The Problem to Be Solved

Before working on any new project it’s important to have a good grasp on just what ends you are trying to achieve. Accomplished podcaster and all-around good egg [Allison Sherridan]( of the [Nosillacast]( has a policy for product reviewers on her show: _first, start with the problem to be solved_. Since I believe this is a wise and logical course of action, the second post in the home technology series will do just that.

Let me just start with the caveat that I’m going to throw the word **need** around rather loosely for this post. I realize these are toys, for the most part. I could certainly survive without them, but these are toys and tools that I use in my day-to-day life pretty extensively, and a number of my personal hobbies and interests revolve around my ability to have these toys close at hand. So with that out of the way, here we go…

I’m setting up brand new infrastructure for the home. The client machines, for the most part, will remain unchanged (iPhone, iPad, Macbook Pro etc.) but the underlying infrastructure is going to be unavailable (for reasons which are immaterial to this post).

The needs I’ve identified so far are:

* a router / wi-fi access point
* a file server / NAS device
* a set-top box for the living room
* a location to run VMs
* an SSH endpoint

Along with that are a couple of nice-to-haves:

* a set-top box for the bedroom
* a DNS server
* a BitTorrent client daemon
* a VPN server

Some other considerations I’ve come up with for the new equipment coming into the home:

* low power usage
* quiet
* low-maintenance
* open
* free software (the Stallman kind, and the everyone else kind)

Under my previous network setup, I had a giant server box in my basement (ok not giant, but large) which handled the NAS, SSH, BitTorrent, DNS and VM duties. It did a lot, but was a standard Ubuntu installation which required the usual care and feeding. Everything also had to be set up and configured by hand so it took a while to get everything working the way I want, and moving that configuration to a new server in the future would be challenging.

I also don’t currently have a set-top box for streaming media on any of the TVs (unless you count getting a laptop to do the job temporarily). I also don’t have a VPN endpoint. The current VM management strategy is also challenging because it doesn’t have the polish or finish of a purpose-built VM solution.

Given the past challenges I’m thinking that the configuration I was using, though certainly workable at the time I set it up, doesn’t meet the needs I have going forward. I’ll explore some of the options in more detail in my next post.