Two Weeks Using The Jellyfin Streaming Media System

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I am not sure how to write this blog post without implicating myself in any shady, nefarious, or illegal activities. I will do my best.

I used to rip my own DVD media, then eventually Blu-Ray media. I had a pretty sizable collection. An old blog post indicates that I had five 1 TB hard disks in my arcade cabinet configured in RAID 6. That was back in 2010. It wasn’t too many years later before Netflix and friends made storing so much media obsolete.

Jellyfin under Proxmox

Things in the streaming world are getting tricky again. A lot of people are complaining about the costs of subscribing to so many services, but our large number of streaming subscriptions are still cheaper than my cable bill was in 2002, and we are able to share some of these accounts with friends and family.

What got me thinking about once again sailing the seas of sketchy TV and movie downloads is Amazon. I was three or four seasons deep into watching Northern Exposure when Amazon enabled ads in Prime video streaming. I made it through the third ad before I stopped watching.

For historical reasons, the Amazon account on our living-room TV isn’t mine. It is the account that all of our grandfathered-in Prime shipping nonsense is tied to. I didn’t have the foggiest idea of how to pay Amazon to stop showing me ads at three in the morning, so I just moved on to other shows on other services.

This happened close enough to my migration from my old homelab server to a new N100 mini PC running Proxmox. There’s a handy set of Proxmox helper scripts for installing all sorts of things, and one of those scripts sets up a Jellyfin server in an LXC container. This seemed like a good excuse for hedging my video-streaming bets!

The Jellyfin helper-script installer for Proxmox is fantastic

If you install Jellyfin in a virtual machine, then you need to pass your GPU through to that virtual machine to take advantage of hardware transcoding acceleration. You only get to pass your consumer-grade GPU through to one virtual machine, and that seems like a bummer.

You can share the host GPU with as many LXC containers as you like, and the Proxmox helper script will detect whether you have an Intel, AMD, or Nvidia GPU, it will install the correct libraries to work with your GPU, and it will correctly configure the permissions on your container so that Jellyfin can make use of the GPU.

There really is nothing to it.

My tiny Intel N100 GPU can transcode 1080p HEVC video to 1080p h.264 at 270 frames per second, and it can transcode 2160p 10-bit HEVC video to 2160p at around 75 frames per second.

This is challenging to benchmark, because playing back either of those videos with transcoding enabled does not max out the GPU. When I play a second video stream, GPU utilization rises from around 50% to about 75%. I am pretty confident that this N100 could manage to transcode at least four of those 2160p 10-bit videos at the same time.

The encoding preset in Jellyfin’s server settings is set to auto. I tried adjusting it to the fastest preset, called ultrafast, and transcoding went at the same pace as auto, so my little N100 is already squeezing as already trading as much quality for performance as is possible. The bit rates are high enough that I haven’t noticed any encoding artifacts.

The Tailscale helper script is fantastic!

One of the Proxmox helper scripts not only installs Tailscale in your LXC container, but it also configures the permissions of the container to allow Tailscale to work. That second part is amazing, because I have manually installed two LXC containers since setting up Proxmox, and both times I forgot that I had to make configuration changes to get Tailscale to work.

My phone and tablet have no problem connecting to my Jellyfin server from outside my network, and thanks to Tailscale, I didn’t have to expose my Jellyfin server to the entire world.

My Chromecast with Google TV 4K devices don’t need transcoding

They have been able to play back every weird file I have downloaded directly with no transcoding of the video or audio. That includes the 2160p 10-bit HEVC movie.

This is where I ran into my first Jellyfin bug, and I really don’t understand what is actually happening. That 10-bit movie looks like it has a flat color profile when played in my living room. I am told that you need to enable tone mapping when playing back HDR video on a non-HDR TV.

AI Dwight Rider

It fails to play if I enable tone mapping on the server. If I set the Android TV Jellyfin client to a bitrate other than auto, the colors appear more vibrant. I can only assume the colors now look correct, but I don’t have another identical video to compare to.

I assumed forcing a maximum bitrate would force the video to transcode, and I figured this might be why the tone mapping was working. This is not the case!

The video looks the same whether I enable or disable tone mapping on the server, and the video is STILL PLAYING DIRECT. There isn’t any significant CPU or GPU usage on the server, the dashboard says it is playing direct, and the colors do look correct.

I think this is pretty weird, but all things considered, it is a rather minor glitch.

I have a 1080p Chromecast with Google TV in my office. I haven’t tested it as heavily, but it does seem to play back all my 1080p HEVC video without transcoding. If I had known I would be installing Jellyfin, I would have spent the extra $20 on the 4K model even though the ancient 43” TV in my home office is only 1080p!

NOTE: The Chromecast HD regularly goes on sale for $19.99, and the Chromecast 4K regularly goes on sale for $39.99.

Sometimes my Android TV device gets stuck dropping frames

I may as well mention my only other glitch just to get it out of the way. Sometimes after playing for 10 or 15 minutes, some of my video streams will start dropping frames. The Jellyfin app on my Chromecast doesn’t give me the tools to see what is going on, but it sure looks like it is only playing half the frames.

It almost feels like the Chromecast is falling behind then playing frames faster than it should to catch up, but that can’t be the case, because Jellyfin is setting the TV to 24 Hz and the videos are 24 frames per second. There’s no room there to play anything but the correct frames.

It happened consistently with one set of videos. The 2160p 10-bit movie had zero issues. The 1080p AI upscaled Star Trek episodes only seem to have this problem on occasion after I fast forward past the theme song.

The glitch is easily corrected by backing out of the video and resuming. This may not be perfect, but it isn’t a deal breaker for me. It would be supremely annoying if Jellyfin were my only video service.

Alldocube iPlay Mini 50 playing games

The first time I saw this happen, I reconnected to my Jellyfin server via the local IP address instead of the server’s Tailscale IP address. I know the extra layer of encryption is a lot of work for the Chromecast. I am pretty sure Tailscale can only push data at 20 or 30 megabits per second on the Chromecast, and that may have been a bottleneck for my video files. I didn’t do the math to verify that, but disabling Tailscale didn’t improve the situation.

There are a couple of potentially relevant bugs already listed in Jellyfin’s bug tracker. I assume it is being worked on as we speak, and this probably may be solved in the next few releases.

This is only a problem with my Chromecasts. I haven’t seen this sort of frame dropping on my Android phone, low-end Android tablet, or my computers. My choices seem to be to replace the Chromecasts, wait until Jellyfin solves the problem, or put up with the occasional glitch. I don’t expect Jellyfin to occupy more than 5% of our streaming time, so I am happy for now to just wait and see what happens.

There are things you can download that you can’t pay to stream legitimately!

I am a Star Trek fan. I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation while it was originally airing, and I used to catch two reruns of the original Star Trek on our local PBS station every Saturday night. It is exciting that the studio spent millions of dollars scanning the original film from The Next Generation, redoing most of the special effects, and turning that into an amazing 4K version of what I have only ever seen in broadcast quality.

It is my understanding that they didn’t make their money back, so I don’t expect that they will ever do the same thing with Deep Space Nine or Voyager. The community has picked up some slack here, though, because there are AI upscaled versions of these shows available.

Tom Paris Cyclops Voyager AI Upscale

The upscaling doesn’t always come out perfect. When there isn’t enough information to work with, it might turn Tom Paris into a Constable Odo cosplaying as a cyclops!

I have watched the first season of one of the upscaled copies of Star Trek: Voyager. It isn’t perfect, but I did compare a few frames to what is currently streaming on Paramount+. All the title cards in the upscale are more crisp, everyone’s hair looks slightly better, and the colors a just a little more vibrant.

I never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the official 4K release is supposed to be quite awful. Some scenes that have been expanded to widescreen have camera and lighting equipment in frame. Some scenes have been cropped instead of expanded, so the top or bottom of the scene is gone. It also sounds like the color grading is quite weird.

The community upscale of Buffy is supposed to be amazing! It is in the original aspect ratio, the color grade tries to match what was originally broadcast, but it is as cleanly upscaled to 4K as they could manage. That sounds fantastic!

There are shows that just aren’t streaming anywhere!

I won’t say that these are classic shows, but I have collected some of my childhood memories that just aren’t available to stream anywhere: Automan, Manimal, and Misfits of Science. They were all available at!

Best of the 1980s

This is enough of an excuse for me to keep a Jellyfin server up and running!

Why not run Plex?

Plex started to look more than a little sketchy when they were accidentally sharing people’s recently watched video list to their friends. I imagine most Plex users have a giant collection of illegally obtained movies and TV shows. Just the fact that Plex is collecting data about what you store and watch is unacceptable.

Even ignoring that, I would have tried Jellyfin because Jellyfin is open source. I try to avoid commercial software as much as I can. I like knowing that the terms and conditions won’t randomly change, and that I won’t have the rug pulled out from under me.


I knew I didn’t have a ton to say about sketchy downloads, ripping media, and running Jellyfin, but I wanted to write this stuff down anyway! I am no longer any sort of expert on at-home video streaming, playback, or media collecting. I definitely wouldn’t fit in well over at r/DataHoarders!

I am excited to have learned that my little N100 server is more than capable of feeding all our screens at the same time, even if most of those devices happen to require transcoding. I am excited that I get to watch things that aren’t available on any of my streaming services, and it is really nice knowing that we will have some extra entertainment available next time our Internet connection goes down.

What do you think? Have you tried Jellyfin? Do you prefer Plex? Do you have a big old media collection at home? Or are you interested in dipping your toe in the water like I was? Let me know in the comments, or stop by the Butter, What?! Discord server to chat with me about it!

Tips For Building a More Power Efficient Homelab or NAS

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I don’t know about you, but I grew up n a house with incandescent light bulbs. In those dark days, we had multiple 60-watt light bulbs in every room. Not 60-watt equivalent bulbs, but bulbs that actually consumed 60 watts of electricity, and they really weren’t all that bright! We were using the most advanced technology available at the local K-Mart.

Stable Diffusion AI Electrician

My entire homelab and home-network setup uses less energy than one of those light bulbs. At least, I think it does. I have never measured the power consumption of my two extra WiFi access points around the house! I probably squeak in at just under 60 watts even if we count those, but it is possible I am going over by a couple of watts!

I doubt that all of the tips in this blog will apply to your particular home-server setup, but I suspect at least one or two could be useful for you!

Use fewer hard disks!

This might be some sort of a conundrum.

Larger hard disks tend to cost more per terabyte, but each hard additional disk will increase your electricity bill. Even though power is rather cheap here in Texas, each 5400-RPM 3.5” hard drive running for five years will cost me around $45. That will wipe out any savings I might see from buying two 10-TB drives instead of a single 20-TB drive.

There are a lot of places where electricity costs two or even three times as much. It would probably be a no-brainer to buy the biggest disks available in San Francisco or somewhere in Germany!

You are probably running a RAID on your NAS, so some of your storage is being used as parity. If you have a 3-disk RAID 5 or RAID-Z1, then 33% of your capacity is devoted to parity. If you have a 6-disk RAID 5 or RAID-Z1, then only 17% of your total capacity will be parity data. When you look at from this angle, there is a big advantage to using as many smaller disks as you can.

You might need to do some math to figure out what makes the most sense for your situation.

I don’t use RAID with mechanical disks anymore. I have less than 10 terabytes of data to store, and that doesn’t grow by much more than 1 terabyte each year. I am fortunate because the largest available hard disks are getting bigger even faster than my data is growing.

I have three large mechanical hard drives. One is in my workstation, one is attached to my N100 homelab server, and one is attached to a Raspberry Pi over at Brian Moses’s house. All my data starts syncing within 30 seconds of being saved, and it gets replicated between those three machines as fast as my network will allow.

It is not entirely unlike having a 3-way mirror spread over five miles. It is now cheap to attach a mini PC to every large hard disk, and I have the minimum number of disks to maintain three separate copies. I think I might be doing a good job here, but I wouldn’t mind having one more backup copy!

Run fewer servers! Even if they’re not as efficient!

There was a time when your company would have had a room full of specialized servers. The database servers would have been pushing their disks as hard as they could go, but probably had lots of idle CPU power and network bandwidth. Your file servers would have been maxing out their network ports, but they had plenty of CPU power and disk bandwidth being underutilized.

Even ignoring that server hardware costs money, every server you run pays a tax just by being powered on. If you have a busy datacenter, and you can somehow squeeze multiple services with different bottlenecks onto the same hardware, you can save a lot of money. The same can be true in your homelab.

My little N100 mini PC with its 14-terabyte USB hard disk uses about 20 watts of electricity. If I fill that machine up with as much RAM as it will hold, and I fill that meager 32 gigabytes of RAM up to the brim with virtual machines, then I might have to buy a second mini PC to run even more virtual machines. At that point, I will be up at 40 watts.

One of our friends in Discord has a Ryzen 5600G machine in his homelab. If you subtract out the watts from his short stack of 3.5” hard disks, his Ryzen server averages around 25 to 30 watts. His Ryzen 5600G is three times as fast and can hold four times as much RAM as my N100 mini PC.

NOTE: I would trust my math, the measurements, and my memory more if I personally tested the Ryzen 5600G build. It should be accurate enough for demonstration purposes!

I am doing way better as long as I only need one mini PC, but the scales tip into his favor if I outgrow my little machine. Not only that, but his build would idle about the same even with a beefier CPU.

I am in no danger of outgrowing my N100 mini PC.

Don’t scale up too far!

This could be a 2,500-word blog post all by itself. Buying single, bigger, faster machines is a really good value right up until it isn’t! At some point you will save more money by scaling out.

