UEFI and the eRacks/ZENBOOK13

Zenbook with beverage - IMG_20131019_231446531Minty Zenbook

I am typing this on a nifty new eRacks/ZENBOOK13, with Linux Mint15 installed.

This is a slightly newer rev of the very pretty Asus Zenbook line, with twin 128GB SSD modules installed in a small carrier which screws into the standard 2.5″ HD space (it could also be replaced or upgraded with one of our standard HD/SSD choices, here: http://eracks.com/products/laptops/ZENBOOK13/)

This post will walk you through what we had to do for the installation, with the details.

Installation Cookbook

  1. Boot to an Ubuntu 13.04 install disk. (13.10 should work, or Ubuntustudio works too, that’s what I used).  For some reason, the Mint installer doesn’t install the default EFI boot choice properly, so you have to start with Ubuntu, then replace it with Mint. Read on.
  2. Using gparted (fdisk could work, too), delete the partition tables on /dev/sda and /dev/sdb, and replace the GPT-based partition tables with with msdos-type partition tables.
  3. Install Ubuntu on the 1st of the two SSDs. Don’t worry about the 2nd disk (_yet_).  Be sure to check the “Install with LVM” box after you select the default “Erase and install…”.
  4. Reboot into Ubuntu, and note the partitions cerated.
  5. Boot into a Mint 15 Install disk.
  6. Install Mint15 into the same partition structure – in other words, do NOT select the default “erase and install…” , but rather the “Something else” choice, and tell it to put the root partition on the same partition you noted in step 4.
  7. Install rEFInd (http://www.rodsbooks.com/refind/) from a rEFInd install disk, that you downloaded and burned from there. (I used v0.74). Be sure to install it in the /boot/efi partition (typically /dev/sda2) created earlier. The reason to install rEFInd, is it’s an invaluable tool to use to boot from any EFI-capable location on your computer, and will be used later on.  I put mine in EFI\refind\refind_x64.efi
  8. Be sure to also copy shell64.efi into /boot/efi/EFI/tools/, so rEFInd can find it, and show you the EFI Shell choice & icon.
  9. Boot from rEFInd.
  10. Choose the EFI shell.
  11. Using the bcfg command, (help -v bcfg is your friend!), list the boot choices, and verify that “ubuntu” is there.
  12. Add “mint” as a boot choice, pointing to EFI\linuxmint\grub64.efi – mimic the way the “ubuntu” boot choice is done.
  13. Reboot into the boot menu (hold Esc down during the Asus logo) and verify that “mint” and “rEFInd” are there.
  14. Test them both out – rEFInd should also give other interesting choices you can try out.
  15. You should be able to launch Mint from either the “Mint” choice in the Asus boot (holding Esc), or from the Mint choice in rEFInd.
  16. Optionally, you can add the 2nd SSD (mentioned in step 3) to the main volume using LVM, to use the full 256GB.

That’s it!

Wrap and Beverage

I must say, this is a BEAUTIFUL machine – I want one myself!

Between the FullHD display, and being roughly the same thickness and sizeas the magazines I often carry into any given bar / restaurant here in Los Gatos, this is a joy compared to my regular 1920×1080 Asus laptop..

…And it beats the heck out of a tablet..

…And the battery life seems great, it barely made a dent in the hour or so I spent surfing with it while drinking my beverage of choice at one of the local establishments here.

…And did I mention it’s screaming fast, with the i7 CPU and 10GB RAM?!

Bon Appetit,

j

 

 

Ubuntu for Tablets Unveiled Today

Ubuntu for tablets was officially unveiled today. According to PCMag, “A Touch Developer Preview will be released on Feb. 21 via developer.ubuntu.com, which will work on the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets.”

Ubuntu for Tablets

I’m actually a huge fan of the interface on the Nexus 7 and I probably wouldn’t change it, but I would absolutely love someone to get a stripped down version of Ubuntu running on a Kindle Fire. I absolutely hate that my Kindle Fire won’t recognize a USB device and can’t access the Google Play Store without rooting it and potentially bricking the device. 

Some of the added features of Ubuntu will be voice control, an invisible task-bar called magic edges,  and a split screen mode to allow for better multitasking: Skype while you watch a movie at the same time. 

 

50GB of Free Cloud Storage Space

boxOne of the primary complaints that I’ve had about tablets such as the iPad, the Surface tablet and the Kindle Fire HD is the lack of hard drive storage space.  All three devices offer between 5-10GB of additional cloud storage for free, but that’s barely enough for a single DVD quality movie.  There are plenty of paid options for cloud storage, but many services charge a monthly/yearly fee and they can be expensive. Recently, as hard drive prices have been dropping, I’ve been expecting that some company would finally come along and offer a large amount of free cloud storage to sign up a bunch of new users. I saw a post on a forum today where Box.com was offering 50GB of free cloud storage to new users.  I haven’t had a chance to test the service myself, but it can apparently sync files between Apple, Microsoft, and most Android devices. I recommend signing up for this deal as soon as possible, because I highly suspect that the folks over at Box.com have vastly underestimated the number of people who are going to jump on a deal like this.

If you need a new tablet, laptop, desktop, or netbook, check out the new website over at eRacks.com.

 

eRacks offers new system options through our upgraded digital storefront

NAS50 Network Attached Storage server from eRacks

NAS50 Network Attached Storage server from eRacks

You may have noticed that the eRacks Open Source Systems website recently got a huge facelift. eRacks now offers a ton of new options and upgrades for their entire line of desktop computers, laptops, storage servers, NAS servers, Linux servers and rackmount servers . eRacks wide choice of operating systems also include Ubuntu, Debian, openSUSE, Fedora Linux and other rackmount server configurations.

The NAS50 network attached storage server from eRacks has also been upgraded with newest hard drives from Western Digital and Seagate. In addition to 200TB of storage, the eRacks/NAS50 holds a maximum of two eight-core Intel Xeon or four AMD Opteron CPUs for a total of 16 Intel cores or 64 AMD cores. Memory can be upgraded up to 768GB DDR3 and multiple RAID arrays can be configured. eRacks also offers 4GbE and 10GbE network interfaces for the eRacks/NAS50 server. An external SAS option enables multiple NAS50 servers or other NAS units together for peta-scale storage.

NAS50 Network Attached Storage server from eRacks

eRacks new website is now live!

eRacks Open Source Systems new website design

eRacks new website is officially live and fully functional! We completely redesigned the old website. We’ve added a ton of new products, including a custom line of high end gaming laptops.

eRacks Announces a New Line Of High Performance Laptops

eRacks Open Source Systems announces a new line of high performance laptops powered by the third generation Intel i5/ i7 chipset. The new line is the perfect solution for Linux professionals, gamers, programmers, video editors and engineers. The new line will also feature dual hard drive bays which will vastly improve storage capacity and allow for RAID configurations. eRacks is proud to deliver a high-end mobile gaming machine with more processing power, more graphics performance and more storage options than anything else on the market.

The Intel i7 3610qm powered King laptop is designed for intensive computation and includes dual NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M GPU, earthshaking Sound Blaster X-Fi MB2 audio, subwoofer, programmable illuminated keyboard, 17.3″ (16:9) Full HD 1920×1080 LED-Backlit Display, 9-in-1 Card Reader, 8xDVDRW or BluRay optical drive and dual hard drive bays with support for RAID. Sophisticated engineering and design make sure all of these fit perfectly in a compact and cutting-edge portable form. The King can be configured with your choice of Linux OS, including dual boot options with support for Windows 7, Windows 8, Ubuntu, Centos, Linux Mint and many other Linux distros.

Every laptop is custom designed, configured and rigorously tested by eRacks in their California facility. Users will be able to work closely with the experts at eRacks regarding any questions about capabilities, compatibility and special system requirements. The unparalleled level of customer service ensures users get a laptop that will exactly meet their needs and exceed their expectations.

Amazon reportedly negotiating to acquire Texas Instruments’ OMAP chip division

I’m a huge fan of the business model for the Kindle Fire. Amazon sells the hardware to the consumer at cost and makes a profit by selling content. It also offers a great platform for App developers to make money. Amazon was even kind enough to offer the source code for the original Kindle Fire a few weeks after it was released, allowing developers to customize the OS and create create custom ROMs. If Amazon is able to pull off this deal to acquire Texas Instruments chip division, they could potentially be able to offer the Kindle Fire at a lower price by cutting out the middle man and producing a chip in-house. Amazon would also be able to wipe out one of their main competitors in Barnes and Nobles by cutting off their chip supplier and forcing Barnes and Nobles to completely redesign the Nook. Frankly, I don’t think Barnes and Nobles is up to the task. They’re hanging on by a thread as it stands now.

With the amount of free books and apps available on Amazon, sometimes I wonder how the Kindle Fire makes any money at all. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says that Kindle Fire owners purchase 4 times the amount of books of non-owners. As a Kindle Fire owner myself, I’m inclined to believe him. I’ve read more in the year since I bought the Kindle Fire than I had in the previous ten. I’ve also been purchasing apps. A lot of those apps were created by small developers. I’m glad to see that Amazon is tapping into the market and creating an environment where the little guy can still get a slice of the pie. I think potential Texas Instruments OMAP acquisition would be good for everyone.

World of Warcraft Hacker: Nuisance or Visionary?

World of Warcraft is a social phenomenon that is completely unique in the entire span of the human experience. Millions of people inhabit a virtual universe that exists outside the constraints of the physical world. Many people become so preoccupied with the game that they lose jobs, friends, and spouses. Sociologists have suggested that video games like World of Warcraft might help fulfill some primal desire to hunt that is hard wired into our brain.

This weekend, a hacker exploited a weakness in the game and eviscerated hundreds of users and entire cities within the game. It immediately reminded me of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah from the Christian bible where God sends an angel to destroy two cities which are so morally corrupted that they must be completely purged. It begs the question: did the hacker feel the same way about World of Warcraft? Are the users so rotten that they too are beyond saving?

