Changelog & Friends – Episode #9

Homelab nerds, unite!

with Techno Tim

All Episodes

Ok Homelabbers, it’s time to unite! Join Adam and his new friend Techno Tim for 1.5 hours of homelab goodness. From networking and WiFi, virtualizing Ubuntu running Docker containers, to Home Assistant and automation, building a Kubernetes cluster, to gutting a perfectly good machine just to build exactly what you need to run the ultimate Plex server — that’s what homelab is about. Let’s do this.



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Notes & Links

📝 Edit Notes


1 00:00 Let's talk! 00:37
2 00:37 It's Techno Tim! 02:25
3 03:02 What is Homelab? 01:48
4 04:50 Our Homelab beginnings 04:34
5 09:24 It's all Homelab 04:41
6 14:04 The homelab stack 03:31
7 17:36 We both love Unifi 03:47
8 21:22 POE is awesome 01:34
9 22:56 Let's talk about the network 07:40
10 30:36 This is your day job, so it's complex 03:43
11 34:19 You have CI?! 04:25
12 38:45 Just do what you want 01:09
13 39:54 I choose Plex 04:38
14 44:32 ZFS pool resizing 02:29
15 47:00 Why Ubuntu? 03:50
16 50:50 Stability and resource efficiency 03:47
17 54:40 Mobile/travel routers 06:51
18 1:01:30 I believe in this product 00:40
19 1:02:10 Discovering. new things 02:48
20 1:04:59 The business of YouTube 04:39
21 1:09:37 The path of creators 05:49
22 1:15:26 Rackstuds 01:59
23 1:17:25 Tim's big rack 00:45
24 1:18:10 Intel NUC cluster 02:07
25 1:20:18 Reducing temperature 01:15
26 1:21:33 Power consumption 01:59
27 1:23:32 Plans for the fututre 02:44
28 1:26:16 Here's some feedback 05:03
29 1:31:19 Sam the Cooking Guy 01:34
30 1:32:53 Bye friends! 00:21
31 1:33:13 Wrapping up 01:03


📝 Edit Transcript


Play the audio to listen along while you enjoy the transcript. 🎧

So we’re here with Techno Tim. Do people call you Tim, or do they call you Techno? Is Techno your first name and Tim is your last name? What’s the deal here?

Oh, wow. Tough questions first. So people call me Tim. I think sometimes people call me Techno Tim. Actually, in college people called me just Techno, and it’s a kind of a long story, but…

Is that right?

Yeah, yeah. In college, everyone just called me Techno. That was my name. Because in college, I used to play electronic music really loud in my dorm, and everyone said, “Hey, that guy plays techno music.” My RA always had a bullet point in our weekly meeting to say “Tim, turn your techno music down”, so my neighbor Gary, a hockey player, just started calling me Techno Tim. And ever since then, that’s what I went with. That was my handle for gaming and everything, so I when I started the YouTube channel, I thought “Hey, why not?”

I’m a listener and watcher, I suppose, of your YouTube channel. For the first time today I was like “Let me go back as far as I can on this channel, to be like “When did this guy begin?” Because I’ve been paying attention for a while; I’d say at least about two years, maybe a year and a half, to your content. And I went back, and I’m like “This dude’s a gamer!” Because your earliest stuff is gaming stuff, for five years. You’ve been doing YouTube for like five years, but three of it has been just straight-up gaming. I don’t even know if you talk on there, or what you’ve done, but I caught a couple just to kind of see what you were doing… But now it makes sense why you’re called Techno Tim… Because that’s been your handle, and you were a techno music player, which - I like techno too, you know? It’s good stuff. EDM, all that good stuff.

Yeah, yeah. I’ve always liked electronics, back in the day, I should say… But everyone called everything electronic techno, so that’s what stuck. But it was more just EDM, just kind of chill-out music, too.

Trance, breakbeats, house…

Yes… I don’t know how old you are, but that goes back to my day. I was born in ’79, I lived in Orlando for a little bit, so I got to be steeped in some of the local folks there… Digweed came to town…

Yeah. I haven’t heard that name in a long time.

Yeah. Sasha, Digweed, Deep Dish… That’s like my era. They’re still around, but they’re just not as cool. Then it became like Tiesto, and stuff like that… So there you go. So homelab - let’s get into the innards of homelab. I think I have an idea of what homelab means to me. Now, you obviously have a YouTube channel that’s primarily focused on homelabby things; I think mostly homelabby things. So how do you define a homelab? What exactly is a homelab to you, Tim?

Yeah, it means so many different things to so many different people… But for me, I try to bundle it all up into having an environment, whether that be virtual, physical, but just having an environment where you can tinker and play around with technology, without the fear of breaking things, or taking down a production environment. A lot of people that get into homelab are in IT, and so they inherit this environment from their enterprise, and they inherit this architecture from their enterprise… And they don’t get to tinker much outside of that. You’re playing in someone else’s playpad, so to speak.

[04:01] And so with homelab, you can build up this environment and this architecture and explore things in your own environment, without asking for permission or bringing anything at work. So I’ve always bundled it up into this environment where you can play with stuff… And then it’s multifaceted. Like, some people consider virtual machines on their desktop their homelab. Totally fine, I totally agree. A virtual environment on your desktop? Sure, why not? Some people think it’s a server rack full of stuff. It absolutely could be, like the one behind me. Or just a couple of Raspberry Pi’s, or even one Raspberry Pi. Absolutely. It could be. But really just an environment. And it has many tentacles from there. It could be networking, it could be focused on hardware, it could be focused on storage… There’s just so many ways to go.

Yeah. So I tried to think about this ahead of time. I was like “Okay, what do I think–” Because I agree with everything you just said too, and I try to play it from my perspective, so software developer/product manager, now podcaster around software… I’ve been doing it for 14 years just on this channel alone, but really have been podcasting for almost 20 years. So I’ve talked to almost everyone in tech over the years. Not literally everyone, but we’ve talked a lot of different angles around how software is developed since 2009, so we’ve really eked it all out. And over that journey, I primarily focused on software. I’ve always had my own dev environment… And that was always a version of not so much homelab stuff, but like it was my single-machine, single-node environment that I had to mess with. I’ve always been on a Mac in most cases, so that’s Homebrew, that’s CLI stuff, that’s setting up Ruby back in the day, then it’s JavaScript, then it’s Node.js, then it’s npm, then it’s web environments, then it’s Elixir… Because our stack for is Elixir-based. It’s a Phoenix application. You know, obviously GitHub… All those things have been like not homelabby stuff, but like the software developer things. But then I was like – I really didn’t get into home networking until around… I think I got my Unifi set up – that was really what got me further into just typical network gear was never easy to use. I was never a network person. But for me, it began “How can I set up a better home network?” My wife is upset because Wi-Fi sucks in the bedroom, okay? That was – you know, I got into web development because my mom was like “Adam, you’re really good at it. You should just keep doing this stuff.” I’m like “Mom, this is just a hobby.” She’s like “No, you should just keep doing it. You’re really good at it.” And so now my wife is like “Hey, Wi-Fi sucks. Can you make it better?” I’m like “Well, I guess I can try… I don’t know how to do it. I make software for a living, and I build software for a living, I run software podcasts… But I don’t know how it really works.” And so I studied it, and I learned. So for me, it was like a better network; how can I make Wi-Fi suck less in our house? Now I have multiple machines, I’ve got to move data around the house, so now I’ve got to understand true Ethernet-based networking. I understand – you put a cable into the wall, you get internet from a modem… But then I started to get really, really curious, and that’s really kind of where the fun began for me as someone who was steeped in software, but then sort of like had to eke into the network world, to some degree. And then it was like multiple machines, and services, and like oh my gosh… So yeah, as you said, the tentacles…

Yeah, yeah. Funny, my story is the opposite. So I am a software engineer by trade; that’s kind of my day job. Things have changed a little bit… So I started out in infrastructure. I mean, the first time I ever learned about networking was trying to get my brother’s PC connected to my PC, so we could play NBA Live ‘98, or something, over the network. And I remember “Oh my gosh, static IPs… I have no idea what I’m doing.” I’m just typing in whatever Yahoo! told me to type in at the time… And I remember seeing on our hub the network lights flashing, and we could play two players at the same time, even though our bedrooms are right across from each other. And I remember just like almost welling up in tears, because it was like “Oh, my gosh, we did it.”

[07:58] But anyway, so I started out in infrastructure. I kind of have a background in infrastructure, but started out in tech support, did server administration, did some networking stuff, and so I built up that way. And then I became a software engineer, within the last 8-9 years. So I kind of had that background, and then I got into software development, and I think that was a good play for me, because it taught me a lot about networking infrastructure, some of these core tenants of just running services… And then later on to build software. So I built apps, I built websites, I’ve worked for large companies, startups… And that taught me a lot about infrastructure.

And so after I became a software engineer, I started missing – like, I used to tinker with this stuff all the time at home, and I realized I wasn’t doing that as much anymore. That’s really how I got back into homelab, because I wanted to network stuff. I mean, I’ve had a server in my closet, quote-unquote, for a long time, whether it’s running a small website, or a media server… I’ve done it for a long time.

Anyways, getting back into running services and software at home - at home now I have a full Kubernetes stack. I write my own code, I deploy it, I build it in containers, I ship it to my own Kubernetes stack… And it’s all self-hosted here at home, in my homelab. You’re kind of abusing the term homelab as soon as you get into self-hosting production at home, but a lot of people do, I think, still call it homelab.

I still call it home – if it’s in the house, it’s a homelab, Tim… Right?

I agree. I’m there. I’m there with you.

But it’s just more layers of sophistication, in my opinion. You can start small, like I did. I was trying to share my journey, to some degree, because it’s about curiosity.

You may not even really be like you were, in infrastructure, or even like I was, more in software… And then, I think for anybody, it’s usually the dad or the guy in the home that’s like “Hey, Wi-Fi sucks.” Or at least that’s my stereotypical opinion. It may not be super-accurate… But it’s like “Well, there’s somebody that’s curious about home automation.” There’s somebody who cares about – okay, for example, in my home I can say “living room on” and the Apple TV will arc wake up my TV and turn on the living room TV. Or if the kids are upstairs in the family room, and I’m like “Hey, kids, it’s time for lunch”, or dinner, or whatever, if it’s the weekend, or it’s dinnertime, and they’re not listening, I’m like “Okay, family room off”, and the TV turns off. My watch probably is gonna start yelling at me here in a second…

Start to light up?