For every generation of Ryzen CPU so far, it has been about the same price or a little bit cheaper to build two 8-core machines instead of one 16-core machine, and that usually includes loading each 8-core machine with as much RAM as the single 16-core machine.

The 16-core Ryzen machines are not twice as fast as an 8-core. They’re both have the same size memory bus, so the bigger chip is usually fighting hard to keep busy. A 16-core Ryzen 5950X is roughly twice as fast as a 6-core Ryzen 5600.

Tune your CPU governor

The more powerful your CPU, the more this will help. I wrote a lot of words about experimenting with the conservative CPU governor on my ancient, power-hungry FX-8350 build. That CPU could pull an extra 200 watts out of the wall when it would spin up to full speed. Anything that made the CPU spin up prematurely incurred a pretty big efficiency penalty, so tuning the governor helped quite a bit here!

I focused on Tailscale while tuning all the various knobs. I wanted to make sure that the CPU would spin up to the maximum during a long data transfer, but it didn’t need to ramp up much at all for something that would finish in two or three seconds. I wound up setting the up_threshold for the governor just high enough to make sure I would hit full speed after around 10 seconds of sustained maximum CPU utilization.

My new N100 mini PC homelab server is on the exact opposite end of the spectrum. The difference between absolute 100% CPU utilization at maximum clock speeds compared to idling at the lowest clock speed is only 12 watts. Occasional short spikes that use an extra 12 watts add up to almost nothing.

The bigger the gap between your CPU’s idle power consumption and it’s full-tilt consumption, the bigger an impact the CPU governor can have. Tuning the governor on my FX-8350 had almost zero impact on apparent performance, but it saved me almost as much power as my new N100 homelab box consumes each day.

Choosing power-efficient peripherals

It is easy to make good macro-level choices in your NAS or homelab build. It is pretty obvious that a mobile N100 CPU will use less electricity than a 96-core AMD EPYC server CPU, and all 3.5” mechanical hard disks are all pretty similar as long as they are spinning at the same RPM.

Matt Gadient did a lot of work testing components to push his home server power consumption to the limits. He even went as far as disabling the keyboard to save an extra watt. He also tested multiple SATA cards with different chipsets, and he even learned that these cards used different amounts of power when plugged into 4x and 16x PCIe slots.

Trying out multiple SATA cards would be both time consuming and somewhat costly. Sure, the cards don’t actually cost that much, but buying extra PCIe cards that might wind up in a box in the closet might wipe out any potentials savings you will see on your electric bill!

Should you buy a more efficient power supply?

You should do the math to verify this, but the best power supply to use is the one you already have. The most efficient power supplies aren’t THAT much more efficient than the worst power supplies. You already spent $40 to $80 or so on the PSU that you already own, and you’d have to spend another $50 to $100 to buy something more efficient. You will never make up the difference on your electric bill.

You will see a bunch of 80 PLUS ratings for power supplies. The fancier the metal used in the name, the more efficient the power supply will be. The trouble is that these power supplies are most efficient at 50% load, and the graphs you will usually find for these power curves don’t even go show you the efficiency below 20% load.

There is a very good chance your home server spends most of its day closer to 5% of you power supply’s maximum load. Pretty much every power supply is inefficient when it is barely utilized.

Let’s put this into perspective with some questionable math. If your server is idling at 30 watts with an 80% efficient power supply, and you upgrade to a 90% efficient power supply, then your server will idle at about 27 watts. That would save one kilowatt hour every two weeks. That is less than $4 per year where I live.

You might be able to make some significant gains here if you are able to use a PicoPSU matched with an efficient GaN power supply, but either half of that combination costs as much as or more than a regular PC power supply. I suspect you would wipe out any monetary savings even in a region with extreme electricity costs.

If you can get your hard disks to go to sleep, that can save a ton of power!

This is tricky. The first problem is that parking the heads to sleep and spinning the motors up and down causes extra wear and tear on the hard drive. This isn’t as big of a problem as it was 15 years ago, but it still isn’t exactly fantastic.

If your hard drives are only spinning up and down three or four times each day, that’s great. If they are spinning up and down a dozen times an hour, then you may wind up wasting all the money you saved on your electric bill replacing dead hard drives.

The other problem is that it is challenging to gets hard disks to spin down using any traditional RAID setup. You could probably do a good job here if you use Unraid, but if you’re using Linux’s mdadm RAID or ZFS, this isn’t something you will be able to do a good job of optimizing.

I tried pretty hard to tune lvmcache to the extreme to keep my old homelab server’s RAID 10 from spinning up, but it didn’t work out nearly as well as I had hoped.

You are paying a power tax as soon as you boot your first virtual machine

This has gotten way better over the years. In ancient times, booting the most basic and barebones virtual machine on your laptop would absolutely demolish your battery life. Just having a virtual machine idling along still has an impact today, but it isn’t as quite as bad.

I am looking at my notes on my N100 mini PC, and I am not confident in how I was notating things the first few days that I was testing. I hope this is correct, because I don’t have an easy way to retest any of this today!

Proxmox summary on my N100 Mini PC

It looks like my mini PC averaged 9 watts of power consumption with Proxmox installed but no virtual machines or containers installed. That goes up to 12 watts as soon as I booted a couple of completely idle virtual machines. Three watts doesn’t feel like much, but that is an extra 33%!

You sort of only pay this idling tax on the first virtual machine. Sure, every virtual machine you boot will be running a kernel that will be waking up the CPU a few hundred times each second, and adding more machines will make it even harder for the CPU to reach and stay in its deeper sleep states. Even so, you pay the biggest penalty booting that first virtual machine. More mostly idle virtual machines are not a big deal.

You won’t be able to prevent this. It is just something to keep in mind when comparing your NAS build to a friend’s NAS build. If you are running a handful of virtual machines, but they are just sharing files, then this may very well be the reason you’re burning an extra 10 or 15 watts!

Too much cooling can add up to quite a bit of power!

My anecdote on this topic is about the time I pulled two unnecessary 120-mm case fans out of my old homelab box. These were plugged directly into 12-volt power, so they were spinning at full speed, which means they were using as much power as they could.

Those two fans were using 6 watts all day long. My N100 mini PC idled at between 6 and 7 watts before I installed any virtual machines.

My Promox N100 Mini PC from CWWK

This little guy has FIVE NVMe slots!

If you built your own homelab server using consumer-grade parts, then I don’t expect you will be able to save 6 watts, but I bet dialing back your fan curves could make a small impact.

I suspect this could have a bigger impact if you are using older rack-mount server hardware. Especially with the high-pressure fans in 1U and 2U servers!

You CPU doesn’t need to be ice cold. It will run just as well at 30C as it will at 85C. There might be a few dollars to save if you aren’t trying to over cool your servers.

Rack-mount network gear is usually a power hog!

This isn’t always true. You should always check the specs, but it is true the majority of the time. Especially if you’re buying used enterprise gear on eBay.

I prefer my home network gear to be small, relatively low power, and fanless. The heart of my home network lives in my network cupboard. I helped Brian Moses build out that cupboard in 2011, and we picked out a pair of small 8-port gigabit Ethernet switches. I bought the house from Brian six years ago, and those same two switches are still chugging along.

My Network Cupboard

I don’t remember what I might have been troubleshooting when I left that long blue patch cable in there, but I am not using it any longer!

Devices have fans when they tend to generate a lot of heat. Devices generate heat because they use a lot of electricity. Not only that, but fans tend to fail when they run 24 hours every day for a decade. I expect my fanless gigabit Ethernet switches will still be able to do their job a decade from now, but they will likely be replaced with fanless 2.5 gigabit Ethernet switches before then!

The pair of old switches and the Linksys WRT3200ACM running OpenWRT handles my symmetric gigabit fiber Internet connection consume a combined total of 18.75 watts. That includes any small overheard from the small APC 425VA UPS. There isn’t a single fan in to be found in the cupboard.

I may be saving twice as much money as I think I am!

I am sitting in Plano, Texas. We run the air conditioning nine months out of the year. Every watt that goes into my computers turns into heat, and I have to spend even more watts powering the air conditioner to pull that additional heat back out of the house.

The heat used to be a more direct problem for me. In our old apartment, my home office was on the second floor, and heat rises. I was on the south-facing side of the building, so I got a lot of heat from the sun. I also had one of the weakest vents in the apartment.

My home office would get quite toasty on July afternoons whenever I fired up Team Fortress 2. Any watt not being spent in my office was a watt not making me warmer!

But Pat! I need a cluster of mini PCs for educational purposes!

You should think about using virtual machines for testing purposes even if electricity isn’t a consideration.

You can run nested virtual machines, so you could build up a Proxmox test environment on your Proxmox server. You can set up three or four Proxmox virtual machines and treat them as if they were physical boxes. You can cut the virtual power cord to test what happens when a node fails. You can disable network interfaces to simulate pulling patch cables out of the wall. You can write junk data to one of the virtual disks to see what happens when a disk goes sideways.

My N100 Proxmox server next to Brian Moses's N5095 Beelink TrueNAS server

You could build a Kubernetes cluster using a stack of virtual machines on a single Proxmox host. You could build some sort of virtual Docker cluster. You can build whatever you want on a single host as long as it has enough RAM.

One of the biggest advantages to using a single, big virtual machine host to test your clustering skills is that you can always add one more node to your cluster for free. If you buy three mini PCs, then you have three mini PCs. If you want to add a fourth node, you will have to buy a fourth mini PC.

This setup would be to help you learn things. It doesn’t matter if your three-node Proxmox cluster has that single point of failure that can take the whole thing down. You aren’t trying to run a big company’s IT department. You are running a test cluster.


There is some low-hanging fruit here that is definitely worth picking, especially if your new home server will be running every hour of every day for the next five years. You just have to figure out where to draw the line.

Stable Diffusion Tie Guy in the Server Room

Maybe you enjoy squeezing every ounce of efficiency out of your setup as you can. If you are having fun, then keep going! If you are only trying to save a few bucks, just remember that your time isn’t free. If it takes you five hours to save $20 per year on your electric bill, then that might not be enough savings to justify the time spent, and maybe you should have spent that time doing something fun! Only you can figure out the balance.

What does your homelab look like? Do you have a full 42U rack full of beefy servers and enterprise-grade network gear? Do you have a tight little cluster of mini PCs? Or maybe you are just using an old workstation packed full of extra hard disks and RAM?! Tell me about your homelab in the comments, or stop by the Butter, What?! Discord server to chat with me about it!

How Efficient Is The Most Power-Efficient NAS?

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If you came here looking for a parts list for an extremely power-efficient NAS build, you are probably in the wrong place. I have just been running tests on my own N100 homelab server using a power meter, and what I learned encouraged me to peek at some data for other machines I have. I also asked a few friends how their setups were working out to see where most people are landing.

We are going to attempt to do here is decide what we think qualifies as a power-efficient NAS. I just want you to be able to figure out whether or not you’re already doing a good job, and whether or not it is worth spending time and effort to make your homelab setup more power efficient.

I have been using a Tasmota smart plug to measure my CWWK N100 mini PC homelab server and its Western Digital 14 TB USB hard disk in various configurations: idle, maxed out, maxed out but with various CPU frequency restrictions, with the hard disk on the meter, and just the hard disk by itself. I have been running tests in each of these configurations over 24 hours periods to get a nice, long, smooth average.

Stable Diffusion Guy Metering Power

The result that surprised me was the USB hard disk. We are always telling people to assume that each hard disk will use somewhere between 6 and 8 watts, and to make sure you have about 10 watts of power-supply capacity for each disk.

My meter read 0.157 kWh while measuring the 14 terabyte hard disk for five consecutive 24-hour periods. It isn’t surprising that this works out to an average of 6.8 watts, but it did surprise me that it is hitting the exact same target over and over again!

Let’s just call that 7 watts for today’s purposes. It is fun that this is pretty close to a 60-watt equivalent LED light bulb!

A new unit of measurement for the power consumption of your NAS?!

This made the gears in my head start spinning. If we are going to think about how efficient our storage servers are, why not think about it in relation to the power consumption of the disks?

My N100 mini PC averages 14 watts, so my NAS’s compute uses the same amount of juice as a pair of 3.5” hard disks. I only have one hard drive plugged in, so that means my NAS requires three hard drives’ worth of electricity to provide one hard drive of storage.

N100 Mini PC Proxmox Servers are taking over the world!

In absolute terms, I think I am doing pretty well!

I don’t want to dox anyone, but a friend of ours on the Butter, What?! Discord server has a server with four 3.5” disks and a few NVMe drives built around a Ryzen 5600G. He tells us his average is a little over 50 watts. Those four hard disks are probably using 28 watts. That leaves 27 watts for everything else.

I think our friend is doing just fine there. His server is using around four disks’ worth of power for the compute, and his compute-to-disk power ratio is leaning in a better direction than my own.

What qualifies as amazing power efficiency for a NAS?

Matt Gadient got his home server down to 7 watts at idle with all the disks asleep. Matt put in a ton of hard work. He tried multiple SATA chipsets. He even disabled the keyboard. I think this qualifies as extremely efficient, because his compute is only using the equivalent power of a single mechanical hard disk.

My CWWK N100 mini PC server uses twice as much power, but I measured my server with five virtual machines booted up. I did check the power draw right after Proxmox was installed, and it bounced between 6 and 7 watts, so I could potentially reach Matt’s level here, but my server’s job is to run a handful of virtual machines, so I can’t just shut those machines down!

N100 Mini PC Proxmox Host Data in Home Assistant

A normal day vs. constant 100% CPU utilization

I believe that seeing my compute draw only as much power as two mechanical disks still counts as efficient. Especially since I have five important virtual machines either doing basic work or waiting to do important work!

