Home Station

Compute in Every Home

The price performance ratio of mini-PCs have improved so much that it is now possible for every home to have its own Home Station.

As of 2024-04-01, a new Home Station suitable for up to 4 people can be purchased for around A$100 (including tax and shipping).

1. Preloaded Software

Your country might already have some Private Cyberspace Infrastructure Assembler (e.g. oztralia.com in Australia) who will assemble a complete

GK3V_1

They will put together a Home Station for you, so you just need to plug it into your home network and it will work instantly.

Assembly rates can vary a lot due to resource availability and local competition (as at 2023-09-01 oztralia.com is charging A$18 per Home Station assembly).

2. Self-Load Software

If you don't mind doing some work yourself, assembling is a cheaper way of acquiring your own Home Station:

  1. Receive a mini-pc with preinstalled ram (at least 6 GB) and disk (at least 64GB)
  2. Receive a separate Boot SSD disk containing Home Station software
  3. Insert the Boot SSD into the mini-pc and attach it to the SATA cable inside
  4. Change BIOS setting to boot from the newly inserted Boot SSD

ssd_install

You simply need to insert the

3. Software

Currently the default OS for Home Stations is at least Proxmox 8.2.

Canonical MircoCloud is an alternative to Proxmox that we have been testing.

1. Secured Boot-Up

Raspberry Pi OS storages can be protected with encryption, to boot-up it needs to be decrypted by getting a password from remote Boot-up Servers. There can be up to 10 remote boot-up servers backing each other up, but only 1 is needed for boot-up.

Remote boot-up servers can be anywhere, from the homes of friends to commercial data centres to inside a locked cupboard in the same room as the compute station. Only one need to be online when the compute station it is serving needs to be booted up.

If the Compute Station is robbed or stolen, the remote boot-up server can be used to deny it from booting up until it has been recovered.

2. Multicast DNS

Compute Station supports station name based Multicast mDNS so its resources can be accessed on the local network without the need of accessing external DNS servers nor maintaining internal DNS servers.

Name Service
stationname.local command web site
album.stationname.local album web site

3. Plug and Play Networking

Compute Stations come with DHCP support by default, just plugged into the local ethernet network, it will automatically retrieve networking resources e.g. IP address from the local router.

4. Dedicated Management WiFi

Compute Stations comes with its own dedicated wifi access point, restricting access to its management functions to devices that are physically close to it.

People within the wifi signal range with the correct wifi password can then access the required management functions. Some management functions, e.g. the Web Command, have their own addition passwords.

The management wifi signal has the same name as the Compute Station itself.

Selectable 20MHz Channels:

  • 2.4 GHz - 1, 6, 11
  • 5 GHz - 36, 48, 52, 64

5. Web Command

Owner of the Compute Station can login to the Compute Station to perform basic management tasks using a simple point and click web interface.

6. Displayed Boot Sequence

Simple external displays (LED lights or LCD panels) report status of the boot-up process, enable non-technical people to be informed and provide assistance in troubleshooting situations.

Boot-up Steps Displayed:

  1. power applied
  2. before DHCP start
  3. DHCP received ip ok
  4. boot up server authentication ok
  5. station start finished

7. Hardware Watchdog

Rebooting machines is one of the most often requested on-site support operation. Compute Station comes with hardware watchdog that will reboot the machine automatically when it experience major problems e.g. crashed, locked up, load too high etc.

8. Alternative Operating System

ARM Process Station is currently using Ubuntu, the use of Proxmox may be possible in the future.

9. Reference Build

The current ARM Process Station reference build is based on the Raspberry Pi 4B.

OZtralia X86 Release 1

Take the hassle out of building your own information infrastructure.
OZtralia provides preassembled and tested Home Station.

Home Station X86 Release 1 available from 2022-12-01.

X86 16G-1

x86_16g-1

X86 16G-1
Processor Intel J4125
RAM 16GB
WiFi 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz IEEE 802.11ac
Bluetooth 4
Ethernet 1 Gbps
USB 4 x USB 3.0
Power supply output voltage +12V DC
Output power (max) 24W
Output connector Barrel type
Input voltage 100-240Vac
Input frequency 50/60Hz
mSATA SSD 1 x 512GB encrypted Ubuntu (brand and model may vary)

X86 64G-1

x86_64g-1

X86 64G-1
Processor AMD Ryzen 5 5600G
RAM 64Gb
Ethernet 1 Gbps
USB 3 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0
Power supply output voltage +19V DC
Output connector Barrel type
Input voltage 100-240Vac (rated)
SATA SSD 1 x 500GB (brand and model may vary)
System On Modules Coral M.2 Dual Edge TPU

X86 128G-1

x86_128g-1

X86 128G-1
Case Silverstone CS380 Mid Tower
Processor AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
RAM 128Gb
Ethernet 1 Gbps
USB 7 x USB 3.0, 8 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB Type-C
Power supply 850W 80+ Gold
Input voltage 100-240Vac (rated)
SATA SSD 1 x 500GB (brand and model may vary)

Hardware Watchdog

Before deployment, x86 motherboards should have their Hardware Watchdogs tested. Intel calls them "TCO watchdog" stands for "Total Cost of Ownership".

Step 1: modprobe

modprobe i2c-i801
modprobe i2c-smbus
modprobe iTCO-wdt

The commands are case sensitive (uppercase matters) and will not produce output.

Step 2: dmesg

You should see some lines with "iTCO" in the "dmesg" output.

iTCO_wdt: Intel TCO WatchDog Timer Driver v1.11
iTCO_wdt: Found a Intel PCH TCO device (Version=4, TCOBASE=0x0400)
iTCO_wdt: initialized. heartbeat=120 sec (nowayout=0)

You need ALL 3 lines to be there.

Step 3: Test

cat >> /dev/watchdog
press "Enter" key twice

Wait while watchdog counts down, do NOT interrupt by pressing Control-C etc.
When twice the heartbeat value (120 sec in example above) has been exceeded, system should hard reboot! This system's hardware watchdog IS working.

If system stuck (e.g. hung at POST) turn it off, disconnect power for a few minutes and switch on again. This system's hardware watchdog is NOT working.

References

  1. Background Information
    https://datto.engineering/post/reliably-rebooting-ubuntu-using-watchdogs

  2. Timer built into some Intel CPU.
    e.g. https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/products/docs/processors/pentium/silver-celeron-datasheet-vol-1.html (section 3.7.2)