Which OS to run a NAS
Before setting up the NAS, I had to decide which OS I would use to run it. This wasn’t easy because the video card required a very recent kernel to work. Also, I wanted to use a Copy-on-Write file system such as Btrfs or ZFS to allow daily snapshots and ease of maintenance.
My previous NAS was running FreeBSD, so the migration would have been easy. However, the FreeBSD kernel did not support the video card, which made Kodi very slow.
After trying FreeBSD, I decided to try one of the oldest Linux distribution. But at the time, the kernel distributed in the stable release was too old and did not contain the video card driver either.
Being a rolling release, Arch has the advantage to always deliver the latest software. The first advantage was that I could get the latest Kernel, which contained a working driver for my video card.
Gentoo is currently my desktop distribution. It uses OpenRC instead of systemd, which respect a lot more the Unix philosophy: Do One Thing and Do It Well. However, you need to compile any package that you install, which makes it a lot more difficult to maintain.
I am considering migrating my server to Alpine at some point. As Gentoo, it uses OpenRC. Also, it is minimalist, secure by default and allows to easilly mix and update binary and source based packages.
Why not use one of the popular NAS distribution like FreeNAS or NAS4Free?
As a power user, I like having full control over my server, so I prefer to use a minimalist distribution on which I can build my system as I want and install whatever I want.
What about other popular Linux distributions?
I did not mention CentOS, Ubuntu or many other distributions. Actually, the choice of the distribution is not critical and any Unix system would be perfectly suitable. My advice is to pick whichever distribution you are comfortable with, keeping in mind that you need something reliable enough so that you don’t lose your data.
The setup shown in this post will allow you to easily install several distributions alongside, so the choice of the OS is not definitive. I actually installed 3 of the OS discussed in this article before settling for ArchLinux. Also, I plan on migrating to Alpine, mainly because it doesn’t use systemd.