It's been a long time since last I wrote anything here, but I finally found some time for a small project. 😄

For a long time I have been wanting to get a Raspberry Pi 4 with SSD, case and fan and run some Home Automation on it. Then they went and released the Pi 5, and I of course wanted one of those instead.

I did try running HomeAssistant once some years back on a Raspberry Pi 3 while living in the Philippines, and while it worked it was very slow and managed to ruin the SD-card at least once.

Hence me wanting the Pi 4 (or 5) with an SSD. But while they have not been completely impossible to get hold of, they are not really that plentiful, and all the extra things needed make it quite pricy in the end.

I know there are several other small board computers, but nothing really felt good enough, at least not for the money I felt like spending on it.

Adding on top of that, since starting my new job back in march there have just not been all that much free time.

But then I stumbled upon something else that felt just perfect.

An HP Prodesk mini form factor computer

It's an HP Prodesk 400 G3 mini form factor PC. Equipped with a four core Intel i5-7500T this old machine from 2016 is perfect for a small home server. It actually even have a real hardware serial port on the back. 😄

Andreas Speiss, the guy with the Swiss accent, have been talking about these things before in his videos.

When I got it there was a single 8 GB stick of RAM and a 256 GB M.2 NVME SSD in it. I dug up two matched 8 GB sticks for a total of 16 and an old 256 GB 2.5" SATA SSD that I installed in it, giving it quite decent specs.

Then I just had to decide what software to put on it, but I didn't really have to think that long before deciding to put Proxmox on it first.

Put all the servers

I have never tried Proxmox before, but I have read a bit about it. For those who don't know, Proxmox is a freely available solution (with optional paid support subscription available) for easily setting up Virtual machines.

Setting it up was very simple. I downloaded the ISO and wrote it to a USB-stick, booted the computer on it and basically just followed the steps.

I choose to set up the two SSDs with ZFS RAID 1 mirroring, I don't know if that is the optimal choice, but I'm sure it's fine. Once the install was complete I could log in to the web based administration and start setting up machines.

I hopped on to the web based command prompt and apt installed avahi so I could access the machine through a .local domain name on my network.

Then I set up a new virtual machine with HomeAssistant in it. This went also very well, there was even a simple script available to do it all for me.

I will not write any detailed instructions here, as the aforementioned guy with the Swiss accent has already covered most of the things.

Impressed with how fast and simple this all was compared to when I did it on the Raspberry Pi 3, I quickly created a second virtual machine onto which I installed a clean Debian and then used IOTStack to install Docker and a bunch of useful things like PiHole, Homebridge, InfluxDB, Grafana, NodeRed and Mosquitto. It was easy and just worked.

What about power?

One thing I was curious to know was the power consumption, so I connected the server to a Shelly Plus Plug to measure the consumption.

I'm happy to report that with everything booted up and running, although mostly idling with relatively low utilisation, the computer consumes only 8 watts.

This is slightly less than half of what my ISP-supplied WiFi-router uses. Seriously I don't know how they manage to make the router use so much power. Any way, I am quite happy with the low 8 watt consumption of the server.

The only complaint I have so far is that the fan is quite annoying. The CPU is at a comfortable 35 degrees C, but the fan has a minimum RPM that it will not go below, and that is too fast to be quiet.

I have so far not found any way to software control the fan, and the options in the "BIOS" setup can only set the base RPM higher, not lower.

But other than that, this is pretty awesome. I have been running virtual linux-machines on my Macs for many years for development purposes, but this is the first time I have tried virtualising always-on servers for doing useful stuff in my home network.

It allows me to just spin up a new VM at a moments notice, running and testing servers on my home network independent of my main computer.

Yes, it is not super powerful, but more than fast enough for running some low load servers.

And this old third hand machine, complete with case and power supply, some old RAM and an old SSD was still cheaper than a new Pi with all the accessories that requires.

Now I just wish I had more time to spend tinkering with it.