eRacks Systems Tech Blog

Open Source Experts Since 1999

June 13th, 2012

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TheAresPro line of desktop workstations is now available online. Using the Intel® Xeon® Processor E5 Family CPU, this advanced desktop increases performance with more cores, larger cache, greater memory, and new technologies like Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0. Whether the system’s main purpose is gaming, engineering design, or other intensive computation, the E5 CPU will accelerate performance when you need it, and improve efficiency when you don’t.This high-performance system is expandable, upgradeable, convertible and quietizable. Just let us know what components you would like inside. We’ll build your system to order, install your choice of Operating System, and test it thoroughly.


This eRacks/ARESPRO8 system uses a single socket motherboard and supports up to 8-cores. If you need more power, see the AresPro Dual Socket systems: eracks/ARESPRO12 and the eracks/ARESPRO16 .



May 30th, 2012

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eRacks Open Source Systems announces the AresPro line of high-performance fully customizable desktop workstations powered by the Intel Xeon chipset. The AresPro line is the perfect solution for engineers, graphic designers, video editors, high-end gamers, and video game designers looking for an affordable and fully upgradeable system. The eRacks AresPro line delivers more processing power, more graphics performance and more storage options than anything else on the market.
The 16 core AresPro will easily be able to handle even the most demanding programs such as Maya, CAD, SAS Enterprise, 3ds Max, Ableton, and Avid. It features two 8-Core Intel Xeon processors, 8GB DDR3 SDRAM expandable to 768GB, NVIDIA GeForce 560ti graphics card, and expandability up to 10 4TB hard drives. SSD, liquid cooling, rackmount chassis and quietization options will also be available online through the eRacks website. AresPro is compatible with the entire line of M-Audio hardware and supports Windows 7, Ubuntu, Centos, Linux Mint and many other Linux distros. The AresPro line is also fully upgradeable, so you won’t have to worry about replacing it in a few years.
eRacks customization options make the AresPro line one of the most cost efficient purchases available in the high-end computer market. Every system is built in-house 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 exactly the system they need.
eRacks focus on an upgradeable design is good for the environment and suitable for e-waste recycling, too. Reducing waste during the assembly process, the focus on sustainable design, and a trade-in program for old computer systems all helps to keep harmful e-waste out of landfills.

May 16th, 2012

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In 2008, the VAR Guy named eRacks as one of the top 50 Open Source companies. He just updated his list with some current stats. Only 2 of the 50 companies on his list have tanked, while 6 have been acquired by larger companies. I was not surprised to see that nearly all of the companies on his list are now focused on some aspect of cloud computing.


May 9th, 2012

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eRacks recently designed a custom series of g-force tolerant servers for NASA, so we were especially excited when these photos popped up in our Facebook news-feed. Photo credit goes to Constantine Kyrou.

April 18th, 2012

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eRacks is set to begin testing a Linux Ubuntu based tablet. The 7 inch tablet would retail for around $200 and would include several key features missing from the Kindle Fire: including a micro SD slot, a built in ip cameras live 24/7 while the battery has power, HDMI out and GPS support.  If you’re in the market for a tablet, you may want to keep an eye on the eRacks website. An upcoming software update would make it possible for the tablet install and run Android apps.

April 13th, 2012

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Earlier this year, Samsung announced it had achieved 1TB/platter, allowing them to produce 4TB hard drives.  A prototype was subsequently shown off at the CeBIT trade show.  Samsung refused to provide a projected date for its commercial release, but did reveal that they intended to begin shipping them in 2011.  There are only 6 months left in 2011.  Let’s see what happens!

For further details, check out this link:

June 17th, 2011

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Two new high speed buses have recently become available to consumers, USB 3.0 and SATA 3.  But are they worth considering now, or should you wait until they’ve been around for a while?  Let’s first examine the differences between these interfaces and their predecessors, then take a look at the devices that are available and their associated costs and finally determine whether or not we should consider investing in them so soon.

What is USB 3.0?

USB 3.0 is the latest generation of the Universal Serial Bus standard, and was released in November 2008.  USB has been in existence since 1994 and has been popular since 1998 with the release of the 1.1 revision, thanks to the true plug and play nature of the interface.

