Lab Overview - mServ

September marks a two year anniversary of running a 24h server on my home network and it seems like a perfect moment to look back, take inventory and make some plans for the future.

mServ - faithful companion

One day in 2012 I decided I need a server - a full time machine that would become a platform I use to learn how and why anything beyond my personal PC works.
I’ve found the cheapest vendor on, paid those $3, and installed Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. It took a nontrivial migration to and Arch Linux in 2013, but that VPS is still with me 6 years later - in fact if nothing changed since publishing this post it’s served from that machine.

Arch install date, shows Jan 2012, in reality I used that image in July 2013.

The image doesn’t tell the whole truth - I’ve used a pre-installed image from 2012, uploaded and updated it on 2013-07-10. Anyone who used Arch for a while knows that rolling distributions don’t play well with long gaps between updates. It took manual lookup of packages, building one or two and honest 8h day of work. I was really proud of myself back then.
Now I’d install CentOS instead.

The VPS also ended up handy in learning some good security practices - Linux user management, endpoint firewalls, backup what open ports are and how to blackhole potential intruders with fail2ban.

mServ is a typical example of a pet-server, an artisinal, hand-crafted and lovingly polished over time piece of work. While this approach allowed me to dig in and learn, it’s highly ineffective and not scalable. I’m moving away from this approach in favor of configuration management and data backup - no more changing /etc/ files by hand.


Here’s a list of services mServ runs:

And what it’s used to run:

  • Dovecot POP3 server (in lieu of forwarding)
  • A private torrent tracker for when I wanted to reliably download a bunch of youtube videos to watch later - I’d download them to the VPS, setup the torrent, then seed it to my laptop a public WiFi network or three. Joys of not having a broadband Internet connection for a while.
  • Mumble VoIP server for #rgrd


Since the move to the company upgraded their infrastructure and offerings several times, providing cheaper tiers to the one I am paying for ($12 was the low end tier back in 2013, with specifications lower than that of today’s $5 tier), while upgrading my box to be on par with those upgrades.

This makes it heinously overpowered and overpriced for what I need it for - a low traffic WWW host, IRC box and a 3 address e-mail relay. It’s time to migrate.

Whether it’s prgmr or another provider, I plan to deploy the machine(s) with a configuration management tool of choice - Ansible. Other than IRC functions, I don’t want to ever log on any of them manually.