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5 Fun Things to Do with FreeNAS

Written by Annie Zhang on .

If I asked the average user how they use FreeNAS, they’d probably answer “back up and store files”. While that’s both practical and important, it’s also a bit boring. The software is designed for small and home offices but if you’ve got a system at home, you’re probably wondering what kind of fun you can have with it.

To that end, we’ve rounded up five of the more interesting ways you can use FreeNAS. Some of the tutorials I’ll link to make the assumption you’ve already built and set up your system. If you need some help with that, check out our official FreeNAS guide to hardware design and the FreeNAS YouTube channel.

Many of these projects make extensive use of the plugins system. An overview of plugins and a full list of the ones available can be found in the FreeNAS documentation. The guides range from a simple plugin installation to some command line hacking so make sure you’re comfortable with the difficulty level before attempting any tutorial.


1. Set Up the Ultimate Entertainment Device

Media Streaming

FreeNAS is a file server by nature—in order to turn it into a media server, you’ll need to install a few plugins to allow the system to download and stream media.

There are several combinations of plugins you can install depending on the type of media you’ll be using—the most popular being Transmission (torrenting) and Plex Media Server (streaming). However, there are many other plugins that specialize in specific media types such as Firefly (music), Mylar (comic books), Sickbeard (TV shows), and CouchPotato (NZB/torrents).

If you need to stream to a DLNA device such as a PS3 or XBox One, you can install MiniDLNA by following this tutorial from joeschmuck of the FreeNAS forums.


2. Host a Personal Cloud

OwncloudWith some of the horror stories out there about privacy breaches, some people are understandably on edge about handing over their documents and photos to a third-party. Now you can set up a secure personal cloud on FreeNAS that only you and authorized users have access to. Once you get OwnCloud set up, it’s like having a personal Dropbox. The easiest way to do this is through the official plugin located in the Plugin tab.

For more control, you can also configure OwnCloud manually—there are several ways to do that. Here’s a video tutorial from DrKK of the forums for his method and the corresponding forum thread.

Here’s an alternative method from Josh Parker Ruehlig who wrote many of the FreeNAS plugins.


3. Share and Distribute Files Privately

In a similar vein, you can also use FreeNASbittorrent-sync-logo to share files and pictures with friends and family with the Bittorrent Sync plugin. It functions a bit like Dropbox but BTSync is a peer-to-peer sharing application—unlike the cloud, all the files are stored locally on each device and updated when changes are made. This is useful for sharing photos or files across several computers regardless of size. Because you’ll be downloading from many sources, it’s also vastly faster than a cloud.

Here’s our official video tutorial for setting up BTsync. It’s relatively straightforward, and it explains in step-by-step detail how to configure FreeNAS first and then set up the plugin.


4. Set up a Private Voice Chat Server

mumbleYou can configure a FreeNAS system with Mumble. If you’re not familiar with Mumble, it’s an Open Source voice over IP application that enables you to voice chat with friends over a private and secure system. There’s no limit to how many people can join a particular chat; the maximum depends on the particular server.

This particular project takes some effort to set up. This tutorial again comes courtesy of DrKK and demonstrates how to set up your own Murmur server using FreeNAS.


5. Deploy a Minecraft Server

minecraftLove Minecraft? You’ll be happy to know you can configure your FreeNAS system to host a Minecraft server. Josh Parker Ruehlig, the person responsible for the FreeNAS MineOS plugin, created a video and forum thread to demonstrate how to set it up. As he points out, the MineOS plugin gives you the advantage of being able to manage your servers via a web UI.

Prior to the plugin, you had to install Minecraft from scratch into a jail. Alternatively, you can do just that as community member Cyberjock demonstrates in this tutorial.


A Few Final Notes

First and foremost, it’s up to you to secure your system, follow best practices, and make sure your data recovery plan is adequate. None of these projects mean very much if your files are compromised or corrupted by malware.

For more project ideas, I highly recommend browsing the FreeNAS forums and signing up for an account. It’s a huge repository of great information. If you’re confused about a topic, post or do a search in the forums. Chances are you’ll find something or someone to help you.

This is just the beginning of what you can do with FreeNAS. The DIY aspect of FreeNAS means that there are literally thousands of iterations of hardware combinations and use cases. Keep in mind the FreeNAS plugin system is based on FreeBSD jails and the PBI system from PC-BSD which means advanced users can install any software they want using the FreeBSD package tools, opening up even more possibilities for your NAS.

