DIY RV Offsite Backup and Media Server

What better way to add a geeky touch to #vanlife than with a Linux server in your RV?

One easily could make the strong argument that an RV is the ultimate DIY project playground. It combines all of the DIY projects you could perform on a vehicle with the DIY projects for a home. Add to that the fact that you may spend days living in a small house on wheels navigating highways, forests and deserts, and you have a whole other class of DIY projects to make the most of that smaller space. RVs also offer a whole suite of power options from 12V deep cycle batteries to 110V shore power to generators and alternators to solar power, so there's a whole class of electrical DIY projects related to making the most of your changing power options.

And if you're a geek, having an RV introduces a whole other level of DIY possibilities. First, there are all of the electronics projects to manage switching between power sources, tracking energy consumption and keeping those batteries charged. Then there's an entire category of projects related to internet access while away from home that involve everything from mobile WiFi hotspots to cellular-boosting networks to roving satellite internet (and if you're clever, a smart router that routes you to the best and cheapest available option). Finally, there are several project possibilities related to the computer systems in the RV, including local switches and routers, personal computers that turn the RV into a mobile office, and media centers so you can watch TV and movies from the road.

It just so happens that I recently got an RV—a 1996 Roadtrek 170 to be exact. Although this purchase has spawned a huge list of DIY projects, my very first Linux-based project focuses on the media center. At home, my media center is a Raspberry Pi running OSMC, and it works great for accessing my ripped DVDs and CDs from my NAS and playing them on my living-room TV. When I got the RV, I realized that one of the first things we'd want is a way to access all of that media from the road, even if we were in the middle of the woods.

In this article, I describe all the steps I took to build a media server just for the RV that maintains an up-to-date copy of my media and even syncs up automatically when it's parked in my driveway. It turns out that in the process of building a media server, I ended up with a pretty great off-site backup solution as well. Even if you don't own an RV, you could adapt these steps to add your own semi-offsite backup to your car.

Figure 1. Introducing "Van Winkle" (Photo Credit: Joy Rankin)