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Sysadmin life: How I set up my remote office hardware and software

Take a look at the software, laptop, server, smartphone, and other tech choices that keep this sysadmin productive while working from home in 2022.
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Working from home.

I'm always interested in learning how other sysadmins and technologists set up their technology for work duty and their spare time. So I'm sharing my tech setup as a sysadmin working remotely in early 2022. This article is for you. Have fun reading it.

Laptop

In 2021, I started using a Lenovo ThinkPad T14s (AMD), and I'm running Fedora 35 on it. My most frequently used applications include:

I like Rambox because it keeps all my chat, news, and social media in a separate window where I can mute them altogether or selectively.

Desktop/server PC

I have a workstation under my desk in my home study. It runs Linux and consists of these components, which I built from parts:

  • Motherboard: MSI MS-7C56/B550-A PRO
  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 PRO 4650G with Radeon graphics
  • 32GB RAM
  • 240GB SSD and 1TB SSD
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My 2022 workspace
My workspace in 2022. (Joerg Kastning, CC BY-SA 4.0)

My workspace consists of a height-adjustable desk, private workstation, cable monster under the worktop, and associated input and output devices (on the left in the picture). My work equipment is on the right.

Aside from Rambox, I use the same applications on this machine as on the laptop. This machine also serves as a KVM/QEMU hypervisor. The virtual machines running on it serve as home lab, development, and test environments. I currently do not host any productive services on it.

Smartphone

My almost constant companion is the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact smartphone. I have been using it since May 2018, and it will hopefully serve me well for a few more years. I have set my sights on a Fairphone as a potential successor. I use my phone:

  • To take pictures and videos of my adorable family (my wife insisted on this very important note)
  • To make phone calls
  • As an appointment book
  • For chat and short messages with Matrix using Element, SMS, and Threema
  • For email communication with K-9 mail
  • For internet research with Firefox, Firefox Klar, and the Tor browser
  • To consume RSS feeds with Feedly
  • To use social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Mastodon, Twitter, and XING
  • With probably three dozen other apps

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Tablet

I have also used a Samsung T830 Galaxy Tab S4 WiFi tablet since mid-2019 for most of the same purposes as above (except from phone calls and short messages). Its 10.5-inch diagonal screen and low weight make it ideal for using the open source ReadEra app to read PDFs and eBooks.

In addition, I often use the Android terminal emulator Termux on it. Combined with a keyboard case from Fintie, the Galaxy Tab regularly serves as a laptop replacement for me. I find the keyboard sleeve's price/performance ratio particularly unbeatable. I didn't really believe that I could write so well on a tiny, inexpensive keyboard.

The handling of the S-Pen is not quite as good as Apple's version, but I can use it quite well. Still, I have returned to writing longer notes and thoughts with ink in a paper notebook.

I probably have a dozen more apps on my tablet than on my smartphone. I don't want to list them all, but I think I have mentioned the most important ones.

Currently, my son has started using it too. So I have to go for alternatives. Fortunately, my T14s laptop is so fun that I only use the tablet for reading. I do all of my writing, programming, and research on the laptop.

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Other network devices

My Brother DCP-540CN network printer and scanner and I have been loyal to each other for over 15 years now. The ink cartridges have remained available (for very low prices), and the device performs reliably. In my eyes, the lengthy runtime is proof of the quality of this device. For scanning under Linux, I use the XSane application. Over the years, the setup has had hiccups under various distributions and releases now and then. But overall, I'm pleased with the device and its Linux support.

I've had the Synology DiskStation DS213air network-attached storage (NAS) for not quite as long. Its integrated WLAN support convinced me to purchase it. I use the NAS as:

  • Backup destination for various other devices on the LAN
  • Network storage for shared files
  • A host for some Git repos
  • An audio, photo, and video station

I back up live data to a directly connected 2.5-inch USB HDD and to offsite storage.

I have a Pi-hole on a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B responsible for DHCP and DNS. I also have a first-generation Pi that hosts a FHEM server for home automation and retrieves some parameters of my photovoltaic system.

By the way, nobody can reach any devices on my network from the internet—not even using VPN. So there is no door open for dirt from the internet to blow in. I would also like to limit the data traffic leaving the network, but I am still looking for a suitable solution.

Something-as-a-service

I run a personal WordPress blog on a virtual private server (VPS) from Contabo, with Nginx as my webserver of choice. This system also runs a rootless Podman installation, which I use to familiarize myself with Linux containers.

Mailbox.org has taken care of emails, appointments, and tasks for several years. I use these services on my devices with Thunderbird, K-9 Mail, and with these apps:

  • OX Sync App
  • OX Tasks
  • OX Drive

I also use Maibox.org for occasional videoconferences with three to five participants in the web browser.

For years, I've used ClouDNS hosting for my domain and the associated DNS management. The zone updates are fast, and I have never had any problems with the service.

Use your tech as long as you can

I choose my devices because they meet my requirements and seem to receive support (warranty, updates, and spare parts availability) for as long as possible.

As you can tell, most of my hardware is somewhere between old and ancient. These devices still do their job flawlessly and fully meet my requirements. I also like to treat myself to something new, like the T14s, for example. Then I use the older T410 and X201 models for a new purpose instead of going into the trash.

Check out these related articles on Enable Sysadmin

Topics:   Hardware   Software   Sysadmin culture  
Author’s photo

Jörg Kastning

Jörg has been a Sysadmin for over ten years now. His fields of operation include Virtualization (VMware), Linux System Administration and Automation (RHEL), Firewalling (Forcepoint), and Loadbalancing (F5). More about me

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