Yeah. So it’s like, that was cool. And then you kind of have certain things you want to do in your home, or even like NFC stuff, where you want the temperature changed because you’re close to the thermostat. There’s all sorts of little things that I think are homelabby. There’s home automation and smartness that I think is a blend of homelab. It may not be exactly that. And then you’ve got things like Plex. For me, Plex was a big deal to get into homelab. I was working with 45Drives a couple of years ago, got an AV15 that helped me learn a lot more about Linux, a lot more about – everything about ZFS… And then what it would actually take to basically tear that machine down and rebuild it in a way that was more Plex-friendly… Because it had a Xeon processor that did not have QuickSync, and… Okay, I was like “Why in the world every time I transcode I’ve got this beefy Xeon processor? Why does transcoding not work?” I didn’t understand it. Then I learned, “Okay, it really relies on QuickSync.”

And so you learn these things with each failure or learning point along the way. But Plex was a big deal, learning ZFS was a big deal… And then when I kind of got past that intimidation factor, I was like “Okay, I don’t know anything really about Linux.” I mean, I’ve played with Linux, I’ve deployed Linux servers, I’ve got WordPress on Linux in DigitalOcean droplets… And that’s fun. But I followed a tutorial. I didn’t learn truly what it meant to be zero to Linux, running Linux, managing Linux, keeping it updated, keeping it secure, firewall, all those fun things.

[11:57] And so over time, I’ve learned little by little more and more, through curiosity. And we kind of all come into this “homelab world” from different areas. Do I need a rack full of gear? No, not necessarily. But if you have one, it’s still a homelab; if you’ve built your own Kubernetes high-availability cluster and you deploy your own software to it, that’s still homelab too, Tim.

Yeah, thank you. Like I said, it means so many different things to so many different people. I think DIY in general encapsulates a lot of homelab. It doesn’t mean DIY like I built a shelf from wood and I hacked an IKEA rack, and now I’m putting servers I got from a secondhand market. It could be as simple as “Hey, I may have a UniFi switch, totally fine. But you know what? This is my DIY PC that I converted to a server, and now I’m installing and learning things about it.”

I think anything kind of DIY, or “I’ll do it myself, or assemble it myself, or even configure it myself” is really what encapsulates a lot of homelab, the spirit of homelab. I think you find a lot of people who like to save money, like to configure things, like to adapt things like, to bend things to their will… And I just love that about it. Anytime I talk to someone who’s using something I learned, either a way that they’re doing it that I haven’t thought of before, or they’re doing something with it that I didn’t think was possible, which both are awesome.

Yeah, precisely. And you don’t have to have a full rack of gear. I even like repurposing. I’m not not trying to save money necessarily, but I want – I tend to be the person who upgrades myself, Tim. So if I go to buy a car, they don’t have to talk me into like the nicest thing. I’ve already pre-selected – I’m actually coming to the lot to buy, not to look, in most cases. So I’m that kind of person just generally. But I like the idea even of like repurposing that old PC to some degree, and just finding out how to truly, like you said, bend it to your will, and be able to do something with it.

Let’s dig into the stack, I suppose. What’s your chosen homelab stack? I mentioned UniFi was my gateway drug, to some degree. I literally bought some UniFi gear, and it sat there for months, at least two or three months, because I was just intimidated. I’m like “I don’t even know where to begin.” I think I was watching Crosstalk Solutions, and I’m like “Thank God that guy told me how to set it up the first time”, because this was like four or five years ago. Maybe four years ago or so. I’m like, I don’t even know what to do with it. I got the boxes, and UniFi is notoriously not really good with like documenting how to do anything… It’s like “Here’s the stuff. It’s great. Just go figure out how to do it.” And I’m like “I don’t want to do.” I’ve got this cloud key, I don’t even know what POE really means… I’ve got the USG, I’ve got the cloud key, and I’ve got a switch. Okay, that’s what I need. I didn’t even know I needed an access point… I’m like an idiot, really, getting into this. So I mentioned UniFi was my gateway drug. What is your homelab stack? Where do you begin with your stack? Is it UniFi all the way up? I mean, how do you choose what your stack is?

Yeah, it’s changed over time. At first it was a lot of DIY solutions like pfSense. I was like “Oh, I’ve got an old PC.” I was really big of upgrading myself and handing those things down to my homelab. So that was a big part of my early days of homelab - I am going to upgrade my current PC, and then my old PC is going to become a new homelab PC. So I would basically hand me down this hardware to myself, and so I did that for a long time.

So I really got into pfSense for a long time. I tried a lot of software firewalls, open source software firewalls for a really long time. And then just recently, I’ve been getting into UniFi stuff. And don’t feel bad about UniFi, I did the same things. Yeah, I looked at Crosstalk Solutions…

Paramount, right?

[15:51] Yeah. This guy on YouTube, [unintelligible 00:15:51.20] taught me how to do VLANs… So yeah, it’s totally fine. And so yeah, my network core now is UniFi. And it is a gateway, and it is a black hole, because once you start realizing “Oh, right behind me here I have an old switch that was downstairs in my big rack.” And so I upgraded that switch with this switch up here, and then realized there’s a bunch of these POE switches. Why would I want a POE switch? I thought I’d never need that… And then I was like “Oh, I want VLANs for the devices in my living room. So I’ll plug in a little mini POE switch that powers from my big switch, and then I get three additional switches to plug my Xbox, to plug my TV, and plug everything else in, so they can be on different VLANs, or cameras, or what have you.”

So my network core almost – yeah, 100% UniFi. Access points, everything; switches… All the way down UniFi, just because I like a single pane of glass to manage both the network, the firmware, and then the other pieces of the ecosystem. And so having one pane of glass for me is huge. And don’t get me wrong, I still run a version of pfSense in my homelab, virtualized, for testing… But having an easy way to update my camera’s firmware - awesome. To update any of my devices firmware - totally awesome.

Yeah, you don’t waste your time, right? Keep it simple.

That’s right. And push out VLANs, and one can add a VLAN somewhere, it pushes that out to every device; I don’t even need to think about it. And so that’s become valuable to me. Huge time saver. And not to mention, their apps are so good. Their apps on iPhone, Android, tablets, everything - they are so, so good. And even their web-based ones. Anyways, this is not a UniFi commercial, but I’m a huge fan of them.

It is a UniFi commercial, Tim. I concur, because I’m UniFi all the way down too, from the cameras, to the switches, to… I mean, I just – for the same reason; I watched your VLAN video, and I’m like “Oh, I should do VLANs, because –” Long story short, I was building a new home, and so I just recently moved into it, and I’m like “Well, I’ve got like three or four months until this thing is done, so I’ve got my gear right here doing nothing, because I’m not in the home now… I should set up my future network. It should just be like when I get there, just plug it in and it works.” Because what will often happen is you’ll get to the home, or move somewhere if that’s the case you’re doing, and then you’ll be like “Now I should do all the setup.” I’m like “I can do all this preparatory.” And then I saw your video on VLANs, and I’m so intimidated by VLANs. I don’t even know how to do them… And I’m still stuck, honestly. I had to flatten it out, because like I had one device that couldn’t talk to the other… I’ve got Sonos in my house, and I wanted the Sonos to be on the IoT VLAN… And then my app on my iPhone could not talk to it. I was on my main trusted network, and it couldn’t talk. So I’ve sort of abandoned the VLANs temporarily until I figured out my firewall issues. I’ve got some passthrough concerns.

I know there’s two settings. I know what they are. There’s two settings. MDNS is one. That’ll probably solve all your problems.

DNS? Okay.

MDNS it’s called.

Okay. So I hit that brick wall, but I’m like – I wanted to do VLANs, and have all this up. I know I should do these things… I mean, should and shouldn’t; it’s about security and concerns. I think I’m okay for now, but long-term I want to be better… But yeah, same thing with the VLANs. If my access points – which I currently only have two installed, but I’ll eventually have four… No, I have three, and I’ll eventually have five access points throughout the house. One on the back patio, one kind of in the garage area… I happen to have like a workshop garage that just is in the driveway area, that just needs more Wi-Fi out there, because I did a whole mapping, and stuff like that. I have one in my office, and kind of two that serve the home. And if you VLAN, like you said, it just pushes those out to the access points, and the access points serve up all the wireless networks you decide to create. And I’m like “That to me is easy.” That’s why I like UniFi, because if I didn’t use UniFi, I’m sure it would be more manual, and I’d have to like copy the config, and SSH into the actual device, or something like that. It would be not quite as software-driven, where UniFi really has nailed that. So I don’t mind being commercial, because I love UniFi. I wish they would pay us, but… Maybe they pay you. They don’t pay me.

[20:02] [laughs] But yeah, and then, just to touch more on UniFi, too… Because I used to do a lot of home security stuff myself. I ran Blue Iris, I’ve run Frigate, I’ve run lots of different solutions. And at the end of the day, I was using a lot of these no-name cameras, with weird firmware, with weird accounts I couldn’t delete from who knows where… And so that’s why I really decided to get into UniFi security too for a long time, and UniFi Protect for cameras, is because now I have these devices that are updated and managed by UniFi, by a company I trust, and I don’t need to go and search for firmware and have all these weird local accounts, and stuff like that. So yeah, huge fan of basically all of their product lines. I haven’t tried them all yet. I still want to try out their secure access stuff, but…

Do you have a doorbell yet? Or do you use something different?

I do have a doorbell, and I realized they released the POE one now, and I’m like –

Oh, man… Guess what I just got? I have a new home, so I just got the POE switch, or the POE doorbell. It’s not installed yet though, so don’t feel good or bad for me yet. Next Wednesday, my network people – I’m going to have somebody else install it, because I have stucco on the front, and it needs to be kind of dug out, and I’m like, it’s a new home… I want them to do it. I’ll manage the connection to the POE and I’ll adopt it, but they can do the install of the actual hardware itself, so my home stays safe.

Yeah, huge fan of POE. I feel like they’ve breathed new life into a technology that’s been around for, I don’t know, 20-30 years, probably more. I mean –

Is that right?

POE has been around for a really long time. I mean, even Cat 5e was supporting POE… And yeah, I mean, people have powered things over Ethernet for a really long time, and I feel like it was just this untapped market that UniFi is now like “Hey, we’re gonna power LED lights, cameras… Everything. Phones, you name it.” And other companies have done it, too. They’ve powered phones, and stuff like that. But I feel like they’re expanding their line of things they support with POE, and it’s just so cool to see. Because I have a 48-port POE switch in my basement. I went 48-port, all POE, because I want to power more things over POE. And then on top of that, that’s on battery backup. So if my power goes out in my home, I can still run my POE switch for two hours, and that will still power access points. I don’t have phones, [unintelligible 00:22:17.04] back there, but… Cameras, and all of the things that I plug into that UniFi switch will still be powered. The switch is everything, so having battery backup, and not having the battery backup individual things, and worry about my security cameras… It’s so nice. Such a relief to know that my switch is powering all these things in my home, so if something happens, they’re still going to be online.

Okay. So we love UniFi; let’s put that down… They know that. UniFi - call either of us; we’ll gladly find ways to work with you. And we’ll potentially even bend over backwards to do it. So big, big fan. I’ve given them lots of money, probably too much… But it’s good gear, and I like it. Okay, so let’s go from network - probably Cat 6, if you can choose it; Cat 5e, unless you have an older home that you just couldn’t choose the wiring… Cat 6 will let you do 10-gigabit, which most people don’t really need, but it’s future-proofing… So if you can, why not, right?

That’s right. And Cat 5e will too, over short runs… But yeah.

Right. It’s less reliable. It’s still possible, but just not reliable, because of interference.

That’s right.

And then the long-run, too; the long-run is really what diminishes the speed. I run 10-gigabit on Cat6 easily in almost all cases. The switches - I always choose SFP+, because I want the interconnectivity between an aggregation switch, or the actual switch… I happen to have the rackmount 10xG I believe; it’s the 16-port with all the SPFs, or SFPs, and then like the four RJ45s… I have that because I had a lot more 10-gigabit transferring. And now I’m like “You know what? I can just wait a little longer.” It’s more about transfer than it is “I need the actual speed”, because I’m really the only power user in our home. Everyone else is convenience. They don’t even know… And probably the same for you - they don’t even know what you’ve really built for them. My kids are like “Dad, this is amazing. I love it.” They never say that. They just watch the TV. They just watch whatever; they just have their iPad and do whatever.

[24:18] That’s right.

They really have no clue that no matter where they go in the home, there is amazing Wi-Fi . They just enjoy it.

Yeah. No news is good news when it comes to networking… Because if you don’t hear anything, that means everything’s working. You hear it when things don’t work.

Right. And so from there, I think you’ve gotta establish some small machine… Like, for me Pi-hole is an absolute in my network stack. I’ve got - UniFi is the network, protect, obviously, with cameras; those are sort of a given. So assuming you’ve got your network settled - VLANs, no VLANs, it doesn’t matter; you’ve got an established network that’s strong, with Ethernet or Wi-Fi… And then you’ve gotta establish some machines. So you’ve got an actual Raspberry Pi, or potentially some other smaller form-factor machine that can run some sort of Linux… I like Docker in most cases. I haven’t ventured into the Kubernetes world yet. I think maybe I’m waiting for you to release a “zero to Kubernetes video”, and maybe then I’ll actually go into that world, because I’m quite intimidated by it.

Proxmox, if you like virtualization, obviously. I like to virtualize – and really thanks to you for explaining Proxmox, because you really preached this hypervisor. And I didn’t really think about – I mean, I understood Docker, and I can do containers and stuff like that. I never really considered virtualizing from one good, solid machine, and having my entire stack kind of live mostly on that machine. So for me, that’s – in a lot of cases, thanks to you for trading those waters for me, and like saying “Hey, it’s safe over here. Come on over here to the Proxmox world and virtualize your Ubuntu servers, and do this or do that.” And so I haven’t mimicked literally everything you’ve done, but you’ve sort of given me a map. It’s almost like a gamer… Imagine the map is dark, and until somebody ventures into that room, and now it’s lit up for the map… Tim has done that for me, so I appreciate that.

Yeah, no problem. Yeah. Fog of war. I like it.

So for me, that’s Pi-hole, virtualized. Docker… That’s my stack. I think I’m mirroring your stack, but what about you?

No, I like it. Yeah, that’s my stack, too. So first, I start with a machine, a hypervisor. So if you’re not familiar with hypervisor - most people are, but if you’re not, it’s just really a machine that you can run virtual machines inside of. There are different types of hypervisors, but for all intents purposes, run machines inside of machines.

My choice has been Proxmox. It’s been for a long time. I used to run Hyper-V, which was a Microsoft product, I’ve run ESXi at home, which is a VMware product… None of those gave me the flexibility that I needed at home without buying expensive licenses. And so Proxmox was there, it was open source, and early in its development, and it hit all of those things that I wanted; a web-based hypervisor that was performant, that’s Linux-based, that’s open source, and has some enterprise features if I want them.

And so it’s Proxmox… From there, I usually virtualize everything. So everything’s virtualized. I tried to virtualize everything, just because it makes management and backups a lot easier. Pi-hole is definitely one. Pi-holes - I have gone a little overboard; I have three Pi-hole servers. Two of them are load balanced behind a load balancer, with a software load balancer; not important.

But then I run containers. I’ll say I run containers… I used to do a ton of Docker. So I run Portainer, which is a Web UI for Docker, which makes Docker very approachable for someone who doesn’t know Docker. It gives you a nice Web UI. And so I’ve run a lot of containers in there; Plex, Pi-hole, you name it. [unintelligible 00:27:47.13] A lot of dashboard stuff…

[27:52] And then since I did a lot of Kubernetes at work, I decided to do Kubernetes at home. I will say that it takes a lot; it takes a lot to grok Kubernetes, to understand Kubernetes, and then to run it at home and maintain it. So I don’t recommend it for the average home user. It’s definitely not approachable. There are some things that make it a little more approachable, like Rancher, and even Portainer, but for the most part, not approachable… Because it’s made to be this huge state machine for running high-availability applications. And so you need lots of machines, lots of hardware, and lots of resources. You can minimize all of that, but at the end of the day it’s going to take mostly three machines, which is out of the question for most people.

So yeah, I containerize everything. I always try to containerize everything, mainly because I want to run multiple containers on one machine, so Docker containers on one machine. I don’t want to have to worry about global dependencies, or all of that stuff that you worry about if you have a virtual machine. If you think about it - you know, back in the day I used to install WordPress on a machine. And then I would install - you name it, some other software on a machine, because I wanted one machine to do everything. Well, at the end of the day, when you start doing that, you might, say, for WordPress need PHP 8, and MySQL 7, and then you install something else on that machine, which requires MySQL 8, and now you have these broken dependencies… So that’s where Docker comes in and kind of keeps all of those in little containers and silos, so that you can run multiple things without them affecting each other.

But yeah, everything’s containerized. I run a ton of stuff… I run a ton of stuff at home. Uptime Kuma, I monitor and log all of my services… I have a lot of custom code that I wrote, a lot of websites that I write… I mean, I do a ton of Node.js, I do a ton of Docker, I do a ton of TypeScript; so I build and deploy – I have CI running in my homelab… I write code, I push it to my CI, it runs my tests, it builds containers, and then it puts them in Kubernetes. It used to put them in Docker, but yeah, now it puts them in Kubernetes. And that’s all a home. I learned how to do all of that kind of in my homelab, so… But yeah, it’s a lot of services. Probably too many. Some of them are for testing, but some of them have stood the test of time, like Pi-hole. I absolutely love it.

Yeah Pi-hole’s a given for me. And then really it just helped me learn more about how to use Docker Compose, how to really look at network ports, things like that, obviously… Which container to use… Because there’s a couple of different flavors of Python you can use. You can use, I think, the Linux server version of it potentially, and then Pi-hole’s version of it, that they manage and deploy…

Do you think that you would be as deep or as many services as you run at home if you didn’t have your YouTube channel? Do you feel like it’s cyclical, where you obviously have a persona, and you have a channel that you like to share what you learn, but you also learn so that you can create content? I don’t know really what your content creator journey has been, or what really makes you do it. Does the channel feed the beast, basically? Are you having to do these things or feeling like you have to do these things because you have this channel?

Yeah, it is; it is cyclical in the fact that I’ll create content that will go out into the world, people might recommend something else, or an alternative, and I feel like “Oh, maybe I should look at this”, or “Why didn’t I consider this?” Then I’ll look into that, and maybe create some content from that. But it definitely is. I never feel like it’s work. I mean, I’m not gonna say that it’s all roses; sometimes editing takes a lot of time, and being creative on-demand is something different, and so that takes a lot of time and energy; not used to that being a software engineer, so that’s tough. But the content itself is definitely fun. I definitely learn – like, I get a lot of my best ideas from people’s comments, too. Because people will recommend alternatives, or say what they did for a particular case, or say how they solved a problem, or some software that they use. And so a lot of times I find out about things in the comments, on some of the videos I release. But it is cyclical.

[32:07] There are times when I have to chase topics. And there are other times where I’m putting something out because it’s something I’ve been interested in. I try to treat my YouTube channel almost agile, or like a software project. I have things in the backlog, I prioritize them; as things become either more popular in the world, or its time has come, I’ll prioritize that story or that video and work on it.

For a while, I was going after a lot of different services you can self host, which was totally fun. I learned so much in the first two years about self-hosting in general about Docker, about Docker Compose; even about Kubernetes, I learned so much by teaching this to other people. Sometimes I miss those days, just going out there and figuring out what’s the latest from, because they have all the cool containers, and a standard way of writing your Compose, and standard properties, environment variables… But I used to window-shop all the time, and say “Oh, could I run this at home? Do I need this?” and “How would I use this?” And for a long time – and I guess still is even the case, most of the things that you ever see on my channel are things I’m doing, or that I believe in, or that I’m using. I mean, that’s how I started my channel. My channel was always, “What projects am I working on right now?” I still ask that same question on my Twitch channel. It’s been that way for years. We all talk about what we’re working on this weekend, or things we’re excited about in tech, or projects we’re working on. And so my channels always been like what I did last week… [laughs] And it’s still to this day what I did last week. It’s really focusing on home, and home tech, and homelab projects; really focusing on projects I’ve really done, and really do. Most of the time it’s not something that I’m exploring, it’s things that I’ve already done, and I think they’re awesome, and I want to share them with people. So I don’t know if that makes me different than anyone else, but that’s something that I’ve always taken kind of seriously; all the things I’ve put out are things I either run in my home, or services that I run, to this day.

The reason I asked you that is because you said you’ve got a CI in your homelab, which is an anomaly. Not everybody’s gonna do that. I mean, that’s homelab, because it’s in your home, Tim, but it’s not common for somebody’s homelab. And then to have that built and test, which is what CI does, and deploy it somewhere. And you could deploy it to the cloud, but you choose to deploy it to your own locally-host high-availability three-node Kubernetes cluster… Which is totally cool, but that’s not normal.