Blizzard was able to repair the damage to the game within about 4 hours. In an official statement, they acknowledged that they had not contacted the police about the incident. They did ask users for information that might identify the hacker. I don’t believe this particular hacker actually meant to destroy the game. Killing a character is only a minor nuisance because you can just re-spawn with hardly any consequence. The more obvious ways to do any meaningful damage would have been to attack the monetary system within the game or to completely reset characters on the server. Resetting a character would negate hundreds of hours of work. If this had been the case, many users might have left WOW and cancelled their subscriptions, never to return. I’m sure Blizzard has safeguards in place to keep this from happening.

Eventually, a new and better game will be released and users will migrate away from World of Warcraft. Video games will continue to enthrall and ensnare us. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. What we’re left with is a whole generation of socially inept hermits with skills that don’t translate to the real world. If they ever catch the hacker, chances are he’ll pay a hefty fine. He might even serve some jail time. History might see him in a different light. I imagine him sitting in filthy room, pizza boxes piled 4 feet high, hundreds of empty Mountain Dew bottles strewn across the floor, when suddenly he had a moment of clarity. Maybe he was only trying to set us free.

RockBox


A lot of older Mp3 players and audio recording devices were fully capable of delivering excellent audio quality, but were hampered at the time by poor software and outdated file types. RockBox is a free open source firmware replacement that runs on many of these devices. Stable versions are available for the following devices:
Apple: iPod 1g through 5.5g, iPod Mini, iPod Nano 1g
Archos: Jukebox 5000, 6000, Studio, Recorder, FM Recorder, Recorder V2 and Ondio
Cowon: iAudio X5, X5V, X5L, M5, M5L, M3 and M3L
iriver: iHP100 series, H100 series, H300 series and H10 series
MPIO: HD300
Olympus: M:Robe 100
Packard Bell: Vibe 500
SanDisk: Sansa c200, e200 and e200R series, Fuze, Clip and Clip+
Toshiba: Gigabeat X and F series

An anonymous blogger writes, “Looking for an inexpensive means to capture audio from a dynamically moving crowd, I sampled many MP3 players’ recording capabilities. Ultimately the best bang-for-the-buck was refurbished SanDisk Sansa Clip+ devices ($26/ea) loaded with (open source) RockBox firmware. The most massively multi-track event was a thorium conference in Chicago where many attendees wore a Clip+. Volunteers worked the room with cameras, and audio capture was decoupled from video capture. It looked like this. Despite having (higher quality) ZOOM H1n and wireless mics, I’ve continued to use the RockBox-ified Clip+ devices … even if the H1n is running, the Clip+ serves as backup. There’s no worry about interference or staying within wireless mic range. The devices have 4GB capacity, and RockBox allows WAV capture. They’ll run at least 5 hours before the battery is depleted (with lots of storage left over). I would suggest sticking with 44kHz (mono) capture, as 48kHz is unreliable. To get an idea of their sound quality, here is a 10-person dinner conversation (about thorium molten salt nuclear reactors) in a very busy restaurant. I don’t know how else I could have isolated everyone’s dialog for so little money. (And I would NOT recommend Clip+ with factory firmware… they only support 22kHz and levels are too high for clipping on people’s collars.)”

This video incorporating much of that captured audio is worth watching for its content as well as the interesting re-purposing.

Re-Posted from Slashdot.Org
http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/12/10/01/060205/rockbox–refurbished-mp3-players–crowdsourced-audio-capture

5 Reasons to upgrade from Windows XP to Linux Ubuntu

1. Ubuntu is more secure. Now that Windows is no longer supporting XP, many older systems are extremely vulnerable to viruses and hackers. Ubuntu is virtually virus free.
2. Ubuntu takes up less hard drive space. Many older systems are hampered by limited hard drive space. A full installation of Ubuntu only takes up 5GB of storage space. Users looking for a truly minimal version of Ubuntu should consider XUbuntu http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=xubuntu
3. Ubuntu is faster than Windows XP. A fully upgraded version of Windows XP eats up a ton of system resources. If you don’t re-install XP every few years, it can become extremely bogged down, eventually rendering your computer unusable. A fresh install of Ubuntu will usually yield a significant performance boost on older machines.
4. Ubuntu comes bundled with better software. LibreOffice, Firefox, and the Ubuntu Software Center are all included with Ubuntu completely free of charge. Ubuntu can do everything that Windows XP can do, and all for free with no hidden charges and no bloatware.
5. Ubuntu is fully customizable and compatible. Most comouters running Windows XP can be seamlessly and painlessly upgraded to Ubuntu without downloading a single driver. Ubuntu will automatically detect your hardware. After a quick install from an Ubuntu live cd, you can be up and running in a matter of minutes. Ubuntu is so intuitive and feels so familiar that most people who switch will never look back. Get your copy of Ubuntu here. http://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop