When it comes to home servers, Linux is king. It’s free, it’s efficient, and the possibilities are endless! Join us as we go through the many ways to keep your open-source server streaming and serving up stuff for you.
First and Foremost: Remote Access
If you’re running Linux, then odds are that remote access from anywhere is first in your mind. For that reason, let’s start with the obvious:
sudo apt-get install openssh-server
This will let you access your Ubuntu installation via SSH, so you can do things like install programs from the command-line without having to be at your computer. To get more fancy, you can enable access via VNC for GUI-based interaction. (Our guide on that one is a bit old, but the steps are more or less the same).
You can use your Linux server as a network-accessible Windows share by installing Samba. You may want to add users so everyone can access their own individual shares as well. Once you’ve got things configured, it’ll make for easy access for streaming to other computers in your network.
Now, you’ll want to make sure you have a Dynamic DNS service configured, so you can easily get into your home network from work or on vacation (for fun, of course). And, to make most of the fun stuff work from outside of your network, be sure to forward your ports properly.
Streaming all of your music and movies is a great way to utilize your desk-tethered Linux PC. PS3MediaServer can serve your movies and TV shows to your big screen via your PlayStation3. If you’re using a simpler setup, like using a Linux-based HTPC to stream from another computer, you can tweak VLC to fix any lagging or skipping issues you might have.
If iOS and/or Android is your client of choice, Plex Media Server will automagically convert your media and stream it without hassle. If push comes to shove and you really love Air Video, I’ll let you in on a little secret: you can run it in WINE with relatively little fuss. You can check out our guide to running Spotify in Ubuntu 9.10 since the process is substantially the same. If you’re on Android, you can get Air Video’s features for free using VLC Shares and some tweaking.
XBox Media Center
XBMC is a big enough phenomenon that we had to give it its own section. If you’re not sure what XBMC is, you can check out our Screenshot Tour of version 10 to become familiar with it.
Installation is pretty much like any other Linux distro, but there are tons of fun things to do with your new home theater PC. Why not change the skin to really show off your bright new 60” LED-backlit HDTV? Then you can tackle things like consolidating your movie collection, adding Netflix support, and controlling your setup with your iPhone or iPod Touch.
You can also use GMote to control your HTPC setup from your Android phone. If you’re on iOS, you can use HippoRemote; it’s one of the very few apps that work with spectacularly with Linux. Both of these solutions will work with or without XBMC, by the way.
Serving Up Webpages
One of the most common ways Linux geeks choose to put their systems to work is with a LAMP setup – Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP. Apache is the big boy in serving up webpages, MySQL handles all of the database requirements for various webapps you might want to install, and PHP takes care of the rest. Check out our guide for an easy setup that includes a few tools to help manage things.
On the other hand, if you decided to run a LAMP server in a virtual machine – not a bad idea since the requirements are low and you can easily migrate the VM – you should check out our Wiki page on Tweaking a Dedicated Virtual Web Server. You’ll find quite a few changes you can make to fit your particular set up there.
Other Fun and Useful Stuff
You can have some fun and run your own Multiplater Minecraft Server. Better yet, you could use Bukkit for a better server experience, and then really expand your crafting horizons by using groups, permissions, and kits with Bukkit Essentials to create a class-based server.
You can use your home computer to securely sync files with your Android device. We’ve covered plenty, but if you want more streaming ideas, be sure to check out the results of our reader poll on the matter. If you’re running into load problems on your Linux server and want to troubleshoot, we know of a script that can help you out. And, if you need to upgrade or reinstall your OS, don’t forget to backup your important files.
Lastly, if you’ve checked out our Windows Server Apps Roundup but decided to ditch Windows Home Server, Amahi is great Fedora-based alternative. We’ll even show you how to manage your storage with it.