Welcome to Muffin’s Lab!

Welcome to the technical ramblings that go on in my brain. I will post information about my homelab, projects I undergo and tutorials as I find similar blogs on the internet very inspiring and informational; I can only hope that the same comes across here. Without further ado, enjoy.

About me.


HomeLab Update August 2016

Here we are again! 1 whole year after my initial Homelab rundown and I’m back with another one. I’ve made a lot of changes in the past year, some significant, some not so much and some of the main ones still a WIP.

I was originally supposed to have a rundown in March but life got the better of me and I couldn’t finish a decent write-up, alas here we are.

Without further ado here is the new, cleaner and up to date diagram for MuffNet:

DEC LABNEW (3) (1)

As you can see when comparing my previous rundown there is a lot more happening at a glance. I’ll try and go through this step by step for those of you interested in the internal workings of my lab.

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Getting Started with VMware’s ESXi

Virtualization is awesome. It’s been the standard for enterprises for many years and although containers are gaining interest, virtual machines remain the go-to for any business; you’d be either crazy or incompetent not to go down this route in most scenarios. This post will go through the very basics of setting up and using ESXi.

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Tunneling Specific Traffic over a VPN with pfSense

Recently I stumbled on a post in /r/sysadmin by /u/ThatOnePrivacyGuy that had a spreadsheet he had created comparing a load of VPN services, you can find it here.

This got me thinking, my automated downloads crunch through terabytes of data every month on a home connection, and if my ISP were to look into this it would not show me in a good light due to a lot of p2p I have going on in my household; with my flat mate constantly having torrent connections open and Sonarr + Couchpotato downloading via torrents and NZBs there is a lot of data I would like to mask from my ISP. Thanks to that awesome spreadsheet I managed to find a service that looked perfect for me, vpn.ac.

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Building a Rackmount Storage Server

Surprisingly, I don’t have any backups of my stuff. Apart from my Microserver Gen8 FreeNAS replication project which was necessary for my photos and personal media I don’t have any backups of my VM hosts, laptops or machines I use everyday which is very, very bad. A lot of my stuff is stored on RAID or RAID-like systems which I know aren’t by any means secure, but it’s kept me going and the sheer thought of having to invest in another storage system to store things  that are already on storage servers makes my stomach sink a little; I’m only (currently) 20, and have just started my career so I don’t really have the money to keep spending on hardware unfortunately.

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Muffin’s Plex Server

I’ve gotten a few requests from various places to show my Plex server to the world, this is not by any means as good as it gets but it is mine and it works phenomenally. I’ve had a lot of concurrent streams with this thing and it’s yet to break a sweat.
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Enable Disk SpinDown on LSI 9211/IBM M1015

I have a lot of 9211-8i’s in the lab, probably about 12, all flashed to IT mode. These are a godsend as they just work. They’re easy to flash to IT mode (rids them of any RAID, they become HBAs) and are 6GBp/s which is awesome.

One of the things I didn’t know until quite later on is that these cards by default (on Windows at least) do not support spindown calls from the OS, meaning my disks are running 24/7 which wasn’t a problem until I had about 20 disks all running and I realised how much power that actually was for no good reason. After a little searching I found forum posts from people who had modified the INF driver of the card and gotten the power down to work, after putting it off for a while I finally did it and got it to work and have noticed both power loss and a little bit of a temperature drop which is nice.
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The Great ReWire

A few days after I made my previous post with a rundown of my homelab I ripped all the cabling out to redo it as there was just too much mess and I was getting increasingly confused when it came to patching things in. With the help of my other half I unplugged everything and introduced a patch panel into the mix to sort out the clutter, below is what I was left with. I’m still missing 2 servers a storage appliance and a switch inside the rack as of now but they’ll be in here soon.

Enjoy some good ‘ol cableporn.
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HomeLab Update August 2015

Welcome to Muffin’s first Homelab rundown! I’ll explain what’s going on along the way, just sit back and scroll.

