electronic brain surgery since 2001

Excito "Bubba" B3 Home Server

When I started with Linux it was to run my own personal server at home, doing routing (via ISDN dialup), web- and file serving and all those other things that are useful in a small network. Since then I've always had my own little server running 24/7.

That is until about two years ago when Kaddi and me moved into our new flat. I didn't want to run a power hungry full PC all time anymore, so I tried to do the “normal consumer” thing. I moved all files to my local disks, left routing and DHCP to my Linksys router and got rid of the additional server…

That worked reasonably well, except when it didn't. When Kaddi wanted to access some files, when I wanted to access files from work or when we wanted to watch our photos on the TV set. So when Dmitri told me he could organize a 50€ rebate for a B3 I jumped at the opportunity.

The B3 is a tiny server with low power consumption and noise based on a ARM processor. It is produced by the Swedish company Excito. It's available with and without WiFi. Since I already have a WiFi router, I bought the 1 TerraByte model without.

The hardware makes an excellent solid impression on the outside. The inside values are quite good as well:

  • 1.2 GHz ARM CPU (identified as Feroceon 88FR131 rev 1 (v5l) with 1199.30 BogoMIPS)
  • 512MB RAM
  • 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports (using the mv643xx_eth module)
  • 2 USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 eSATA Port
  • fanless

Excito promises to fit the B3s with the best power- and noise effective hard drives currently available. My B3 came with a Western Digital Caviar Green drive. And indeed you just barely hear the B3. There's only space for one drive but you can connect an additional drive via eSATA. I bought a second Caviar Green and a FANTEC fanbox case which matches the B3's size perfectly. Creating a RAID-1 then is a matter of a few clicks in the B3 web interface.

The web interface is pretty basic but provides access to the most common tasks. Like setting up users, network, services or disks. For users it also features a simple file manager, mail, a music player, photo gallery and a download manager. The latter supports normal downloads as well as bittorrent files. For everything you can't achieve through the web interface you can simply log into the machine via SSH. Since the B3 runs Debian Squeeze installing new software is just an apt-get away.

BTW. the webserver setup on the B3 is quite interesting. It's running an Apache with mod_php as user www-data, but because the admin interface needs root permissions to setup the system configs, it does not use the default PHP but accesses a PHP fastcgi running as root. Clever.

So far I'm pretty happy with the B3. What could be improved though is documentation. The B3 comes with a tiny quick start manual (PDF), nothing more. Some things (like the root password) can be learned from the documentation of its predecessor the Bubba|2 (PDF).

There is a wiki, but that's pretty sparse as well. One reason is probably that you can only write to the wiki after registering and being manually approved by an admin. That's probably an anti-spam mechanism, but isn't very encouraging for new users1). The community is organized in a forum where Excito staff seems to answer only occasionally. But their response time at the official support Email address is excellent. When I asked for missing Kernel sources I had a reply less than an hour later.

b3, bubba, gadget, server, review
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Maybe they should have installed DokuWiki instead of MediaWiki ;-)