We can also see that Brian Moses’s 2023 DIY NAS build seems to be in the same range as our friend’s Ryzen 5600G server, averaging around three disks’ worth of power for its compute.

In my opinion, if you are at or below two or three disks’ worth of power consumption on average for your compute, then I think you are doing a good job!

I keep using the word compute, but that is a bit of a lie!

I am using the word compute to mean everything but the mechanical disks. This isn’t exactly accurate.

There are a lot of things in your server that use electricity besides the CPU and the disks. Every chip on the motherboard is going to be using some power. The faster or older your network ports are, the more juice they are going to use. It isn’t uncommon to find slightly older 10-gigabit Ethernet cards that eat 10 or 20 watts on their own!

Not all of these things would technically qualify as compute, but when we are specifically talking about storage servers, it feels reasonable to overload the term a bit. There’s the disks, and then there’s everything else.

The theoretical limit!

I have had a Raspberry Pi 4 and a 14 terabyte USB hard disk running over at Brian Moses’s house for just over three years now. I don’t have a power meter on it, but all my recent measurements have had me curious, so I plugged my comparable Pi-KVM hardware into a smart plug, and I took some readings.

I did not let this Raspberry Pi 4 run for 24 hours, so my data here isn’t as accurate as it is for my CWWK N100 mini PC. My meter was spending most of its time reading 3 watts with occasional bounces up to 4 watts. This agrees with the 3.5 watts at idle that I kept seeing pop up for the Pi on the Internet, and I don’t need a ton of accuracy to say the the Pi uses roughly half as much juice as a single 3.5” hard disk.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some Raspberry Pi Zero competitor that can do a bit better. Even so, I think it is reasonable enough to say that this is just about as efficient as we are likely to get.

Don’t buy new hardware without doing some math!

My new homelab server is an Intel Celeron N100 mini PC. This replaced an old AMD FX-8350 build. The bulk storage for both servers is the same exact USB hard disk—I just moved it from one machine to the other when I migrated the NAS virtual machine to the new Proxmox hardware.

My new setup uses 0.5 kWh each day, while the old setup used 1.9 kWh each day. Where I live, that 1.4 kWh difference in electricity between the two servers every day should add up to around $60 per year in savings. It is going to take four or five years before my new server pays for itself by reducing my electric bill.

N100 Mini PC Power Metering with Tasmota

The N100 and FX-8350 processors don’t have identical performance, but they’re a fairly close match in so many ways. I have been crunching these numbers for years, and this is the first time that a mini PC was available with both comparable performance to my old homelab box and that could pay for itself in less than a decade.

The best home server is almost always the one that you already own. You will have to do the math to know for sure!


How you want to use this information to determine whether you are doing a good job is up to you. You know that my NAS has a single 14-tb hard disk and averages 20 watts. Would you say that I am at 20 watts per drive? Maybe you would say that I am at 1.5 watts per terabyte!

The important thing for me is that my combined NAS and homelab server uses about as much power as a big LED light bulb, it has more CPU and RAM that I currently need, and it has enough storage to meet my needs for the next three or four years.

How is your storage server doing? Are you on the small side like I am? Do you have a giant 15-disk RAID 6 in a rack? Or are you somewhere in between? Did reading this make you feel better or worse about your power consumption? Tell me about it in the comments, or stop by the Butter, What?! Discord server to chat with me about it!

The Sovol Comgrow T300 Only LOOKS Like a Bambu A1

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I am excited about the Sovol Comgrow T300. I don’t think I would ever pay $550 for this printer, but its print volume is at least 44 mm bigger in every direction. If the T300 lives up to its spec sheet, then it is probably an amazing printer if you actually really do need that extra print volume.

The T300 is obviously designed to make you think it is every bit as amazing as the Bambu A1 or A1 Mini. It isn’t even close. Almost all of the magic that makes the A1 an amazing printer is in the toolhead: fully automatic strain-sensor bed leveling, automatic filament flow control, air-printing and tangle detection, and 30-second nozzle swaps.

Stable Diffusion 3D Printer Guy

Much of the rest of what makes Bambu’s printers so awesome is their attention to detail in your printing workflow. They have meticulously tuned slicing profiles. Bambu printers will give you fast, beautiful prints out of the box with zero effort. We haven’t seen anything remotely close from Sovol yet.

Real linear rails aren’t what make the Bambu A1 an amazing printer

The linear rails are a nice upgrade, and they sure do make the Comgrow T300 superficially resemble a Bambu A1, but those rails aren’t the upgrade that made the Bambu A1 so awesome.

The T300 is using an induction bed-leveling probe. Don’t get me wrong. These work great. They were the most exciting thing that the Prusa MK2 brought to the table in 2016. The trouble is that they require you to be knowledgeable, and they require manual tuning from time to time.

Bambu A1 Mini

I paid for the whole build plate, so I am using the whole build plate!

I haven’t used my Sovol SV06 much since my Bambu A1 Mini arrived in December. I needed to use it last week, because I had to print something that wouldn’t fit on my A1 Mini. I had adhesion issues on the SV06 because my z-offset wasn’t quite right. I wasted about 15 minutes canceling the print, cleaning the build plate, and dialing in the z-offset.

All the Bambu printers detect the height of the print surface by physically touching it with the tip of the nozzle. It doesn’t matter if the weather changes, the bed expands due to heat, or if you swap in a thicker or thinner PEI sheet. A Bambu printer will give you a perfect first layer almost every time with zero effort on your part.

If you are new, this saves a ton of time and frustration. If you already have years of 3D-printing experience, then this just becomes one less thing to ever have to think about.

You shouldn’t be looking at the Comgrow Sovol T300. You should be shopping for a Bambu A1 or A1 Mini.

30-seconds to heat up?!

Alright. I’ve said enough bad things about the Comgrow T300. Lets talk about the good things.

It takes my Sovol SV06 two and a half minutes to go from clicking the upload and print button to actually starting to print my part. My Bambu A1 Mini takes almost six minutes to do the same thing. My tuned-up super-fast Sovol SV06 can give my Bambu a run for its money, so the Sovol can win these races when I am printing single small parts with this three-minute head start.

If the Sovol Comgrow T300 can heat the bed in 30 seconds, that would be a fantastic upgrade in certain situations! This makes no difference when you are printing a 48-hour Mandalorian helmet, but I sometimes spend a lot of time prototyping.

Bambu A1 Mini

I might print a small part, see if the curves and dimensions match up correctly with something in the real world, make a few tweaks to the model, then hit print again. I might have to do this a dozen times.

Shaving four minutes or even two minutes off the print time could be the difference between printing a job taking 40 minutes instead of an hour. That might mean I could start and finish a project before meeting a friend for lunch instead of putting it off until next week.

This is extremely niche. Most of the time I don’t even care that the A1 Mini takes six minutes to start a print. It does a lot of work during those six minutes that the Sovol isn’t capable of doing. The A1 primes and wipes the nozzle, scrapes the nozzle super clean over the silicon brush, performs a vibration compensation process, and loads the color I selected from the AMS Lite.

Some of these things help ensure that my part is going to print successfully.

This is a cool feature of the new Sovol printer, but I would only be excited about it three days each year.

The Sovol Comgrow T300 is probably faster than the Bambu A1 out of the box

Maybe. We haven’t seen Sovol’s slicer profiles for the new printer. We haven’t seen how fast they actually are in practice, and we haven’t seen the quality of the printed parts. Let’s just assume Sovol has done a reasonably good job here, and that the T300 does what it says on the box.

The speed limit on the A1 and A1 Mini is 300 mm/s with 20,000 mm/s2 acceleration, but none of my OrcaSlicer profiles exceed 10,000 mm/s2 acceleration. You can definitely push this and still get nice prints, but the beauty of the Bambu printers is how well everything works out of the box.

I don’t know what Sovol has chosen for their print speeds, but there isn’t much reason to assume they haven’t pushed things to maybe 350 mm/s or so, and you can bet they are using 12,000 mm/s2 acceleration for infill and travel moves where the A1 is limited to 10,000 mm/s2.

More importantly, the T300 claims to have a hot end capable of melting 30 cubic mm of filament per second. The Bambu A1 Mini defaults to 20 cubic mm per second in the slicer, and my machine tops out at 25 cubic mm per second.

If you upgrade either printer to a 0.6-mm nozzle, you will be amazed at how slowly the tool moves around while maxing out the heat capacity of the hot end.

Thank goodness there’s finally network connectivity!

I am using Marlin’s input shaper on my Sovol SV06. It works great, but Octoprint and the Sovol’s slow serial port have become a bottleneck. I just can’t send g-code as quickly as the printer can move. I can solve this problem with a $100 Klipper screen and then a bunch of tuning, but I would much rather replace the whole thing with a Bambu A1 instead.

I believe the T300’s Klipper hardware has both WiFi and Ethernet. This is good news. You can upload g-code straight to Klipper from your slicer, and you won’t have to shuttle SD cards back and forth like a caveman.

I would expect this to be common moving forward, and that network connectivity will be showing up in cheaper and cheaper printers.

Who should buy the Sovol Comgrow T300 instead of a Bambu A1 or P1S?

Almost no one should buy the Comgrow T300. You should almost definitely be looking at a printer from Bambu. It isn’t speed, linear rails, or the aesthetics of the machine that make the A1 and A1 Mini awesome printers.

It is the combination of Bambu’s awesome software with their bleeding-edge sensor technology. These are the things that make Bambu printers a joy to operate, and lead to successful prints right out of the gate.

But as I already said earlier, I would consider the Comgrow T300 if I really, really, REALLY needed a bigger printer than the Bambu A1 or Bambu P1S. I am excited to report that I absolutely don’t need a bigger printer. In fact, I rarely need a printer bigger than my Bambu A1 Mini.

If I did, though, I would make sure to wait and see what sort of success other people have with the Comgrow T300 before I place an order. Sovol is only just barely shipping this printer so far!


I want Sovol to succeed. On paper, they sure seem to have almost all the ingredients necessary to almost compete with Bambu here. If they can spend a little engineering time to ship good, fast slicer profiles that just work, they might be in pretty good shape.

But come on, Sovol! You need to ship a printer with strain-sensor bed leveling. That is the biggest difference between your printers and modern printers like the Prusa MK4 or any printer from Bambu Lab. Having that one feature, and having it tuned to work well eliminates half the problems we see posted to r/FixMyPrint!

This is the killer feature separating Bambu, the Prusa MK4, and the Prusa XL from everyone else. After the horribly named Creality Ender 3 V3 SE shipping with its weird strain-sensor setup, I assumed that we would start seeing every the new model of 3D printer ship with attempts at using strain sensors, but I guess that won’t be happening until the next iteration for Sovol.

What do you think? Are you going to buy a Sovol Comgrow T300? Do you need that extra build volume, or would you be better off with a Bambu A1 or A1 Mini? Are you disappointed that the T300 is missing all the most important current-generation features? Let me know in the comments, or stop by the Butter, What?! Discord server to chat with me about it!

The Alldocube iPlay 50 Mini Is Your Nexus 7 For 2024

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I shop for a new Android tablet a couple of times each year. I don’t want a giant iPad-sized tablet. I want a tablet that is much bigger than my phone while still being small enough to palm like a basketball. I want a Nexus 7 with no bezels.

My Nexus 7 from 2013 is slow. That isn’t a big deal if I am reading a book, because I just pick it up, turn it on, and continue reading. The trouble is that Librera Reader takes one or two dozen seconds to open a book. Every time I start a new book or have to reboot the Nexus 7 I wind up thinking about ordering a modern tablet, but I never find anything that makes me want to pull the trigger.

Alldocube iPlay Mini 50 playing Into the Breach

I think I lucked out this time. I got annoyed with the Nexus 7, searched Amazon, and happened to see the right combination of price and features in the Alldocube iPlay 50 Mini. I have been using it for about a week, and there isn’t much to complain about, considering the iPlay 50 Mini’s $80 price point.

If you miss your Nexus 7 and you want a faster, newer, updated replacement with the same form factor at a low price, this is probably the tablet for you.

What does Pat do with his tablet?

I was going to start listing off all the things that this Alldocube tablet can do well, but I think it might be better to first explain what I use my tablet for and what I expected from it.

I prefer reading ebooks on a tablet. I almost always read in a dim or dark room, and I like to set my reading app’s colors to match the Solarized Dark theme. This works exactly as well as I expected.

I like to consume social media and news on my tablet. Until this week, I was flipping through Reddit, Hacker News, and Mastodon on my phone. It is nice to be doing this on a larger screen again.

Anything that the Alldocube manages to do well beyond these tasks is a bonus for me.

Having reasonable expectations

This isn’t a $469 iPad Mini from Apple. This is an $80 tablet from a company nobody has ever heard of in China. It won’t be the nicest tablet. It won’t be the fastest. It won’t be the sturdiest.

My hope was that it would work, have a nice display, and at least be zippy enough to not feel like I am always waiting for the tablet. I feel like the Alldocube tablet I received has surpassed my expectations.

Amazon marks the Alldocube tablet as one that is frequently returned. Is that because people have unrealistic expectations? Or is it because Alldocube has terrible quality control, and they wind up shipping out more than a few tablets that should have never made it out of the factory?

My tablet is a sample size of only one. I don’t know enough to answer these questions.

Why was Pat shopping for a cheap tablet instead of a premium tablet?

There just aren’t a lot of nice tablets from any of the big manufacturers in the 7” and 8” range.

Amazon’s 7” and 8” tablets have 1024x600 or 1280x800 displays. We have one of their 7” tablets knocking around the house. It was only $30 one year on Prime Day, and it is a handy screen to keep near my Shapeoko CNC machine, but the ridiculously low pixels per inch makes these horrible for reading books. I tried it. I hated it.

Just about the only other name-brand tablet I came across was the Lenovo M8, but it is another 1280x800 tablet, so I didn’t even consider it. Same problem with the Samsung Galaxy Tab A.

The Alldocube quickly bubbled to the top of my list because of its 1920x1200 screen, the reasonably nice things I was reading about it on the Internet, its form factor, and its $80 price tag.

Would I spend $300 or more on an 8” Pixel Tablet if Google offered me one? I think that is a good question, and I may have said yes before I unboxed the Alldocube tablet.

Let’s talk about the good stuff first!

The Alldocube iPlay 50 Mini is so close to the size of my old Nexus 7. Their weights are within a gram of each other, and the new 8.4” tablet is only a couple of millimeters taller and maybe five millimeters wider than the 7” Nexus 7.

The 1920x1200 works out to around 270 pixels per inch. I feel that is more than sufficient for use as an ebook reader. The viewing angles on the IPS screen are good, I haven’t had to turn the brightness past half-way to the max around the house, and the colors are vibrant and clean.

Alldocube iPlay Mini 50 at my desk

The tablet has enough battery for somewhere around nine hours of screen time, and it seems to charge in a couple of hours. I ought to verify the charge one of these days!

The Alldocube tablet is most definitely not as fast as my Pixel 6A, especially with regards to the GPU, but I wouldn’t call the iPlay Mini 50 slow. The best way I can quantify this is probably with my first impression.

When hopping between apps and scrolling around in a web browser, I actually wondered if this tablet is almost as fast as my Pixel 6A. I picked up my phone and noticed immediately that the Pixel feels a good bit more responsive. An $80 tablet should be slower than a $300 phone, but I think the fact that it had me wondering says that the tablet isn’t slow.

Widevine L1 DRM support seems to be a lie

I am not well versed on which levels of Widevine DRM are required for different resolutions on each streaming service, and I didn’t buy my tablet for watching movies. I still figured I should test it.

A random DRM-checking app I found in the Play store claims my tablet has Widevine L1, but Netflix says I only have Widevine L3 support. Netflix playback is very low bitrate, so there are a lot of blocking artifacts. YouTube is limited to 720p, but it looks fine. Hulu seems low resolution, but Disney+ looks fantastic.

If the problem was that Netflix would only play at standard definition, I wouldn’t have any complaints. Watching a good stream at 480p on an 8” screen wouldn’t look bad. The trouble here is that Netflix is sending a pretty crummy 480p my way.

My understanding is that there is a new version of the iPlay Mini 50 that may have proper Widevine L1 support, and that the faster, nicer, more expensive iPlay Mini 50 Pro supposedly has correct support for Widevine L1.

If perfect video streaming is important to you, you may want to spend a bit more cash!

The GPU might be slow, but the Steam Link app works great!

I was sitting here with my PlayStation 4 DualShock4 controller, wondering how well the Steam Link app would work on my new tablet. I don’t know when I would ever need to use it, but I had to try!

I made the mistake of trying to play Dead Cells. The game looked great, but the latency felt absolutely awful. Dead Cells is an extremely twitchy game with extremely low latency. The extra couple of dozen milliseconds added by the WiFi was bad.

Then I tried Red Dead Redemption 2. The game looked great, and it felt great. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a slower, more deliberate game. It hides the extra latency quite well.

Then I tried connecting my tablet to my phone’s WiFi hotspot to stream the game over T-Mobile and my gigabit FiOS connection! The game looked great, and the latency was higher at around 70 milliseconds. I could feel the latency in RDR2 now, but it would definitely be playable if I were stuck in an airport.

This success encouraged me to install Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, since it was free with Netflix. It ran like garbage. Even if you turn all the sliders to the minimum. The CPU in the Alldocube iPlay Mini 50 is reasonably capable. This GPU is definitely less than stellar.

UPDATE: I noticed when cropping a screenshot that the photo editor chugs quite a bit. I wouldn’t say that it is unresponsive, but the position of the cropped area sure lags behind my finger.

Not all games run poorly!

I have played a bit of my favorite game, Into The Breach, and it runs great. Vampire Survivors runs smoothly and plays well with the controller. It should also be a surprise to no one that Gubbins is as smooth as butter.

I am looking at which games I have installed, and most of them are quite simple. Dead Cells seems to play well enough locally, but it felt like the frame rate was dipping sometimes. Dead Cells can’t maintain 60 frames per second on the Nintendo Switch either, but my recollection is that it only gets really bad on the Switch when there are a lot of fire effects on the screen.

I think the bottom line here is that if you are planning to play strategy games like Into the Breach or Wordfued, then the $80 Alldocube tablet will work out just fine. If your goal is to emulate a Nintendo Switch, you’d better shop for something else.

Any other bad things to say about the Alldocube iPlay Mini 50?!

Nothing serious. The single speaker sounds pretty hollow, but it does have a headphone jack!

Speaking of the headphone jack, I noticed at least one Amazon review complaining about Alldocube putting the USB-C charging port on top of the tablet. The headphone jack is hiding in the corner, and it is pointing in the same direction.

I don’t think this is a bug. If you ever need to charge the tablet or use your headphones, neither cable is going to get in your way in either portrait or landscape mode. That seems pretty smart.

The thin screen protector film that ships preinstalled is awful. Your finger won’t glide as smooth, it picks up fingerprints like crazy, and it makes the screen look a bit hazy. It took about three seconds to peel that thing off, and I am glad I did. The glass isn’t as fingerprint resistant as all my Google Pixel phones have been. This tablet stays about as clean as the basic glass on my Nexus 7.

Don’t expect much from Alldocube’s cameras. They would have been mediocre on an Android phone almost ten years ago. There are two cameras. They function. They will get you through a video call.

Is the Pro model worth twice as much?

It looks like a good upgrade. Double the RAM can’t hurt, but I haven’t felt like RAM was an issue on any of my Android phones since my first phone with 2 gigabytes of RAM. The 4 gigabytes in the $80 model is enough to keep quite a lot of apps in RAM, so you won’t be waiting much of anything to fire up from scratch when switching between apps.

The Helio G99 in the Pro model is a newer, faster chip than the T606 chip in my cheaper tablet. How much faster? I have no idea. I didn’t find a reliable source for a benchmark of either one, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pro model would play Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas just fine.

When I started writing this blog post, I would have said no. There was no way I would pay $160 for the iPlay Mini 50 Pro. Every day that has gone by, I have used my phone less and my tablet more. Maybe I should have spent more and got something a little faster?

Firmware updates

I don’t expect we will ever see any firmware updates for any random tablets from manufacturers in China, and that includes our Alldocube iPlay Mini 50.

Alldocube iPlay Mini 50 Security Updates

I could probably write another 2,000 words about which ways this is both a huge problem but also might not be that big of a deal at all.

This is probably the best reason to buy the $80 tablet instead of the $160 Pro model. If you spend less, you can upgrade your hardware sooner, and you’ll get a free software upgrade at the same time.


I am sure I could find more to tell you about the Alldocube iPlay 50 Mini, but you shouldn’t have to read more than 2,000 words about an $80 tablet, so this seems like a good place to stop and summarize things. It is a fast enough tablet with a nice, high-resolution screen that has exactly the right form factor for me, and it is inexpensive. It felt like a no-brainer before I ordered mine, and that feels even more true now that I have been using it.

It is nice having a small tablet again. It fills the void between my pocket-sized phone and my 14” 2-in-1 laptop really well. I have already had days where my phone hasn’t even left the charger, so it is looking like the Alldocube tablet will be my new loafing-on-the-couch companion device!

My First Week With Proxmox on My Celeron N100 Homelab Server

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I have had Proxmox running on my Intel N100 mini PC for at least a week so far. It hadn’t been doing any real work until I migrated my first virtual machine over from my old homelab server last night. It is officially doing some important work, so it feels like a good time to write more words about how things are going. I wouldn’t be surprised if I have everything migrated over besides my NAS virtual machine before I write the last few paragraphs.

CWWK N100 Mini PC Running Proxmox

I managed to get through migrating all but one virtual machine before I got half-way through writing this. I am procrastinating on that last one, because it will involve plugging my NAS virtual machine’s big storage drive into my mini PC server. There is a little extra work involved in moving the drive and mapping the disk to the correct machine, and I can’t just boot the old machine back up if things go wrong. I figure I should finish my latte before attempting this!

Using the Proxmox installation ISO was probably the wrong choice for me

It is probably the correct choice for you, but I had to work hard to get things situated the way I wanted. I have a lot of unique requirements for my build:

I have been deleting, recreating, and juggling partitions like a madman. Tearing things down to put a RAID and encryption underneath the Thin LVM pool was easy, and I left behind around 200 GB for setting up lvmcache down the road while I was doing it.

I was slightly bummed out that the Proxmox installed set aside 96 GB for itself. That is 10% of my little Teamgroup NVMe, but storage is cheap. I got more bummed out when I learned that this is where it was going to store my LXC containers and any qcow2 files I might still want to use.

Stable Diffusion juggling hard drives

This was a bummer because I can’t resize the root filesystem live. I wound up biting the bullet, booting a Debian live image, and resizing the root volume. That left me room for some encrypted space for containers and qcow2 files.

This would have been easier if I just installed Debian myself, set up my file systems, RAID, and encryption, then installed Proxmox. If I did that, I would have for sure also mirrored the Proxmox root partition to the USB hard disk as well!

I almost thought I painted myself into a corner that would be difficult to weasel out of on at least two occasions while playing musical chairs with these volumes.

The important thing is that I got things set up how I wanted.

Importing my old qcow2 virtual machines into Proxmox

I have always had the option of using LVM volumes for my virtual machine disk images. I am not sure if we had thin volumes when I set up my KVM host with my AMD 5350 build in 2015, but I could have used LVM. I chose not to.

LVM has less overhead than qcow2 files, but qcow2 files are extremely convenient. You can copy them around the network with scp, you can duplicate them locally, and virt-manager could only snapshot your machines live with qcow2 images and not with LVM-backed disks in 2015. The first two are handy. The last one was important to me!

Pulling those qcow2 files into Proxmox was easy. I would set up a fresh virtual machine with no ISO image mounted and a tiny virtual SCSI disk, and I would immediately delete the disk. I mounted my qcow2 storage on the Proxmox server using sshfs, and I just had to run commands like this to import a disk:

qm importdisk 100 nas2022.qcow2 pve_crypt1

The sshfs connection had me bottlenecked at around 30 megabytes per second, but I wasn’t in a rush, and I only had 100 gigabytes of disk images to move this way. Mounting a directory using sshfs took a fraction of the time it would have taken me to set up NFS or Samba on both ends, and I only had 100 gigabytes in disk images to move around.

I just shut down one machine at a time, imported their disks, and fired them up on the Promox host.

A few of my machines have very old versions of Debian installed, and they were renaming the network devices to ens18 instead of ens3, so they needed their /etc/network/interfaces files updates. No big deal.

One of the disk images I pulled in has 2 terabytes allocated, was using 400 gigabytes of actual storage on the host, but the file system in the virtual machine was now empty. It took almost no time at all to import that disk, and it is taking up nearly zero space on the thin LVM volume, so I would say that the tooling did a good job!

Proxmox does a good job of staying out of the way when it can’t do the job for you

Proxmox and my old homelab box running virt-manager are running the same stuff deep under the hood. They are both running my virtual machines using QEMU and KVM on the Linux kernel. So far, I have only encountered two things that I wanted to do that couldn’t be done inside the Proxmox GUI.

The one that surprised me is that Proxmox doesn’t have a simple host-only NAT network interface configured for you by default. This is the sort of thing I have had easily available to me since using VMware Workstation 1.1 more than two decades ago, and everything I have used since has supported this as a simple-to-configure option.

Little Trudy Judy

I understand why someone would be much less likely to need this on a server. You’re not going to bring a short stack of interconnected machines to a sales demo on a Proxmox server. You’re going to do that on your laptop.

I have been hiding any server that doesn’t need to be on my LAN behind virt-manager’s firewalled NAT because I only need to access them via Tailscale. Why expose something to the network when you don’t have to?

I quickly learned that Proxmox’s user interface is reading the actual state of things as configured by Debian. This is different than something like TrueNAS Scale, where the settings in the GUI are usually pushed to the real configuration. I am not a TrueNAS Scale expert. I am just aware that when you manually make changes to a virtual machine outside of Scale’s GUI, those changes can be wiped out later.

This is awesome. I can set up my own NAT-only bridge device, and it will be available and at least partially reflected in the web UI. I haven’t done this yet. I wasn’t patient enough to wait to start migrating!

There was also no way to add a plain block device as a disk for a virtual machine inside the Proxmox GUI. It was easy enough to do with this command:

qm set 100 -scsi1 /dev/mapper/fourteen_crypt 

The qm tool has been fantastic so far, and much friendlier than anything I ever had to do with virsh. Once the disk was added by qm, it immediately showed up as a disk in the Proxmox GUI.

Can you tell that I got impatient and migrated the last of my virtual machines to the new box before I got done writing this?!

Proxmox’s automated backup system seems fantastic!

I never set up any sort of backup automation for my virt-manager homelab server. I would just be sure to save an extra copy of my qcow2 disks or take a snapshot right before doing anything major like an apt-get dist-upgrade.

The server had already been running for seven or eight years before I had any big disks off-site to push any sort of backups to, and the idea never even occurred to me! If any of the virtual machines had important data, it was already being pushed to a location where it would be backed up. The risk of losing a virtual server was never that high. Having to spend an evening loading Debian and Octoprint or something similar on a new server isn’t exactly the end of the world, and would probably even be an excuse for an upgrade.

Proxmox Backups

When I noticed the backup tab in Proxmox, I figured I should give it a try. I fired up ssh, connected to my off-site Seafile Raspberry Pi at Brian Moses’s house, and I spent a few minutes installing and configuring nfs-kernel-server. I put the details of the new NFS server into Proxmox, set it up as a location that could accept backups, and immediately hit the backup button on a couple of virtual machines. It only took a few minutes, and I had backed up two of my servers off site.

Then I hit the backup scheduler tab, clicked a very small number of buttons to schedule a monthly backup of all my virtual machines, then hit the button to run the job immediately.

I should mention here that before I hit that button, I put in some effort to make sure that the big storage volume on my NAS virtual machine wouldn’t be a part of the backup. Files are synced from my laptop or desktop up to my Seafile Pi, then my NAS virtual machine syncs a copy down. It would be silly to push that data in a less-usable form BACK to the same disk on the Seafile Pi, and even more importantly, there wouldn’t be enough room!

In the settings for each disk attached to a virtual machine in Proxmox, there is a checkbox labeled backup. If you uncheck this, that disk will not be included in backup jobs. I was paranoid. I watched my backups like a hawk until I verified that the job wasn’t filling up my remote storage.

I am not sure how long it took, but my 65 gigabytes of in-use virtual disk space compressed down to 35 gigabytes and are currently sitting on an encrypted hard disk at Brian’s house.

My CWWK N100 mini PC 2.5 gigabit router

I replaced my very old AMD FX-8350 homelab server with a CWWK mini PC with a Celeron N100 processor. The CWWK is an interesting little box. I already wrote a lot of words about why I chose this over several other mini PCs, so I won’t walk about the other choices here.

The neat things for me are the FIVE NVMe slots, the four 2.5 gigabit Ethernet ports, and that power-sipping but quite speedy Celeron N100 CPU. I did some power testing with a smart outlet, and the entire CWWK box with a single NVMe uses 9 watts at idle and never more than 26 watts when running hard. That worked out to 0.21 kWh per day on the low end and a maximum of 0.57 kWh on the high end.

CWWK Topton N100 Proxmox Mini PC

I need to take readings that include the 14 TB USB hard disk, but it is obvious that this is such a huge power savings for me. The FX-8350 server idles at just over 70 watts, uses 1.9 kWh of electricity every single day, and can pull over 250 watts from the wall when the CPU really gets cranking.

It is looking like the new hardware will pay for itself in electricity savings in a little over five years. I would be pretty excited if I knew how to account for the removal of that constant 70 watts of heat the FX-8350 was putting out. We run the air conditioning nine months of the year here, so I imagine the slight reduction in AC use must be reducing that payback time by at least two years, right?

So far, I am only using one of the five m.2 NVMe slots, but I feel like I am prepared for the day when NVMe drives get large enough and inexpensive enough that I can replace my 14 TB mechanical disk with solid-state storage. Flash prices have been increasing a bit lately, though, so it is entirely possible that I have gotten optimistic a little too soon!

I am disappointed that 16 GB of RAM is going to be enough!

My old homelab box had 32 GB of RAM, and my virtual machines were configured to use a little over 17 GB of that. I am usually a little conservative when I assign RAM to a virtual machine, but I was sure I could steal a bit of memory here and there to bring the total under 16 GB so I could get everything migrated over.


After dialing things back, I am only asking for 7.5 GB of RAM, and I am clawing back over 1 GB of extra RAM via kernel same-page merging (KSM). I managed to wind up having more than half the memory free on my new tiny homelab server.

I was bummed out that my CWWK Intel N100 server only has a single DDR5 SO-DIMM slot, and the biggest SO-DIMMs you can buy are 48 GB. I was always expecting to double the available RAM when I upgraded my homelab server. Now I am learning that I may as well save a bit of cash and upgrade using a much cheaper 32 GB SO-DIMM, assuming I even upgrade the memory at all!

Don’t trust Proxmox’s memory-usage meter!

It is nice that the meter is there, and it is a handy readout for at least half of the virtual machines on my homelab. It is a terrible meter on my NAS virtual machine, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this would wind up causing a novice to buy more RAM that they don’t need.

My NAS virtual machine isn’t REALLY a proper NAS any longer. It is just a virtual machine with a big disk running a Seafile client. It is the third pillar of my backup strategy. Its workload mostly involves writes now, and it doesn’t need much cache. I only allocated 2 GB of RAM to this machine, and that is more than double what it actually needs.

The Proxmox summary screen is giving my NAS a red bar graph, and says it is at 91.68% memory usage. This makes the red bar graph seem a little scary!

If you ssh into the NAS, you will see that it is using 327 megabytes of RAM for processes and 1.5 gigabytes for cache. No matter how much RAM I allocate to this VM, it will always fill that RAM up with cache.

If I didn’t know better, I would be doubling the RAM allocation over and over again, hoping to see the red or yellow bar graph turn green.

It is a bummer that the QEMU agent doesn’t report buffers and cache up to the host. If these memory readings on the summary page indicated how much cache was in use, or even subtracted the buffers and cache from the total, this summary would be more useful.

This isn’t a huge problem.

Set your virtual machine processor type to host

As long as you can get away with it, this can be either a substantial or massive boost to your AES performance compared to the default of x86-64-v2-AES. If you are going to be live migrating virtual machines between processors with different feature sets, this won’t be a good plan for you. If you are migrating and can get away with shutting down the virtual machine before the move, then you can set the processor type to whatever you like.

The first thing I ran was cryptsetup benchmark. With the processor type set to x86-64-v2-AES, AES-XTS was reaching about 2,000 megabytes per second. With processor type set to host, I was getting over 2,750 megabytes per second. That is nearly a 40% improvement!

My network relies very heavily on Tailscale. I don’t have a good way to test Tailscale’s raw encryption performance, but I hope and expect I am getting a similar boost there as well. I don’t need Tailscale to push data at two or three gigabytes per second, but I will be excited if Tailscale gets to spend 30% less CPU grunt on encryption.

I noticed a much bigger difference when I was running Geekbench. Single-core Geekbench AES encryption was stuck at 170 megabytes per second with the default processor type, but it opened all the way up to 3,400 megabytes per second when set to host. That made me wonder if any other software is as severely limited by the v2 instruction set!

I am collecting better power data!

It takes time to collect good data. I currently have the CWWK N100 and the Western Digital 14 terabyte drive plugging into a Tasmota smart plug. These two devices spend the whole day bouncing between 19 and 24 watts, and averaging out the relatively small number of samples that arrive in Home Assistant won’t be super accurate.

Tasmota measures way more often than it sends data to Home Assistant over WiFi, and it keeps a running kilowatt hour (kWh) total for every 24-hour period. That means I have to set things up a particular way for a test, wait 24 hours for the results, then set up the next test. That also means I will wind up only being able to test every other day if I want to get a full 24 hours with each setup.

I am testing the CWWK N100 and hard disk running under their usual light load now. I want to test both pieces of hardware under load for 24 hours, then I want to measure each device separately. It will take about a week to collect all the numbers, and that is assuming I don’t miss out on starting too many tests on time.

What’s next?

I think it is time to replace my extremely minimal off-site storage setup at Brian Moses’s house with a Proxmox node. I have had a Raspberry Pi with a 14 terabyte USB hard disk at Brian’s house doing Dropbox-style sync and storage duties for the last three years, and it is currently saving me around $500 every single year on my Dropbox bill.

This seems like a good time to upgrade to an Intel N100 mini PC. I can put a few off-site virtual machines on my Tailnet, take the Pi’s 150-megabit cap off my Tailscale file-transfer speeds, and maybe sell the Raspberry Pi 4 for a profit.

I am also shopping for 2.5 gigabit Ethernet switches for my network cupboard and my home office, but I am also more than a little tempted to attempt to run 10 gigabit Ethernet across the house. This is either a project for farther down the road, or I will just get excited one day and order some gear. We will see what happens.

Somewhere along the line there needs to be some cable management and tidying happening below my network cupboard. Now that all the servers are being replaced with mini PCs, I can eliminate that big rolling cart and replace it with a simple wall-mounted shelf. I may wind up going bananas and designing a shelf that gives me room inside to hide power outlets and cables.

What do you think? Have I made a good sideways upgrade to save myself $60 per year in electricity and maybe almost as much in air conditioning bills? Would an Intel N100 be a good fit for your homelab or other home server uses? Do you think I will manage to make use of all these 2.5 gigabit Ethernet ports and extra NVMe slots? Let me know in the comments, or stop by the Butter, What?! Discord server and chat with me about it!

The Sovol SV06 - Is It Still Worth Buying in 2024?

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The $299 Bambu A1 Mini has been shipping for a few months now. It is fast. You get so much for your money. It seems reliable. Bambu has great quality control. Its release was a huge blow to Sovol and all the other budget-friendly 3D-printer manufacturers. They all responded by lowering their prices, but are these new prices low enough?

Anbernic RG35XX with 3D printed grips on the Bambu A1 Mini

Now there is a $400 Bambu A1. It has every single feature of the Bambu A1 Mini, except it is bigger. Bigger than the Sovol SV06, but not quite as big as the Sovol SV06 Plus. Bigger than a Prusa MK4. The big Bambu A1 is half the price of a Prusa MK4 kit that you will spend most of the weekend putting together. These new Bambu printers are priced extremely aggressively.

What does this mean for Sovol, Creality, and Prusa Research?

Here’s the tl;dr

You don’t have to read my essay here that is attempting to justify what I think, and you don’t have to read a story about some cold winter night on a farm. I don’t want to artificially keep you here longer to make Google think you were happy with clicking here.

Bambu A1 Mini 0.2mm nozzle Benchy

12-mm tall Benchy printed with stock settings on a Bambu A1 Mini with a 0.2-mm nozzle

I think almost every printer that Bambu makes is priced well, and I think the Bambu A1 and Bambu A1 Mini are worth the extra $100 or so compared to the budget options from Sovol or Creality. Bambu has features that can easily save you $100 in frustration. Bambu’s printers are significantly faster, higher quality, and more reliable than anything else in their price range. Their output is also much higher quality.

If you can justify paying for a Bambu A1 with an AMS Lite, it is time to stop reading. Go make your purchase. If you are considering skipping the AMS Lite, then maybe read on, especially toward the end.

If $299 for the Bambu A1 Mini is stretching your budget thin, then you should definitely read on. There are plenty of good reasons to spend a little more on the Bambu A1 Mini. Some of them will only save you time, but some of them might save you some money.

Buying a budget printer from Sovol or Creality involves rolling some dice. I don’t know the weight of those dice, but I do know some small percentage of people, not exactly an inconsequential number, wind up having a lot of problems with their cheap printers.

Bambu Lab makes the most advanced consumer 3D printers

If you are buying your first 3D printer, and you have enough wiggle room in your budget, you should buy a printer from Bambu. It doesn’t matter which one. They are all fantastic.

I feel like a broken record when I say this, but it is absolutely worth repeating. The strain-sensor bed leveling used on the Prusa MK4, Prusa XL, and every single Bambu printer is a game changer.

Lil Trudy Judy

You don’t have to learn how to dial in your printer’s first layer. It does it for you. This is by far the most common problem that you will see posted on /r/FixMyPrint. Bambu printers do this for you. This feature alone is likely to save you a ton of time and frustration.

The Bambu A1 can detect tangled filament, and it will give you the opportunity to untie those knots and resume the print. It can also detect when you run out of filament, and if you are using the AMS, it can continue printing from another spool of filament with zero intervention.

This is all nifty stuff that helps a beginner tremendously. It is also enough to make a veteran rarely turn on his old printers.

The Sovol SV06 made a ton of sense 12 months ago

When I bought my Sovol SV06, it was such an amazing value! It ticks all the same boxes as the venerable Prusa MK3, but instead of paying $1,111 for a Prusa MK3 or paying $750 for a Prusa MK3 kit and spending a weekend putting it together, you could buy a Sovol SV06 for $260 and be ready to go in 20 minutes.

When you can buy three or four printers for the price of one, it makes it easy to ignore the potential problems with a Sovol SV06. Sovol’s quality control doesn’t seem to be the best, so there was a chance you’d get a dud from the factory, and you would have to wait for Sovol to ship you replacement parts. Not a big deal when you save $500 or more.

Big gridfinity bin on the Sovol SV06

Pushing the limits of the Sovol SV06 extruder a few cubic mm/s too hard resulted in a slightly imperfect but very usable Gridfinity bin

Sovol’s printers are made using the lowest quality parts they can get away with. I don’t mean for this to be a condemnation of Sovol. This was just the reality if you wanted to save $500.

If you got a Sovol SV06 that worked out of the box, you were golden. Once you replaced a bad part or two, you would also be doing well, and you’d probably be printing for years without significant trouble.

You were trading some of your effort to avoid paying Prusa Research an extra $500 for a somewhat comparable printer.

Let’s talk about my Sovol SV06 and my Bambu A1 Mini

So much of what I am writing in this blog is attempting to figure out just what sort of value you are getting for your money. Let’s ignore money for now. Let’s just talk about the two printers I am currently using. For what it is worth, my Prusa MK3S isn’t even plugged in anymore; it is just too slow to bother using!

My Sovol SV06 is bigger and, after a TON of effort, somewhat faster than my Bambu A1 Mini. That effort is definitely a cost. Not technically money, but time is money, so we aren’t going to go into that yet.

