with USB), and a means to connect at least two harddrives with at least 1Tb capacity.

I'd rather use SATA for the drives than USB, but I would be willing to investigate eSATA and external drives too. However, I want to have direct access to the drives and not be forced to use some sort of proprietary RAID.

At the moment, I am investigating the Thecus N3200PRO, which has quite a reasonable hardware selection.

The device has a low-power AMD Geode processor, but for some reason I have it stuck in my head that the ARM would be a better choice.

Does anyone have experience with this device? Or maybe someone would like to make a different suggestion? Mail me!

I'd prefer a device that I can get working without too much learning or frickling. The less I have to learn/know about and touch hardware, the better. It would help if the machine booted off the harddisk, for then I could install Linux elsewhere and move the disks. Alternatively, network booting and a serial console would work, although I hear that USB makes that unnecessarily painful. I'd like to avoid flashing ROMs or other black magic just to get it working.

Update: The folks at EXSYS kindly replied and filled me in with some information regarding the N3200PRO. Thanks!

First of all, Thecus officially claims that it is not possible to install Linux on the device (although the device is running Linux, according to the hardware list).

Second, the machine boots off a Flash-ROM, which makes the installation more difficult than I'd like it, and apparently also one-way: once the Thecus firmware has been overwritten, there seems to be no way to get it back.

I am looking elsewhere now, because even though the hardware is exactly what I want, I won't give money to a company who impose shackles on their customers and force them to use software that may not be up-to-date, and which is probably castrated — I'd be surprised if the N3200PRO spoke IPv6, for instance.

Nevertheless, I've asked about installing Debian in the Thecus User Group forum and I also dropped a message to Thecus itself. I'll keep this post up-to-date, so come back for more.