Raspberry Pi as a local server for self hosting applications

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Doing an experiment with my RPi 4, using it as a small but powerful local server.

My current PC is a 10 year old Macbook Pro 13" 2010, which is sluggish sometimes.

So I want to offload some heavy tasks (ffmpeg time-lapse creation, long-running tasks and services) to the Raspberry Pi and connect to it either via LAN or Wi-Fi.

Below you can read my findings about performance, applications and general issues I encountered and tried to solve.

Table of Contents

Update 2023

This post is still relevant, but in the meantime (since 2020) I’ve written a few new posts that could interest you too:

First steps

I started by:

  • Flashing a minimal RaspiOS Buster Lite image on a 32GB SD card (prob better for the future if I used a 128GB one)
  • No setup of Wi-Fi connectivity through wpa_supplicant
  • Creating an empty ssh file in the SD card to enable SSH access

Powered up the Pi and I was able to connect via LAN.

Additionally, I changed the hostname of the Raspberry Pi to serverry (through raspi-config).

Connection via LAN to PC

rpi mac lan

Connecting the RPi to my MBP through LAN was the first thing I wanted to try.

The Pi is now available on my PC as serverry.local.

Internet Sharing from PC to RPi

“Internet Sharing” from the PC to the Pi was super easy.

Worked first try, just had to enable the internet sharing setting on my Mac:

mac internet sharing

Connection via Wi-Fi

Set up a wpa_supplicant.conf in /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf or place it
in the root of the SD card.

This enables the Raspberry Pi to have independent internet connectivity.

Here is an example:

ctrl_interface=DIR=/var/run/wpa_supplicant GROUP=netdev


Now the RPi is also available in my home-network under serverry.fritz.box

Benchmarking Transfer speeds via iperf

Did a simple benchmark using iperf, once using Wi-Fi and once using the direct ethernet connection to my PC.

Here are the results:

  • LAN transfer speeds (Mac - RPi): 900+MBits/s
  • WLAN transfer speeds (Mac - RPi): 60+MBits/s)

Makes total sense, still interesting.

Benchmark over LAN

~ iperf3 -c serverry.local
Connecting to host serverry.local, port 5201
[  7] local fe80::58b0:35ff:feef:3a64 port 62068 connected to fe80::b713:505e:420e:d16b port 5201
[ ID] Interval           Transfer     Bitrate
[  7]   0.00-1.00   sec   111 MBytes   933 Mbits/sec
[  7]   1.00-2.01   sec  97.9 MBytes   817 Mbits/sec
[  7]   2.01-3.01   sec   110 MBytes   919 Mbits/sec
[  7]   3.01-4.01   sec   110 MBytes   929 Mbits/sec
[  7]   4.01-5.01   sec   107 MBytes   891 Mbits/sec
[  7]   5.01-6.01   sec   110 MBytes   925 Mbits/sec
[  7]   6.01-7.01   sec   109 MBytes   911 Mbits/sec
[  7]   7.01-8.01   sec   107 MBytes   902 Mbits/sec
[  7]   8.01-9.01   sec   108 MBytes   908 Mbits/sec
[  7]   9.01-10.00  sec   109 MBytes   916 Mbits/sec
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
[ ID] Interval           Transfer     Bitrate
[  7]   0.00-10.00  sec  1.05 GBytes   905 Mbits/sec                  sender
[  7]   0.00-10.01  sec  1.05 GBytes   904 Mbits/sec                  receiver

Benchmark over Wi-Fi

~ iperf3 -c serverry.fritz.box
Connecting to host serverry.fritz.box, port 5201
[  7] local port 62063 connected to port 5201
[ ID] Interval           Transfer     Bitrate
[  7]   0.00-1.00   sec  8.18 MBytes  68.6 Mbits/sec
[  7]   1.00-2.00   sec  7.78 MBytes  65.2 Mbits/sec
[  7]   2.00-3.00   sec  7.77 MBytes  65.2 Mbits/sec
[  7]   3.00-4.00   sec  7.63 MBytes  63.9 Mbits/sec
[  7]   4.00-5.00   sec  7.24 MBytes  60.6 Mbits/sec
[  7]   5.00-6.00   sec  7.49 MBytes  63.2 Mbits/sec
[  7]   6.00-7.00   sec  7.28 MBytes  61.0 Mbits/sec
[  7]   7.00-8.08   sec  7.94 MBytes  61.6 Mbits/sec
[  7]   8.08-9.00   sec  6.25 MBytes  57.0 Mbits/sec
[  7]   9.00-10.12  sec  7.32 MBytes  54.8 Mbits/sec
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
[ ID] Interval           Transfer     Bitrate
[  7]   0.00-10.12  sec  74.9 MBytes  62.1 Mbits/sec                  sender
[  7]   0.00-10.12  sec  74.9 MBytes  62.0 Mbits/sec                  receiver


ffmpeg for time-lapse

Lately I’ve been busy with time-lapses, and the process of creating one with ffmpeg on my MBP was getting slower and slower (seemingly).

Did a benchmark of creating a time-lapse of 20 FPS, based on 775 snapshots. The snapshots were taken every minute from 7AM til 8PM.

There is to mention that the Pi has 4 cores 4GB RAM, while my MBP has 2 cores 8GB RAM.

On the Raspberry Pi the ffmpeg process took 12m30s to complete.

While on my MBP it took 20m!

Almost twice as fast, daaamn!

I think for more graphics intensive uses, the MBP would win though, since it has a Nvidia 320m, for what’s worth

This is a comparison of htop between both devices

Raspberry Pi


Macbook Pro 13" 2010


n8n for automation

I wanted to use n8n.io to automate some personal tasks, and create useful workflow automations.

There is an ARM build for n8n using docker, fortunately:

docker run -d --restart always --name n8n -p 5678:5678 -v ~/.n8n:/root/.n8n n8nio/n8n:0.78.0-rpi

You could also use npx, npx n8n

The dashboard is available via http://serverry.local:5678, you now have access to your local n8n instance.

emby for media server

Recently discovered emby.media.

It can be used as a personal library of your media files, for easy access, organization and streaming.

The installation was as easy as:

wget https://github.com/MediaBrowser/Emby.Releases/releases/download/ -O emby-server.deb
sudo dpkg -i emby-server.deb

Emby is now available on http://serverry.local:8096/


Hakatime is a server implementation of Wakatime.

Unfortunately, the docker image is not built for ARM, so it cannot work on the Pi.

I’m getting the classic error when spinning up the docker image:

standard_init_linux.go:211: exec user process caused "exec format error"

Will have to figure out how to build the project manually…

That’s a pity though, I was super stoked to get Hakatime up and running :(

Tor proxy

Managed to easily set up a tor proxy on the Raspberry Pi.

As easy as

sudo apt install tor

echo "SocksPort\nSocksPolicy accept *\nRunAsDaemon 1" >> /etc/tor/torrc

sudo systemctl restart [email protected]

Now I can connect from my Mac to the RPi and browse via Tor.

# turn on
networksetup -setsocksfirewallproxy "Wi-Fi" "serverry.fritz.box" "9050" off

# turn off
networksetup -setsocksfirewallproxystate "Wi-Fi" off

Verify connectivity through check.torproject.org

tor connectivity

Final words

So far the experience was pretty pleasant.

4 out of 5 use cases (ffmpeg, n8n, emby, hakatime, tor) worked out of the box.

What I want to try out next is:

Here, have a slice of pizza 🍕