As a long time geek, I’ve amassed quite a few devices connected to the web. As I’m writing this, my router shows 17 devices connected via DHCP (I use static DHCP assignments for a good portion of my devices). I figure the best introduction to my adventures in nerdom would be to walk through the abundance of technology in my home. Many of my devices are your standard technology items found in many peoples homes, cell phones, set top boxes, and gaming consoles. In order to keep this post short(er) I will stick to the items that I find particularly useful or simply interesting.
First, I shall start with one of the most economical purchases on the list, my Chromecasts. These little HDMI dongles will currently run you around 35$. They plug directly into your TV (or Amp), and if you are willing to give up the ability to have Chromecast turn your AV devices on, can even be powered by the USB port provided on most AV devices. These little devices are so awesome because they basically turn my TVs into extensions of my phone or laptop at the push of a button. Plex, Pandora, Netflix, even Chrome can stream it’s tabs to the TV. The final benefit I’d like to mention is that as Chromecast is just an HDMI dongle, it is extremely portable between TVs. No matter the brand, I’ll always have the same interface.
The next awesome devices in my home are my Nest Thermostats. These glassy black circles on my wall were designed by the guy who lead Apple’s development of the iPhone, so you know they look great. But, they are not all form, they allow me to control my thermostat from anywhere. And, their simple web based scheduling is actually useable, unlike my past experiences with programmable thermostats. My house has a dual zone system, so I’ve got two of these. One in the upstairs hallway and one in the living room downstairs. Compared to last year, they appear to have saved me around 10$ a month in power costs, we’ll have to wait until March to see if they can help at all in the Winter months. Nest provides some detail into system usage, but it is a fairly simplistic interface. Of course, I wanted more details and graphs, so I built some tools to track and graph what I can from Nest’s mobile API. That’s an adventure for another time though.
I’m fairly proud of my home network, though that may be a little bit of the Ikea effect. While the house was being build, my father and I wired it for gigabit ethernet, telephone and cable, along with tubing for central vac. Internet comes in from the cable company in the basement and connects to a Netgear WNDR3700v4 running DD-WRT. From there, it connects to a Netgear 24-port gigabit switch. Each room has 2 gigabit ports, with a couple exceptions for the larger rooms: master bedroom (4), living room (6), and kitchen (4). The attic also has an ethernet run just in case I’d like to set up some 1-wire devices around the house. Upstairs, I’m using a Netgear R6300v2, again running DD-WRT, as an access point. Having gigabit ethernet in every room might be overkill, but for streaming Full HD media and accessing file shares, it’s so much more consistent than Wi-Fi.
When it comes to stationary computers, I’m still running quite a few. My desktop/gaming rig is a custom built Windows 8 PC, running on a i7-3770k with an EVGA Nvidia 760. My main monitor is 27 inch 1440p, and secondary is 24 inch WUXGA. Audio is sent through a M-Audio M-Track Plus to two KRK Rokit 5’s. My file servers are both commodity gear, one is my old gaming rig, running Windows Server 2012 on a Core 2 Quad Q6600, and 4 different hard drives… The other is some surplus from work, it’s running Windows 7 Pro on a Core 2 Duo, it manages to run remote desktop and Deluge (bittorrent client) just fine. I’d like to eventually consolidate these two with an actual NAS unit running RAID 5 or 6 for fault tolerance, which I don’t have right now (I know… living on the edge).
My last server definitely deserves it’s own section. A little while back I started my endeavour to consolidate my servers and VMs running in random places on random hardware. I bought a refurbished Dell Poweredge C1100, with Dual Intel Xeon X5650 Hexa-core processors and 24 gigs of ram. It’s running VMware ESXi, and currently has 4 VMs on it running various services. This server hosts my Plex server, a Docker server running statsd, graphite, and various other stats collecting jobs, and some other servers running internal-only services. Once I’ve consolidated storage to a NAS, I will likely decommission my two Windows servers in favor of a single VM for Remote Desktop access. I’d have to say the greatest part of having an actual server is Dell’s BMC, which not only provides remote power off/reset but also remote console and virtual optical disk drives.
That about covers my LAN of Things. In future posts, I will likely go into more details of each of these and my personal projects.