Practical, up-to-date (2015) use-cases for a B3?

Got problems with your B2 or B3? Share and get helped!
Klingan
Posts: 27
Joined: 09 Nov 2010, 14:57

Practical, up-to-date (2015) use-cases for a B3?

Post by Klingan » 30 Nov 2015, 10:20

So I've just come back from 3 years of traveling, during which time, my 2x B3's WiFi + 2x B3 Storage has been collecting dust.

I did reset one of my B3's and got it all set up. I encountered quite a few challenges in the process and my Linux skills are to say the least rusty.

What would you suggest to be a modern, practical use-case scenario of a B3 or two these days?

I guess I could use it to try different distros, learn Linux and for development purposes – but for the purpose it was created it just seems there are smoother alternatives out there.

Also, how are the following aspects keeping up today:
  • * Reliability?
    * Security?
    * Activeness of Development? (Is it dead?)
    * Active development?
Any thoughts or input is appreciated dearly. :)

Gordon
Posts: 1367
Joined: 10 Aug 2011, 03:18

Re: Practical, up-to-date (2015) use-cases for a B3?

Post by Gordon » 30 Nov 2015, 16:38

To answer your questions in order:

Reliability
As far as hardware goes the B3 appears seriously reliable as long as you take care of the disk you put in it. In particular the LCC on WD green drives can be an issue

Security
This all depends on how you expose your B3. If it sits inside your local network and has no direct connection to the internet it will be perfectly safe. As a router it should also function quite well, but everything you do expose to the outside can be a potential danger. As the software has grown to be quite old by now and vulnerabilities have been found to exist, this is something you should not take lightly.

Activeness of Development
In essence this has not been the case since Tor left the company mid 2011. There have been some hotfixes since though and presently it appears that the person behind the forum account MouettE (French for seagull) has been made responsible for keeping the original software running. MouettE also published newer kernels and associated (tricky) u-boot update to run vanilla Debian Jessie on your B3.

Active development
Your guess is as good as mine. So far the official focus appears to be on maintaining the current. We don't whether new hardware is in development and we don't know whether a more recent OS is coming. Apart from MouettE's efforts forum user sakaki has published multiple `Live USB` (try before install) versions of Arch Linux and Gentoo Linux. Being a Gentoo user myself I've decided to try and port the original Excito web admin interface to sakaki's Gentoo releases. The look and feel of the original, but newer and safer in the core.

stasheck
Posts: 107
Joined: 15 Jan 2014, 13:13

Re: Practical, up-to-date (2015) use-cases for a B3?

Post by stasheck » 01 Dec 2015, 05:41

For me the use case is "2 TB ultra-silent, power-frugal, fast NAS with normal Linux on-board" and "SSH server at home that is up 24/7".

Frankly, there is currently no alternative on the market. Zero, none.

MouettE
Site admin
Posts: 271
Joined: 06 Oct 2011, 19:45

Re: Practical, up-to-date (2015) use-cases for a B3?

Post by MouettE » 01 Dec 2015, 10:08

stasheck wrote:For me the use case is "2 TB ultra-silent, power-frugal, fast NAS with normal Linux on-board" and "SSH server at home that is up 24/7".

Frankly, there is currently no alternative on the market. Zero, none.
I totally agree with that ; there are some alternatives but they all lack the two ethernet ports.

Klingan
Posts: 27
Joined: 09 Nov 2010, 14:57

Re: Practical, up-to-date (2015) use-cases for a B3?

Post by Klingan » 01 Dec 2015, 15:12

Gordon, thank you kindly for your very enlightening response.

As a "regular" formerly quite geeky user, I just don't have the time for "playing around" anymore as adulthood and all of its priorities catches up. I simply want things to just work fluently without needing to put energy into things that I do not decide to put energy into consciously. Hence, problems appearing (which has been the case in the installation process of B3) are discouraging. 3 years I ago, I would, despite limited experience of Unix, have attempted an update via u-boot – but these days it doesn't appeal to me to find out what a u-boot update means, and how to execute one. I hope Excito acknowledges these values amongst its basic user group.

Thank you kindly for the warning regarding connecting B3 to the WAN.

I did see some Live USB's and was tempted to try some.

stasheck and MouettE – How does the B3 compare to standard Synology and QNAP NAS servers out there when it comes to silent, power efficiciency and SSH-capabilities? What are the benefits of having SSH-possibilities on a NAS for the regular uses, or – which extra capabilities does SSH offer me that a regular NAS does not?

Thank you all kindly for your input.

Kind regards

stasheck
Posts: 107
Joined: 15 Jan 2014, 13:13

Re: Practical, up-to-date (2015) use-cases for a B3?

Post by stasheck » 01 Dec 2015, 15:57

Klingan, do not get me wrong - I usually prefer my stuff to work out of the box (so I rarely compile from source, for example) - it's just my usecase.

