I’m going to post a script I wrote for my Tomato router later, but first I thought I’d post a bit about my home network. I have a Linksys WRT54GL router, onto which I installed the open source Tomato firmware. As I have ADSL broadband, and the WRT54GL doesn’t have a built-in modem, I use a DrayTek Vigor 120 to connect to the internet. This does something called PPPoA to PPPoE bridging, which I shall not explain. I wanted a WRT54GL specifically to install a third-party firmware, as I wanted more control over my network, and I chose Tomato because of the advanced bandwidth monitoring it offers. It does loads of other cool things as well, but I won’t go into details. I’ve been using it for just over a year now, well when I’ve been home and not at university, and have found it to be much better than the old Belkin router I was using before.
About a month ago I purchased a Pogoplug and a 1TB external hard drive to use with it. Simply put, the Pogoplug is a small low-power PC (I think I read that it uses about 5W), which you connect to your network and it shares files off of any attached USB hard drives. Using the installed software it will allow you to login from anywhere in the world to access your files and to stream music or videos. This wasn’t much use to me as I rarely travel, and now I’ve finished university I’m not away from home for long periods of home. So the main reason I bought it was to use as a home server, in particular I wanted it to stream music to my Xbox 360. The built-in software allows you to do this, but I wasn’t happy with the way it went about it. As it’s designed to be used by people who don’t have much computer knowledge it has it’s own way of doing things, which are probably adequate for most people’s needs, but not for mine. In particular I had issues with the way its databases worked. For example, I had some photos on my hard drive which it would organise itself, ignoring the fact that they were already in folders which had them organised by date the way I wanted them. To make matters worse, almost all of the folders in my music collection contain a cover.jpg or similar, a small image of the album artwork, which the Pogoplug would include in the photos it indexed. So as I was viewing my photos on my Xbox, in-between all the pictures of Tiger, I’d get the occasional album cover. Needless to say, I didn’t want this. Luckily, one of the other reasons I bought the Pogoplug was because it was possible to install Plugbox Linux on it. [Edit: Plugbox Linux is now Arch Linux ARM]
Installing Plugbox Linux was fairly straightforward, although I wouldn’t recommend it for people with no previous experience of Linux. It’s based on Arch Linux, which I’ve heard good things about. Basically, once installed, it turns the Pogoplug into a Linux server, which you can basically do anything you want with. The downside is you lose the features of the default software, such as the ability to access your files anywhere via the My Pogoplug service. I set up miniDLNA on it, which handles streaming photos, music and videos much better than the Pogoplug software, at least for my needs. I also set up Samba on it, so other computers on the network can read and write to the hard drive attached to the Pogoplug. In the future I may install Transmission on it, so I can download torrents without having to leave my laptop on, but I’m not a heavy torrent user so I don’t need it at the moment, but it’s another nice feature Plugbox Linux has. You can also set it up as a proper LAMP server, if you wanted to host your own website, but I don’t need that. I’d definitely recommend Plugbox Linux over the default Plugbox software if you don’t need/want the My Pogoplug service, and if you’re not scared of Linux and the command line.