Sunday, January 11, 2015

Raspberry Pi file/media server

I've had a Raspberry Pi single board computer sitting around for a year and hadn't figured out anything I wanted to do with it. If you're not familiar with it, the Raspberry Pi is a small, maybe a bit bigger than a credit card sized computer.  It costs about $35 and is actually a fairly capable little machine; it can run Linux, has ethernet, USB and HDMI outputs.

I decided to set it up as a file server. I like having a Linux box that is always on to run scripts regularly to do things like download and archive my podcasts. I figured that with an external green drive that spins down when not used, it would draw less than 10 watts on average.

I got things working well enough, then printed a case for it. It's living on the workbench in my lab, powered off a powered USB hub (so the adapter is always on anyway, not adding another bit of phantom draw there).  Here's what it looks like in the case I printed (available on Thingiverse)

Here's what I did, as best as I can recall it right now (if I do it again, I'll have to take notes):

Install to a 32GB SD card using the net install image, there are plenty of instructions online for this. It takes a while, and you really need a monitor and keyboard plugged in to do it.

Edit /etc/samba/smb.conf (the editor "nano" comes installed, or install and use your favorite).  I inserted these sections.  This creates a private "usb" share and a public share (named "public")
        path = /media/usb
        comment = usb drive
        read only = no
        browseable = yes
        guest ok = no
        create mask = 0777
        valid users = pi
        path = /media/usb/public
        comment = public share
        read only = no
        browsable = yes
        guest ok = yes
        create mask = 0777

Mount the usb drive; plug it in, then:
mkdir /media/usb
> sudo mount -t auto /dev/sda1 /media/usb
Add a line to /etc/fstab so it always mounts:
/dev/sda1       /media/usb      auto    noatime         0       0
Restart samba:
> sudo /etc/init.d/samba restart
The shares should be active now.

I used Firenze as my podcast downloader. However, as far as I can tell, the only way to set it up is via a GUI and I am running this machine headless. I took my config file from a Windows install that I'd been running previously, altered the download location, and that worked OK.  It would be nice if there were a command line version of the config though.

Setting up MiniDLNA so that you can view media from a device such as a blu-ray player or smart TV:
(I used the guide at
> sudo apt-get update > sudo apt-get upgrade  > sudo apt-get install minidlna
Start MiniDLNA, it will create a default config file:
> sudo service minidlna start
now edit /etc/minidlna.conf.  I added:
This sets up a video directory in the location indicated, calls the server "runt" (you can make up whatever name you like of course), and tells it to watch for new files showing up in the location.  Restart minidlna (force-reload instead of the normal "restart" because otherwise it won't look for new files that are in the new location.  This makes it rebuild its database)
/etc/init.d/minidlna force-reload
Make sure it restarts on reboot:
update-rc.d minidlna defaults
That's it, you should be able to watch movies that you stick in the video directory now.

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