I live in a LAN-party-optimized house. That is, my house is specifically designed to be ideal for PC gaming parties. It's also designed for living, of course, but all houses have that.
Here, let me illustrate:
The house has twelve of these fold-out computer stations, six in each of two rooms (ideal for team vs. team games). The actual computers are not next to the monitors, but are all in a rack in a back room. The stations were built by a cabinet maker based on specs I created. The rest of the house was designed by my dad, Richard Varda, who happens to be an architect.
I also have two big TVs, one 59-inch and one 55-inch, each of which has a selection of game consoles attached. In practice we usually end up streaming pro starcraft matches to these instead of playing games on them.
For the 0.001% of you who read my blog before this post: Sorry for the long lack of posts. In March I moved into a new house. I have been working on a number of projects since then, but they have all been related to the house, and I wasn't prepared to talk publicly about it until certain security measures were in place. That is now done, so let's get started!
The twelve game stations all contain identical hardware:
- CPU: Intel Core i5-2500
- GPU: MSI N560GTX (nVidia GeForce 560)
- Motherboard: MSI P67A-C43 (Intel P67 chipset)
- RAM: 8GB (2x4GB DDR3-1333)
- Monitor: ASUS VE278Q (27" 1080p)
At the time I bought the hardware (March 2011), I felt this selection provided the best trade-off between price and performance for gaming machines that need to last at least a few years.
Although I own the machines, I do not own twelve copies of every game. Instead, I ask guests to log into their own Steam / Battle.net / whatever accounts, to play their own licensed copies.
Of course, maintaining 12 PCs would be an enormous pain in the ass. Before each LAN party, I would have to go to each machine one by one, update the operating system, update the games, etc. Everything would have to be downloaded 12 times. I do not do that.
Instead, the machines boot off the network. A server machine hosts a master disk which is shared by all the game machines. Machines can boot up in two modes:
- Master mode: The machine reads from and writes to the master image directly.
- Replica mode: The machine uses its local storage (60GB SSD) as a copy-on-write overlay. So, initially, the machine sees the disk image as being exactly the same as the master, but when changes are written, they go to the local drive instead. Thus, twelve machines can operate simultaneously without interfering with each other. The local overlay can be wiped trivially at any time, returning the machine to the master image's state.
So, before each LAN party, I boot one machine in master mode and update it. Then, I boot all the machines in replica mode, wiping their local COW overlays (because they are now out-of-sync with the master).
I'll talk more about this, and the software configuration of the game stations in general, in a future post.
I have several security cameras around the house. When I'm not home and motion is detected, pictures are immediately sent to my e-mail and phone. I can also log in and view a real-time video feed remotely. I wrote some custom software for this which I'll talk about in a future post.
That said, despite all the electronics, my house is probably not a very attractive target for burglary. Much of the electronics are bolted down, the custom-built computers are funny-looking and poorly-configured for most users, and there is really nothing else of value in the house (no jewelry, no artwork, etc.).
There are all kinds of things I hope to do in the future!
- Remote-controlled door lock. I have a magnetic lock installed on one of my doors, just need to wire it up to my server and some sort of Android app.
- Whole-house audio. I have speakers in the ceiling and walls all over the place, wired to the server room. Need to hook them up to something.
- DDR on Google TV. As you can see in one of the photos, I have some Cobalt Flux DDR pads. I'd like to see if I can port Stepmania to Google TV so that I don't have to hook up my laptop to the TV all the time.
- Solar panels. My roof is ideal for them. It's a big flat rectangle that leans south-west.
More details in later posts!
If you want to know more, check out these later posts about my house: