Beginner recommendations

Hi everyone, so I’ve started watching Jay’s Proxmox series and other videos on how to setup a homelab. I was wondering if re-purposing an old laptop would be enough, instead of buying new dedicated hardware, at least to get started. The laptop itself works fine and the specs are decent I think:

Model Dell System XPS L502X
CPU Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-2640M CPU @ 2.80GHz
Memory 8GB SODIMM DDR3 Synchronous 1333 MHz
Graphics Nvidia GF108M [GeForce GT 525M]

For now I just want to get started with something simple like Nextcloud for managing my files and maybe Plex as well to stream videos at home.

I was thinking on upgrading to 16GB RAM so that can have that additional push for new projects in the future. Any recommendations on this?

I know the graphics card is not the best but since it’s dedicated, could this taken advantage of for a homelab?

Thanks!

An old laptop is a great place to start. If you want to use proxmox, I would first check the bios settings to see if virtualization can be enabled for your processor. From what I’ve read some dell laptops don’t have this feature in the bios. But even if you can’t use proxmox, the laptop would be great for learning a linux system. And if you want to dabble with docker it would be great for that as well. You can set up many services with docker, including nextcloud and plex. Containers would be better suited for an older laptop like this anyway.

8Gb of ram would be more than enough for those 2 services. If you find you find you are outgrowing that ram, only then would I think about upgrading. You can get a lot done with 8Gb if it’s only for home usage. I think your biggest bottle neck would be your CPU if you are transcoding video using plex. But if you are only streaming to 1 1080p device at a time, this should work without a problem. Plex uses next to nothing for ram.

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I use an old i3 laptop with 4GiB of RAM for my “work lab” (nothing mission critical, just fun projects to try some web apps out). I’m not trying to do proxmox on there, but I can experiment with docker and containers and setting up on the metal web apps and servers. I even have mine set up so that I can use Wake-On-Lan with an ethernet cable plugged into it.

At home we run an old Dell desktop with 4GiB of RAM and a 1st gen i3 with Fedora 34 and podman running containers for:

  • syncthing
  • VS Code server
  • A hand coded Python web app that displays the Bing Picture of the Day current and an archive
  • Nginx Proxy Server

About the only thing that puts any stress on the CPU and RAM is syncthing, but we have plenty of room to run far more on that server in the homelab.

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I can run Virtual Box machines fine so I guess it does support virtualization, or should look for something else? In any case I like the idea of also using Docker which is another thing I’ve started looking at recently. Although I’m curious how to keep track of all the containers once there are more than a few installed, how do you monitor them, etc…

Actually I hadn’t considered using Syncthing but that’s definitely going to make it in the home lab server, and I’m curious about running VS Code on the server as well. I don’ think I have a need for that but should be a fun project to setup, and it will let me use less powered laptops like Chromebooks to edit code without hassle. Do you know if the code server can be setup using VS Codium instead?

As for the OS, I was thinking on getting a developer license from RedHat as it would be a good learning experience, but should I maybe use something with a GUI “just in case”?

And is there a way I can re-purpose that Nvidia graphics card for something else, or use it for things like video transcoding on Plex?

Thank you for the help!

It’s weird to read about anyone using Bing for anything. Thanks for this new experience.

using virtual machines demands more system resources than containers so if I were you, especially if you are interested anyway, I would explore containers and docker. That being said, there’s no reason not to try proxmox. If it doesn’t work well enough, then you can try something else next. At worst, you’ve spend some extra time playing with it and learned something. If that’s the route you choose, you’re not tied to VM’s either. I run a lot of LXE containers on proxmox because they are more resource efficient and you can even run docker inside of a LXE container for a little container inception. If you do plan on running VM’s it wouldn’t hurt to have some extra ram. But I would see how it fares without first.

If you want to play with Red Hat you can get a developer license and that will work just fine but you can skip jumping through those hoops and use Alma Linux or Rocky Linux. Both are supposed to be license free RHEL clones.

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I’m not too comfortable going down the container inception route just yet, but I think I’m convinced on using Docker rather than Proxmox for now. It’s a cool technology that I wanted to learn while following along another great series by Jay, but it’s probably not what I need right now and it’ll save me the trouble of upgrading RAM unnecessarily.

If anyone has more recommendations on what to run on a homelab or wants to share their setup for others to pick ideas from, that’d be great!

Thanks again everyone for the help :slight_smile:

A few of the things that I run:

PIHole- A DNS server that actively blocks ad sources. This is something I consider an essential in my home. It’s great to point your router to for DNS.

Mealie- a self hosted recipe book. I honestly didn’t think this would be as valuable to me as it is. Whenever I find a recipe on a website, I import it to here. Even if the website goes away, I’ve still got it.

Portainer- A container management utility for docker. It really makes docker so easy to use, it feels like cheating. You still have to truly understand docker, but it makes managing everything a breeze.

Home Assistant- A good tool for managing IoT devices in your home. Like a remote control that you can customize.

Monica- A personal relationship manager. I have just installed this one to check it out, but I haven’t really used it yet. It basically allows to save notes on your interactions with people. Remember birthdays, anniversaries, number of children, etc. Basically gives you some study notes before you meet up with someone you don’t always interact with.

Nginx proxy manager- A proxy for all my services. I point my DNS records for all my services to this container. It manages my wildcard SSL certificate for my services. All traffic goes through this proxy as a subdomain in the format of service.mydomain.com.

Vikunja- a do to list / productivity management web app. It’s pretty self explanatory.

Sonarr- A PVR system of a sort, for tv shows. It will monitor when television programs air and download when available. It’s great for streaming television that you are subscribed to, but without commercials.

Radarr- similar to sonarr but works with movies. Since most modern systems don’t have dvd/blueray drives this is the easy way to rip movies.

Transmission- It’s a torrent client. Torrents are still the best way to download linux ISO files. I also have it configured to work with Sonarr and Radarr.

This is a pretty short list. But should give you a few things to look at. There is a much more complete list at GitHub - awesome-selfhosted/awesome-selfhosted: A list of Free Software network services and web applications which can be hosted on your own servers

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