Building a new home FreeNAS server

My home server is now 9 years old, so I’m thinking it probably about time that I build a new one. I’ve been very lucky so far, probably best not to chance my luck any more,  as consumer hard drives usually only have a 3-5 year guarantee.

After a bit of thought and research, I’ve decided to change from Linux to FreeNAS, this blog post will track my progress and choices as I build my Server over the next couple of months.


I’m going to start with 16Gb and upgrade if needed (Type dependent on motherboard)

Needs to support 4 SATA drives without an additional PCI card, with the possibility of expansion to 6 drives if needed. I intend to run a few VM’s and a few jails, so I need to buy a motherboard that, if needed, I can put a more powerful CPU in.


The server is going to be in my loft, so I don’t feel the need to keep it small or unobtrusive, that and the airflow should be reasonably good in a larger case. If I decide later to move the server somewhere else in the house, I may repurpose the case.

microATX form factor
MicroATX motherboards are the most popular size for FreeNAS servers, mostly because entry- level server motherboards based on LGA 115x platforms tend to use this form factor.

After a bit of thought about the specifications, I’ve decided to go with the Skyline motherboard and processor, socket LGA 1151, this should be a good starting point, as the motherboard supports 6 SATA port and a whopping 64Gb of memory it should be good for all my needs in the future.

Power Supply

There’s a really good article here about calculation the required power supply wattage. I’m initially going to use 4 drive but might over time upgrade to 6.

  • Each drive will need approximately 35 Watts each.         6 X 35 = 210W
  • Approximately 25W for the motherboard.                                         25W
  • The motherboard supports a maximum CPU wattage of                  80W
  • 4 slots available on the motherboard for memory                4 X 6 = 24W
  • 2 built in fans on the Fractal Design Case + CPU Fan       3 X 30 = 90W

By my calculations that approximately 429W. Multiply the wattage by 1.25 to give a reasonable margin of error gives us about 536.25W

So, I’m looking for a 550 Watt power supply and since it seems to be recommended on the Freenas Forum, I’m going to buy the Seasonic G550 550W 80+ Gold Certified PSU after reading some good reviews about it here and here.

Cost so far

  1. Fractal Design – Define Mini                                     £78
  2. Supermicro X11SSL-F-O                                         £176
  3. Intel Core i3-6300                                                    £105
  4. Memory Mr Memory                                                 £172
  5. Seasonic G550 550W 80+ Gold Certified PSU        £87
  6. 4 x Western Digital Red 3TB                                    £400
  7. 2 x SanDisk Ultra Fit 16GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive     £22

The Finished Product



Setting up a Raspberry Pi as a VPN router (Updated)

I’ve decided to update the VPN router on my home network using a Raspberry Pi 2, I’m quite impressed at how well it works. I was previously using a HomePlug AV adapter but found this to be a bit of a network bottleneck. So now my Raspberry Pi 2 is connected directly to my router using an ethernet cable.

Previously, I installed a DNS server (Unbound) as a caching recursive DNS server, this service resided on the same machine that I ran my VPN router on. Now however, after a bit of research I’ve decided to let my VPN’s DNS servers answer all the requests from my VPN connected devices.

I now run a separate DHCP/DNS server on my home network (DNSMasq) with a DNSCrypt wrapper that encrypts all the DNS requests that don’t go through my VPN Router.

Home VPN Setup

What you need

You will need some knowledge of networking and/or some IT knowledge.
A Raspberry Pi 2 or 3 running the current Raspian Jessie Lite – 2016-03-18.

Configure a static IP address

The new version of of the dhcpcd daemon included in the Jessie image doesn’t seem to read /etc/network/interfaces as it used to So if you configure a static IP in the usual way, you’ll end up with 2 IP addresses.

The workaround is to configure a static IP address as you would normally, then disable dhcpcd daemon. Then if you decide later to provision your Pi for something else, it’s easily reversible.

The above shows that the router’s IP address (Gateway) is, yours may be different, so remember to change it to suite your circumstances. You may well have to changing the network address if your network address differs from mine, which is

Setting up your VPN server

Next, you need to install openvpn on your raspberry pi and test it, I’ve provided an extensive list of VPN providers in the references section (right at the bottom) feel free to choose one after installing openvpn (make sure the VPN provider you choose, support openvpn).

First off, you need to install openvpn. You can do this by typing the following at the prompt.

After you’ve installed openvpn, you’ll need to choose a VPN provider. Ensure that the one you choose, supports Linux and Openvpn. If it’s a good provider, they will provide you with the option of downloading an OpenVPN configuration file, which should have the extension (.ovpn). After you’ve downloading the file to your Raspberry Pi, change the extension to a (.conf) extension and copy it to the “/etc/openvpn/” directory of your Raspberry Pi.

Test that the VPN actually works.

If it’s working as expected, then press ctrl-c to exit.

Enable VPN after reboot

You should get a message similar to this (see below), the “your_vpn_provider@” will of course be what you’ve called your file.

Fire-walling the interface and enabling forwarding

Below is the shell script that I wrote (with the help of online resources). What it does is firewall the tunnel interface and the internal eth0 interface. In the event of the openvpn daemon shutting down, or the connection to your VPN provider going down, all traffic stops being forwarded.

The only part that will need changed, is the “Home_Network” variable which is currently set to my home network ( and the VPN_DNS variable, which are the DNS servers supplied by your VPN provider. Download the script (or cut and paste) to your pi.

To change permission on the script (make it executable), type the following.

Run the script and apply the firewall.

I want to make the firewall rules persistent, so I’m going to install a package called iptables-persistent.

Make the rules apply at startup

If at any time you re-run the script after updating or changing it, then you will have to re-run the iptables-persistent program, to apply the updated rules after reboot. The command for that is.

Enable IPv4 forwarding

Edit the sysctl.conf file to enable IPv4 forwarding.

Uncomment the following.

Save the changes and run the following to make the change permanent.

You should get the following output.

Start VPN now

Testing your VPN Connection

IP Address:
Subnet :      
Default Gateway: (IP address of your now working Raspberry Pi VPN Router)
DNS Server :       (The IP address of your VPN provider’s DNS Servers)

Here’s a screenshot of my Windows 10 virtual machine with the static IP of the details above.

Windows 10 Network Settings

As you can see below, I’m currently in Canada (hurahh!), the DNS leak test shows one ip which is the same as my exit node IP.

VPN Connection

Here’s a good resource, with instructions on setting up a PC with a static IP address.


You can either install ntopng from the Raspberry Pi repository or you can install the new version, using the instructions provided on the ntopng website.

Installing ntopng (using the repository – Current Version 1.2.1 (r1.2.1)

Update repository

Upgrade software

Install ntopng from the repository

Installing ntopng from the ntopng website

Got to the ntop website and follow the instructions provided.

I got the following error message when I tried to run the program.

To fix this, I had to install a couple of libraries, instructions to fix the issue below.

Restart ntopng

Change the default ntopng login

Fire up your favorite browser and point it at the IP address of your new VPN router. For me that would be

Your may have used a different IP address, all you need to do is append the port number to the IP address.

After installing ntopng, I would suggest that you change the admin password after you login, the default login are as follows.

Default login – admin
Default password – admin

Screenshots of ntopng.

All hosts currently using my VPN router on my home network.

List of hosts using my VPN router.

Showing  one host on my network, and as you can see, you can look at the traffic type, ports, peers and protocols. It’s a great addition if you’re sharing your VPN with others in your family or friends. It allows you to see if someone is hogging your bandwidth or doing something a bit suspect.

It’s a really great program and if you find it useful then I would definitely buy a licence, because the paid version has a lot more functionality. If you want to see what the paid version looks like, restart your VPN router and connect to ntop, it runs the pro version for 10 minutes before defaulting to the community version.Host on ntopIf you like it they you can purchase a licence for the pro version from here. Alternatively, if you have a little cash you can also make a donation to the project.


Simple Stateful Firewall – ArchLinux
OpenVPN – Open Source – Website
How To Use Systemctl to Manage Systemd Services and Units – DigitalOcean
Wikipedia – Virtual Private Network
Networking – Pi as a VPN Router
15 best VPN Providers
Geospoofing with the Raspberry Pi
VPN Provider shuts down after Lavabit case undermines security
How do I know if my VPN provider is trustworthy? (Lifehacker)
How NSA Proof Are VPN Providers?
How (and why) to set up VPN today
Electronic Frontier Foundation
VPN Creative – What is my IP address
DNS Leak Test
IP and DNS Detect
Selective VPN routing : [Solution – DSVR]
iptables ipv4 firewall – Debian Firewall Wiki

Draft investigatory Powers Bill

GCHQ Mass Surveillance
Theresa May unveils UK surveillance measures in wake of Snowden claims
UK cyber-spy law takes Snowden’s revelations of mass surveillance and sets them in stone
UN privacy head slams ‘worse than scary’ UK surveillance bill
Investigatory Powers Bill: what’s in it, and what does it mean?
Don’t spy on us

Setting up your Raspberry Pi (headless)

Raspberry Pi Hardware List

Continue reading

Secure Shell login attempts

After getting the following secure shell login attempts, I’ve decided to remove winbind from my home linux boxes. It’s not a big deal as I’ve only got a few workstations and I’m not running Active Directory at home. They are all in a windows workgroup so no problems.

To remove winbind from a Ubuntu or Debian workstation, type the following.

Job done. 😀

To prevent brute force login attempts on workstations running ssh (secure shell), I would always suggest either installing fail2ban or denyhosts.

References: winbind

Ubuntu Forum – SSH login attempts using winbind