Rehoboam from Westworld
Our plan to build a single computer for all our needs, including Windows 10 gaming PCs running as KVM virtualised guests on Linux.

Four desktops, four laptops and three ipads. That’s for two kids (7 & 9) and one adult. Quite a lot of computing power and that’s not even including the servers and Raspberry Pi. Or the router. And wifi access point. And NAS.

So, there’s lot of tech in my house and when we are looking to ‘downsize’ for life in a tiny house, we need something… fit for purpose?

Two kids and a rack
A slightly full 19″ rack showing several servers, desktops, APC and two children who want lag-free gaming

Let’s have one big computer, which runs all our Windows 10 gaming computers, performs file sharing and various other server duties.

With the COVID19 quarantine putting a delay on anything not vital for survival, it took a little to get the kit but eBay and CEX in the end came through, so here goes our list:

1x Intel i7 4770 CPU (to swap out the 4770K one already in the system; because it turns out K CPUs, while great for overclocking, are not working with VT-d virtualisation; something we need to pass-through the various graphics cards and other devices to the guest computers in KVM.

3x Nvidia graphics cards (one for each virtualised gaming PC: GeForce GTX 660 Ti, GeForce GTX 710 and 660 Ti with 2GB VRAM each).

Several cables to plug in monitors and keyboard, mice and headsets (more than I thought in fact and I want to access the Linux (Pop_os) host machine too…). Remind me to share that cabling diagram with you:

A very rough wireing diagram
Host GPU to two monitors (DP and DVI), W10 guests DVI each to one monitor, keyboards, mice and various also need to be plugged in (scribble in bottom left)

4x 2TB HDD (“spinning rust”) drives for our primary RAID10 array (that’s 4TB net space, with a x4 read and x2 write speed gain)

4x 250GB SSD from various machines now combined in a RAID5 array (that’s 0.75TB roughly of protected net usable space)

Both RAID arrays are software RAID simply because there is no more room in the XL computer case. I have spare hardware card if anybody needs it.

Inside a stuffed computer case (three GPUs)
My slightly ‘full’ computer tower case with water cooled CPU, three Nvidia Geforce GPUs and not much room for more

We also have an on-board graphics card and 16GB of DDR3 RAM. Not really enough but I can’t justify the steep cost to upgrade to 32GB or even 64GB right now. Overall, that still works out at 4GB per W10 guest and 4GB left over for the host (which will run file and other servers besides the virtualisation hypervisor (KVM)).

And for the lulz we also upgraded the laptops with Linux and SSDs to act as not so thin clients for the rig while we are away from home (one day we’ll be free to travel again!) – thank you Parsec for an awesome, free way to remotely play at 60fps and even share with friends. If you haven’t tried it, head over to Parsec Gaming and download it. Currently supports Mac, Windows and Linux clients and Windows and Mac servers. Not quite ShadowTech but close enough for what we need. Kids are using it right now to play on their desktops while at their mum’s.

Proud father with 8yr old installing her first SSD
Picture showing a proud dad with his 8 year old installing her first SSD (and Linux)

To sum up: we’ll use KVM on Linux to virtualise existing Windows 10 machines with dedicated cards each and virtual hard drives on two fast and redundant disk arrays, all with low-lag remote gaming access.

Build guide and video coming soon. Meantime, here’s the rack covered in fancy sound-quitening cladding:

Let me know any questions or comments you have – love to hear your feedback.

Stay safe.