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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

 

 

October 20th, 2013

Posted In: How-To, Laptop cookbooks, New products, News, Open Source, Products, ubuntu

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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.

 

Fremont, CA (PRWEB) January 14, 2013

Have  a look at our Product Lines:
Product Showroom

About eRacks

eRacks strives to return the control of the IT department back to the business owner, by providing quality open source enterprise-level applications on easily-upgradable industry-standard hardware. eRacks believes businesses should not be required to rely on third-party closed-source software vendors

For More Information contact eRacks at info@eracks.com or visit http://www.eracks.com

Dennis
eRacks

January 14th, 2013

Posted In: Laptop cookbooks, News, Open Source

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FreeBSD Logo

According to the release notes for FreeBSD 9.0 CURRENT:

[amd64, i386] A new gptboot boot loader has been added to support
booting from a GPT labeled disk. A new boot command has been added to
gpt(8), which makes a GPT disk bootable by writing the required bits of
the boot loader, creating a new boot partition if required. [MERGED]

This is excellent news for those who wish to boot directly from hard drives larger than 2TB.  GPT has been partially supported for some time by previous versions of FreeBSD, but this will be the first release in which booting from a GPT partition table is supported.  At the moment, 9.0 is a “bleeding edge” development branch and has not yet been released.  However, it’s likely to be sometime this summer.  Stay tuned!

July 1st, 2011

Posted In: FreeBSD, News

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eRacks, your premier open-source vendor has been featured in the VAR guys Open Source 50, a compilation of the top 50 open source vendors with partner programs. Its a great honor for us here at eRacks and we are very pleased with it. We are constantly working to increase our partners, and work with like minded individuals and companies to expand the open source movement across the globe. Its been a long road, and we believe we are seeing just the tip of the iceberg in this global movement and we welcome you to join us in our quest! If you are interested in working with us, or if you have any questions please contact us and we will be happy to answer any questions, or work closely with you on any upcoming projects.

banner_eracks_2

Link here:

http://www.thevarguy.com/the-open-source-50/the-open-source-50-listed-a-to-z/

January 19th, 2009

Posted In: Development, News

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At one point or another, you’ve probably asked yourself why you continue to spend hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of dollars on Microsoft products, especially in the downward economy we find ourselves faced with today. It could be that you’re worried about having to learn a new and unfamiliar environment. Or, maybe you feel that there aren’t enough applications available for anything other than Windows to justify switching to something else. Perhaps you’ve already invested a substantial amount of money in software that runs on Windows and don’t want that investment to go to waste.

Whatever the reason may be, there’s never been a better time to migrate away from proprietary software and make the move to Linux, a premium open source solution. Not only are the arguments outlined above irrelevant to the current technological climate, there are many other exciting reasons to consider giving Linux a try.

Linux Does More “Out-of-the-Box,” and It’s all Free!

After installing Microsoft Windows, your first task will always inevitably be to install a lengthy suite of applications before being able to do anything productive, and by the time you’ve finished, you’ll have potentially incurred hundreds of dollars in additional licensing costs. By contrast, any popular modern Linux distribution will come bundled with an office suite, fully-featured mail client, system administration tools and a host of other applications, saving you hours of installation time, all at no added cost. Even if you use a commercial Linux distribution with a price tag to match, the software bundled with it is almost always free and open source, meaning that you pay no extra licensing fees.

Thousands of Additional Applications, all Ready To Install at the Click of Your Mouse

We’ve all gone through the lengthy process of installing our initial set of applications, just to discover that we’ve either forgotten something or that we have additional needs. If you’re a user of Microsoft Windows and proprietary applications, you’ll get to fork out even more money, and be faced with the daunting task of manually downloading executable files and/or swapping CDs back and forth, with every installation method differing significantly from the last.

If you’re a user of Linux, with a few clicks of the mouse, you’ll find thousands of applications, all available from a single repository, ready to automatically download and install. Oh, and have I mentioned that they’re all free?

Running Windows Software on Linux

“I want to use Linux, but there’s one crucial application that’s holding me back.” Those of us who have moved away from Windows know all too well the pain of leaving behind old (or perhaps not so old) software investments. Whether it’s an in-house program for your workplace, an office suite or even a favorite game, you don’t want to lose your ability to run legacy Windows software.

This used to be a very good reason for abandoning open source migration efforts, but fortunately, it’s no longer a serious issue. The WINE project (http://www.winehq.org/), which represents fifteen years of hard work and dedication on the part of open source developers across the globe, has grown to be a very mature, nearly drop-in replacement for the Windows environment, and runs quite a few Windows programs out-of-the-box, including Microsoft Office. In addition, those applications that don’t will often run with minimal tweaking, and for those situations where native Windows libraries are required to make an application work, you have the option of using them in place of or in addition to WINE’s own bundled libraries.

For those rare instances where WINE fails to meet your needs, Linux sports a competitive suite of virtualization solutions (for more information, look up KVM or Xen), which will enable you to run a properly licensed Windows installation on top of your Linux environment at a level of performance comparable to that attained by running Windows natively on hardware.

Security and Your Peace of Mind

Anybody who’s had to manage a Windows machine will know what a hassle it is to have to keep up with anti-virus and anti-spyware updates, and how worrying it can be when we learn about new critical vulnerabilities that could result in a malicious third party gaining control of our software.

By using Linux, you have the dual advantage of working on a minimally targeted platform and of working on a platform that was built on a solid, simple and time-tested security model. Unlike Windows, there is little if any real need for anti-virus software (unless you’re running a mail server that hosts messages which might be read by people using Windows.) In addition, due to the rapid pace of open source software development, if a security vulnerability is discovered, a fix follows quickly. Instead of relying on any single organization to inspect and patch their code — a single point of failure, you have an entire global community with access to the source code, eager to support the software they maintain with a passion for writing good code.

Conclusion

With today’s uncertain economic climate, now is the perfect time to consider migrating to an open source solution. The arguments against it continue to dwindle as open source operating systems such as Linux increasingly prove not only to match Windows for functionality, but surpass it.

We here at eRacks specialize in open source solutions, and are ready to cater to your needs. Whether you’re purchasing servers or desktops running open source software, or you’re looking for help with your open source migration efforts, eRacks provides the services you need to get the job done.

December 19th, 2008

Posted In: Development, News, ubuntu

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from The Open Source Newsletter – July 2008

Aside from all the usual green advice, what can a conscientious SysAdmin do to save money during this time of rising energy prices and a challenging economic situation?

Here is eRacks’ top-ten list of recession-proofing strategies:

  • 1 – Update the Linux OSes if they are older than kernel 2.6.21, to take advantage of the ACPI tickless idle. Install PowerTOP (on Intel-based desktops & notebooks) or other similar tools that examine power consumption by application.
  • 2 – Basic maintenance: vacuum the vents (from the outside of the chassis, with the computer off). The buildup of dust and dirt prevents airflow. After cleaning, the systems will cool more easily. The vacuum and/or the little bottle of compressed air are your friends. A word of caution though: don’t even think about reversing the vacuum to blow the dust inside the computer case. The household dust inside the vacuum is not a good thing for the computer (or you). In fact, don’t stick the vacuum inside the computer case at all, since vacuums create static electricity which can also damage your system.
  • 3 – Re-think your network diagram. Old systems are often wasteful of energy.
    • Consider consolidating systems; Own your own virtualization system:
      eRacks/SOLO and eRacks/SUITE are capable of running several virtual machines simultaneously.

      eRacks/SOLO Virtualization Server

      Your physical host server can be configured with your choice of a virtualization host, including the freely available version of VMWare or Linux-native KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine), as well as a large number of possible virtual operating systems and applications, including web, DNS, email, proxy and other infrastructure services.

      You’ll save power, save money, and also allow for more centralized administration and ease of backup. eRacks will even pre-install the targeted configurations of your choice. Just ask.

