Homelabs can block ads and give us reading material for potty time! Lets start our first homelab.
Greetings again! I recently learned something new today in my homelab. Have you? Something on Noted caught your eye? You want to try it out but have no homelab you say? Maybe we should fix that by getting ourselves a homelab!
Whether you have a homelab already or not doesn't matter, everyone starts somewhere. I personally started by using Oracle VM Virtualbox to set up Ubuntu server virtual machines on my windows desktop. If you just want to try it out, this is a perfectly viable way. Aside from using some of the resources on your computer while running, it works well to see what it could be like to have your very own homelab.
Alternatively, you may have an old device, laptop/chromebook, or desktop, laying around that would be perfectly suitable to trying out a homelab. Homelabs don't have to be super large and noisy servers. They can be whatever you want. Instead of junking old laptops, I collect them and sometimes use them as Linux servers, not even desktop environments. If the battery still works, you have built-in battery backup!
I'm going to place actual setup of devices outside the scope of this article as there are many options. Each one likely has a well written tutorial to help get us started with a quick search. At this point we will also say we have our devices or virtual machines ready to go and are ready to try some experiments.
So now that we have a device, we need to pick something to try. Homelabs are about being able to try and test new things, preferably without the anxiety of messing up because the whole purpose is to have an environment that it is okay to mess up in. That is how we learn. I know quite a few people who built out their homelabs because they wanted to learn technology from work, in an environment at home where they could learn and fix things without repercussions of messing up company equipment. When in our homelab lets keep the idea that failing is part of success as it gives us a chance to learn and grow.
Let's start simple. Often we find ourselves wanting to make certain tasks easier and environments less annoying. I have two examples of things we may want to make easier or less annoying, and will an option for each. I will not be covering direct setup in this article, nor should my referencing mean they are better than other options. They are simply what I currently use.
The first issue I want to cover is information aggregation. Just like Noted, there are many other blogs or sources of information. To check each of them for something new to read or learn can be tedious. A homelab can do something about that using RSS feeds. There are many self hosted options, I'm currently using FreshRSS for this.
FreshRSS can aggregate, or collect, from RSS-feeds which a lot of blogs use. RSS is like having news on what a blog publishes. I recently set this up in my homelab on a Raspberry Pi. I was tired of being on the pooper and swiping through google's recommended stuff. Now, all I have to do is find a website that supplies information I like, add it to FreshRSS, and load up an RSS reader to browse articles I actually 'want' to see. Instead of getting feeds about Musk, Twitter, or other random articles, I can read what I am most interested in, which is tech blogs.
Now the second source of fixable problems, privacy and ads. Tons of people use browser built in ad-blockers and privacy assistant extensions. I use a mix of them, along with hosting Pi-Hole on a Raspberry Pi or two. Pi-Hole fixes two things. First, it reduces the number of ads I see. Second, it helps block trackers and various other privacy invasive queries that try to traverse my network. Yes, I use adblockers. Why? I pay for my internet. I should be allowed to use it how I want. However, I have a problem.
While ultimately I don't care about ads, they don't really annoy me or even work on me. I'm more apt to do significant research on anything that catches my eye and likely will talk myself out of any potential spend simply by procrastinating and overthinking. My actual problem is my limited data! Yes!
It might be a surprise with tons of fiber options roaming and how the funding for that sort of stuff is but.. Guess what? Data caps still exist. Ads are typically videos most of the time, and sometimes, even when you use lower bandwidth settings, those settings don't control ads. I was watching video in 480p and the ad scaled up to 1080p simply because my connection was capable, sometimes even 4k. There goes my precious 'limited' data. Can I extend my data? For a price. That means I pay for what I use, which also means I should be allowed to specify what I use it for, should I not?
Anyways, that rant went off topic a bit, my apologies. We now have two applications to try out though, don't we? It doesn't even have to be those two applications or problems that we try to fix with our new homelabs. It could be a place to sync data, take notes, watch video. A homelab has near immeasurable amounts of value that it can add. So whether it was an app from the Noted Self Hosted app directory or a feed aggregator, now that we have a homelab we can just jump in and try something! What kind of application are you interested in trying if you already have a lab? If you don't, are you interested in acquiring one? Let me know in the comments below!