My Bambu A1 Mini and Sovol SV06 Being The Best Of Friends

UPDATE: I have since acquired the Bambu A1 nozzle assortment, and I am able to push the Bambu A1 Mini’s extruder to 24 or 25 cubic mm/s, while the Sovol SV06 peters out somewhere around 20 cubic mm/s. My Sovol SV06 is no longer my fastest printer!

My Bambu A1 Mini is obviously smaller, and it is marginally slower, but it is also more reliable, more accurate, and prints cleaner. It also has a handy automatic filament changer that we haven’t even mentioned yet.

I have turned on my Sovol SV06 twice since buying the Bambu A1 Mini. The Sovol has become my ABS printer, and I don’t print ABS all that often.

The price gap has gotten smaller

Paying one quarter the price of one of the best 3D printers on the market was awesome, but Bambu changed the rules. Now you can get an amazing, reliable little 3D printer for $299, and you can super-size it for an extra $100.

Bambu isn’t competing with Sovol. Their pricing makes it obvious that they are competing with Prusa Research. The Bambu A1 Mini with the AMS Lite costs as much as a Prusa Mini+, and the Bambu A1 is a bigger printer than the Prusa MK4 at about half the price of Prusa’s kit. The point here is that Bambu matches or beats the specs of Prusa’s printers.

Thick layer gridfinity

Left: 0.48-mm layers, 0.6-mm nozzle, 22 cubic mm/s Sovol SV06; Center: 0.56-mm layers, 0.8-mm nozzle, 24 cubic mm/s Bambu A1 Mini; Right: Default 0.4-mm nozzle settings Bambu A1 Mini

The Bambu printers don’t line up with anything in Sovol’s or Creality’s lineups. This makes the comparisons more complicated.

The Bambu A1 Mini costs 50% more than a Sovol SV06. That sounds like a lot, but the difference is only $100. For a lot of people, it was worth putting up with a slower, less polished printing experience when the Sovol SV06’s better competition was the $750 Prusa MK3S or the $700 Bambu P1S.

Everything feels different when you only have to pay an extra $100 for a premium experience.

The Bambu AMS Lite is amazing

I am so pleased that I bought the Bambu A1 Mini Combo that included the AMS Lite. It almost seems like a gimmick. The AMS lets you spend five or ten times longer printing the same trinkets, except those trinkets can be printed with four different colors.

I didn’t think I would use it that often, but I figured it would be neat to play with once in a while, and I definitely didn’t think I would really get $170’s worth of value out of it. I am beginning to think it will be worth every penny.

I tend to either be lazy, or I am in a hurry. Most of the time, I will just print using whatever filament happens to be loaded. If I have red PLA loaded, but a part would look better in black, I would probably just use red. It takes five or ten minutes of standing around by the printer to change filament on the Prusa MK3S or Sovol SV06. That is a lot of loafing around, for something that is often of such little consequence.

I always have a handful of colors loaded in the AMS Lite. When I send a job to the printer, I can choose which color I want to use. I don’t have to stand around waiting for the printer to heat up to unload filament. I just pick a color, and it loads it for me.

Not only that, but I can swap any of the other three spools while the Bambu A1 Mini is printing. I can just pull the lever, wind up the filament, and take it off the AMS Lite. Zero waiting.

If I save five minutes every time I need to swap filament, and I would have swapped filament once a week, then that adds up to four hours a year that I am not loafing around waiting for the printer. That alone is awesome!

I have yet to use the AMS Lite for a truly fancy multicolor print, but I have already used it a handful of times to add labels to Gridfinity bins. Changing filament for a handful of layers like that doesn’t add much time to the print, and it really spiffs things up.

I have also used the AMS Lite to print PETG support-interface layers, and that seems to work extremely well. Those have only been test prints so far, so they haven’t added any real value to my workflow. It will be surprising if I don’t run into a print this year where those stupidly easy-to-remove PETG supports won’t save me a ton of time and frustration.

So when in the heck is it worth saving money by buying something like a Sovol SV06 or SV06 Plus?!

This is the question that I have been struggling with. If you are in a position where you just can’t spend the extra $100 to buy a Bambu A1 Mini instead of a Sovol SV06, then there is a very good chance that you are in exactly the position where you can’t afford to roll the dice on a printer from Sovol or Creality.

You are maxing out your budget. You are spending every dollar you feel comfortable spending. You absolutely need your printer to work, and it needs to work well.

Stable Diffusion 3D Printer dude

I replied to a post in r/Sovol this week to try to help someone out with a problem printing silk PLA on their Sovol SV07. They were frustrated. They have been frustrated. They are still frustrated. We were asking for any sort of information that might help us help them out, but they just wouldn’t offer us any useful information. All they would do is gripe, swear, and complain.

I understand. They are at their wit’s end. They spent $300 on what was, at the time, one of the cheapest printers that could print a 20-minute Benchy out of the box.

If the Bambu A1 Mini had been available at the time, they could be printing 18-minute Benchies on a reliable printer.

For everyone fighting their Sovol, there are dozens or maybe hundreds of people just enjoying their Sovol printers. Maybe you will save $100 and be happily printing. Maybe you won’t.

There’s no replacement for displacement

I have disagreed with that statement for a long time. I used to very much enjoy driving a little car with way too much turbocharger, so I know there are replacements for displacement, but I couldn’t help myself. I had to use that heading.

If Bambu’s 256x256x256 build volume isn’t big enough for you, it just doesn’t matter how much it costs. When you need a bigger printer, you just need a bigger printer. The Sovol SV06 Plus has a build volume of 300x300x300, and it costs $150 less than a Bambu A1.

You know the caveats of the Sovol SV06 Plus by now, but if you just can’t print a helmet that fits your big ol’ noggin with a Bambu, then maybe you just need to print that helmet more slowly and more carefully on a Sovol.

Size, if you absolutely can’t live without it, is a good reason to buy a Sovol SV06 Plus.


This is a challenging conclusion to write because I don’t feel like I have come to an exciting conclusion. In fact, it is sort of disappointing. I don’t think anyone should buy a Sovol SV06, SV06 Plus, or SV07 in 2024. Bambu is bringing way too much to the table at a really nice price point now. Why buy a printer based on seven-year-old technology when you can spend just a little more and get a reliable, cutting-edge printer?

I hope Sovol and Creality find a way to compete. They need good, working strain-sensor bed leveling with perfect first layers. They need built-in WiFi connectivity. They need to ship a well-tuned slicer that lets you hit the “upload and print” button and not worry about anything. The bummer is that they also need to do it at a low enough price to choose them instead of Bambu, and that is going to be a tall order.

I believe they can do it. I am confident that it is possible to cut just the right corners to keep the prices low, but it will be tough. I wish Sovol the best of luck! I expect 2024 will be an interesting year for 3D printing!

Choosing an Intel N100 Server to Upgrade My Homelab

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I expected to write this blog AFTER all my virtual machines were migrated to the new hardware, but I am impatient, and I am recording enough interesting data that one big blog post would likely be really, really long.

My current homelab server is using the old AMD FX-8350 hardware from my old workstation. It is power hungry, averaging 70 watts of power consumption, or about 2 kWh per day. When it runs full tilt, it can pull well over 250 watts from the wall. I don’t need more horsepower, but I would like my new homelab server to take up less space and hopefully have more than 32 gigabytes of RAM.

My new Homelab server

This server runs an Octoprint server for my Sovol SV06, a Home Assistant server, a NAS that syncs an extra copy of my data from my off-site Seafile server, the staging and publishing server for our blogs, and a handful of less critical virtual machines.

What kind of mini-pc hardware have I been looking at to replace this old behemoth?

Why are we shopping for a Celeron N100?!

Maybe even more importantly, why do I have a Ryzen 5500U and a Celeron N5095 on my list?!

I feel like the Celeron N100 is right near the sweet spot. On paper, it has that awesome 6-watt TDP. It is noticeably faster than its predecessor, the N5095, and it beats the N5095’s TDP by 4 watts.

The Intel N100 won’t be winning any serious performance competitions, but it packs a ton of performance into an inexpensive and low-power package. I rely quite heavily on Tailscale for connectivity between my servers at different sites, and my N100 box here can very nearly saturate my gigabit Ethernet ports via Tailscale while using around 40% of its CPU capacity, so I expect I will be able to utilize a significant percentage of those 2.5 gigabit Ethernet ports if I ever have to!

The Topton 2-bay R1 Pro NAS

This is an extremely interesting piece of hardware. It has extremely direct overlap with two other mini servers on this list with its Intel N100 CPU and pair of 2.5 gigabit Ethernet ports. Where this machine steers in a different direction is the pair of bays for 3.5” SATA hard drives.

Topton R1 Pro Mini NAS

If your mini server needs to store a lot of data, that is a compelling feature. You could install a cheap pair of 12-terabyte hard disks and put them in a mirror, or you could skip the redundancy and install a pair of 22-terabyte hard disks to have yourself a dense little 44-terabyte monster.

I got to hold one of these in my hands, and it is really nifty! If you want to build a NAS to back up your important data at a friend’s house, this would be a fantastic option. Especially if your friend lives far enough away that rebuilding after a drive failure would be a challenge.

I have been using a 14-TB USB hard disk attached to a Raspberry Pi for my off-site backup at Brian Moses’s house for around three years now, and the bulk data storage on my home NAS virtual machine has been [a 14-TB USB hard disk][en] for the last year.

I have had enough success with external USB hard disks that I am confident about continuing to do it in the future. Being able to install a pair of beefy hard disks is a neat feature, but it is one that I don’t need at this time.

The Beelink SER5 with a Ryzen 5500U

This particular Beelink mini PC has been at the top of my list the entire time I have been contemplating this. It would be a fantastic choice, and at this point in time, it would have been a better choice for my own homelab.

These go on sale for not much more than $200. They have double the single-core performance and nearly twice as much multi-core performance as my FX-8350, and best of all, you can upgrade them to 64 GB of RAM for around $100.

The only bummer to me is that they are a little older now, so they only ship with gigabit Ethernet, while many newer mini PCs ship with 2.5 gigabit ports. This is also one of their advantages, though, because the DDR4 SO-DIMMs are still a good bit cheaper than newer RAM.

The Beelink with the Ryzen 5500U has been at the top of my list just because it can be upgraded to 64 GB of RAM, and it can be upgraded quite inexpensively. I don’t need to double the RAM in my homelab server, but I would like to, even though I am only running at about 50% capacity today.

The Beelink with an Intel Celeron N5095

The Beelink with the Intel N5095 is delightful. It goes on sale all the time, and it was discounted to $125 while I was writing this, and it ships with 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB m.2 SSD.

This tiny CPU with a 10-watt TDP still packs a pretty good punch. It has the same single-core performance and 2/3 as much multi-core performance as my old AMD FX-8350, but being such a modern processor, the N5095 can manage to push AES encryption almost twice as fast. For reference here, my 12-year-old FX-8350 build pulls over 200-watts from the wall when it maxes out Tailscale speeds.

Beelink vs. Old PC

Brian’s Beelink N5095 and its USB hard disk vs. my APC 800 and aging FX-8350 homelab server

This Beelink would have been a pretty lateral move, but it would probably save me $60 per year. It would wind up paying for itself in three years even after buying a RAM upgrade, but it wouldn’t be fun or exciting.

My friend Brian Moses has an N5095 Beelink in my server room. It is the NAS he pushes his off-site backups to.

The Beelink with an Intel N100

The Intel N100 family of processors is quite interesting. It can be wired up to use either DDR4 or DDR5 RAM, and you can get a Beelink box with an N100 in both flavors!

The DDR4 version costs less and is limited to gigabit Ethernet. The DDR5 model has two 2.5 gigabit Ethernet ports. DDR4 SO-DIMMs are still a good bit cheaper than DDR5, but DDR4 sticks are only available up to 32 GB, while 48 GB DDR5 SO-DIMMs are available. I don’t believe we have yet verified that any of these N100 mini PCs can actually use a 48 GB SO-DIMM, but finding out for sure is on my list of things to try!

The Celeron N100 is roughly 50% faster than the N5095. When the DDR4 N100 Beelink goes on sale, it is priced competitively in relation to the performance of the N5095 Beelink, and if you have a use for 2.5 gigabit Ethernet, paying a bit more for that is a good value.

The Beelink pricing ladder is quite fair

Especially when you compare the prices when they go on sale, and they go on sale all the time!

I put all of these into a horrible spreadsheet a while back. It is very wide, and you definitely don’t want to see it. The N5095, N100, and 5500U Beelink boxes, along with a few others, all work out to nearly the same value when doing the math. When you compare dollars for benchmark scores or dollars per gigabyte of RAM, they are all nearly identical when you upgrade the RAM to the maximum. The N100 with DDR5 and 2.5 gigabit Ethernet does cost a bit more than the others, but you do get something extra for the money, and I believe a stack of N5095 boxes with 32 GB of RAM becomes a somewhat better value.

Stable Diffusion guy with lots of hard disks

This is neat because you can decide just how simple or complicated you want your homelab to be. You could load all your virtual machines up on a single Ryzen 5500U box with 64 GB of RAM. You could build a little cluster of three Celeron N5095 boxes each with 32 GB of RAM.

You could even mix and match exactly the combination of machines you need and build an interesting homelab cluster than fits in a lunchbox.

Why so many Beelinks on the list?

There are a huge number of companies selling mini PCs. Many seem to be rebranded versions of the same hardware coming out of the same factory. Some have been found to ship sketchy malware along with their Windows installation.

Beelink is the brand we have mostly landed on over in the Butter, What?! community. Several of our friends own and operate Beelink mini PCs in their homelabs.

First-hand experience is my favorite kind of experience, and the experiences of people I trust come in at a close second. Everyone’s success and the reasonable prices of Beelink’s hardware on Amazon have made Beelink our go-to brand.

I want to build my own N100 server!

This has been an option for a little while already, but my friend Brian Moses added the Topton N100 mini-ITX motherboard to his eBay shop this week, so I figured I ought to throw a mention of it in here.

The N100 motherboard is very similar to the N5105/N6005 motherboard Brian used in his 2023 DIY NAS build. The N100 has a lower TDP and somewhere around 40% more performance, which are both nice features. The N100 uses DDR5, which is faster but costs more.

Brian’s Topton N100 motherboard costs more than my entire CWW N100 mini PC, and then you will still have to buy a case and power supply to put that motherboard in. If you need five or six 20-terabyte SATA hard disks, then that would almost definitely be money well spent.

I still prefer the N5105/N6005 motherboard. While it is slower, it is more than fast enough for my own needs, and I can buy a pair of 32-gigabyte DDR4 SO-DIMMs for less than a single 48-gigabyte DDR5 SO-DIMM, and all you can fit in any of the N100 boards is a single SO-DIMM. We don’t even know for sure that the Topton board will work with an SO-DIMM that large.

Disclaimer on my own CWWK N100 mini PC

This is a weird little box, and that is half the reason that I am excited to be trying it out. The other reason is that the box was chosen for me. I got my CWWK N100 mini PC for free.

I didn’t get it from a vendor, or from the manufacturer. I don’t know how much of the story I am allowed to tell in public, but I got it from a friend. There won’t be any loyalty to any company that paid me for my opinion here. The only thing that really happened, other than receiving a fun toy from a friend, is that I got knocked out of my analysis paralysis and had a choice made for me.

The CWWK N100 mini PC 2.5 gigabit router

Did I mention that this is a weird little box? It is bigger and heavier than any of the Beelink mini PCs. The CWWK doesn’t have a fan. Instead, almost the entire enclosure is a big hunk of aluminum heat sink that is bolted directly to the CPU.

The other weird thing about the CWWK mini PC is that it has FIVE NVMe slots! They are only 1x PCIe slots, but that means that each drive can still push around one entire gigabyte per second.

CWWK Topton N100 Router NAS

I don’t have the spare cash or need to fill those slots with NVMe drives, but the former owner of this box told me that his five drives were getting hot enough to throttle themselves down. That looks like an easy problem to solve, but I won’t be tackling it any time soon. This will be a problem for future Pat when NVMe drives get one or two notches bigger and less costly.

The CWWK N100 box doesn’t ship with any RAM or storage, and it is priced higher than an N100 Beelink box, even thought the Beelink ships with an NVMe and RAM. If you need more than a pair of 2.5 gigabit Ethernet ports, maybe the CWWK N100 is worth it for you. If you want a mini PC that runs without a fan, maybe that is worth a bit of extra cash.

I feel that the interesting feature here is the storage. You can squeeze 20 terabytes of NVMe in this sucker. You will have to figure out how to keep those drives cool, and you’ll have to spend at least $1,250 or so on drives, but you can do it.

Some thoughts about those 90C NVMe slots!

In my own box, I wouldn’t have five NVMe drives in there for the performance. I would have them because they are so much more reliable than mechanical disks.

You can use the nvme command on Linux to force most NVMe drives into one of usually several power-saving levels. I don’t have the hardware here to test this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the lower levels would keep temperatures well below the NVMe drive’s warning level.

If that isn’t enough, or if performance of the drives is important, it would be trivial to design a 3D-printed part to bolt on in place of the CWWK’s bottom plate. There is even a 4-pin fan header on the board, so the model could include mounting points for a fan and enough clearance for some airflow.

There is already a bottom extender for a different CWWK server with the same case up on Printables. This is different than what I would have designed, but it sure looks like it would make room to mount a fan to the bottom plate!

I have already been testing the CWWK N100 mini PC!

I loaded Proxmox 8.1 on my mini PC. I installed a test virtual machine. I did some power and thermal testing, though the thermal testing isn’t quite as thorough as it should have been.

My spare Tasmota smart plug tells me that my CWWK box sips between 8 and 9 watts at idle, and it maxes out between 25 and 27 watts with the CPU and NVMe running hard. If I could fill it with NVMe drives, it would definitely go a little higher. This works out to between 0.21 and 0.57 kWh per day.

Proxmox on my CWWK N100 server

I set up a loop to keep four openssl speed benchmarks running. On a desk in my office, the CPU stays up at 2.9 gHz nearly the entire time with a few dips to 2.7 gHz for a few seconds out of every minute. My infrared thermometer saw the top of the heatsink reach 138F. The case is aluminum, so you can still comfortably grab it and pick it up at that temperature.

Then I put it in my literal network cupboard, closed the door, and ran the same benchmark overnight. The heatsink didn’t get that much warmer at 142F, but it was throttling down to 2.5 gHz several times each minute.

This is a literal cupboard. Maybe three feet high, three feet wide, and a foot deep. It has zero air flow, and there are two switches, a router, and a UPS sharing the space. I think it did very well, and I am wouldn’t be surprised if the N100 would still have 90% of its performance at 2.5 gHz.

I didn’t think to log or test any of this. How much performance does that last 400 mHz actually provide? Wouldn’t it have been nice if I graphed the times, temperatures, CPU clock speeds, and openssl speed performance results the entire time? In my defense, I didn’t think it would be this interesting!

What’s next?

First of all, I should say again that I don’t feel the CWWK N100 box was the correct choice for me today. I don’t need 2.5 gigabit Ethernet at all, and I don’t need five NVMe drives. That said, I think it will be a neat box to grow into. It will be a good excuse to buy a pair of 2.5 gigabit switches and run 2.5 gigabit to my office, and I think those NVMe slots will start to be useful within the year, and really start to shine in two or three years.

I think my basic Proxmox install is burned in and working. Now I need to tear down some logical volumes and resize the physical volume so I can encrypt my virtual-machine storage. I also want to mirror that storage volume to my external USB drive with the write-mostly flag. I have never done that, so I want to see how it works out!

What do you think? Am I on the right track? Am I using the correct mini PC for my homelab server? Should I use a different box here at home and send this one away as my off-site Proxmox homelab server? Are you embracing mini PCs for your own home-server needs? Tell me about it in the comments, or stop by the Butter, What?! Discord server to chat with me about it!

Bambu A1 - Can Your 3D Printer Pay For Itself In 2024?

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I promise. I am not trying to be a 3D-printing blog, but I got a new toy, so this is where my thoughts keep landing right now.

First of all, I do not think you should buy a Bambu A1 Mini as some sort of an investment. Any 3D printer is a fun toy and a useful tool. Sometimes I use mine to solve little problems. Sometimes I solve complicated problems. Sometimes I just print fun things.

Bambu A1 Mini using up leftover filament

This is my Bambu A1 Mini and AMS Lite using up some old filament samples and nearly depleted spools of filament to print randomly colored Gridfinity bins.

I have owned several 3D printers over the years, but I have only owned my Bambu A1 Mini for about a month. I thought it might be fun to look back over the things I printed in 2023 to see which things would fit on the A1 Mini’s smaller bed, and see how much value I am getting out of owning a 3D printer.

Maybe you are eyeballing the $299 A1 Mini. Maybe you’re wondering what you might be able to use it for. I am hoping that my last twelve months of 3D printing might help you figure out how much value you might get out of your $299.

I am focusing on the A1 Mini, because that is the model I bought. I feel that all of the printers from Bambu Lab are a good value. Each one brings along upgrades that might be valuable to you, but even the smallest and least costly model is a fantastic machine.

Most of these things weren’t even printed on my Bambu A1 Mini, because the printer wasn’t even available when I printed most of these things. Some of these things were printing on my aging Prusa MK3S, but the majority were printed on my souped-up $169 Sovol SV06.

Between things I have designed myself and things I have downloaded, I have a collection of around 150 models from the last year. Some I have printed many times. Some I didn’t use at all. Others I tried and threw away. I am just going to touch on the most useful or awesome things I printed over the last year.

The Umikot Spirograph Espresso WDT Tool

This print is amazing. There is a $475 espresso distribution tool called the MOONRAKER. It is made of brass and glass, and giving the tool around ten quick rotations will touch every millimeter of your portafilter. It is quite cool!

Umikot 3D printed espresso tool

The Umikot tool works the same way. The heart of the devices is a set of interlocking print-in-place planetary gears. You print the parts, add some accupuncture needles, and you have something that works just like the $475 tool!

I use mine twice every single day. It does a fantastic job, and it has definitely improved the consistency of my espresso shots.

It would be fun if I could tell you that this tool alone will pay for your Bambu A1 printer, but I can’t do that. The Umikot tool may do the job just as well as a MOONRAKER, but a printed part made from fifty cents in filament isn’t truly worth $475. It is worth more than fifty cents, for sure, but I have no idea what value to assign to it!

That said, it is a fantastic tool, and you aren’t getting anything quite like it for less than $100.

No-sew backpack clips, straps, and things

These were a new idea last year, but at the time, I was only 3D printing the test parts. All the real parts I was using were made from carbon fiber plates cut on my Shapeoko CNC. Late this year, though, I have had some ideas that didn’t fit in the limits of two dimensions, so I did some testing to make sure 3D-printed parts would hold a good bit of weight. The prints are stronger than I will ever need!

No-Sew Carabiner Hook on a backpack

No-sew carabiner hook on one of my old backpacks

These no-sew bits and bobs are my newly updates product in my Tindie store, and they are also available for free on Printables. I didn’t think these were going to go anywhere until I discovered 3-mm leather punches. Now I can send you a leather punch with a template, and it is extremely easy to poke holes exactly where you need them in your bookbag.

I have been attaching extra hooks and straps to all my bags just because it is fun, but there are a few places where these have come in extremely handy. I added a strap to my smallest laptop bag so I can carry a bottle of water when I ride my electric unicycle to the park with my laptop on a warm day. I would be carrying a much bigger and heavier backpack without this modification!

Custom speaker mounts for my desk

I put myself into a difficult situation when I rearranged the furniture in my home office. My desk wound up over on the wall with the TV, so it made sense for me to move my monitor a little bit off-center from the corner so that the big TV could be used sort of like a second monitor. This also let me move my podcasting camera a little farther to the right, which was also a nice win!

3D Printed Speaker Stands

Now I didn’t know what to do with my speakers. There is no longer anywhere symmetrical for me to sit them behind or under my monitor. The TV is low enough to be in the way on my right, and I really didn’t want to waste five inches of depth on my desk on the narrowest side of my corner desk. What on Earth could I do about this?

I wound up designing some screw-clamp brackets for the speakers. My first attempt had fancy compound angles, but I needed different angles for each speaker to keep both pointed at my head, and it wound up looking weird with the speakers not being parallel to the surface of the desk.

3D-printed speaker clamp

The speakers are positioned nearly equidistant from each other. The new bracket has a 20-degree angle pointing the speakers up towards my ears, but not so far up that the speaker will prevent the TV from pulling out on its articulated mount. The brackets are clamped to the desk with 3D-printed screws.

The speakers are ever so slightly above the surface of the desk, but more importantly, the backs of the speakers are hanging a little over three inches behind the desk. This is saving me a nice amount of space, especially where the desk isn’t as deep on my right!

These simple speaker mounts have a lot of value to me, and I am extremely pleased with how they worked out. I couldn’t just order something from Amazon that could solve this problem so perfectly for me, but I easily put a dollar figure on these mounts.

I feel like these brackets are the prelude to some custom CNC waveguide speakers, but I am in no rush to start working on that project. These aren’t even the speakers I meant to use on my desk. I had them lying around, and I wondered if they would sound right if I wired them in place of my ancient Altec Lansing speakers. I figured they might be a reasonable set of drivers to transplant into an eventual waveguide speaker set, but who knows what I will really wind up using!

PGYTECH-compatible quick-release plates and adapters

These are some parts that I designed for myself, and they aren’t quite fully baked, so I haven’t uploaded them to Printables. My parts are just functional enough to get the job done. There are similar enough things available, though, so you might be able to find something similar to fit your needs.

I have an awesome PGYTECH MantisPod with its fanstasic quick-release ballhead and quick-release plate. I have real, authentic PGYTECH plates on all my cameras, and real, authentic PGYTECH quick-release adapters on my important tripods and my cameras.

The plates are about $15, and the combos with a plate and an adapter are $40. I don’t need a super secure and extremely sturdy adapter to hold my small lights or a GoPro to a tripod. I figured I could either spend $200 to $300 on real adapters, or I could design something compatible to stick on all my small gizmos. I think you already know what I did.

My adapters are sturdier and more effective than I expected. I don’t think I would want to trust a Sony A7S3 with a big lens hanging upside-down from a tripod on one with dozens of people walking around who might bang into it, but I am using the 3D-printed adapters in my vlogging and top-down recording setups, and they are doing a fantastic job.

The real PGYTECH plates and my own plates are also compatible with fake Arca-Swiss style clamp on two of my older tripods, too, which is nice.

VESA camera mounts

This is probably the single most important 3D-printed doodad I am using around the house, and I think it is genius, even if it isn’t something that most people would need. I have my 34” ultrawide monitor attached to a dual monitor mount, and I have some custom 3D-printed parts that let me mount my Sony ZV-1 in place of the second monitor.

Sony ZV-1 mounted to my VESA monitor arm

The Sony ZV-1 is hooked up like a webcam, so I can use it when recording podcast interviews. I also record on the camera during those interviews so that I have a high-quality copy of the footage.