Compared to Synology etc. - all those boxes have 40mm fan cooling the drives, most have just a single Ethernet port. For me the silence of operation is important - I have no closet to put the device into. Also, I seem to find some corner usecase every 3 months or so, so I need fairly well-supported Linux box to test it in practice, not to be dependant on manufacturer's support.

I think that you'll be good enough with some more popular offerings. Just write down what's useful for you and run check against every offering.

If you want to save money and just keep to what you've already got, go test the Gentoo image. I'm using Arch, and I got used to it, but Gordon ported the entire (quite good) web interface to Gentoo, so it should satisfy your "just works" requirement. Again, depending on your usecase.

sakaki
Posts: 172
Joined: 15 Aug 2014, 11:20

Re: Practical, up-to-date (2015) use-cases for a B3?

Post by sakaki » 01 Dec 2015, 16:00

Hi Klingan -

the B3 has more than sufficient MIPs for normal 'home server' tasks, and, as others have noted, is a pretty resilient and power-efficient little box.

We have four of the things at home (don't ask!), all with SSDs so totally silent in operation (you do need to be careful about the choice of SSD though, as not all will work - see this thread). Of these, two are 'production' boxes - one is running as a mailserver, and the other is a dedicated openvpn funnel / network gateway system.

As to O/S, as Gordon already noted, in addition to the standard Debian system, I have two B3 live-USB images currently available, for the Gentoo and Arch Linux distributions (downloadable here and here).

I'd particularly recommend you try the Arch live-USB (you just need a 4GB or greater USB stick to burn the downloaded image file to; no compilation or U-boot changes are required, and it will not affect any existing Excito system or data on your B3's hard drive when you run it, so you can feel free to explore). Incidentally, I believe at least one of stasheck's systems was set up via this live-USB. It is a binary distribution, just like Debian, so you can keep all your software easily and quickly up to date (and therefore patched against nasties like shellshock, Ghost etc.) by simply issuing:

Code: Select all

[root@archb3 ~]# pacman -Syu
(this is similar to apt-get update && apt-get upgrade on Debian). This will also update your kernel when available. Arch Linux Arm is a pretty active community, with a full list of up-to-date, pre-built packages available for quick install - you can search a list here (filter by armv5 architecture).

When the Arch live-USB is booted, it defaults to the following network settings:
Image
This means you can easily log-in via ssh on the WiFi or LAN ports, and browse the web etc. from any connected machine.

If you do go this route, you will have a little (command line) setup to configure your host applications of choice (mailserver, NAS media server etc.) but this is not massively onerous, and is a one-time cost.

Gentoo requires more care and feeding, being a source-based distribution, and (although I'm a Gentoo girl myself ^-^) in all honesty probably is not a good fit for your requirements (that said, Gordon has done some great work porting the Excito UI to Gentoo recently - see his thread here, and I have a 'special edition' of the Gentoo live-USB which you can use to try (a now slightly old) version of his work out quickly, if you like (this also includes Logitech Media Server, which may be of interest)).

Hope that helps, best

sakaki

kenned
Posts: 12
Joined: 27 Feb 2011, 13:55

Re: Practical, up-to-date (2015) use-cases for a B3?

Post by kenned » 02 Dec 2015, 17:06

Just wanted to chime in on the use cases.

I have one B3 2TB running in the corner of the living room next to the router, which does torrent downloading of movies and tv shows, while also serving them via DLNA to the TV and media player-projector setup.
It also runs Logitech Media Server for my Squeezebox to play some of my music that is not available on the streaming services.
Then I use it for miscellaneous backup tasks; from time to time I copy some stuff from my laptop to the B3.
Oh, and a few times I have used the DLNA server to watch holiday photos on the TV with my girlfriend - even if the image quality is not impressive, it’s still good fun.
It used to do routing and wifi access point as well, but it wasn't quite stable and my debugging effort was fruitless, so I retired it from that task. Also it used to be a public web server, but due to the php security issues that caused it to be compromised once, I retired it from that as well. Time Machine backups over wifi also never worked 100%, so I dropped that as well.

I manage another B3 that runs as a gateway router in an apartment building, serving up a 100 mbps fiber connection to 80 apartments, while allowing me to SSH from home and perform simple network support tasks from time to time.
This one also runs some network monitoring and serves network stats to the owners via the web server, though it is not available from the outside.

Both these have been running 24/7 since we bought them in early 2011 without as much as a hiccup.

And as far as alternatives go, the only one I know of, is a RaspberryPi with big ol' hard drive/SSD. And they don't come in nearly as nice boxes as the B3.

What has changed for me is the same as for you - changed priorities - now I don’t find it nearly as attractive to spend hours trying to make the box perform some task or manually install security patches.
So bit by bit the possible use cases narrow down, for me - not because the box itself is getting too old, but mainly because the system needs too much maintenance work from my perspective.
-and I'm a former professional Linux server admin and network admin, so it's not like I'm afraid of the thing :)

The fine guys and girl have already commented on the state of development, and I have nothing to add - apart from expressing my gratitude that you are spending your valuable time doing this. Even if I’m not benefiting from it currently as I have issues with Gentoo and source based distributions in general, I think it’s fabulous that you do this. Big virtual high fives and thumbs ups for all of you!