The FreeNAS Hardware Guide You’ve Asked For | Does ZIL Size Matter? Issue #18

Written by Annie Zhang on .

Hello FreeNAS Users,

We’re proud to present several guides this month, including one that’s frequently requested: an official FreeNAS hardware guide direct from the developers of FreeNAS. We’ve been working on it for a while and we hope you find it helpful.

Cheers,
The FreeNAS Team
A Complete Guide to FreeNAS Hardware Design
Check out the definitive FreeNAS hardware guide authored by the one and only Josh Paetzel, a core member of the FreeNAS team and iXsystems Director of IT:

Why ZIL Size Matters (or Doesn’t) by Marty Godsey
Marty Godsey, Sales Engineer at iXsystems, explains how ZIL size can affect performance and the other factors that you need to take into account to get the best performance from your system. Read more >>

FreeBSD Journal

 

How to install MiniDLNA into FreeNAS 9.3
One of our forum community members, joeschmuck, wrote a helpful, step-by-step tutorial for manually installing MiniDLNA in a jail on FreeNAS. Read more >>
FreeNAS Certification Classes
We now offer a free Intro to FreeNAS class that runs every day. For those of you interested in learning more about advanced topics, we also offer paid, fully interactive classes. Read more >>
6 Reasons Why TrueNAS is replacing NetApp and EMC – Free Webinar
What’s the difference between FreeNAS and TrueNAS? For the answer, we invite you to join Matt Olander, Co-Founder of iXsystems, in a free webinar about TrueNAS. Find out why people are making the switch from big-name, legacy storage vendors to TrueNAS. Read more >>
Upcoming Live Events

TechTip #14
FreeNAS will automatically check for updates every night, or you can check manually whenever you want. You can then apply them at any time.
Join the Team
iXsystems, the company that sponsors FreeNAS, is looking for a few good people to join our team. Interested? The full list of available positions can be found on our website.
Links of the Month

 

Find Out Why TrueNAS Is Replacing NetApp & EMC Every Day

Written by Annie Zhang on .

Hello FreeNAS Users,

It’s a new year, so let’s hit the ground running. This month, we are rolling out a series of TrueNAS webinars. We also feature an updated video tutorial for 9.3, a user-submitted FreeNAS build, and focus on a feature of FreeNAS: VAAI support.

Cheers,
The FreeNAS Team
5 Reasons Why TrueNAS is replacing NetApp and EMC – Free Webinar
What’s the difference between FreeNAS and TrueNAS? For the answer, we invite you to join Matt Olander, Co-Founder of iXsystems, in a free webinar about TrueNAS. Find out why people are making the switch from big-name, legacy storage vendors to TrueNAS.  Read more >>
FreeNAS 9.3 Shares Overview (includes WebDAV)
We have an updated tutorial video for setting up shares in FreeNAS 9.3 including the new WebDAV protocol. Check it out here.

FreeBSD Journal

 

DIY NAS: 2015 Edition by Brian Moses
Brian Moses is back with another great, in-depth DIY NAS build. This particular system focuses on performance and has more features than his previous builds. We highly recommend giving this (and his other builds) a read. As a bonus, he’s giving the system away to one lucky person!
VMware VAAI Support in FreeNAS 9.3
iXsystems worked with FreeBSD developers to add additional VMware VAAI primitives to the iSCSI protocol in FreeBSD. This feature was included in FreeNAS 9.3, which now supports all 7 VAAI Block primitives, allowing FreeNAS to integrate better with VMware deployments. Read more >>
FreeNAS Certification Classes
We now offer a free Intro to FreeNAS class that runs every day. For those of you interested in learning more about advanced topics, we also offer paid, fully interactive classes. Read more >>
Upcoming Live Events

  • January 31 – February 1, 2015FOSDEM in Brussels, Belgium
  • February 16-19FAST ’15 in Santa Clara, California
  • February 19-22SCaLE 13x in LA, California
  • March 12-15AsiaBSDCon in Tokyo, Japan
TechTip #13
You can use the FreeNAS 9.3 boot environment clone feature to try out experimental updates without risking your main configuration.
Join the Team
iXsystems, the company that sponsors FreeNAS, is looking for a few good people to join our team. Interested? The full list of available positions can be found on our website.
Links of the Month