Homelab Update: January 2021

New year, new equipment.

Over winter break I decided to do some updates/upgrades to my homelab setup. It’s nothing crazy like the guys over on /r/homelab but its something since I have to work around my parent’s space restrictions.


So I have had pfsense installed for a little bit over a year now and it’s been great but I wanted to include it here since this is my first post on my new website. Sometimes I forget I even have it since the internet just works. Currently, I have it running on a fitlet2 mini PC with a Celeron J3455, 4GB of DDR3L Ram, and a 32GB SSD. Specs may seem low but it handles my gigabit fiber internet with ease. I rarely see this thing get stressed when running back-to-back speed tests. On average, it sits anywhere between 1%-10% CPU usage with a peak around 35% when I ran iperf through it once. All this within very cool temps averaging around 45C with a high of 55C. I am very impressed with this device and have no issues trusting its reliability. It is very well built and is made to sustain harsher environments than my home (at least according to their documentation).

In terms of packages I have running I am using pfblockerNG which allows for me to block harmful sites and IPs from reaching my network. It also block any malicious IPs that devices at home may try to connect to. In addition, I have it some DNS blacklist feeds enabled which allow it to be used as an adblocker. I have removed home screen ads from our Roku devices, iPhones on Safari (and some apps too), as well as smart TVs in the house. Funny enough the Rokus are one of the most blocked devices with a lot of hits going to their analytics and advertising server. Amazing what a paid streaming device gets you in giving up your data.

The best part of this package is the fitlet2 is completely silent because its fanless. This makes a very nice package for those who want to get started with pfsense.

fitlet2 running pfsense with a Raspberry Pi in the background running OMV
pfsense specs
Low CPU usage and low temps make for a nice experience

Unifi AC Access Points:

I have been running a variety of Ubiquiti APs in my home from the AC Lites all the way to the nanoHDs. Currently, I am running with two nanoHDs and one AC LR.

The two nanoHDs are both Wave 2 access points meaning they offer faster throughput than that of “Wave 1” AC. The nanoHDs have a 5GHz 4×4 MU-MIMO (Multi-User Multiple Input, Multiple Output) antenna array which allows for its fast throughput. On the 2.4GHz side it uses a standard 2×2 MIMO setup. I mainly got these two for the 5GHz since that was the main selling point of these access points. I can say they live up to the hype and they can usually net me around 300-400 Mbps when I am two floors up on my ThinkPad T490 with an Intel 9560 card. Unfortunately, these are running of 80MHz for the channel width since with 160MHz there would be overlapping channels (and I don’t want to use DFS channels). Either way, throughput is still very good and I’d imagine with the WiFi 6 access point offerings out now speed would improve with some of the WiFi 6 clients I have.

The AP LR is mainly a legacy AP that I keep for 2.4GHz devices I have laying around or for devices out of range for optimal 5GHz operation. Notably, my dad’s Apple Watch will prefer 2.4GHz since it will be furthest away from the nanoHDs in a corner of the house. We also have an ancient iPod Touch 4G that only supports 2.4GHz. Surprisingly, it still runs (albeit only on connected to power) so its used as a music player on a dock.

I have the UniFi Network software set to disable 2.4GHz on the nanoHDs and leave 5GHz on while the opposite is true with the AC LR. I also have a mixed frequency SSID for most devices to connect to as well as a 5GHz only SSID for devices I want to only use 5GHz like my laptop or a Roku device.

Netgear 16 Port PoE Switch:

My dad recently got me a 16 port PoE switch to clear some of the clutter with having two 5 port switches and to reduce cable clutter by only using one ethernet cable per AP. There isn’t much to say about this switch since it is an unmanaged switch with 802.3af/at PoE support which a power budget of 183W. Only downside is it doesn’t power my AC LR since Ubiquiti decided they were too cool and made those early Gen 1 APs with 24v Passive PoE only. It wasn’t until later they added 802.3af PoE support to this model.

Raspberry Pi 4 Model B 4GB

So originally I used this as a Homebridge server for some smart devices but the main devices I wanted to control needed an Apple TV to remotely access out of my network. So I scrapped that idea and made it into an Open Media Vault NAS with a Samsung 860 EVO attached to it via USB3. It also functions as a way to facilitate the transfer of files from my iPhone to my Windows computers. The photos on this post were taken on my iPhone and transferred to my PC using OMV, no emailing or Airdropping photos required.

Using the Files iOS app to copy files to the OMV NAS
Those same files I transferred from my iPhone are now accessible on my PC

UniFi Cloud Key Gen2+

This is another piece of new tech I got this past winter break. It allows me to run the UniFi Network SDN and UniFi Protect app. Since Ubiquiti (much like other vendors) like proprietary solutions to keep you tied to them I was forced to buy this to use their G4 Doorbell (more on that below). It was a passively cooled device with a 1TB HDD for security footage to be recorded to. It works well for what it is but I did do a slight modification (that doesn’t void warranty).

Now, this is the SECOND Cloud Key that I have since the first one actually had a defective internal battery. Seems to be a common issue but the internal battery of these things which is supposed to help with graceful shutdowns actually either prematurely dies or swells up due to heat. Unfortunately, the first one I got had this issue where I assume the battery was swelled from sitting in the warehouse (it had a build date of May 2020 so its been sitting a while!). Luckily, Microcenter came in clutch and had this model in stock same day so I got another one there with a price match. The defective one has since been sent back for a refund to B&H Photo who by the way has pretty great customer service and took it back with no fees, no issues. Shout out to them.

Going back to the modification I made. It seems these little Cloud Keys get pretty warm. I only have one camera at the moment and running the UniFi Controller and my temps sit in the lower 50’s Celsius. I bought a $12 USB powered fan from Amazon and brought the operating temps from around 53C down to a cool 31C. This should hopefully prevent the battery from swelling from heat and also allow this device to run more reliably. I trust Ubiquiti’s design but this is easily the warmest device in my setup so I felt more comfortable cooling it.

120mm USB powered fan. Running at medium speed keeps the Cloud Key cool.

Cyberpower UPS Battery Backup

Nothing much to say about the UPS battery backup. The power in my house is pretty reliable but I’d rather not have to deal with my devices shutting off or any corruption that could happen with them with sudden power loss (the Cloud Keys are known for database corruptions). So this UPS keeps everything in the setup connected to a backup for temporary power. According to the screen, I can get around 2.5 to 3 hours of runtime which is very good considering I have everything in this setup connected. I bought this UPS from Costco. It has been serving all my devices and has kept them running in certain instances where the power surges or cuts in and out multiple times due to storms. I also have the USB plug into my pfsense machine and it will shut the pfsense machine down automatically when the battery reaches a critical level.

UPS protecting my devices