Before getting too much into it I’ll just leave this diagram here, it may help understand things a bit better:

Diagram August Update
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Understanding and Configuring VLANs

So I started off my IT career as an intern for a rather large company in London. I was doing a lot of misc stuff, mostly desktop but always pushed for as many networking bits I could, networking is great. A year later and here I am as a junior network engineer on the path to my CCNA (almost there!)

This post is about VLANs. VLANs in the Cisco world explained how I wish someone had explained to me. Please bear in mind that this will not be a very technical explanation, you can find that elsewhere; this will be helping you get to grips with VLANs, how they work and setting them up. Once you have a better understanding of VLANs you can go and read up some more on Ciscos website perhaps?

What is a VLAN?

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Create an IPSEC Site to Site tunnel between two PfSense firewalls

So I need to create an IPSEC point to point link between two sites so my two FreeNAS boxes can replicate between each other as per this project.  I already run my network on PfSense and have done for a few years now and think it’s great so slapping a PfSense box at my mother’s house seemed like the easiest thing to do. Once all the NAS business was setup I dug out an old desktop machine (Dell Optiplex 760), put a 2 port Intel gigabit card inside and installed PfSense. After bringing it to my old house and changing the config on their DD-WRT router to act as a switch+AP I brought up the WAN connection and did some IP configuring. Once the interweb was setup and I confirmed the LAN was fully working (had to turn on static NAT for my lil’ bros PS4) I went ahead and configured the tunnel.
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HP MicroServer Gen8 storage & Syncronisation across the internet

This plan didn’t work as intended. I had to come back to the drawing board and rethink/simplify some stuff. I have left everything as-is up to the point of failure incase it’s important to anyone and it really makes no sense to delete it.
Below is what I wanted to do and a few of the steps I documented towards this goal, here is where I revisited this project with a much different approach. I would read this first anyway before reading the revisited version.
If you don’t try you’ll never know, right?

So I’ve had this problem for a while since moving out, but I excuse it because, well, she gave birth to me. My mother calls me constantly asking me to fix stuff or implement something new in my old home which I am fine with but sometimes it feels extremely tedious as I could have sworn I fixed that same issue not 1 month ago…
The latest problem I’m facing is photo storage. My family have a few MacBooks with very limited storage onboard which they seem to fill up quite fast. Upgrade the storage? Sure, but that’s short term and not exactly safe, not in my eyes anyway. My solution? The following…
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Revisiting MicroServer Gen8 storage & Syncronisation across the internet

If you’re reading this revision first it’s probably better to read my initial plan as well before continuing as there are more details outlined there as to my overall goal and information about the hardware setup. You can read this here.

Right, so, at this point I was to make a post about how I setup the storage under FreeNAS running on ESXI with both RDM on one machine and passthrough on the other with the upgraded CPU but I ran into some problems. Pretty shitty ones.
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HP MicroServer Gen8 Setup & Upgrade

After a long ordeal with Britan’s worst courier service (Yodel, for those of you unaware) I finally received most of my parts which is good enough to make a start, so here it all is;
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Installing FreeNAS on a HP MicroServer Gen8

FreeNAS will install just fine on the MS without any modifications and everything seems to work just fine, so i’ll skim over the install and add some detail to the configuration I used.

As of writing this the current stable version of FreeNAS is 9.3. All that needs to be done is to download the ISO from the FreeNAS website and copy this bootable ISO to a memory stick using your prefered method, I personally use my trusty ODD emulator (as seen in this archived post) and use iLO to get through the installation (again, detailed in this archived post.)
Boot from your chosen installation media using ‘F11’ at bootup and let the FreeNAS installer do it’s thing.
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Turning a BT HomeHub 5 into a Gigabit Switch

BT is an alright ISP, I get good speeds (150D/40U), never get throttled and have yet to hear anything about my internet activity which involves a fair amount of P2P.. their hardware however is god awful, and the BT HomeHub 5 is no exception to that.
I won’t go into how bad it is because if you’re reading this hoping to repurpose it you already know, the only good thing about it is the 4 port gigabit hub attached to it that actually okay, so we are going to make it into a dumb switch.

Doing this is actually very simple and all that’s needed is to turn off all the services on the HomeHub to make sure it doesn’t interfere with anything else on the network.
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