So the reason why you do that is because you probably have this channel and you’re also a software developer, and you’re also curious, so you kind of have to eat your own dogfood or drink your own champagne, whichever flavor of that, phrase you like to use, because that’s why you do it.

Now that you said why and how you use Kubernetes, I’m probably never gonna go and use Kubernetes. I’ll probably just stick to Proxmox, virtualized servers and Docker, and call it a day… Because there’s an end to my means. The reason why I do homelab stuff isn’t necessarily so I can tinker. I do enjoy the tinker process and the curiosity, but I have other priorities. I’ve got a family, I’ve got kids… My time with them to me is way more important than upgrading firmware. I know you like to upgrade firmware.

Oh, yeah.

Everybody loves to upgrade firmware when it makes sense, but I don’t want to live and die by this upgrade, or whatever. So I’d rather prioritize other things around me. So really, my joy in homelab is making it so that I don’t have to interact with as much. Do some of the upfront work and maybe dig for two weeks on a project, and then for the most part be off. My Plex server - it took me a while to learn. I literally took the AV15, which I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with, because you have one, from 45Drives… I took that and I removed the Supermicro board, replaced it with an Asus Z70… Because I wanted to have ECC RAM, I wanted to run the Intel 13900K CPU… Like, I wanted to max it out and just have a beefy server, and I wanted to have as much storage that 15Drives could give me in that machine.

[36:25] And so I’d never built a machine ever in my life, ever. I had never – like, I took everything out and put everything in. And obviously, I had a test board for a bit; it wasn’t in the machine the whole time. And it took me a while to – I tried to Proxmox this thing; I could not get virtualization to work. I couldn’t pass through the HBA to – and I just hit brick wall after brick wall. I’m like “You know what - I’m gonna install Ubuntu.” I just went to straight – this machine is not virtualized in any way. It’s just Ubuntu with Docker machines on it, essentially. But I did all that upfront work, and I learned everything I needed to get to that point… And now it’s just simply change directory into the Plex directory, spin down that thing and do a new poll, spin it back up and prune the images, and keep my disk clean, or whatever… That’s the extent of like my Plex server.

Now, that board, and RAM, and – well the RAM probably isn’t, because ZFS isn’t RAM-hungry. It uses RAM very well. I wanted to have a lot of RAM, I wanted to have a lot of disk space, I wanted to have – I just wanted to build a beefy machine. So it’s under-utilized right now, so I do have more plans for it. I have no idea how I would use it more. I mean, if I put a home assistant on there it’s not gonna really ping this CPU. The most I ping the CPU really is during data transfers, or – so because it’s a ZFS server for the most part, pretty much I’m just storing things there. I might do some 7V stuff. So we actually have – 7Z is what I meant to say. So we have - you know, these podcasts, when they’re done, they maybe are like 4, 5, 7 gigs of data in a directory. I’ll take that, and rather than store that 4, or 5, 6, or 7 gigs of data, I’m 7Z-ing that directory down. It’s usually about 40% to 50% compressed. And so I’ll keep that as a single file, which is so much easier to transfer than 50 or 60 files in a directory. So that’s the extent. The CPU gets pinged quite heavily during that algorithmic compression, but that’s about it. But I learned a lot.

So I did all this upfront work to build this machine, to learn how it should work. And now it’s in my stack, and I never really have to touch it… Aside from keeping Linux updated, which is – I’ve got security patches automatically implied. I mean, that’s pretty much it; it’s pretty much handsfree.

Yeah, that’s a good thing. I tell a lot of people a lot of times - like, a lot of people want to go huge enterprise, and make things as complicated as possible. I’m guilty of that. Totally guilty. I rely on automation to help me out with some of the complexity, and logging, and all of that… But a lot of people want to go all-out and make everything complex, and that’s totally fine. And then you have people who basically want to set it and forget it, or not worry about it, or it’s a means to an end. I appreciate all of that. I tell people all the time, do what you want to do, because at the end of the day you’re the one that’s going to be supporting it. And do you want to support it a lot, do you want to support it a little? And I always lean towards keeping things as simple as possible. A little different for me, because I have a channel and stuff, and I have to do all of this crazy stuff all the time to try to keep abreast on the professional side for DevOps… But I totally appreciate keeping things simple.

I mean, that’s a large reason why simplified my network, I simplified a lot of things, is because that’s not where I want to spend my time. And like you said, you want to spend time with family, kids, and hobbies, and work… Do I want to spend my time on a particular problem that I created for myself? Not a lot of times, not a lot of times.

[39:54] Well, there is Netflix, there is Apple TV, and there’s other things you can stream from. I choose Plex because I just prefer it – well, I mean, if for some reason culture doesn’t care for this movie anymore, Netflix didn’t stop serving it, and now I no longer have access to it. Or just not having to leverage the cloud so much. Just not having to put that kind of pressure on the backbone of humanity, really. At some point, it’s gonna be a bigger deal. If I own these discs, or if I don’t mind owning these disks… It also blocks out commercials for my kids. There’s all sorts of reasons why people choose to use Plex. I also happen to be a home theater geek, so in my home I have a 120-inch screen, a laser projector, THX speakers in the wall because I’m just crazy like that… Because I really appreciate movies. And so for me, it’s like, I don’t want to change discs anymore. I don’t want to have to keep a rack of blurays, 4k blurays, whatever, pick your flavor, and have to go swap them out. I’d rather just - give me a lossless version of it, that’s on my network, that gets served wherever I want, whether it’s a restaurant for my children, because they want to do something while we’re sitting there waiting for food or whatever, or we’re are on a trip or something like that… We also have a travel trailer RV… So we will stream Plex from our home in our RV. We don’t have to take all those discs with us. There’s so many reasons why people choose it, and that’s what’s important to me and my family. Not everybody really cares about movies and access to their media library. I do. And I built this beefier service so I can make sure I can do it anywhere.

Yeah, that’s fantastic. I’m a huge fan of Plex, too. I do a lot of over-the-air TV recording, too. I love this free resource called OTA TV, and it’s great. I have a network tuner, and I figured out the whole antenna thing, and filtering out noise, and it’s so great to be able to record over-the-air TV and use the commercial skip on it, all from Plex. It’s so awesome.

And my only concern really for the future is what if Plex isn’t around anymore? What if Plex stops being Plex? What if their business model changes to the fact that they no longer really prioritize the local media? It is changing already; they have streaming in Plex now, and I can see some of their priorities shifting… I just hope they always keep these legacy features in the forefront of their long-term vision. Because if Plex – sure, you have Jellyfish, and maybe we’ll have others, maybe something will come out instead of Plex, an alternative… But Plex is just really good. Their application, their iOS app is amazing for me; I’m an iOS user. Their Apple TV app is just phenomenal… It’s on most smart TVs… It’s pretty much wherever you want to watch TV, and so my only concern really is, one, I don’t really do much over-the-air, so that’s less a concern for me… But I’m concerned for you now, so I’ll add it to my list of concerns… Is what happens when there’s no more discs to rip? What happens when media is only streamed? You can’t literally buy the physical copy to watch whenever you choose to watch it, in your DRM player, of course… That’s still a thing. What happens when that changes? I guess at that point Plex would become on the road to obsolete for me, because I mostly care about my local media. But then, if that does happen, then obviously Plex will change their priorities, because - well, physical disks are just not a thing anymore.

Yeah, it’s scary to think about. It definitely is, for sure. Especially when streaming companies – I’ve heard stories of them removing media that people have already purchased on that streaming platform.

Yeah. No media is safe unless you have a physical copy. It’s like – I don’t know if you’re into Bitcoin at all, but the “Not your keys, not your wallet” kind of situation. Like, “Hey, not your media, not your –” Like, just because you own the discs too, you still have a license to use the disk. You don’t actually own it. But you can; you know, you have way more freedom than streamed, because you can find a way to change where it’s stored at. I don’t think ripping is against the law. Sharing - I’m not sharing my content with you. I’m not torrenting my media library. That’s not at all why I do any of that stuff. It’s really for convenience for me and my family.

[44:01] The experience of swapping out discs is like caveman, right? It’s like trying to create fire with sticks. Why would you do that? Like, if you have homelab sophistication or curiosities, why would you not find a way to run Plex? Why would you not find a way to have a small NAS, and run ZFS? Of course, not Btrfs or anything else, because nothing else exists besides open ZFS. I don’t know about you, Tim, but that’s how I feel… I’m just kidding. I’m not a hater. I do prefer, but I’m not a hater.

I know. I know. I hear it a lot. There are pros and cons to both. Once ZFS implements the resizing of pools, I think it might be a less argument for or against Btrf, or ButterFS. Because that’s – I don’t want to say the one, but that’s a huge feature that Btrfs has going for it, is that you can JBOD discs. You can add storage just by adding another disk, and it’ll resize the pool, and reshuffle everything around. Whereas ZFS, you can’t. You’ve gotta grow your pool in a certain way, either double discs, or depending on how you divide it up… It’s tough. It’s tough. I’ve been there. I had to move – my old ZFS pool was a certain size, and when I got my –

I watched you swap out disks. I couldn’t believe how you grew that pool. I was like “This guy’s ballsy, man. He’s swapping disks and he’s growing his – I mean, I was watching and I was just like sweating with you. I’m just like “Oh, my gosh… Is his data gonna be there when he’s done?”

Yeah. So it’s tough. So that’s one of the challenges with ZFS. You know, I’m all for just having some flexibility to – because ZFS is pretty awesome. I love the software RAID, I love all the integrity checks that it does, I love how quickly you can snapshot and back it up… At the same time, it’s pretty rigid for home. I want to be able to go buy a disc, one disc, or maybe two, and add it to my pool and expand my pool. That’s not there yet in some versions of ZFS.

Yeah, I talked to Matt Aarons about that, and I think that was a coming feature when we talked about it. I can’t recall if it was like landed in certain versions, or if it was coming. And even then, it wouldn’t really resilver the whole entire pool. It would still be unbalanced to some degree, but in the realm of ZFS, your data would all be in the same VDEV, or whatever it might be. But it was still not going to rebalance the whole disk array. Which, you know, just may be a technical challenge that it will never overcome. But the reason why I like ZFS is it’s so easy to use, it is pretty secure in terms of copy on write, and all sorts of the reasons that it’s just a good file system. Backing up - like, I have a backup system; I had ChatGPT write me some scripts that I run there, Bash scripts that help me do some cool stuff, that I’m just like “Backup” and it just like will back it up to it. I can learn those things, and I can write those commands every single time, and I can up arrow to my nth degree, and rerun the command, but who wants to do that? I’m not gonna do that.

