eRacks Systems Tech Blog

Open Source Experts Since 1999

Logo_Linux_MintWith the recent release of Mint 17.3, eRacks now offers this new operating system on servers, desktops, and laptops. Just select it from the drop-down menu when customizing your computer.

January 5th, 2016

Posted In: Linux, Mint, ubuntu, Upgrades

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ubuntu-1510Ubuntu 15.10 Wily Werewolf is now available on all eRacks systems.

Ubuntu 14.04 is also still available, as it is a Long Term Release (LTS) with a longer support window.

As always, if you want a different release, or even a beta, alpha or “Daily build” release, we’ll be happy to accommodate – just place it in the “Notes” field when you place your order or request a quote.

j

 

November 2nd, 2015

Posted In: Linux, ubuntu, Ubuntu 14.04

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thumb_cinnamonThe latest Linux Mint release, Mint 17 “Qiana”, is now available on most or all eRacks systems.

Either the Cinnamon or Mate editions, or KDE, XFCE, Debian (LMDE) are also available.

Most or all of our dropdown OS choices have been updated,  but if you don’t see what you’re looking for, please ask us by email:  http://eracks.com/contact_us and we will add it or give you a custom live quote.

UPDATE June 30th, 2014: All Mint17 installations are now V2.

http://blog.linuxmint.com/?p=2662

 

 

June 18th, 2014

Posted In: Mint, News, Operating Systems, ubuntu

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Ubuntu 14.04 is now available. Ubuntu 14.04

Fremont, CA (PRWEB) April 24, 2014

This latest Ubuntu 14.04 release is now available on most or all eRacks systems.

eRacks today announced the latest release of a new operating system – Ubuntu 14.04 which is now in the OS dropdowns on most or all the systems.

Most or all of our dropdown Operating System choices have been updated, but if you don’t see what you’re looking for, please ask us by Email: info at eracks.com OR http://eracks.com/contact_us and we will respond promptly.

Regards,
Dennis
eRacks

April 24th, 2014

Posted In: News, Operating Systems, ubuntu, Ubuntu 14.04

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Mint 16 is now available – “Petra”.

Fremont, CA (PRWEB) December 23, 2013

thumb_cinnamonThis latest Linux Mint release  is now available on most or all eRacks systems.

eRacks today announced the latest release of a new operating system-Linux Mint 17 “Qiana” which is now in the OS dropdowns on all the systems 

Either the Cinnamon or Mate editions, or KDE, XFCE, Debian (LMDE) are also available.

Most or all of our dropdown Operating System choices have been updated,  but if you don’t see what you’re looking for, please ask us by email:  http://eracks.com/contact_us and we will add it or give you a custom live quote.

 

Regards

Dennis
eRacks

 

December 24th, 2013

Posted In: Mint, Operating Systems, ubuntu

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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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We’ve had a long and arduous search for a usable resolution (at least 1366×768) portable netbook, that will run Ubuntu smoothly,  and we’re pleased to report our findings! The MSI U230-040US netbook fulfills all our requirements without so much as a hiccup.

eRacks/CUMULUS: MSI U230-040US

Most netbooks have a 1024 x 600 pixel display. This fails miserably with some applications that are designed for higher resolution, like Eclipse, for example. Working with Eclipse can be annoying enough, but in a lower resolution display, important fields in certain windows are unusable and almost completely hidden.

Portability is important and this system weighs in at 3.3 pounds. It’s got a good solid feel to it, and the display bends back to an angle of about 135 degrees. The keys are next to each other, not spaced out like the Sony Vaio. The netbook’s measurements are 11.71″(L) x 7.49″(D) x 0.55~1.22″(H).

This system passed all our tests and is available, as a complete dual boot system from eRacks, called the eRacks/CUMULUS. We’ve got Ubuntu and Windows 7 on this one.

The built-in Webcam is 1.3MP and works with Cheese Webcam Booth, both photo and video. There is a 4-in-1 Card Reader (XD/SD/MMC/MS), and three USB2.0 connections. Bluetooth is working without any special configurations.

I’ve set the processor for 800MHz at OnDemand. The other settings are Conservative, Performance, and Powersave with a higher 1.6GHz is available.

All-in-all this system gets top marks for usability and portability.

October 5th, 2010

Posted In: Laptop cookbooks, New products, ubuntu

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If you’re a student like I am, you know how important it is to save money. Some students are too busy with their studies to work at all, and those who can are usually only able to do so part-time. And, like books and tuition, software is a significant source of financial burden to the average student. While it’s true that student licensed versions of software are significantly discounted, popular titles such as Microsoft Office will still cost you somewhere in the ballpark of $130. And of course, that’s only if you don’t intend to use the software for anything other than your academic or personal endeavours. If you utilize the same applications on the job, you’ll find that you’re no longer eligible for student licenses, and suddenly you’ll discover that $130 magically turns into $300.

Fortunately, the current digital climate is rife with free software alternatives, which have the potential to save students (or parents!) hundreds of dollars.

The Operating System

Let’s start with the most fundamental bundle of software, the operating system (hereby abbreviated as OS.) The OS is what sits between the hardware and the user’s applications. Some examples are Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X.

For many students, purchasing an OS will be a non-issue, as most computers come with one pre-installed. For those in this category, most of the software mentioned below will run on both Windows and Mac. That being said, there are also a significant number of people who need to include an OS in their financial plans. Perhaps you purchased your computer used and without software. Or, maybe the OS on your machine is old and needs to be upgraded. You could have even assembled your own computer, as many hobbyists do.

It’s true that students can purchase Microsoft Windows at a discount of 30-60% off, but why would you do that when you can get your OS for free? Over the last few years, a veritable cornicopia of easy-to-use free software-based OSes have emerged, the most popular, and in my opinion, the easiest to install and use, being Ubuntu (http://www.ubuntu.com/). For the more technically inclined and perpetually curious, there are a slew of other Linux distributions, as well as the *BSD family of OSes — FreeBSD (http://www.freebsd.org/), NetBSD (http://www.netbsd.org/), OpenBSD (http://www.openbsd.org), PC BSD (http://www.pcbsd.org/) and Dragonfly BSD (http://www.dragonflybsd.org) — and Sun’s OpenSolaris (http://www.opensolaris.org/).

In reality, we do still live in a Windows world, so you may find yourself in a position where you have to use a program that only runs on Windows. Luckily, there’s a very mature and very complete open source implementation of the Windows API that’s been actively developed since 1993 called WINE (http://www.winehq.org/) You simply install WINE through the point-and-click interface provided by your OS and install your Windows applications on top of it. Many will run out of the box, and others will run with a minimal amount of tweaking.

Office Productivity

As mentioned earlier, a student copy of Microsoft Office will cost roughly $130, and in some cases, students won’t even qualify for the student license, making the product much more expensive. So then, simply by installing a single free software replacement, you’ve literally saved hundreds. There’s a fantastic open source alternative called OpenOffice (http://www.openoffice.org/), a spin-off from Sun Microsystems, Inc. The download is a little large (over 100MB), but the price tag is worth it (it’s free), and OpenOffice really is a solid application capable of doing anything Office can. It includes components that replace Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Access, as well as additional components for drawing and for editing HTML documents.

In addition, you’ll find Scribus (http://www.scribus.net/) for desktop publishing and the creation of professional quality PDFs and Dia (http://live.gnome.org/Dia) for drawing diagrams, roughly like Microsoft Visio.

Multimedia

Of course, no college-ready system is complete without the ability to play movies and music! Fortunately, open source has you covered there as well. With Totem (http://projects.gnome.org/totem/) and Xine (http://www.xine-project.org/), playing your videos on Linux is a snap (Windows and Mac users of course have their own respective built-in players and don’t have to worry about this.) As well, there are applications like Banshee (http://www.banshee-project.org/) that do a great job of managing your music (it also plays videos.)

You’ll also more than likely be managing a great deal of pictures. For editing them, you’ll find the GIMP (http://www.gimp.org/), which is very similiar to Adobe’s Photoshop, and for browsing and managing your pictures there’s F-Spot (http://f-spot.org/).

