Getting NAS-ty

  • #networking
August 23, 2021

My last attempt to build myself a LAN video streaming service didn't go too well. Sure, it kinda worked, but it was far from perfect. I don't really know why, but I've always wanted a NAS. TBH I don't know what I'd do with it.

So as is customary, I got distracted yesterday and dusted off the ol' Raspberry Pi that was bought but never used (to be fair I did install Arch on it, but that was literally it, I just installed Arch on it, unplugged it and packed it back up). What I wanted was apparently called a Media Server, so I went out looking for it. I found a couple of things, but none of them really told me what they did. They just had instructions on how to install, and that was it??

Let's start at the beginning. I had to install an OS on the Pi, and then get SSH access to it. I discovered a couple of really neat tricks to do this without ever attaching it to a monitor, a keyboard, or even an ethernet port.

I wasn't really into installing Arch today, so first thing I did was clear out an empty SD Card, attached it to my Macbook and flashed Raspberry Pi OS on there. It's really simple, thanks to Raspberry Pi Imager. I just selected the Lite version (without a desktop environment) and that was it! Took about a couple of minutes to ready the SD Card.

But here's where the tricks were:

  1. In order to let the Raspberry Pi connect to my Wifi on boot, I created a wpa_supplicant.conf file on the boot partition with these contents:
ctrl_interface=DIR=/var/run/wpa_supplicant GROUP=netdev

  ssid="<My SSID>"
  psk="<My Password>"

Unfortunately, I can't remember where I found this, but this SO answer mentions it as well.

  1. In order to enable SSH on boot, you just have to create an empty file with the name ssh on the boot partition. Apparently the OS will see this file, enable SSH, and then delete it.

Anyway, once I did that, the Pi booted up, and I connected to it via SSH from my Macbook. So delightful! (I had reserved an IP from my router way back, so I knew what it was). Set up an SSH alias for it and you can get to your pi in seconds by just typing ssh pi in a terminal.

Next step was the media server. Kodi seemed to be the top choice, so I started looking into it, but got very confused. So you install this server on your Pi, and then what? Where's the UI? How do I add stuff to it? Eventually I found out that apparently the server is on the Pi, so you have to physically connect a monitor to the Pi to be able to access it. I think it's built for TVs and stuff, but this is absolutely not what I wanted.

Looked around some more, and I came across openmediavault, which sounded extremely promising. I installed it on my Pi, and it exposed a web server with a UI I could acess from anywhere on my home network. Perfect!

Next up was file sharing. I learned about SMB, which is a protocol that lets devices on a network talk to each other. Some quick openmediavault configuration later, I had the perfect UI: macOS's Finder!

NAS on macOS Finder

openmediavault even supported video streaming right out-of-the-box, so I literally did not have to do a single thing extra. Sure, it's a little slow when configuring, but finding software that "just works" is so rare these days, I'm very impressed!