quark is up

A few weeks ago I finally upgraded the homelab from Intel NUC-as-a-server to a real honest-to-goodness rackmount server. chef has “served” (hah) us well for years, being an Intel NUC with 4TB spinning disk and a 250GB SSD, but I’ve had aspirations for something more for a while.

I set up the rack when we moved into this house three years ago, and it’s hosted a patch panel, Netgear 48-port switch, and various smart home hub devices. It also hosted the Raspberry Pi running pi-hole before that moved to the cluster1.

The newest addition to the family is quark: a Supermicro shallow-depth 1U server with an Atom 4-core processor, 500GB SSD, 32GB RAM and 8TB of spinning disks in a Raid 0 array2. There are extra empty RAM slots and four extra spinning disk slots to fill in the future. I got it prebuilt from Broadberry and I want to give them a shout-out too as their service was great, even amongst the supply chain issues.

OS stuff

The first and most important decision to make was, of course, which Linux distribution to use.

My default for years has been Debian, but I wanted to try something new, and the hachyderm.io Discord were fairly adamant that Arch is the way.

I am not disappointed, and have become a total Arch convert. Installation was straightforward, and the only slight glitch I’ve had has been an issue with the UEFI boot.

While the server supports EFI, it doesn’t have good enough UEFI support for EFISTUB to work. Ie, i can’t boot to the kernel from the BIOS directly. At some point I will install a bootloader, but for now it’s quite straightforward to boot to the EFI shell and run a one-liner (script) to load linux.

When it came to partitioning, I decided to separate the /home partition from / as I have plenty of space on the SSD to maximise both and it gives me extra flexibility should I need to move things around later. The hard drive array is mounted as /big and access is controlled through the user group biggers. I don’t know how much groups are used in modern Linux administration, but I find it the most natural approach for managing ACLs on the filesystem.


I only have a few services running at the moment:

  1. nginx of course, to host both internal and external sites, and to act as a reverse proxy for the other services. Internally I am running flame as a self-hosting dashboard, and I’m in the process of moving my personal sites, including this one, from dreamhost, who as I’ve said before are great, to being hosted from home.

  2. I’m also running some media streaming and binary usenet clients for reasons (sonarr, nzbget, jellyfin). These replace sickbeard, sabnzbd+, and plex, respectively, as they are better maintained and (in the case of jellyfin vs plex, at least) don’t call home.

  3. To make it feel a bit more like a real setup, i’m also running some monitoring software: prometheus and grafana.

    a. I was running grafana previously, with an influxdb and collectd setup, and it was painful to onboard new nodes. With the new setup I’m able to add a new node simply by installing prometheus-node-exporter and pointing quark’s prometheus instance to it.

    b. As well as the prometheus-node-exporter on every machine, I’m running prometheus-blackbox-exporter to probe all the running services.

    c. I may add some custom exporters for specific services as necessary.

Why “quark”?

No, it’s not named for the subatomic particle, or the Star Trek character. All of my devices are named for computers or robots from Dr Who. The current set include kamelion, xoanon, xylok, tardis, k9, k1, and now quark.

What’s next?

I’m not sure.. i might see if i can centralise some of the smart home stuff and self host instead of relying on Hue/Yale/Ikea/Whoever wants me to set up accounts and send every API request over the internet before turning a light on. I’m tempted to move the minecraft server too, but I quite like the idea of running those on the raspi cluster. Though it would free up the cluster to be available for ad-hoc work3, I’m concerned the load might gum up quark.

Now I’m an Arch convert, I’m figuring out what I can do to support it and give something back.

It’s tempting to step way back into my past and self-host mail, run a local NNTP server, and eschew the web for mutt and tin, but that may be nostalgia talking.

I’m open to any suggestions for services I could/should run: @[email protected].

  1. also containing two minecraft servers and a retropie. ↩︎

  2. I have offsite backups so I don’t need the redundancy, but I may want to add more later and the read/write throughput matters more. ↩︎

  3. Using sprinkle, naturally. ↩︎