Over the past week my Windows Home Server box has been crashing, restarting and causing me and my family many problems. It’s not been the first time this has happened. A couple of times now I have managed to rescue data from it before re-installing Windows Home Server on the same machine and starting again.
I decided to ask people on Twitter if they knew of an alternative to Windows Home Server. I chat to quite a few Linux geeks on Twitter and they’re always trying to get me off my Windows machines. I’m not a fan boy but I do use Microsoft operating systems normally because I can run all kinds of software and games that I wouldn’t be able to with Linux. This wasn’t really a concern for a server. All I wanted were back-ups and some shared folders that could be accessed across my home network.
A great guy on Twitter named Simon Doyle (@sidolye) suggested that I should take a look at Amahi so I did. I was very impressed with what I saw looking around the website and was sold on installing it after reading some of the testimonials.
First of all I needed to download myself a Fedora 10 Installation DVD (Fedora 11 isn’t supported with Amahi yet) which I got from here. Don’t do what I did in my haste and excitement though – I stupidly downloaded the PPC version which is of course for Power PC Mac’s – that’s not going to work on a home built PC with an AMD64 processor. You need the i386 version. ;)
I’m not sure if the x64 version is supported for Amahi but I guess not. EDIT: The x64 version is also supported so you could also use that if you have a 64bit CPU.
Installation of Fedora 10 was a breeze. I have installed various Linux distributions in the past but I’m no expert. I don’t think anyone would have a problem with it as long as they read the on-screen instructions.
Unfortunately I didn’t read the instructions for the installation of Fedora on the Amahi installation page! I should have added a software repository for Amahi during the installation. I mistaken thought that it wouldn’t matter and that I’d be able to add the software repository address after Fedora was up and running – you can’t! You can read these instructions which I didn’t and caused me to have to reinstall Fedora from here. You’ll kick yourself if you don’t read them!
If you install Fedora with the Amahi repository correctly by following the instructions, installation is so easy! It’s just as easy as installing Windows Home Server (which is just like installing Windows XP). I guess that it took around 30 minutes.
I won’t go into every step of the installation process, just make sure you read the instructions over at the Amahi site and you’ll have no problem whatsoever.
If you’re interested in the spec of the machine I’m now running Fedora 10 and Amahi on here you go.
AMD64 3700+ (2.4Ghz)
Socket 754 Motherboard
Once everything was installed and up and running per the instructions I turned off DHCP on my router (read the instructions before doing this), set-up a few static IP addresses for the 3 PC’s at home and everything worked well. Amahi uses OpenDNS which is a good choice for DNS IMHO but I think this is something that can be changed if you’d like.
One of the main reasons for me having a server at home is for back-ups. These are easily set-up through Windows 7 which is the OS I’m using on all 3 PC’s at home at the moment. It’s just a case of visiting the Control Panel, going to the Back-up and Restore page, selecting the network location and running through a wizard. This isn’t as nice as the back-up system in Windows Home Server but it’s simple and does the job just as well. I have created a back-ups folder of the server for each machine. For example: \\hda\luke\backup and \\hda\mandy\backup etc.
The other reason I have a server at home is so that media files can be accessed from any PC that happens to be on and files aren’t duplicated across machines. I have all of my music in a shared folder on the server so someone in the living room can be listening to something, I can jump on my PC and also have access to the same music folders. The same could be done with photos, videos or any other files that need to be accessed from multiple machines. The only issue I have found with Amahi is that because it is running on Fedora and not a Windows machine, the files and folders aren’t indexed in a way that Windows 7 understands. This means that folders on the server can’t be included in “Libraries”.
Okay, so I think I’ll mention what I miss from Windows Home Server now. There are a few things but nothing that I miss so much that I’d change back.
- I miss the nice Windows Home Server connector software. It sits in your system tray and allows the user to do all kinds of cool things with the server vary easily through a nice interface.
- I’m going to miss shared folders being included in Windows 7 libraries. I think this is something I’ll just have to live without because I can’t see how the functionality could be implemented under Linux.
- … I think that’s it!
What I won’t miss from Windows Home Server.
- I really won’t miss the OS screwing up after a month or two to the extent that I have to painstakingly recover data, format and reinstall.
- I also won’t miss having to worry about viruses on what was and still is a headless server that I like to set and forget about.
What I really like so far about Amahi.
- It seems to run so much better than Windows Home Server. It must be much lighter on resources.
- I love that I can install web applications with one click though a web browser. There are some great web apps in the repository and lots more on the way. You can even make suggestions to the Amahi team for what you’d like to see there.
- The community (although I haven’t joined in on the forums yet) seems to be really good even for Linux n00bs like me.
- It makes you feel like a proper geek because you’re running a Linux server – how cool is that!?
What would I like to see in the future from Amahi?
- I’d love to see more web apps. I do think that as the list grows, the repository that is accessed through a browser should be categorised and searchable.
- I’d like a Windows Home Server tray application program that could open, perhaps a browser window with no navigation options. I could create one of these or something like using Prism for Firefox (https://wiki.mozilla.org/Prism) but unfortunately the web config page for Amahi doesn’t function correctly in Firefox. (EDIT: It does work fine in Firefox but I had one or two Greasemonkey scripts interfering with the “site”)
Want some screenshots? I won’t disappoint. Here are a selection of screens using two different themes. Enjoy and please leave me comments and questions and also visit the Amahi site: www.amahi.org