You’ll only run into a couple of hitches when dealing with multimedia on an open source OS. The first is that you won’t be able to play many Windows Media files. Fortunately, this can remedied by purchasing the Fluendo Windows Media Playback Bundle (http://www.fluendo.com/shop/product/windows-media-playback-bundle/). True, it’s not free, but for $20 it’s a small price to pay compared to all the hundreds of dollars you’ll be saving on everything else, and if you can live without Windows Media, you can save yourself the expense. The second is that technically, according to the controversial Digital Millenium Copyright Act (http://www.copyright.gov/legislation/dmca.pdf), you’re in a legal predicament if you install software to decrypt your DVDs. More than likely nobody’s going to care, and the software to do so is readily available and in common widespread use, but if you choose to play your DVDs on an open source OS you should first take the time to thoroughly understand where you stand from a legal perspective. [Ed. note: there are fully licensed DVD players available for Linux, but even so, legal scholars now feel that this area of the DMCA has not yet been fully tested in court, but recent precendents suggest that if it were, in the end, that Fair Use doctrine would win out in the end over the DMCA – Ed.]

A Plethora of Other Goodies

Depending on your field of study, you’ll find many other professional-quality free and open source applications that are outside the scope of this blog that will save you even more money. Just google around. You’ll find all sorts of amazing applications, all of them free.

Conclusion

Fellow students, let loose the shackles of expensive proprietary software and embrace the freedom of open source. Not only will you save hundreds of dollars, you’ll be drawn into a community of users and developers that are passionate about writing and supporting software. Once you get used to using free software alternatives like these one from https://www.sodapdf.com/pdf-editor/, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.

Here at eRacks, we specialize in providing users of all kinds with open source solutions to meet their needs. So contact us today, and ask us how we can help you save money and get even more out of your academic experience!

April 20th, 2009

Posted In: How-To, multimedia, Open Source, Reviews, ubuntu

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Setting up a server at home can be a rewarding experience. Not only does it make for an excellent experiment and learning experience, it also allows you access to your home network from anywhere in the world. You may be tempted to think that such a project would be time consuming and expensive, but actually the opposite is true. Today, the software required for running a server is relatively easy to configure. And, with open source software, a cheap computer and the right internet connection, you can be up and running with minimal cost.

A home server can be a very useful thing to have, and is a worthwhile project, if for no other reason, because it’s a good learning experience. KMF Technologies can provide the hardware you need to get the job done, and can also offer consulting services for difficult software configurations. If you decide to take the time to setup a server at home, you won’t be disappointed.

The possibilities are endless with a home server. With an HTTP server like Apache  or Lighttpd , you can host your own homepage, keep a remotely accessible calendar, share information with family, friends and co-workers or even experiment with your own custom web applications, with complete control over the software that supports them.

With SSH and/or FTP running on your server, you can gain access to files you have saved on your machine. What if you come to work and discover that you left an important Powerpoint presentation at home? No problem. If you have your desktop computer on the same network as your server, you can use Wake-On-Lan to power up your desktop, SSH to copy the file to your server and SSH or FTP to download it. Problem solved!

Today, with modern Linux distributions such as Ubuntu , installing and configuring server applications has never been easier. With default configurations that work mostly out of the box with minimal tweaking, you can have a machine up and running in minutes. In addition, no special hardware is required. If you have a spare computer with a NIC, you have a server.

optdesktop_front_open

The only issue that could be an obstacle is your internet connection. First and foremost, you’ll require a broadband connection such as DSL or cable. In addition, while not required, it’s a good idea to get a static IP address if you can, which is just a unique identifier assigned to your network on the
internet that doesn’t change. DSL Extreme, for example, offers affordable static IP solutions to residential customers. From there, you would register a domain name and point it to your IP address, or get a free subdomain if you preferred.

If you can’t find a static IP, however, all is not lost. Using a service like DynDNS.org, you can get a free subdomain name that can be automatically updated via your home network every time your dynamic IP address changes.

 

January 19th, 2009

Posted In: servers, ubuntu, unix

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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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