I hear you.

So I had ChatGPT write me some stuff. My pair programmer.

That’s alright.

Okay, let’s get back to the stack. So ZFS is in my homelab stack… You’ve chosen Ubuntu… Ubuntu… Pick your way to say it. I think it’s Ubuntu, actually. I’ve chosen Ubuntu. I’m curious why you chose Ubuntu.

Where do I go? So I’ve used Ubuntu since - I want to say 4.10, which would mean April of 2010.

That’s so long ago. Yeah, tell me about it. And I think that’s the first time I heard about it… Like, yeah, it was Windows – I still am a Windows fan. I’m not against Windows, I use Windows, Mac, Linux, I use them all, for different things. And back then it was all Windows. It was all Windows, and I just didn’t have a lot of experience with Linux. I had heard about it, and so that was the first approachable Linux for me, was Ubuntu. It had a desktop, it kind of felt like Windows… So that was my first foray into Linux, really. And then from there, they had the server version. So as I used Ubuntu desktop, I could open up a terminal, and kind of tinker, and play around with Linux, and copy and paste these commands into there, and do things that people were doing on Linux server.

[48:05] So eventually, I got to the point where I was like “Well, I’ll use Linux headless now”, basically the server version, to where I don’t need the UI. And so I got really familiar with Ubuntu in general, or Debian I guess I should say… But more so Ubuntu. And I learned their package manager, I learned all of the stuff about it… And so I just kept using it. And then being in infrastructure, and then being a software developer, a lot of people supported Ubuntu LTS for a lot of their stuff, whether it was MySQL, MongoDB, or anything. You could always guarantee that any software package or service was going to run on the latest LTS of Ubuntu.

So since the tech community considered it so stable, I just stuck with it. And I still do. And I’ve tinkered with all different versions. So I’m a huge fan. I’ve been using it for a long time. And then with Microsoft now having WsL, and running Linux on Windows, and having Ubuntu kind of running on Windows too, it’s super-nice to be able to use. For me, approachable and accessible, stable and supported. That’s what it boils down to.

And I think everyone has their flavor of Linux that they like, or…

Yeah. You’ve got distro hoppers, or you’ve got some sort of hating… Like, “Why do you like this distro?” So did you explore all the distros ever? Or did you sort of like just land at Ubuntu and just stay there?

No, I distro-hopped. I think once you get kind of bitten by the Linux bug, I think then you’re like “Okay, well, what else is out there? Is this the best one? Am I on the best one? What’s everyone else using?” So I used to go out to DistroWatch all the time, all the time, and say “Hey, what’s Ubuntu MATE? Or what’s Fedora all about? Or Red Hat?” or you name it, and hop around and try things. Arch, you know… And then I did that too for my Linux firewall. So I ran a Linux firewall for a long time; I ran SmoothWall, IPCop, Untangle, pfSense… And so that was part of my routine too, was I’m gonna distro-hop with my Linux firewall. So DistroWatch, see what the top network distribution was, and hop that way, too.

At work I used Mac or Windows, and at home I used Linux, so I found every time I went to switch to another Linux, I felt like I’m paying some debt to keep learning something else, and to keep trying something else… And at the end of the day, running Linux at home for me was kind of a means to an end for some things. And so I started to be a little more pragmatic and say “I just need this to work, I need it to run, because at the end of the day I need to get Docker containers running on here, I need to get Kubernetes on here.” And so if it works, it’s stable, it’s supported, I had to put my pragmatic hat on and say “I just need this to work.” And so yeah, to answer your question though, I have distro-dropped a lot. A lot less lately.

Okay. Okay. So you stabilized to Ubuntu.

That’s right.

And since version four, essentially. 4.10. So I think I was 12.10 was the first version I installed. And I think that was around 2015-2016 maybe, something like that. And the first place I installed Linux myself was on a DigitalOcean droplet, and it was to run a WordPress server.


I did the firewall, all that good stuff… And that thing was stable, and ran without being rebooted for years. I mean, it was either DigitalOcean’s good job, or my good job, or the tutorial’s good job, I don’t know… Or Linux itself… So I was a fan of Ubuntu for a while. And so when it came to - about a year or so ago I kind of got back into Linux. I never really got out of it, but I never really tinkered with it day to day. But then I kind of got more into my homelab stuff, and was more concerned with which flavor of Linux I was running… And I wanted to try them all; I want to try Debian, I wanted to try Red Hat, I wanted to try Rocky, I wanted to try all the different ones… But what made me come back to Ubuntu was, one, the reasons which you say, which is support and stability. But then I just recognized that it was always better resource-efficient; always better CPU-efficient, and phenomenally better on RAM, in comparison to most distros.

[52:05] I always kind of gauged it on like “Okay, if I install basic Ubuntu, get Docker running on it, and spin up Pi-hole, what is the resource utilization on that?” Well, basically nothing on the CPU, of course, because it’s not really a CPU-intensive application anyways. But the ram was like 300 megs, maybe… While I had four gigs or so on a small machine in most cases for that. It was just super-RAM efficient, and you could just add more and more. I believe that was even inside of Proxmox now that I’m thinking about it. So it was like Proxmox, then Ubuntu as the - obviously, having a machine to run it on. And then Docker, and then the actual container itself. And it was sitting inside that container, 300 megs, but I would run htop on Proxmox itself; the resource utilization was just like basically nothing.

So if you add more and more to that; pfSense, or Plex, or something else, you just have a lot… And in the homelab, the things you really care about. And I think you’ve helped me understand this more, because you always talk about like kilowatt usage, and you know how much Watts something uses… I’m like “Why does that even matter?” And I’m like “Oh yeah, the power bill.” So that’s important.

But then - like, when you’re tinkering, you’re just curious. You’re just learning, so you’re like “I don’t care how many Watts this thing takes. Does this work, and does it serve my use?” And then you’re like “Oh, how can I now make it more efficient? CPU, RAM, Watts etc.” And the point I’m trying to make, I suppose, is just that you start to care about heat, you care about noise, and you care about wattage in homelab. And you care about reuse. So can I reuse something, and does it sound X? Does it power X? Okay, no. Let me spend some money.

You were recently doing a video on your mobile homelab forbidden travel router plus plus ultimate homelab thingy. I didn’t see it like you did. I thought it was hilarious, the times you said it on that episode… But I’m like, “I need that for my travel trailer RV. I need a version of that.” And I thought about like building a UniFi network, but that thing you built was just way better, because it’s everything in one single device, and it’s quiet, and it’s low-powered. So you start to think about – as we sort of go up and down this homelab stack, what matters I think is power, obviously, and noise, and does it create a lot of heat? Because if you’re in a small environment, or even a closet in most cases, are you generating a lot of heat that you’ve gotta somehow exhaust? These are things you’ve got to worry about. So talk about the Protectli, talk about this mobile homelab forbidden travel router plus plus ultimate homelab thingy that you’ve built.

[laughs] You nailed it. Yeah, so I’ve had this idea for a while. Every time I travel, I bring devices with me. I think a lot of people in tech do.

I almost never. I will just bring a hotspot. I’m the opposite. I would want to bring a lot of stuff, I just didn’t have anything to bring. So I just bring my hotspot and hope for the best.

Yeah, that’s true. But I guess I was bringing a lot of things that needed to connect to another network. And off the top of my head everything– “Oh, a laptop.” But no, it was a laptop, a phone, a tablet, maybe a gaming device, maybe… Whatever. And so those things grew. And then if my wife traveled with me, it was that times two. And so I always felt weird about like “Hey, we just got an Airbnb. We’re just gonna connect all our devices to their Airbnb. Yeah, we 100% trust this thing.”

Trust them. “Yeah, let’s just trust them.”

You know? And I always felt weird about it. And I was like “There’s gotta be something better. I don’t trust this.” And so for a while, I would bring a little Raspberry Pi, and I would plug it in, and broadcast a network. It didn’t do the greatest, but it did exactly what I wanted it to do. It was like this travel version of a network firewall, that only our devices got connected to. If I wanted, it could VPN back home, and then get all the protection I wanted. Or if I wanted, I’d run Pi-hole on it.

[55:59] And so the Py did kind of okay at that; it did okay at that, for a lot of different reasons. And then I started looking at, okay, well, I need something a little bit more powerful than a Py. I won’t get too technical, but I need something that does AES encryption, AES-NI doesn’t exist on ARM CPUs, or at least the Py, and it does on x86 processors… So that’s when I started looking for small, low-power, quiet devices that I could bring with me. Small. I’m talking about the size of a phone, a large phone. And that’s when I came across these Protectli devices. And then I started thinking, “Okay, what are the things that I want to take with me?” And it was that same thing; it was like “Hey, let’s build a firewall, so that I can connect only my devices to it. Let’s add an access point to this, so that I don’t have to connect to their access point. I’ll connect to this device’s access point, and then I can uplink to their router. And then let’s add Pi-hole to it, because I want the same protection I have at home.” You know, why have everyone track me as soon as I walk out the door?

That’s right.

And then I realized, hey, Proxmox is a great fit for this. These little devices - I mean, there are a lot of them, but this Protectli device, at the end of the day, it’s an Intel CPU that supports virtualization. So I was like “Well, why not just put Proxmox on this and do exactly what I do at home, except for add an access point to it?” And so that’s kind of what I did. And it works great. It’s super-complicated, it is fun… But yeah, it’s great for – like, if you’re going to travel somewhere I’d say for a week or more; or like your RV. Perfect for that. Because it’s something you could set up, you could have everyone connect to, and you can be sure that everyone’s connected and safe.

Also, I can run Plex on it, and because it has QuickSync on that Intel CPU, because it has an Intel desktop class processor, with an Intel Iris, it can do transcoding there local, too. Obviously, most people are going to connect back home for Plex, but think of – like, you’re on the actual road trip, road tripping, and all your kids want to connect to a device, and you don’t want to use data… You could easily serve that out locally through that machine, too.

There’s just so many possibilities… And every time I traveled, I thought “There’s got to be a better way.” And then NetworkChuck did something similar… And I was like “Awesome! This kind of ties together one piece that I was missing.” I was just like noodling on this idea for a while, and eventually it kind of came together. But I think Proxmox made it so much easier than it was without Proxmox.