    • Or take advantage of a hosting solution like Libre Hosting. Get full (root) use of your own virtual server fast. This is a great way to test out a new project, minimizing both your financial investment and configuration effort.
    • Or use newer low power servers like the eRacks/LITE, eRacks/QUIET, and any of our desktop line. eRacks will happily customize a system for low power usage, with your requirements.
  • 4 – Plan for upgrades. Buy systems that use only industry-standard components (like eRacks!) so that you can upgrade without being tied to a manufacturer and higher prices.
  • 5. Plan for efficient scaling. This depends on the most likely way(s) your company/institution would require expansion in the future. An increase in number of users, production, machine power, etc would each create different infrastructure requirements. Planning longer term, could enable growth while minimizing costs. Using hosted virtualized servers could allow for more flexibility in scaling, up and down, – very handy in peak demand time.
  • 6. Rethink security and firewalls. Use preventive measures now, rather than costly fixes later. Read summaries of firewall logs to gauge how busy your firewall system is. Consider options like eRacks’ failover redundant firewall:

  • eRacks/TWINGUARD Redundant Firewall

  • 7. Update your sysadmin tools. Make a bootable DVD or USB drive with your favorite sysadmin utilities on it. Save time by setting up system monitoring and detect any issues before they become big problems.
  • 8. This one is for the marketing/sales dept: Find clients that are recession-proof. Where are your main profits coming from? Do you have a few clients in markets that are recession-proof? If not how can you attract those clients, now and get on their vendor lists? – Educational institutions are usually somewhat stable in their purchasing because people tend to return to school in times of a recession.
  • 9. Again to the marketing guys: Globalize your products and presentation. Keep in mind that a weak dollar may increase your international customers.
  • 10. Always wise: Keep notes – keep an internal company wiki. From our experience, this can be a great tool and reference, saving time, effort and money!

Remember, recession isn’t permanent, but can be long. And playing it smart now will help, and quite possibly make all the difference.

August 8th, 2008

Posted In: News

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A secure environment is absolutely crucial for a virtualization server connected to the Internet. If the host is compromised, all its virtual machines are at risk and their services will be affected.


eRacks virtualization experts have put together a useful list of security considerations for virtualization migration planners. TIP #1. Use an open source virtualizer if possible. Open source software vulnerabilities are documented clearly, are well-known, and fixed quickly.
Proprietary-software bugs usually take longer to get fixed, and are even sold on black markets for illicit hacking. In fact, there are documented cases of closed source software companies purchasing security hole information of their own applications. Open source software vulnerabilities have less value on the black market, because of their shorter shelf-life.
TIP #2. Use open source guests wherever possible. New drivers for open source applications improve security as well as performance. Open source guests are more cooperative with the host, leaving less room for attack. Windows is inherently less secure, since a – it is closed source and updated less frequently. b – widely used and thus a big target. c – statistically has more severe vulnerabilities than open source OSes which take longer to fix.
TIP #3. Minimize the host footprint, making less surface area available for hackers. A small target is harder to hit than a large one. eRacks typically recommends KVM because of its small footprint, simple design, and ease of use.
The virtualization host provides services in the form of ports and packages, which should only include those required by the VMs. An effective security plan should minimize the number of open ports, narrowing the possibilities of illicit entry.
TIP #5. Use an external physical firewall. It is also possible to use a virtualized firewall, running as a guest, but it can only protect the downstream systems, and not the host. A virtualized IP-less bridging firewall is also possible but it is more difficult to implement, and still doesn’t protect the host. The safest solution is an external firewall, such as the eRacks/TWINGUARD, a redundant 1U system, with failover, running a very secure OpenBSD.
TIP #6. Assess your security level, including regular port scans (Nmap), and OS fingerprinting, keeping track of any changes. A hardened system will not give out versions of running services, otherwise it would be too easy to know exactly where the vulnerabilities lie. eRacks can give you a head start by building, installing, and configuring your system for you. Your physical host server can be configured with your choice of a virtualization host, including the freely available version of VMWare or Linux-native KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine), as well as a large number of possible virtual operating systems and applications, including web, DNS, email, proxy and other infrastructure services.
virtualizer description complexity level of open source
KVM built into the kernel, uses the standard Linux scheduler, memory management and other services simple, non-intrusive, very stable, easy to administrate –
KVM hypervisor about 10-12K lines of code (2007)
released under the GNU GPL
free
Xen external hypervisor, supports both paravirtualization and full virtualization, has its own scheduler, memory manager, timer handling, and machine initialization. specially modified kernel – has 10x more lines of code as KVM => raises the vulnerability level released under the GNU GPL
free
VMware fully virtualizes using software techniques only, very good performance, stability. very large and complex; more than 10x lines of code of Xen proprietary,
player open (teaser-ware),
fees

July 9th, 2008

Posted In: News, security, virtualization

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