If you had asked me just one year ago what a home lab was, I would tell you that I never was too great at chemistry.

Today, I have turned my AT&T router into a dumb modem and have a customized WiFi network capable of powering a small business, broadcasting 3 SSID’s simultaneously with minimal channel interference. My download speeds are higher than they’ve ever been. Providing the backbone to all of my services is a decommissioned corporate-grade rack server with more RAM than any of the devices I have owned put together and more cores than my two laptops combined.

My motivation

Why does someone learn the piano by playing songs that have already been written and performed?

There’s more than one pianist in the world, and they all had to start somewhere.

I learn by doing

Some of us learn by watching and listening, paying mind to the mistakes of others, while some of us learn recklessly through trial and error. I try to follow advice, but sometimes I skim over something important in big bold text that I should have read, and thus create a nice, blazing fire. Who wants marshmallows?

But I figure out what I had done wrong, I extinguish the fire, and I ensure I do not make that same mistake again.

I’d rather be my own first customer

When I see the exposed, beautifully routed network cables running through my office’s ceiling, snaking their way into this gorgeous, bright-white, 50-degree data center with endless racks of servers, fans at full speed, status lights flashing — it’s fascinating to me.

It is also terrifying.

If my first hands-on experience was handling millions of dollars of networking and computing equipment, then I can guarantee they would not have been worth millions of dollars by the next day.

When I work for myself, there’s no time sheet I must fill out, and there’s nobody tapping their foot waiting on me. I can pace myself and I can make mistakes without bringing the ceiling down on myself. And if I do? That’s fine, that’s what my insurance is for.

It’s like a sandbox

No longer am I restricted by the processing power of my Raspberry Pi, the weak signal of my AT&T router, using my personal laptop to serve as a server, nor relying on someone else’s infrastructure. I build my own infrastructure, and by doing so, I know what makes it tick, and when something goes wrong, I know more about how to fix it, and most importantly: I am able to fix it.

DIY can be cheaper

There’s a convenience to using someone else’s product and configurations, and that’s why there are convenience fees. For most people whose hobbies lie elsewhere, that is the most obvious choice.

Someone has to do it

In the case of IT infrastructure, I want to be that somebody.

As for car maintenance, I’ll leave that to the mechanics… for now.

Published by Grayson

I currently am a developer, focused on the full-stack as both a hobbyist and also professionally at WarnerMedia, where I work on both the live and clip-based video encoding / infrastructure for subsidiaries such as CNN, NBA, Adult Swim, TNT, and a few more.

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