Home Assistant OS in TrueNAS CORE Virtual Machine

I started playing with Home Assistant in the form of Home Assistant Core, a docker container, for its low commitment. Once I decided Home Assistant was worthwhile, I moved up to running Home Assistant Operating System as a virtual machine on my TrueNAS CORE server. This move gained features of Home Assistant Supervisor and I found the following subset quite useful:

  • Easy upgrade and rollback for failed upgrades.
  • Add-on integration features, especially for ESPHome.
  • Ability to backup critical data in a compact *.tar file.

The backup situation is a tradeoff. When I ran Home Assistant Core docker container, I could map its data directory to my TrueNAS storage pool. It was a more robust data retention system, as I had configured it for nightly snapshots and regular backups to external media. However, this would take upwards of hundreds of megabytes especially when I’m flooding the Home Assistant database. In contrast, the data backup archive generated by Home Assistant Supervisor is tiny at only a few megabytes. I have ambition to eventually get the best of both worlds: a Home Assistant automation that triggers Supervisor backups, and then store those backup files on my TrueNAS storage pool. This should be possible, as people have created addons to perform automatic backups and upload to Google Drive. But right now I have to do it manually.

Unrelated to the backup situation, there were two significant downsides to running Home Assistant OS on a TrueNAS CORE virtual machine.

  1. The virtual machine does not have access to hardware. If ESPHome add-on could access USB, it could perform first-time firmware upload on ESP32/ESP8266 devices. Without hardware access, I have to perform initial upload some other way which is cumbersome. (Following uploads could be done via WiFi, a huge benefit of ESPHome.)
  2. There are various problems with the FreeBSD bhyve hypervisor running Linux-based operating systems. A category of them (apparently there are more than one) interferes with the ability for a Linux operating system to reboot itself. In practice, this means every time the Home Assistant OS updates itself and reboots, it would shut down but not restart. At one point, I could not perform manual shutdown from TrueNAS interface, so the horrible workaround was to reboot my TrueNAS server. After a few TrueNAS updates, I can now manually shut down and restart the VM. But it is still a big hassle to do this on every Home Assistant OS update.

Due to these problems, I would NOT recommend running Home Assistant OS as a TrueNAS CORE virtual machine. Issue #2 became quite annoying and, when my Home Assistant got stuck trying to reboot for an upgrade to Home Assistant OS 8.0, I decided it was time to try a different setup.

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