My Homelab NAS on NixOS

Published on , 833 words, 4 minutes to read

Recently my husband and I built a NAS to store our Plex library among other things. Our home network has had an absurd abundance of slack compute laying around (to the point that I am almost unsure what I am going to do with it all), but the main thing that the network lacked was a good place to put a lot of data. Previously each of our towers had been kitted with 2 4TB rotational drives that we ended up sharing our media between. This worked out well enough, but it was kind of inconvenient to just use the storage. Things had to be mediated between Linux and Windows and it just became a whole mess.

Then the biggest breaking point happened when we started to both get into playing roomscale VR with eachother on the internet. Most of the VR stuff works on Windows as its primary target, and our home Plex server was on my tower when it was booted into Linux. As I did more and more VR, rebooting into Linux for our anime nights started to become a chore. So we decided to make a NAS that we'd store all that stuff on as well as act as our Plex server so my tower could do whatever it wanted.

Mara is hacker

Pedantically, most of the VR stuff does work fine on Linux if your distro of choice is NOT NixOS. It is kind of annoying.

We settled on a machine we're calling itsuki, the 5th machine in our homelab. itsuki has a hexacore i5 10600 like the rest of the lab, but differs in the amount of ram at only 16 GB of ram. It is inside a Fractal Node 803 case and currently lives under my desk. It runs NixOS like the rest of the homelab (save logos, which runs Windows 11 and has an RTX 2060 in it for other experimentation), and installing it was fairly painless.

itsuki has 4 8TB 7200 RPM drives in it, which when combined with raidz1 gives me effectively 20 TB of redundant storage on top of 32 TB of raw storage. I have a few parent datasets that I use for organizing this:

Cadey is enby

Fun fact: itsuki is named after the 5th quintuplet in the Nakano quintuplets from the anime The Quintessential Quintuplets. Itsuki's name is a pun on the number 5, which fits because the NAS is the 5th node in the homelab.

Installing NixOS was utterly painless. Using a combination of settings from the Arch Linux wiki (seriously wish I could get a printed copy of that thing, it's worth its weight in gold for how much weird arcane things you can learn from it), the NixOS wiki and copying things off of a Synology box's samba configuration file, I managed to trick everything into working and now all the machines on our tailnet can access the data on the NAS without too much trouble. Even iPhones and iPads thanks to the recent addition of SMB mounting on iP{hone|ad}OS. It also works over Tailscale too, so I can get into the NAS' files anywhere I have an internet connection.

Thanks to a docker-compose manifest for Transmission shoved into a WireGuard network, I can also legally acquire certain kinds of animated media that aren't available in Canada and manage how much I share back over Tailscale too. Thanks to Tailscale's Let's Encrypt support I can also create a progressive web app that lets me monitor Transmission on the go and give my NAS instructions to legally acquire more of this media should I want to.

I originally wanted to make this a post about how I set up NixOS and everything, but it wasn't actually that big of a deal to do it. It just worked first try once I managed to trick the uber gamer Aorus motherboard to shut up about Secure Boot and just let me boot off of a damn USB drive. Probably broke Windows booting on that thing in the process, but honestly I'd be tempted to consider that a security feature to protect the NAS data from Windows booting on the machine.

This setup was boring, and honestly for the kind of thing that I was setting up, that's very much a good thing.

Facts and circumstances may have changed since publication. Please contact me before jumping to conclusions if something seems wrong or unclear.