Networking, Round 2 – Finishing wiring, and hosting my own web server!

Following up on a previous week and a previous post about networking at home, I return again anew, with tales of further and farther networking in my house… as well as the creation of my web server with website to make a lot of my projects easier to do and manage!

Finishing up cable-running

Last weekend I ran cable from the living room router to the basement; this weekend, it was time to bridge the space between 1) my bedroom and 2) the reptile enclosure with some additional cables.  This took a little while to figure out, but I spoke with the landlord and he had the good idea of simply dropping the network cable from my second floor bedroom to the basement right down my room’s heat duct… and then just patch around the hole in the duct with duct tape.  At first I was skeptical, and then realized that there was no way I was going to do it any other way, and his idea ended up being sound indeed.  I also ended up needing to purchase a tool to put RJ-45 connectors on the ends of cables which would plug into ports directly, which was not a pleasant experience but eventually I got down to a quick pattern.  Now, that means I have wired network access in the key rooms of the house (living room on 2 sides including by the reptile enclosure; my bedroom; the basement), which means most if not all of the projects ahead of me, both known and unknown at this time, will be ready to go on the Internet!  Glad to have figured all of this out, and I will definitely put this self-taught skill set (with the help of some useful explanatory guides) to use in future home(s) I own or rent from nice landlords.

My own little website, my own little bord

So, with network cable run over the past two weekends, and the server farm shelf set up two weekends ago, it was finally time to set up a web server on my Pogoplug v2.  I got this machine more than a year ago, on sale for like $35 – it has a 1.2 GHz processor, 256 MB of RAM, and then 4 USB ports and a LAN port – not a lot of hardware, but it is passively cooled and used 2 watts at max, so it is a quiet, cheap, and effective machine to run as a server without wasting electricity! I used an old set of instructions (meant for a different project  beyond installing Debian Linux on the Pogoplug) and ran into a couple of problems; the following is the source and Linux commands to fix it, if anyone else tries to do this… if you’re not going to try it, please avoid entering a nerd-coma and skip reading the following lines of terminal commands:


Addendum to the instructions above, in order to get the Pogoplug working properly, as drawn from here:

> mount -o remount,rw /
> rm /usr/sbin/debootstrap
> rm -r /usr/share/debootstrap
> mount -o remount,ro /


So, after a bit of fiddling, the computer was up and running Linux (which I access and control over the network with my Linux laptop, so no monitor or keyboard needed).  At that point, I wanted to start working to install a web server on the machine, so I could use it to publish and access project and class data and the like.  With a lot of help from my good, old friend Josh, I was able to turn that machine into a web server complete with its own website, accessible from anywhere!

He pointed me to DynDNS, which will let you have one host name free of charge.  Even better, they have a lightweight Linux program called Inadyn which does the task of making sure your server’s IP address, as it changes, keeps having your domain pointed at it.  In simple and clear terms: my website’s URL is and Inadyn makes sure that going to that URL will always point your web browser to my server (and thus the content you’re meant to see!).  I also decided to edit the initial page (which helpfully tells you “IT WORKS!” when you test it out) to have the current content, namely a photo of Ike and then some words explaining “there will be more stuff here, in the future.”

Finally, I have always wanted to have my own private wiki, to make studying complicated topics (like, say, the Bible) easier to organize and visualize.  Having a webserver with its own domain means I can do that!  Wikipedia is run on open source software called MediaWiki, and after a bit of fiddling, I got it installed and set up as a private wiki (so unfortunately, you cannot access it without a username and password, sorry).  I am actually really excited  to start compressing and pruning class notes into wiki pages on it, so as to 1) retain content in my mind more effectively; 2) be able to study for exams and write papers more easily; and 3) make more connections between content I have learned in different courses.  I wish I had done this years ago….

All told, really exciting start to the Serious Business projects at my house.  Next up, if all goes according to plan, will be the sensor package and volt-controls for the reptile enclosure lights, so it monitors (and updates my website) with the temperature and humidity in Ike’s vivarium, and actually adjusts the heat lamp as needed.  That should be interesting to put together….


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