Now, there are tiny little travel routers too that I’m gonna look into at some point, but it’s super-nice to be able to bring some things with you, and to be able to tinker and to spin up stuff, local services, whatever I want.

What I like about it is that it can run Plex, and I don’t always want to phone home for Plex, because the network isn’t always there, really. And so if I can actually have one – the reason why I like it is for all the reasons you’ve said; it can be the router for all the devices that I trust, I can connect to LTE, or a hard line to the local network if there is one available. If it’s an Airbnb, or this RV place happens to support that. Sometimes they’ll give you a router that connects to their network, which you can then run an Ethernet port out of to something else. So you can still be their device, but then protect yourself from there. But the fact that I can run Plex and just run a mobile version of my Plex, so it doesn’t have to be my main version of it. I can just pull over the kids’ directory, for example, which is - they have their own directory. All the stuff that the kids can watch is in the kids directory. I can just clone that to this device. Now, obviously, if it’s too big, and it’s 10 terabytes or whatever the number might be, maybe I’m then choosy, or it’s a selection process. But I can always take a mobile version of my Plex, essentially.

And I wanted it for all the reasons - it’s low-power, Intel CPU, virtualization, can run Proxmox… So thank you for doing all the hard work, Tim. And then the relationship, I’m sure, because – finding hardware manufacturers that support open source the way that Protectli seems to based upon what you’ve shared about them - it’s kind of hard. If it weren’t for folks like you, and I think just YouTube in general, or like content creators, either being approached by these brands, or being curious and having these needs, and being like “There’s got to be a better way.” If it weren’t for folks like you going and doing all that digging, then people like me would not be able to just piggyback off all your work and just – because I’m gonna go and figure out how to do that for myself, because my idea was “Okay, I’m gonna get that small square USG, a POE thing with a POE access point…” I was gonna do a small version of UniFi network. And like that thing basically is all that in one, plus it can run Plex. And also have – I think it supports SATA SSD, so I can maybe doing an eight-gig, or maybe I can plug in… I think there’s some USB ports, or something like that, too. Maybe I can have an external device that’s just for the storage. I don’t know, I haven’t thought that far, because I’ve only recently just watched your video. But that to me is like, that’s the better way to do it.

Yeah, it’s tough… Because I thought the same thing, like is there a mini UniFi thing I can bring with me, that autoconnects me back home? And I don’t think that exists yet. Or who knows…?

Well, they’re listening. They’ll make it after this call. They’ll be like “Okay, listen, they’ve really promoted UniFi at the beginning, and now they’re not doing it anymore. They’re building Protectli stuff. We’ve got to find a way.” They’re gonna listen.

Thank you for calling that out about me doing research and making relationships with companies, because that’s kind of what it is, you know… And that’s another tough part about content creation - a lot of people think “Oh, they’re just saying this because you’re getting paid.” And it’s like, “No, I believe in this product”, and either they approach me or I approach them… But at the end of the day, I believe in this product, and I want it to succeed. And yes, Protectli definitely has leaned into open source a ton. If you look at their documentation, they have everything you can possibly install on that device, between OpenWrt, Proxmox, you name it; they’ve done a ton of documentation on it. And it’s a pretty cool device, too.

I didn’t even know that existed, the OpenWrt. I didn’t know it existed, I didn’t know – I mean, you’re helping me discover these new things that are already out there, and open source is just so big. We’ve been covering open source on the Changelog for – I mean, basically, one year after GitHub’s birth; it was like maybe six months or so. We just saw the trend of open source moving faster. And the name of the show became really because I was watching open source change so often; I’m like “Well, there’s nobody talking about what happened between this version and this version. Nobody’s reading the changelog.” And so then the show became called The Changelog, because we were chronicling open source changing via our blog; we had a blog back in the day. That became our newsletter and news feed, and then now just our news show. We have a new show on Mondays, that’s a newsletter and a podcast in one. It’s about eight or nine minutes; it’s a must listen, basically, if you want the top stories for that week. And then the newsletter obviously gives you more details.

We have an email called Changelog Nightly, that literally comes out daily, or technically nightly, and shows the trends on GitHub, repository-wise. Sadly, there’s so much GitHub spam now that it’s made that newsletter kind of suck a little bit, and it’s so hard to sort of prune it. And it leverages Google’s BigQuery, and some of it’s out of our control… So all we can really do is filter; we can’t really change the queries much. But yeah, I mean, the power of open source is amazing, but I had no idea about OpenWrt, and how you can leverage it… So really, thank you for being what I call in the trenches. You’re a content creator, but I think you’re this person who’s curious, and you probably have these challenges, and you’re like “What devices out there work?” Okay, either they called you or you called them, but there’s some sort of discovery process. And then there’s a software discovery process. And then there’s “Well, actually this thing makes sense to run Proxmox, so will it actually virtualize?” Well, because sometimes you’ll support IOMMU, and maybe you can virtualize some things. I think you had an issue with a video driver or something like that with Windows; there’s always something finicky… Even though it’s supported, there’s always something. And so it requires sometimes that person to go ahead of everybody else and sort of like recon. “Okay, the path is safe. Come on, come this way.”

[01:04:23.00] Totally. A canary in the coal mine I feel like sometimes. But it’s tough, and I’m glad you recognize that, because it starts with an idea sometimes, but there’s so much, I realized, for tech YouTube too, at least for what I’m doing for tech YouTube - there’s a lot that goes into it. Not only the writing, the thumbnails, the things you guys see, but just - yeah, a lot of these are projects that I have to test ahead of time. And usually, I test them two or three times, because I don’t want surprises as I’m recording. So a lot of work goes into it, but it’s fun. I learned a ton, and it’s fun to share that stuff, too.

Since we’re kind of on the subject and we’re probably getting close to time, can we kind of talk about the business of being a YouTuber, to some degree? Do you mind?

Yeah, no, sure.

Is that an open subject for you?

So I noticed recently - and because you’d mentioned Protectli, and this relationship, I’ve noticed – and I don’t know if I had noticed it before, but I’ve noticed this phrase in the top left corner of some of your videos, not all of them… “Includes paid promotion.” And I think you have to do something when you publish a video, because there is some relationship, and you have to be forthcoming with YouTube the platform about the dealings of business behind the scenes. How does that work for you? Do you have dedicated sponsors? What is the business side of your channel like? How does it work for you?

Good question. I feel like this was the question I was hoping for…

Because – well, I mean, there are a lot of people that are always trying to figure out “Is this person being genuine, or is this person being paid to say this?”

You’ve always seemed genuine to me.

Well, thank you.

It’s either the way you talk, which I think you have a unique way of delivering, you have a pace with your voice; either it’s on purpose, or it’s just natural… But you’ve always seemed, without having to say so, like you’ve gone on a journey, and you’re telling us the tale of the journey, and why it made sense for you to go on it. So you’ve always seemed very trustworthy to me in terms of being truthful, and honest with your dealings. It’s never felt like you had to over-explain; it just seemed, the way you approached the topic, and the subject matter just seemed naturally trustworthy to me, personally.

Thank you. Well, I really appreciate that. Sometimes I get bogged down by the comments… It’s one comment that’s like “He’s just getting paid to say this.” And I shouldn’t read the comments, but I do.

Don’t read those comments, yeah…

I know… I can’t help it though.

Well, every time you see that comment, just imagine me going “Not true. Tim, I believe in you.”

Alright, thank you. I appreciate it. So let me explain this the best way I can without – I’m not a lawyer or anything like that, but YouTube has this checkbox. So when I create content, YouTube has this checkbox. And this checkbox says, “Check this checkbox”, I’m paraphrasing, “if you received anything of value to create this video, or received money.” So they kind of lumped them both into one. And me, I’m a rule follower. I’m a rule follower, and so I read into it deeply, and I think “Well, on my latest video, Rackstuds sent me a free pack of Rackstuds.” They didn’t pay me, didn’t say anything, they just said “I want you to have them. Use them in any of your videos.” And so to me, I’m like “Okay, I’m posting this video, I received one thing for free in this video… I should probably check the checkbox.”

So anyways, long story short, that’s up for almost every single one of my videos, because one thing in my video was usually sent to me for free, that I used. So full disclosure. I try to disclose that in the video too, but there are times when I paid sponsors, who want to sponsor the video, or a segment in the video, and I’m pretty clear about that, too. I usually have a segment in my videos that says “Hey, this video was sponsored by so and so.”

[01:08:01.08] And I’m very picky on who I work with, I’ve been fortunate enough to do that. I work with some really awesome brands, and so I’m sticking with them. But the business of YouTube - it’s tough. It’s trying to balance this – well, one, it’s being able to get paid for what you’re doing. That is tough. You have to have an audience that trusts you… And then YouTube has a rev share with ads, which isn’t much… And then there are brand deals and sponsorships where brands can sponsor your videos for however much you charge for a segment on your video.

I’ve done okay… I’m a software engineer, so in general I earn a pretty good wage. Recently that’s changed; I’ve been doing half and half, sort of. I’ve been fortunate enough to dial back some of my software engineering stuff and contracts, and do more of YouTube to try to give this a shot, to see if this is something I want to do for the next six months… But I will say, it’s a huge pay cut. But at the same time, I’m doing - three of five days I’m doing exactly what I want to do; just trying to make a business out of YouTube, and figuring out what that means. I don’t have a lot of mentorship. I actually have zero. I don’t have anyone to talk to…

Bummer. It doesn’t seem like that from the outside.

Oh, thanks. But honestly – don’t get me wrong, I’ve talked to other YouTubers, but it never gets into “What’s your business model? How do you charge? How do you make money outside of YouTube?” It’s been all this trying to figure it out for myself, which is totally fine. But at the end of the day, I have to figure out if this works for me. Anyways, this is not meant to be a sob story, but…

Well, it’s the journey. It’s the journey that you’re going on. You’re like “How do I–” And I think I understand, if I’m reading between the lines, and also having gone down – I’m not on the YouTube path. We’ve been on podcasting primarily. I feel like audio is the best type of content; like, video does – I mean, I suppose, I couldn’t imagine you audibly talking about the things you talk about, because you need a visual to it. So there’s some things that just don’t fit the podcast method, so to speak. But we’ve chosen podcasts first, audio podcasts first, and then video being a second-class citizen in all of our production. But I can empathize, because you’re toeing that line of like “I want my listeners, and the people I’m trying to cultivate as an audience, the people I genuinely care about - because I am one of them, so in a lot of ways what I produce is a mirror of what they desire in life, or what they’re curious about, and they don’t know about it yet, and I’m on this discovery path” that we’ve talked about with you… And you want to stay genuine to that. But in order to do that, you do have to make money. So I mean, there is a relationship that comes there.

So it’s like “Well, how do I capitalize from a business and revenue perspective without squandering, or just basically removing that trust that they’ve given me?” Because you want to toe that line. And the only way I’ve been able to find out how to do that is just choose the brands that, like you had said, that you trust, that you believe in, that you would yourself use if you had that problem. And our case is a little bit different, because we don’t always have the problem every brand approaches us with… Tailscale is a good example. I use Tailscale. They’re one of our sponsors. I chose Tailscale because I like them. I use them. I’m like “Hey, I would love it if you all sponsored a podcast. If you have any budget, I’d love to talk about how these things work for us.” And those for us are super-clear. You can tell where there’s an ad spot.

I just mentioned Tailscale - they didn’t pay me to do that. That’s because I use them. That’s genuine. And so you do have that blend. And it’s unfortunate for you, because – yeah, it’s kind of crazy they lump both of those into one. But you have that struggle of like “I want my audience to trust me, I want them to know that when I mention Protectli, or Racksys, I believe, or what was the other – the rack you just talked about today.

Yeah, Sysracks.

Sysracks. I had it backwards. Did you buy that? Do you own that? Would you buy that if you had to buy it? Did they give it to you? Like, all these questions come into play. I personally had that question when I watched that, and I’m like “Well, Tim, you have a big version of that. Why in the world do you need a second small version of that, Tim? What story are you not sharing here?” And it’s not that I’m thinking you’re dishonest, it’s just more like - I know you have to create a business around this, but then you’re like “Well, did they give him this one, and now he just cares that much, and this is a small version of the big version? What’s the story here?”

[01:12:13.08] And it’s so challenging to be forthcoming with every detail without giving too much TMI. And then also, just bloating your content with all the explanatory of explaining why people should trust you. So for us, I always feel like every time I get a chance, in a podcast, naturally, to mention how we deal with sponsors, just saying like we choose to work with them. We don’t just take money from anybody, and this is because we truly trust and think that business is worth promoting, because you should know about this; you should know about their brand story, you should know more about the details. And that’s how we choose them. So I don’t always preface every single ad with “Here’s how we’re getting paid. Here’s the business dealings. And by the way, here’s the details about the business itself.” It’s a challenge. So I empathize to the nth degree with the challenge.

Yeah, thank you. I mean, you hit the nail on the head. A lot of people wonder, every video I release… And maybe it’s just me reading into stuff, but it’s tough. It’s like, do I want to spend like 45 seconds in the beginning disclosing exactly how this product came to my house? And I’m sure some people would be interested in that, but other people may not be. Plus, the algorithm… I mean, I have to deal with the algorithm on YouTube, too. So that’s tough, too. YouTube analyzes everything you say, and all the engagement with your stuff…

Is that right? They’re analyzing your words, too?

Oh, yeah. Everything. Everything plays into it. You could put a video out on YouTube with no title whatsoever, and YouTube already knows who your audience is, and who’s going to click on it… I mean, they’ll analyze the thumbnail too, but how much time do I want to spend talking about how I got this item? Well, if I do that in the first 30 seconds, people are going to click away. So that’s gonna drop off. So it’s like “Okay, the first 30 seconds of your video is to captivate the audience, not to talk about all your prerequisites, and stuff like that.”

So it’s tough. It’s tough. So if you see that checkbox, most of the time it means that I received at least one thing for free in this video to make the video, because that’s the FTC saying they have to do it, too. That’s Google basically saying “Hey, we have to do this for the FTC”, and so I have to check that checkbox if I received one thing for free.

I’ve heard a lot of people say “Oh, well, they didn’t give it to me for free. My money costs time, so this technically isn’t for free.” And I don’t want to play the game. I’m just going to check the checkbox almost every time… If something in my video was free, then I’m going to check the checkbox, because I never want the FTC or Google coming after me for not doing it.

Have you considered doing a video that explains the phrase they put up there, “Includes paid promotion?” Like, almost just do a whole standalone video that the title is “Includes pay for motion. This is how it works for me.”

I like it.

“Because you’re gonna see this on almost every video, and here’s why. And this is the path that things come to me. Sometimes I reach out to them, sometimes they reach out to me… Sometimes they just send things to me, and I don’t even know it’s coming… Whatever the methodology is. And when you see that thing up there, because I can’t avoid it - I’m forthcoming, I’m a genuine person, I play by the rules”, all the reasons you just basically stated. “When you see that, this is how my business here on YouTube kind of works. So that when you see that, this is how you can trust what I care about, and why things end up on my video.”

The Rackstuds - I bought mine. They didn’t send me any. And I heard about them from Tom Lawrence… And I like them. I think they’re pretty awesome. I didn’t see the one you’ve just mentioned before. I think those are brand new… Kind of cool. They don’t hold a ton of weight, so you can’t – I mean, I think you put your UPS on it, and it was a lighter version. Mine is 75 pounds, so it would not hold mine. And if it did, it would stress-test it and maybe break it. But those racks, those are pretty cool. I like them.

They are cool. They are super-cool. And I’m not gonna lie, I was a little skeptical about them. I thought “Well, cage nuts aren’t that hard to use.”

And there’s a plethora; they’re everywhere. There’s no shortage.

[01:16:06.06] Yeah, I like this thing that – I had stainless steel ones, and I was like “Yeah, they’re pretty cool and shiny”, and never have using them, seeing them on other channels, I thought “Well, I think cage nuts are fine.” And then this is exactly how it happened - I’m working on this video for this new rack… I think it’s the owner for Rackstuds reached out and said “Hey, I watch a ton of your videos. Give me your address, I want to send you some Rackstuds.” I said “Sure, why not.” And then I decided to use them for this… And I’m a believer in them now. It’s super-nice to be able to just – I don’t know, the new ones are awesome, because you just clip them in, and then you can put your device there and screw them in. But I also had to use the other ones, too. And I was surprised at how much weight they can hold. I’m surprised at how much weight and how steady they are. I will say, if you ever put a screwdriver to them, put it to it gently.

Yeah. I’ve only done it to get them off, because I would hand-tighten them too tight, and I’ve only had to use a screwdriver to get them off.

It’s never been to – like, I would just only hand-tighten. Because it’s plastic. I mean, it’s nylon of some sort, I’m sure. But it’s not metal, you know?

Yeah, yeah. They are pretty amazing at what they do. So the 22-pound UPS is as far as I’ve taken it. And this is a tiny little rack that I have behind me; it’s basically going to house a couple of things that I have coming up. Basically, studio stuff that’s going to be rack mounted.

Right. So you have, like – I don’t know the map of your house, but I think you have a basement, and I think your main rack is in your basement, because that’s what you’ve said…

That’s right.

Very colorful rack, you know… But you have a large – I think a 32U rack, which… That’s a lot of stuff. I think the 45Drives is probably for you… So you’ve got 28 to go from there. Maybe you’ve got a few switches, so maybe you’ve got down to 26… I mean, you’re not filling the whole thing, are you? The whole 32U rack. You’ve got a little bit of space left. Maybe like four or five U’s, something like that.

Yeah, I do. And I have a disc shelf in there that I’m selling now, and so yeah, things have evolved over time. I have some 1U servers in there… I even have an Intel NUC cluster in there… So yeah, things have definitely evolved.

What are you using that for?

My Intel NUC cluster?

Yeah. Is that your Kubernetes cluster then, that you’re deploying to? Or is it something else?

It was. So for a while it was for testing my Kubernetes. So I built this thing in Ansible, that’s open source, that helps you deploy a high-availability Kubernetes cluster, and that was my testbed for a long time. Funny you mentioned power and heat, and all this stuff we were just talking about… Well, we’re in a heatwave here in Minnesota. I mean, it’s really hot. I mean, we’re talking like it was 95 yesterday, 94 today, and I’ve been running these 1U servers in my basement, in my server rack for a while. And they get hot, they’re loud, and they use a lot of power. And I’ll preface it with they’re pretty efficient. I mean, they’re pulling 140 Watts each, which is pretty efficient compared to if you look at other things that are 200-300 Watts apiece. So they’re already pretty efficient, but I thought, “You know what, I wonder if I can run Proxmox on this intel NUC cluster and replace one to one?” Replace one 1U server running six to nine virtual machines, and move and migrate all of those virtual machines to one Intel NUC. And so I did it. And I did this, I want to say, a couple days ago. I was posting it on Twitter, basically; my almost live tweets.

And what I’ve found was I was able to migrate all of those virtual machines to an Intel NUC, and run them all there, and shut down my 1U server, and I went from 140 Watts to only 26 Watts. And running the same exact workload. And then so I was like “Okay, that worked out pretty well.” Like, it was like a non-event. So then it was like “Let’s migrate the other one.” I migrated the other one, nine virtual machines, to another Intel NUC, and it’s running. Same thing. It saved, I don’t know, around 100 Watts there.

So then I was like “Okay, well, I’m going to shut down my 1U servers, and maybe on Monday I’ll need them again, so I’ll keep it on standby.” Well, it is now Wednesday, and I haven’t needed to turn my 1U’s back on.

Yeah. So I’m running Proxmox on two Intel NUCs. It has one terabyte NVMe, and a 500-gig SSD for the OS. All my virtual machines are running in there, 64 gigs of RAM… You know, I was able to save a ton of power, and on top of that, things I didn’t realize - I’m also not using my A/C ur fans as much too, because now the temperature in my server room dropped by almost 10 degrees.


So then my fans are on less, so then my A/C is on less.

That’s insane. So two 1U servers was generating 10 degrees? That’s a lot. Wow.

Have you done the math on what that equates to, like kilowatts per month? I mean, you pay your power bill, and I’m like “Man…” My power bill goes up. And the A/C is the main user of that. And there’s even ways you can cool down your coils, and stuff like that… Because I live in Texas, so it’s always – like, it’s common to be… Well, it’s same temperature as you, Tim. 95 degrees outside. So there you go. Different parts of the world, but same temperature.

But yeah, have you calculated what that 100 Watts or 120 Watts equates to for the full month when you run that? Like how much you’ll save, or what the difference is kilowatts per hour?

No, I haven’t. So it’s a total of 200 Watts that I save, total, running 24/7. I haven’t calculated it out. I should. I probably will.

That’d be kind of cool.

Oh, yeah. For sure.

Like I said before, I never really thought about – I mean, obviously, I pay my power bills, so I think about power consumption… But I never really considered “Okay, as I’m being curious with homelab things, and as I choose this device…” You know, the Protectli stuff is low-power, fanless even, and so it’s got that grate (or whatever you call it) on top to sort of dissipate the heat, and whatnot. You don’t think about the consumption, and then really how that effects… Like, what if all the YouTubers in Minnesota did what you did, Tim? I’m just kidding, there’s probably not many of you up there. But what if everybody considered “How can I shave off 200 Watts of consumption 24/7?” That might reduce the stress on the power grid. I mean, these are all utilities; you flip a switch, the lights come on. You expect that. Like, what happens whenever we stress the system to the point – during insane heatwaves, or peak times in winters or summers, whenever it’s too cold or too hot… What if we all like consider a little bit that power consumption, in particular - like, 200 Watts is a lot, and 10 degrees in one room change by turning off two devices… That’s significant.

It is. So yeah, it had this compounding effect of less power, which - you know, those servers then generated less heat… And so I have an enclosed server, that enclosed server rack, and it has a temperature control unit… So as the heat would get past, I think, 87 degrees, it would kick on those fans… And so now that whole thing is no longer happening; it’s all being passively cooled. Well, passively from the rest of my house, but…

Yeah, it’s crazy to think about. I think about it more and more. When I first got into homelab, I thought I needed this huge, gigantic server… And it turns out very few things need a lot of compute. Like you mentioned earlier, it’s going to be compressing, or compiling, or transcoding… Other than that, most things run pretty okay on low-wattage processors.

Yes, yes. Well, I think we’re getting close to the length of – we’re beyond what I thought we would actually go in terms of timing. The only question I had left for you, and I think you may want to answer this, because you said that you wanted to talk about the other topic, which was the business of YouTube… What are your plans for the future? I mean, you do a great job with your content. I appreciate the journeys you take to create the content you do, because in a lot of ways you’re the recon; you’re the recon team, and I’m the follow-up team. I’m just watching what you’re doing. Some things I just learn from, like with the PiKVM. I don’t really leverage that really much. I don’t have a lot of headless things where I’ve got to deal with that. I SSH into most things I need to, so I don’t need a visual for almost anything really, unless I have to… And maybe then I’ll go back and watch it, and maybe implement a PiKVM, or something like that.

[01:24:15.05] Proxmox - you’ve helped me get into that, obviously, considering low-power consumption… But things like that. So what are the futures for you in terms of like the business of YouTube? Do you plan to grow a team? Do you have an editor? Will you build an empire? Will you be the next Linus? What’s going to happen? What do you want to do? What would be ideal for you?

Oh, that is a great question. I feel like I’m at those crossroads right now. So the last couple of weeks I decided to focus more on YouTube. I’ve had a full-time job outside of YouTube as a software engineer at this small startup for a long time… And since then, I’ve put less time in software engineering, and more time in YouTube. So I’m honestly trying to still find my way. I would love to find an editor at some point, only because editing takes a lot of time.

I’d love help with script-writing sometime. Everything I talk about are my own words, which - I always want my YouTube to be my own words, but it could use a little finesse sometimes, or it could use a little bit of help sometimes with some of my ideas.

I’m okay with it being a one-person show right now. It’s taught me a lot about how to write, how to produce, how to edit, how to do audio… All of these things I didn’t know about before. How to teach. I don’t want to say I’ve taught, but I’ve mentored people at work, and outside of work… And teaching people through video, through instructional material is a lot different. You know, zero feedback. Feedback is after the fact. And so it’s taught me a lot how to teach.

So I think these next six months are really just going to be focusing on, like you mentioned, the business of YouTube. I don’t necessarily want to grow an empire. I mean, I would love to have some help at some point, but I want to keep it authentic to me, and just be able to make this a sustainable business for myself, to be able to support my family doing this, and support doing what I love… And that’s combining tech and learning, and teaching too, and exposing people to new things. So yeah, if there’s an audience out there for that, I would just like to capture more of that.

Yeah. Well, in terms of feedback, since I am a watcher/listener - I don’t know what the heck they call a person who watches somebody’s YouTube videos… A consumer, or whatever. Subscriber? Maybe subscriber. Well, for a while there I think I didn’t even subscribe. The algorithm just would feed me your stuff, or other people’s stuff even. So you would be a watcher of somebody’s and not really recognize that you’re not a subscriber, which does impact how the algorithm treats your content… And there’s all sorts of things that play into that.

But in terms of some direct feedback on your writing, I think you did a great job. I think the way you open up your videos - you ask a question… I don’t know if it’s intentional fully, or how much you sort of like go back and re-examine the words you’ve written to scriptwrite your processes… I think your approach to it is really good. Your pace is good, your writing is good… So whenever you consider bringing somebody on for that, I would still do what you can to be the kind of primary writer, and not leverage too much from somebody else… Because I think your style is good already.

Thank you.

I do understand the burden that puts on you, because now you’ve got to be cognitively available for every piece of the process of building the thing. You’d mentioned before, in the pre-call, that you released a video today. And half the battle is doing the thing, and half the battle is releasing the thing, and being there for the distribution process, and the questions that come from there, and the attention that comes from that. And I totally get that.

We have a saying around here… Three things, actually. So kind of three pillars that kind of guide us. “Keep the main thing the main thing”, “Slow and steady wins”, and “If you feel like you’re going too fast, slow down and check yourself.” So whatever pace you feel is your pace… Just because you say “Slow and steady”, that doesn’t really mean slow. It just means a pace at which you can go steady. So you can be going really fast, but still be going slow and steady, because you’re at a steady pace.

[01:28:06.04] So pick your momentum… But if you feel like you’re not able to keep up, and the things that matter most to you, the main thing, “Keep the main thing the main thing” - if you’re losing your grip on that, slow down and check yourself. That’s the rudders and the levers we tend to pull, having done this for 14+ years, and making a living doing it. This year has been the most unique year of all years… But that’s our guiding principles, so to speak.

And then I think the last one is “Listeners first”, in our case, because we’re audio. So listener-first. Everything we do is based on the listener. If I don’t think they’re a brand - if it’s a promotional thing - that they should hear, I’m not going to work with them in any sort of business way. If it’s a piece of content, or a topic that we don’t feel the listener is going to engage in, or if how we speak - like I mentioned before, we remove the explicit tag off our shows for that reason. We want people to be in the car with their moms, their grandfathers, their kids, their dogs, whoever may get offended by offensive speech; you may not offend us, but you may offend somebody else, and we’re gonna do our best to curb that, so that we can hit the widest possible audience.

We always even say too, the hacker generation doesn’t begin at 20. They may begin at nine, or five, or whatever. My kids are really into that. I’ve got a seven-year-old. Would I want my show playing? Yeah, he listens to my show when I’m QA-ing it. He doesn’t always listen to it, but I’m happy to play my content as a QA process while I’m driving my truck, or car, or whatever, because I know that it’s safe. I know what the content is, and I want our listeners to have that same feeling. So listener-first, slow and steady, slow down and check yourself, keep the main thing the main thing.

I like it. Yeah, this is exactly what I needed… So I appreciate your advice.

Hey, yeah, I’m happy to be – not just come on our show, happy to be a friend. That feedback process is insanely challenging, even with our stuff. Only till a couple of years ago did we start doing certain things that sort of solicited to some degree, or invited that feedback process. I think sometimes when you do such a good job, like I think you do - you do a great job - you seem… Not that you’re not approachable, but that maybe you’re too cool. That you won’t say yes to coming on a rando homelab podcast. I didn’t think you would respond, honestly. I was like “Tim’s not gonna respond.” And you responded so graciously, pretty quickly. And the email has that auto reply, so that may turn some people off; and I have no idea why you do that, you may have your reasons, but… If you want feedback, you have to provide feedback mechanisms.

I watch a lot of your stuff, but I’m on zero of Twitch. So your live streams almost don’t exist to me. Maybe I’m missing out. I just don’t livestream with folks, ever, really, and I don’t know who – maybe it’s a thing with my age demographic or whatever, but I’ve just never done it with really anybody. And so I would just find ways – if you want that feedback, or that friendship, or that loop, so to speak, of not just you in the echo chamber, but you with, like, in the YouTube comments, find ways to recreate that somewhere else. But again, that’s even half the battle too, because now you’ve got maybe a Slack or a Discord you’ve got to manage; now you got one more self-hosted thing you’ve got to CI and test in Kubernetes, and all this good stuff… So at every layer, Tim, there’s just a new battle to consider how to win.

That’s right. That’s right. Yeah, I really appreciate it. All great advice.

Cool. What’s left? Anything left unsaid? Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you want to include here, right as we’re closing out this edition, this long edition of Changelog & Friends on homelabs?

You know, I don’t I don’t think so. I’m just super-appreciative of the time and sharing me with your community, and feeling like “Hey, Tim is someone I want to share with your community.” Because it means a lot. It means a lot to me. And I’m the same way, I don’t curse, so you don’t even have to say to me; I wouldn’t even have cursed anyway. I like to keep a safe and welcoming chat or dialogue with anyone, so that anyone can play me anywhere and not second-guess “Do I need to turn it down, or change the channel?”

Yes, “Will he say something wrong?” Super-quick… I watched this YouTuber, Sam the Cooking Guy. I don’t know if you cook, Tim, but my side hobby is backyard barbecue.

Oh, yeah.

I don’t love to cook, but I love to cook certain things. And I watch Sam the Cooking Guy.

Well, I love to eat.

Yeah, I love to eat. I love to eat good food. And so nobody’s making me good food… My wife makes me amazing food, but I don’t have a chef. I don’t have anything like that, so I’ve gotta be my own chef. Sam the Cooking Guy is amazing, but he is notorious for cussing. It’s a cooking show. It’s like Emeril, but way worse. Not on cable TV. But amazing food, amazing guy. I love his attitude, and I almost wouldn’t take Sam without the cursing, but I can’t watch Sam with my kids around. So I have to confirm when it’s safe for me to watch Sam the Cooking Guy. And if I do want them to watch some of the stuff he’s doing because it’s entertaining - well, I have to be like pre-watching it. So yeah, anyways…

But yeah… Tim, I appreciate the content you produce. Keep fighting the good fight, keep being curious like you are… Find a way to make it a sustainable business, and if you want a friend to help you along the way, I’d be happy to be that friend for you… But thank you so much for coming on here and just sharing your time and sharing your homelab journey, and some of the opinions you have. Thank you.

Thank you so much, Adam. I appreciate it.


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