Amahi Home Digital Assistant – Part 3. The Amahi web interface.

By | March 28, 2011

Amahi HDAThis is Part 3 in a series of articles exploring the Amahi Home Digital Assistant server software.  Part 1 walked through the necessary steps to create a new Amahi profile.  In Part 2, we set up the Fedoral linux base install that Amahi runs on.  Part 3 continues on with setting up Amahi for first time use and then we will explore the web administrator interface.  Let’s begin.

When we wrapped up Part 2 of the walkthrough, we had just rebooted at the final stage of the Fedora linux install.  Once it the reboot is complete and the operating system boots for the first time, the Fedora login screen with the user I configured is shown.

Select user account

Select user account

Just click the user account and then the login box appears, prompting for password.  Upon successfully entering the password, the desktop loads for the first time.

Fedora desktop

Fedora desktop

On the Fedora desktop, there are a number of Amahi-related shortcuts.  The one we’re interested in is the Amahi Installer.  Double-click this shortcut to begin the Amahi web installation.

Amahi installer shortcut

Amahi installer shortcut

After launching the installer, the default browser will start displaying http://localhost:2000 and then prompt for the Amahi Install Code that we received in Part 1 of this walkthrough.  If you didn’t write it down or forgot what it is, you can retrieve it from your Amahi Control Panel by logging in at Amahi.org.

Enter install code

Enter code

After entring the correct install code and hitting the submit button, Amahi begins downloading and installing the required packages.

Download and install

Installing

Once installation is complete (took a while), we receive a congradulatory message and notice to reboot the system.  Just click Reboot and wait for the system to come back up.

Complete, so reboot

Reboot

After that reboot, you should be able to access your Amahi HDA from any system on your internal network simply by typing in http://hda.  Since I installed mine on a VM with NAT enabled, I had to access it from the Fedora install itself.  We’ve got to log in to Amahi in order to see what’s there.

Dashboard login

Dashboard login

After logging in for the first time, we’re forced to re-create our user password.  I just chose the same password and continued on and that’s when the dashboard is presented for the first time.

Amahi dashboard

Amahi dashboard

Now, for my first run I had to do a little bit of work.  I did not want to use the DHCP server that Amahi enables by default since my pfSense gateway server already handles that duty, so I had to head into Settings > Servers > DHCP Server to disable and stop the service.  Both the Watchguard and DHCP services must be disabled to accomplish this.  There is a warning associated with disabling each, so just click OK for those and continue.  After disabling, the DHCP service still must be stopped, so do that and click OK for that warning.

Servers

Servers

Warning

Warning

Stop

Stop

Now we can get back to some sort of order in exploring the Amahi HDA dashboard, so let’s return to the Users tab where we get a list of all the users associated with our HDA installation.  Right now, all that exists is the original user account.  We can create a new one if we want by clicking New User, but I’m not going to.

Users

Users

The next tab displays the shares created by the default installation of Amahi HDA.  As you see, pretty standard stuff and some not-so-standard stuff, but all readily available via Samba.  I had to supply credentials in order to view, so I guess Samba security is enabled by default, whether you like it or not.  I only sound surprised here due to my long-standing use of unRAID, for which I do not use user-based folder security for Samba shares.  Selecting a share in the dashboard expands some additional options and information.  You can also create new shares from this tab.

Shares

Shares

Settings

Settings

Browse

Browse

The next tab is Apps.  Under the applications tab we can view our Installed applications (none so far), Available applications and Webapps.  Webapps are web-hosted applications such as WordPress or Gallery, which are typically seen as live Internet site platforms.  The idea here is create a full Intranet experience running on Amahi HDA.

Installed

Apps installed

Available

Available

Webapps

Webapps

Under storage, we can view information regarding the available partitions and disks being used by Amahi.  Available and used space, drive temperature (not available for me since I was using a VM) are a few things you can observe.

Partitions

Partitions

Disks

Disks

For the Networking tab, you’ll get an overview of all DHCP leases and Static IPs.  However, I disabled this functionality and so mine shows nothing.

DHCP

DHCP

Static IPs

Static IPs

Getting closer to the end, we visit the Settings tab again…this time we’ll go through it a little more throroughly.  Under the first sub-menu, also named Settings, we can change the default language, enable more advanced options (I’ll check this so we can take a look), enable a guest dashboard and see some other basic system information.  We also have buttons for rebooting or powering down our server.

Settings

Settings

Warning

Warning

Advanced

Advanced

The second sub-menu under Settings is Servers.  These are all the different services that our Amahi is running.  By default, all of these would be green and show as Running, but earlier in this article I disabled DHCP, so it shows as Stopped.  If you did not explicitly set any of these to stopped and yet you see one, or more, indicating that, then you probably have a problem and you should visit the Help link at the top of the dashboard.

Servers

Servers

Next up are Themes.  I only have the included theme installed, so that is all that shows up.  If others were available, they would be lined up alongside the default theme with a nice preview of it below.  You can install new themes under the Apps tab.

Themes

Themes

The last sub-menu item is Calendars.  The built-in calendar server can be used alongside with popular clients like Outlook, Thunderbird, etc. to track appointments, meetings or anything that can be set in a calendar.  You can read more about it here.

 

Calendars

Calendars

The final tab is Debug.  If I remember correctly, the debug tab became available when the enabled advanced settings check box was set, but I’m not completely certain (pretty certain though).  In here we can view various output regarding App Logs, System and Logs.

Debug Apps Logs

Debug Apps Logs

Debug System

Debug System

Debug Logs

Debug Logs

That’s it for this installment.  For the next one I’m going to try and scrape enough of this together to show some very basic usage and draw a conclusion based upon some other popular home server choices.  Check back soon!

  1. Amahi Home Digital Assistant – Part 1.  Creating a profile.
  2. Amahi Home Digital Assistant – Part 2.  Installing Fedora.
  3. Amahi Home Digital Assistant – Part 3. The Amahi web interface.

19 thoughts on “Amahi Home Digital Assistant – Part 3. The Amahi web interface.

  1. DamianP

    Great writeup Jon, look forward to your thoughts on whether you think Amahi is a legitimate contender in the home server market.

    Reply
    1. Jon Post author

      Trying, but this is the part where using a VM to review with is biting me. I should be able to come up with a few things though.

      Reply
    2. Billy_McSkintos

      And how Greyhole can easily be set up to mimic drive extender on WHS…

      Reply
  2. dogzrule

    Amahi is an outstanding server based on my nearly 2 years with it.

    One word of advice though. Stay away from nonsense like Greyhole or other drive extender nonsense. Ever try to do data recovery from a failed greyhole array? Data recovery from failed RAID is a science and works well. Is the jury in on date recovery from a failed Greyhole array? From what I’ve heard about “drive extender” there’s a good reason MS dropped it. It was frakkin worthless.

    Hardware RAID-5 (dedicated card, NOT crappy motherboard RAID). ’nuff said. Put your RAID drives in hotswap bays.

    When the inevitable happens and you need to re-install the OS simply remove the RAID drives first and you won’t lose any data. /var/hda/files is simply a mount point on my system – the actual shares are all on the RAID array.

    I’ve had my Amahi system running for almost 2 years. It runs 24×7. Currently there’s 6TB and I have never once lost a file – but then I practice good OS and data segregation. If you install Amahi to the same drive you store data to, well that’s just stupid. Just as keeping data on a Windows disk is stupid. Data belongs on a dedicated array, *never* a boot drive. In my never so humble opinion.

    Amahi comes with an awesome VPN so I can map network drives from work etc.

    Because I never store files locally on any of my machines, the VPN is a lifesaver. I can work remotely on my files securely regardless of which laptop I have with me.

    With the Jinzora app I can stream all my music from the HDA to anywhere, transcoded in real time from the original lossless rips.

    It holds about 400 DVDs, hundreds of gigabytes of photos, over a terabyte of recorded TV shows I haven’t got around to watching yet.

    I can stream HD to multiple TVs in the house simultaneously.

    As to whether Amahi is a “legitimate contender” Jeez people why do you sit on your hands and wait for other people to tell what’s good? It’s a free download and trivial to install.

    It’s also trivial to install on a Virtualbox VM. It’s not rocket science. If you can read and follow directions that’s all it takes. I’ve done complete proof of concept demos for people with Amahi using nothing more than a VM on an underpowered laptop.

    If I can anyone can.

    Reply
    1. Jon Post author

      Thanks! Good to hear from actual users and their experiences with it. Greyhole was actually the part that is holding up my final article in the series…I’m just not having much luck with it.

      Reply
      1. dogzrule

        Well look folks – Amahi is not a one feature product.

        Greyhole is a kludge designed to imitate a badly thought out MS product. So it doesn’t work. It wasn’t designed by the Amahi folks anyway. Greyhole has nothing to do with evaluating Amahi.

        Stay with standard tried and true technologies like HW RAID and you’re fine.

        The platform itself is awesome. I think their App Store is a BS – I’d rather pay a flat $100-150 license fee for Amahi itself and have the apps free. But considering that Amahi itself is free it’s practically a no brainer.

        IMO the best -simple- way to build an Amahi server is use a tiny boot drive, 100 GB or less if you can still buy those. Then just go get 2 2-TB drives, mirror them, and mount the array at /var/hda/files. If 2TB isn’t enough then go get an Areca 1220 raid controller (built in web server on the card so you can manage the RAID remotely).

        Don’t rely on software kludges like Greyhole for *anything* IMO.

        Bottom line is for me, using standard HW approaches to drive pooling, the platform is rock solid, it has many pre-packaged apps, and is super, super easy to manage.

        If someone is evaluating Amahi based on Greyhole, well to me that’s a little odd since there are much better tried and true solutions out there that are based on decades of hardware engineering by companies like Intel, etc.

        Reply
    2. DamianP

      Doesn’t something like RAID 5 though lock you in to a particular HDD size? So if you have 5 x 1TB drives and want to add a 2TB drive, you will only be able to use 1TB of that drive unless you rebuild the array?