In the meantime I’m cheering for Mouette to publish a easy peasy installer for the latest Debian and when that’s ready, I’m going to try to make the B3 run a ASP.Net 5 web server.

MouettE
Site admin
Posts: 271
Joined: 06 Oct 2011, 19:45

Re: Practical, up-to-date (2015) use-cases for a B3?

Post by MouettE » 02 Dec 2015, 17:58

kenned wrote:In the meantime I’m cheering for Mouette to publish a easy peasy installer for the latest Debian and when that’s ready, I’m going to try to make the B3 run a ASP.Net 5 web server.
As a matter of fact the jessie images for b2/b3 are ready I'm just about to test the brand new install system so stay tuned 8) it should be published in the next few days....

Gordon
Posts: 1367
Joined: 10 Aug 2011, 03:18

Re: Practical, up-to-date (2015) use-cases for a B3?

Post by Gordon » 03 Dec 2015, 04:26

kenned wrote:The fine guys and girl have already commented on the state of development, and I have nothing to add - apart from expressing my gratitude that you are spending your valuable time doing this. Even if I’m not benefiting from it currently as I have issues with Gentoo and source based distributions in general, I think it’s fabulous that you do this. Big virtual high fives and thumbs ups for all of you!
That does deserve a comment.

The thing about a source based distro is that you can make different (more sane?) choices than the people maintaining the distro. In fact, the php exploit you referred to was the result of Debian having the php cgi as part of the php package, where it has no use on the B2|3. If this obsolete element hadn't been there in the first place, it wouldn't have been an issue. i.e. a source based bistro allows specifically targeting the needs and tasks of our little B3's and thus avoid such issues.

Also, While Gentoo itself is a source based distro, there are multiple Gentoo derived distributions that do in fact install binaries (e.g. Sabayon, Funtoo) and within my own environment this is what I do myself: I pack binaries that I can install on my other B3's so I don't have to recompile everything all over again on each and every machine, which would of course be very tedious for machines that do not have access to a crossdev helper machine. There is a (financial) implication: someone will need to supply the bandwidth and public storage for such packages.

NisseJ
Posts: 40
Joined: 09 Jan 2011, 07:55
Location: Sweden
Contact:

Re: Practical, up-to-date (2015) use-cases for a B3?

Post by NisseJ » 03 Dec 2015, 05:47

Ohh! Looking forward to this! What an christmas present! :)

MouettE wrote:
kenned wrote:In the meantime I’m cheering for Mouette to publish a easy peasy installer for the latest Debian and when that’s ready, I’m going to try to make the B3 run a ASP.Net 5 web server.
As a matter of fact the jessie images for b2/b3 are ready I'm just about to test the brand new install system so stay tuned 8) it should be published in the next few days....

Puma
Posts: 227
Joined: 29 Sep 2008, 06:30

Re: Practical, up-to-date (2015) use-cases for a B3?

Post by Puma » 03 Dec 2015, 16:36

This is really great news!!
Now running standard 2.6.0.2 on 3x B3 servers..

Will it be a complete image we can install from usb stick?
If not can you please write a how to update/install for users like me :D (not afraid of ssh but not a linux master)

Thanks for the work!!

Puma
Linux is like a wigwam - no windows, no gates, apache inside!

MouettE
Site admin
Posts: 271
Joined: 06 Oct 2011, 19:45

Re: Practical, up-to-date (2015) use-cases for a B3?

Post by MouettE » 04 Dec 2015, 00:29

Puma wrote:This is really great news!!
Now running standard 2.6.0.2 on 3x B3 servers..
The images are plain minimal debian install and do not feature the excito administration interface. I don't use it myself and it's far too much work to port to jessie.
Puma wrote:Will it be a complete image we can install from usb stick?
If not can you please write a how to update/install for users like me :D (not afraid of ssh but not a linux master)
It will be installable from usb stick.

Puma
Posts: 227
Joined: 29 Sep 2008, 06:30

Re: Practical, up-to-date (2015) use-cases for a B3?

Post by Puma » 04 Dec 2015, 00:42

MouttE,

Thanks for the update!

Does the minimal debian include a firewall, postfix, samba, apache, fetchmail, openssh?
Or do we have to install that personally?

Puma
Linux is like a wigwam - no windows, no gates, apache inside!

MouettE
Site admin
Posts: 271
Joined: 06 Oct 2011, 19:45

Re: Practical, up-to-date (2015) use-cases for a B3?

Post by MouettE » 04 Dec 2015, 09:32

Puma wrote:Does the minimal debian include a firewall, postfix, samba, apache, fetchmail, openssh?
Or do we have to install that personally?
The jessie image will only include openssh because without it it would be pretty useless :wink: As for the rest it's up to you and what you want your b3 to do.

Post Reply