After our piece on virtual home servers , here’s another alternative to saving power, money and the planet whilst still serving your media around the house. The Tranquil BBS2 Barebones Home Media Server is a low power, 5 SATA bay, barebones box. Just choose your OS and apply…
There are embedded type solutions, but I quickly dismissed those. Most didn’t take enough disks, they don’t tend to be general purpose so can’t run applications such as “motion” to handle our cameras, also I’m very familiar with Linux and mdadm software raid.
Then someone mentioned the Tranquil BBS2 Barebones Home Media Server and from the outset it looked ideal. Once the budget had been agreed by my wife, I placed an order. There are really only two big decisions when ordering one of these machines. Firstly, there are two choices of raid card. One model has four internal SATA ports, and these are connected to four of the hot-swap bays, with the final bay being wired to the motherboard. The other has only three internal SATA ports as it has an eSATA port.
If you go with the later solution, only three of the bays are hot swap as the right-hand two are both connected to the mother board. As I wanted four 1TB disk drives, I went for the model without eSATA. The other choice (ignoring whether you want black or white!) is how much memory to go for. My previous server only had 512MB, and this is plenty for running Linux, but upping this to 1GB only added £8 to the price so I couldn’t resist. The total including carriage and VAT came to just under £352.
At the time of writing, Tranquil do have a backlog of orders, but my BBS2 arrived within two weeks. First impressions were good as it came in a sturdy custom-made box, and the BBS itself is very small, very well-made and the finish is very good. The included documentation seems a bit brief though I am hard-pushed to think what else I might need to know. There is a driver and utility CD included, but as I’m runningLinux, such things are included in most distributions.
Installation for me was very simple as I’d decided just to copy the full Linux install from my existing Linux box. The only tricky part was that I’d decided to use a 2.5″ disk drive without fully appreciating how difficult it is to fit these into 3.5″ hot swap bays. Icy Dock do have a product that does this (MB-882SP), but it’s out of stock everywhere, so currently the disk is held in with Blue Tak!
Once, I’d copied the OS install onto the new disk drive, I mounted it into the BBS2 using the aforementioned Blue Tak, and hit the surface-mounted power button. Linux booted straight away and the only changes needed were to the video settings and some config file changes to let the new machine coexist on our network with the old server. I checked a few things, updated to the latest Long Term Support (LTS) version of Ubuntu Linux, and then installed the four 1TB drives. I’d already temporarily connected these to the old server and done the raid configuration and data migration, so the raid array came straight up and I could retire the old server.
- Very quiet, very low power (haven’t measured but guess about 40 watts with five drives)
- Well made and a quality feel to everything.
- Ubuntu Linux booted straight up and was happy with all of the hardware.
- How swap SATA just works.
- It’s got serial, which I need for programming my X10 controller and for connecting my 433MHz receiver.
- You can’t have four hot-swap drives and e-sata. e-sata would have been nice for backups.
- The power plug is a normal DC push-in one. It hasn’t fallen out, and probably won’t, but THIS IS A SERVER! Something more positive would be good.
- Only 4 x USB and all at the back. They are also all rather close together.
- Manual is a bit skinny – just a folded A4 sheet.
Conclusion – As you might be able to tell, I was having to think hard regards cons! A couple of weeks later, I’m still very pleased with my new server and am happy that I made the right decision. If you’re after a small, fairly-quiet, and low-power consumtpion home media server, then give the Tranquil BBS2 a long, hard look.
Facts and figures:
Five tool-less disk bays (3 or 4 hot-swap depending on choice of raid card)
Intel Atom 330 Dual Core (2 x 1.6GHz) CPU
Serial, VGA, 4xUSB (all on the back)
213 (W) x 221 (D) x 195 (H)
29W power consumption for base unit a one disk drive
No OS provided – use Linux,Mac OS, Windows, or whatever you fancy
Motherboard seems to be a D945GCLF2, the tool-less disk bay looks like an Icy Dock MB-455SPF, and the raid card is a SiliconImage SiI3124