My monitor mount’s arms are articulated on only one axis, but I can also muscle the VESA bracket to tilt on two axes. This means I can push the camera out of the way to hide it behind my monitor, but when I swing it out to record, I don’t have to worry about getting the camera at the correct height, pitch, or roll angles. I only have to worry about aiming it left and right. Everything else is ready to go.

This takes so much work out of podcasting, and it means I can show up at least 15 minutes later for every interview!

Organizing my small parts with the Gridfinity storage system

Zack Freedman’s open-source Gridfinity system is fantastic. The concept is great, it is open source, and there is a huge community making all sorts of custom bins to fit pretty much anything you can imagine.

I have a few drawers organized with Gridfinity, and I am constantly improving the organization of my electronics workbench.

One of my favorite features of Gridfinity is how it lets me make use of the third dimension. I have a bin in my camera drawer that holds my Sony ZV-1 and its Ulanzi wide-angle lens. That bin sits on top of another bit that holds spare ZV-1 batteries and memory cards. I like that I can keep important things quickly accessible while still keeping their other accessories hiding underneath.

Whenever I need to test a new printer, a new slicer profile, or a fresh spool of filament I will print off a small Gridfinity bin. More bins will eventually come in handy, and I won’t wind up throwing them away like I would a calibration cube or a Benchy.

This is the only project where I printed things that wouldn’t fit on the Bambu A1 Mini, but the parts I really wanted to print also didn’t fit on my Prusa MK3S. I printed several 4x5 Gridfinity base plates that I had to glue together to fill up my workbench. If I didn’t have the Prusa MK3S, I would have just had to print lots of 4x4 Gridfinity base plates and glue those together instead! Not exactly a huge problem.

A GPU anti-sag screw jack, and a CPU cooler adapter

There’s no shortage of fun, cool, and useful parts you can 3D print for your computer. There are adapters to that let you slot 4 3.5” hard disks in three 5.25” drive bays, or fit two 2.5” SSDs in a single 3.5” drive bay.

I used a 3D printed Wraite Spire adapter to upgrade to a 120-mm fan to quiet my CPU cooler a bit. It didn’t get me where I wanted to go after upgrading from a Ryzen 1600 to a Ryzen 5700X, but it did get a little quieter, and the CPU did benchmark higher!

I also printed a screw-jack for my slightly sagging GPU. I can’t even find the one I printed on Printables, but there are a ton of them! Mine is two simple pieces that thread together allowing you to adjust the length, but there are all sorts of whimsical prints to help prevent a sagging GPU. My little Radeon 6700 XT wasn’t sagging all that much, but I own a 3D printer, so it seemed like a problem I should solve.

You shouldn’t buy a 3D printer to solve either of these problems. You can get a screw jack on Amazon for $9.99, and I bought a pretty awesome CPU cooler with a pair of rather quiet 120-mm fans for $20. Even so, those two purchases would be nearly enough to buy three kilograms of filament.

Magnetic curtain holders

I have to say that I am bummed out, because the excellent clips I am using are no longer available on Printables or anywhere else. The ones I am using are sort of like this set of curtain clips, except that the ones I chose are staggered so that the curtains overlap by half an inch to make sure no light peeks through.

Almost the entire length of the wall behind our couch is either window or a glass door. This is trouble, because if the curtains aren’t just right, then there is a sliver of light cast on the TV during the day.

Magnetic curtain doodads

These little clips are fantastic. We just have to pull the curtains close to the correct position, and the magnets pull them right into place. There were three models available for different size magnets, and I stupidly chose the biggest magnets. You really want just enough magnet to hold the curtains shut. I have strong enough magnets that the friction holding the clips on the curtains just isn’t strong enough!

There are 4-packs of similar doodads on Amazon for $12. I am using nine clips. I bet we could have gotten away with six, so it seems safe to say that I saved $24. I did wind up spending half that savings buying a 100-pack of 10-mm magnets, but I have used up more than half of those magnets on another project. There is always a use for more magnets!

Mic adapter for my IKEA Tertial lamp

This isn’t quite a new 3D-printing project, but I did revise my setup this year, so I feel like that counts! I originally uploaded my IKEA Tertial arm lamp C920 webcam mount to Thingiverse in 2015. It has evolved a lot since then, but I am still using parts that I designed in 2015 today.

Deity D4 Mini shotgun mic in a 3D Printed Stand

At some point after 2015, I upgraded the mount to use ball joints. Last year, I added a clip to hold my Deity D4 Mini shotgun mic under the webcam. Not long after, I popped the webcam out, but I still had the mount up there. I also upgraded the ball joints with a couple of CNC-cut carbon-fiber plates, because they can be thinner, and I think they look cooler!

I eventually need to get around to deleting the webcam mount that I no longer use! That would make it look even cooler, right?!

Parametric Shock mount in OpenSCAD

This shock mount was the first thing I designed using the BOSL2 OpenSCAD library

Now that I am down to just a microphone, this is something one could just go out and buy. You can get an Amazon Basics mic arm for $22. You can also get something much nicer like the Elgato Wave Mic Arm for $80.

I was at IKEA one day back in 2015, and I snagged a handful of Tertial lamps for $9.50 each. They are handy lights, they are inexpensive, and I have used two or three as mic or webcam arms.

A small coffee grinder upgrade

I upgraded my espresso setup to a Turin DF64P coffee grinder during the summer. This was a huge upgrade, and I absolutely love this grinder. It has one minor problem that was bugging me: the dial doesn’t give you a good indication of which number it is actually pointing at!

3D printed dial indicator on my Turin DF64P espresso grinder

I need to re-print this on the Bambu A1 Mini. The tiny bump at the tip printed a little fuzzy with the 0.6-mm nozzle on my Sovol SV06, and it is collecting brown coffee bits that won’t brush away!

This isn’t a huge inconvenience. I don’t actually count tick marks when dialing in a shot of espresso. It is a bit of a nuisance when I roast another batch of the same beans a month later and want to start tuning from where I left off. If I write 23 on the bag, it would be nice to be able to get back to 23 next time, right?

Some on Printables designed a tiny indicator arrow that hangs onto the adjustment doohickey. Mine wobbled around a little, so I cut myself a tiny piece of double-sided tape to keep it in place.

This is another model that doesn’t seem to be available on Printables or anywhere else any longer!

Hidden tube lights behind my office TV

This solved another problem I caused by my rearranging of my home office. I used to have a floor lamp a few feet from me, and it was reflecting 2,000 lumens down onto my desk from the ceiling. There isn’t anywhere near my desk now for that lamp, so it is on the opposite side of the room having most of its light absorbed by the dark curtain, and I can’t run my video lights. They are quite bright, but they are also pointed almost directly at my face! I have been in sitting here in the dark for a couple of months.

3D printed mount for three light tubes on a VESA mount

I was shopping around for lighting ideas when I discovered these 3’ 1800-lumen tube lights. I was able to get an 8-pack for $55. That length is just short enough to hide behind my TV, and they come with all sorts of cables and adapters to string lights together in series. You can get them in lengths from 2’ up to 8’. Different brands and models come with different quantities of connectors and switched plugs, so you may have to shop around to be able to meet your needs.

Every one of these style of work light on Amazon claims to be high CRI, but that is definitely not the case. People in my office look a little ill now, because the lights lean towards green and definitely don’t have enough red. The difference is so obvious when I fire up my video lights, but that is fine. I have a bright light from a source that you’ll never see on my video camera, so I am quite pleased.

I designed a simple triangular brackets that bolts onto my TV’s VESA mounts. The brackets each have screw holes to attach the supplied clips for three of the tube lights.


I had an even more exciting year of 3D-printed solutions to problems around the house than I expected, and if you are new to 3D printing I hope you have as much success this year as I had last year. Not every print needs to solve a problem. Not every print needs to provide monetary value.

Even so, it is nice when they do! Being able to repair a broken appliance without waiting a week for parts is nice. Being able to repair something when no one sells replacement parts is even better. My 3D printers have definitely saved the day on more than one occasion.

The Bambu A1 - Do I Regret Buying an A1 Mini a Month Ago?

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No! I do not regret ordering my Bambu A1 Mini combo in November! I have been printing with it almost every day for the last two weeks, and it has been fantastic. I hardly ever print anything that wouldn’t fit on my A1 Mini, and that will continue to be the case.

Using the Bambu AMS Lite to use up three spools of old filament

Using the Bambu A1 Mini AMS Lite to use the remains of three old spools of filament

Is the A1 Mini’s bigger brother worth an extra $100? Of course it is! The bed on the A1 can heat up 20C hotter, and I would love that for small ABS prints. It has twice as much surface area. Even better, you can save some space by mounting the AMS Lite on top of the printer. Any of that is worth an extra $100.

I may not regret my purchase, but I would definitely spend the extra $100 if I were placing my order for a Bambu A1 today.

The A1 Mini only makes sense to me without the AMS Lite

Why am I saying this?!

The full-size A1 is a better printer than the A1 Mini in every way except for its size. If you want a little printer to tuck into the corner of your home office, the A1 Mini is amazing, but once you sit an AMS Lite next to it, the footprint becomes quite large.

If you are willing to mount your AMS Lite on top of your full-size A1, then it takes up less space on the workbench than the A1 Mini with an AMS. It’ll get pretty tall, but most people seem to have empty space above their printers anyway.

Stock textured Bambu A1 Mini PEI sheet vs Cheap PEI surface

The full-size A1 has a smaller footprint, double the print surface, triple the print volume, and a more rigid construction than the A1 Mini. If you’re already willing to spend an extra $160 on the AMS Lite, then stretching your budget another $100 for all these upgrades isn’t a bad idea.

Just about the only reason I can think of to buy the A1 Mini today is to save money. It is an amazing printer for $299, and I think you should buy one. You will get a ton of mileage out of the A1 Mini. It is fast. The prints are high quality. It does a great job holding your hand. It is an amazing first 3D printer.

This isn’t what I was expecting to say today!

I have been watching all the A1 leaks, rumors, and spoilers. I expected that I would want to buy an A1 without the AMS Lite to sit next to my A1 Mini, and I expected I would want to keep the AMS Lite on the smaller printer.

Most things I want to print in multiple colors will be small, and any print that changes filament every layer takes all day. Something that takes 40 minutes to print in a single color can easily take 12 hours if you use all four colors. Why tie up the big printer all day with jobs like that?

Bambu AMS Lite

Tweaking Arachne settings for cleaner small text

But look at how much space it would save putting the AMS Lite on top of the printer! And it has been ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTFUL having the AMS switch filament for me for single-color prints. Want to print in blue so I don’t mix up my black PLA prototypes with black ABS production parts for my Tindie store? No problem! Want to print some PETG? No problem! It is already loaded in slot 4. Want to put some white text on a blue print? Fantastic! Both colors are already loaded.

I am new to having a Bambu AMS. I just learned a few days ago that as soon as the red light shows up on the AMS Lite indicating that it has run out of filament, I can wander over there and load a fresh spool. Once the extruder detects that it is out of filament, it will automatically advance the fresh spool and prime the nozzle. I didn’t even have to wait for it to holler at me!

I kind of want the AMS Lite on the printer I use the most. In fact, I kind of want an AMS on every printer I own.

Is it still worth buying a Sovol SV06 or other budget printer now?

I don’t think I have quite decided how I feel about this just yet. I expect that I will want to write an entire blog post dedicated to these sorts of thoughts, but here’s what I think so far.

The smaller Sovol SV06 is a solid printer for $195, assuming Sovol’s quality control manages to get you a good printer. It seems that they do way more often than not. It is a little bigger at 220x220 mm than the $299 Bambu A1 Mini, but those are the only two measurements where the Sovol comes out ahead. Bambu has excellent quality control, their printers are three or four times faster than the Sovol SV06, and Bambu has all sorts of advanced features that mean you are more likely to succeed.

Bambu A1 Mini AMS Lite Multicolor K2 Filament Clips

K2 Filament Clips

Half of the posts on r/FixMyPrint are from people who can’t figure out how to calibrate their printer’s z-offset. This is something you will have to do with every Sovol printer, but Bambu does it for you. This provides a ton of value, and if you happen to be one of those people that would have been struggling, this is a huge deal.

The exact same logic applies when comparing the Sovol SV06 Plus and the new Bambu A1.

There are only two reasons I can think of to buy a Sovol SV06 or SV06 Plus today: either the Bambu printers just aren’t big enough for the things you need to print, or you can’t afford to pay more for one of the better printers.

The last one makes me nervous. A big part of how companies like Sovol save money is by using less premium components. Their printers sometimes fail early or don’t work. I don’t know how often this is, but I will feel bed if you are pinching pennies to buy your first 3D printer and it doesn’t work at all. This applies to a similar degree to Elegoo, Creality, and everyone else that isn’t Bambu Lab or Prusa Research.


Both the Bambu A1 and A1 Mini are fantastic printers that are priced quite aggressively. At $399, you can buy two Bambu A1 printers that are bigger, faster, and more advanced for the price of a Prusa MK4 kit, and you will have to spend a weekend putting that kit from Prusa Research together yourself. That is an amazing value.

Any of Bambu’s printers would be an amazing first 3D printer or a printer for someone with lots of experience. I love not having to worry about my z-offset or dialing in flow rates for new spools of filament anymore, and those same features would be amazing for someone who has never used a 3D printer before.

Do you agree that both the Bambu A1 and A1 Mini are amazing printers at their price points? Would you want to save $100 if everything you wanted to print would fit on the A1, or would you be tempted to splurge on the bigger Bambu A1? Let me know in the comments, or stop by the Butter, What?! Discord server to chat with me about it!