decisions, decisions

Well I'm stuck in a bind. I can't seem to decide which operating system I want to run my all-powerful file server. A few days ago, my wonderful sister gifted me two computers, the Dell OptiPlex GX270 and GX280. The basic difference between these two tried-and-true workhorses is the graphics card interface-the GX280 includes a PCI Express x16 slot whereas the GX270 is still using AGP-and of course the model number. Other than that, they use the same motherboard, same case design, and same basic layout. PERFECT for general hackery purposes...and running a Boxee...

So my first endeavor with these machines is something I've been needing for a long time: a file server to host all of the house's media. Everyone who lives in my house utilizes the internet or computers mostly for their media needs, and we've been longing for a way to experience it on a bigger screen. But a problem arises: These machines do not have the ability to pump S-Video to my regular TV, so I'm gonna need to wait a couple days before actually going ahead and opening up the boxes. I also need SATA cables and a SATA-to-IDE converter because the Dell OptiPlex motherboards come with IDE by default! By using both the SATA connector and the IDE connector adapted to a SATA connection, I'll be able to run a software RAID-0 array, mirroring the contents of the 1TB of space inside the box and therefore providing a greater level of security and stability to the system as a whole. With all of the hits it will be getting, this is a crucial step in extending the server's lifespan.

This is actually a good thing, because it gives me a bit more time to decide on an operating system. What I need is very simple, I've boiled it down to only a few requirements:

  • I want ZFS. It's amazing, the technology we have today. ZFS is this wonderful file system developed by the good ol' boys over at Sun Microsystems (now Oracle) that addresses many of the problems of former filesystems and even some of the problems of magnetic hard drives themselves. ZFS even introduces new features like built-in SMB/Netatalk capabilities, making it a lot easier to transfer data from the server to the computers where it will actually be useful.

  • I want complete Boxee transparency. The Boxee will be the major customer of this server, constantly pulling data from the media drive "/Zappa" to fulfill its users demands of the music library. Now that all music can be accessed from the living room's 3-way stereo system, I'm predicting that my roommates will be hitting the Boxee a lot more, and thus the fileserver.

Right now, my best option is FreeNAS, it's a distribution of FreeBSD (an OS I know and love) that's specially formulated to act as a network storage device. Precisely what I'm looking for! It's even bundled with a DAAP server and NFS so the Boxee can be "tricked" into thinking /Zappa is actually a part of its own local filesystem. The possibilities are endless, allowing for seamless integration of the data on these disks to the entire network here at 1913.

I think my choice has been made.

UPDATE: My FreeNAS file server is running smoothly, fully jailed. Story at 11.

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