      Reply
      1. dogzrule

        Well didn’t you just answer your own question?

        No it doesn’t if you get the right controller.

        Yes when you need to add a drive there is overhead of course. What you get in return for the overhead is having your data always available. It’s protected against HW failure. I don’t know if Greyhole is.

        Adding a new drive is relatively trivial.

        As to going from say 500 GB to 2TB drives, here is the procedure Areca recommends – clone the drives offline. Bring the server up with all the new drives and it’s good to go.

        You can then choose to partition the new space seperately into a new Volume or you can simply expand the current volume (and the filesystem afterwards).

        BTW, in my opinion XFS is the best filesystem for your /var/hda/files pratition in that it’s much much faster at housekeeping chores than the default filesystem. Especially with gigabyte size files.

        To each their own though, I can agree to disagree…

        Reply
        1. DamianP

          Thanks for the explanation. For my setup that is exactly why I like the DE feature of WHS. I simply pop in whatever drive I want, and it gets added to the pool without having to give it a second thought, allowing me to mix and match any size knowing I will have full use. Currently I am at 25TB so I do understand that from a space standpoint I am obviously sacrificing vs RAID 5, but I guess that is the trade off. Obviously everyone will have their preference to what works best with their setup

          Reply
          1. dogzrule

            So one question. Remove one of the drive extender drives…

            What happens? Is there a warning? Are you prompted to do a rebuild?

            I’ve obviously never messed with it…just curious.

        2. dogzrule

          You should keep array rebuilding to a minumum since it’s extra wear and tear on the hardware as it can take days when you get into the multi terabytes.

          Reply
          1. DamianP

            Well, there would be two different scenarios. If you decide you want to remove a drive you simply select the drive you want to remove in the WHS console. Assuming you have duplication enabled WHS will then go through the process of copying any data off that drive onto the other drives in your pool. Once t he process is complete you then pull out the drive and everything keeps running as usual.

            In the case of a dead drive it is pretty much the same process. You will get a warning that a drive has failed. At that point you then go through the same removal process as above. The only difference is that WHS will look to see what files were on that drive, locate the duplicates on one of the other good drives, and make new duplicates (i.e. basically RAID 1).

            So far I have had 1 drive die and have removed probably 4-6 drives (upgrading to bigger drives) and have not run into any issues with my data.

  3. macilvena

    unfortunately I have tried amahi and greyhole and what let it down for me was the lack of options, the fact it is part of the install of fedora, and the way that greyhole works where you have to have a landingzone as big as your storage forfiles you add to be temporarily store before being copied to the storage pool….it would be batter if drives could be added to the storage fulling loaded and just incorporated !….gone over to windows home server 2011 now…the lack of drive extender i think is just microsoft being realistic, hard drives have a finite life and with 1tb drives now only £50 buying 2 or 4 for a home server is a realistic option as a bunch of old 200gb, 500gb drives will all be pastit in a year or so

    Reply
    1. Jon Post author

      Sounds like you’re hitting the same problems I am. I know my way around linux enough to follow what the Greyhole portion required in the documentation, but it just still seems overly complicated to do simple things like add a new drive.

      Reply
  4. Jean Luc Picard

    Contrarily to the opinions above, I think greyhole is a fantastic solution to combine free space of multiple drives and enable as many parallel copies of a file as there are drives present. I have been working with it for quite a while now and never experienced any serious problems.
    It is not difficult to add a second drive at alll, it is well documented in the wiki of amahi, thus not resulting in the use of greyhole. It is possible to add fully loaded drives to the pool.
    I would really appreciate it if people red the documentation before commenting in a rather personal way, voicing their dislikes.
    Anyway, neither greyhole nor raid is supposed to be a backup solution, so don’t search for what it’s not meant to be.
    One of the biggest advantages of amahi for me is the constantly available team at the amahi chat, all the developers are there everyday and ready to answer even newbie questions: talk.amahi.org

    Reply
  5. dogzrule

    As for adding drives, real hardware RAID controllers,as opposed to motherboard fake-RAID, allow easy capacity expansion. Just pop in a new drive, do an expansion, then boot to a USB key with gparted, expand your partition to fit the new array size and voila. Simple.

    With a card like the Areca 1220 you can even start out with small drives like 500GB and then migrate the array to 2TB drives later. It’s easy and supported and guaranteed.

    Just saying…

    Reply
    1. Billy_McSkintos

      Any suggestions for cheaper cards? Why the Areca 1220 – best out there?

      Reply
      1. dogzrule

        Well there are lots of cards out there, I went with the Areca because it seemed to have the feature set I wanted, and at least on Newegg it seemed to get better reviews than the comparable Adaptec cards. Pice wise the Areca is within a few dollars of comprable cards, for me it was feature-set and peer-reviews that made the decision easy.

        Reply
        1. dogzrule

          BTW, the total cost for this build was a lot less than buying a prebuilt off the shelf system with 8 hot swap drive bays and hardware RAID, so the cost of the card wasn’t that big a factor for me. I think the total cost for the server was under $900 so I thought it was pretty reasonable considering the work it does for me.

          Reply

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