USB 2.0, the most common revision of the standard in use today, was released in April 2000, and supports a theoretical maximum data transfer rate of 480 Mbits/s, or 60MB/s.  By contrast, USB 3.0, which was fully specified in November 2008, supports a theoretical raw maximum of 5 Gbits/s, or ~600MB/s, and is believed by the developers of the standard to be reasonably capable of sustaining 3.2Gbits/s, or ~400MB/s.  Thus, USB 3.0 is roughly 10 times as fast as its predecessor.

Devices supporting USB 3.0 have been available to consumers since January 2010.

What is SATA 3?

Similarly, SATA 3 is the successor to the highly successful SATA 2 standard.  Short for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment, SATA has been around since 2003.  Both SATA 1 and SATA 2 were widely adopted and quickly grew popular, superceding the archaic IDE interface.

The final revision of the SATA 3 standard, released in May 2009, supports a theoretical maximum raw throughput of 6Gbits/s (in practice, peak throughput reaches ~600MB/s), twice the bandwidth of SATA 2 at 3Gbits/s, which itself is twice the bandwidth of SATA 1 at 1.5Gbits/s.

Devices supporting SATA 3 have been available to consumers since June 2010.

Is It Worth It?

First, let’s consider USB 3.0.  Currently, there are a few USB thumb drives and external hard drives available that take advantage of the new standard.  Unlike USB 2.0, which only supports a maximum of 60MB/s, USB 3.0 is capable of sustaining the highest data transfer rates hard drives can offer and more.  USB 3.0 thumb drives are significantly more expensive than their USB 2.0 counterparts, but the external hard drives aren’t that much more expensive (the price difference between a USB 2.0 and a USB 3.0 external 1TB hard drive is only $10-$20), and given that two USB 3.0 ports will only cost you somewhere around $50, it might be worth upgrading if you have a need to access external storage quickly.

Now, what about SATA 3?  Right now, you can purchase a Western Digital 1TB SATA2 drive for about $70.00.  Conversely, a Western Digital SATA 3 disk of equal capacity will cost you about $95.00.  The price difference between these two is only $25.00, so it’s not that much more expensive if you decide you’d like to double your bandwidth.

Keep in mind that if you’re using a 1x PCI-E SATA 3 controller, you won’t get the full 6Gb/s, but only ~4Gb/s.  This is a limitation of the 1x PCI-E slot.  With this in mind, if you’re not going to use an onboard SATA 3 controller, you’ll want to get a 4x card.

What eRacks Can Do for You

eRacks prides itself in staying up to date with the latest technologies.  We currently offer on our high end models, upon request, support for both USB 3.0 and SATA 3, and can also build custom systems.  Visit the eRacks website and place an order or request a quote today!

September 7th, 2010

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The history of computing is littered with examples of storage capacity overstepping software’s ability to effectively make use of it (for a list of examples — and an entertaining read — check out this old article from 2000:  Today is certainly no exception.  With RAID arrays in excess of 32 TB (one terrabyte is ~1000 gigabytes), one must be thorough in their research, lest they discover the hard way that the software configuration they wish to use supports only a small fraction of the available disk space.  The information contained in this article was compiled in an attempt to aid others in making wise decisions when making use of high capacity storage.

There are two basic considerations one must take into account.  The first is partitioning.  The second is one’s choice of filesystem (which in turn is often determined at least in part by the operating system.)


One of the most fundamental logical units of storage, treated by most operating systems as a “disk” in its own right, is the partition.  For those of us who are unaware of what a partition is or why it’s important (those who know might want to skip ahead to the next paragraph), imagine the North American continent.  Though in reality it’s a single physical chunk of land, it’s separated into logical boundaries: Canada, the United States and Mexico.  Without these boundaries to demarcate those areas of land available to each country, it would be much more difficult to decide which resources belong to whom.  In the same vein, partitions exist to logically separate a hard disk into regions of storage designated for various purposes.

The problem here is that in the original BIOS-style scheme, one can only create partitions of up to 2 TB in size.  This is because the BIOS-style partition table, which makes use of a 32-bit address space, can only keep track of up to 2^32 blocks, each typically 512 bytes in size.  Multiplying these two quantities gives us the maximum 2 TB.  There are two ways to approach this problem.

The first is to accept the limitation and to create many small partitions.  The disadvantage, of course, is that you must spread your data out over a large area.  The Logical Volume Manager (LVM) on Linux can somewhat mitigate this problem by tying everything together into a single logical disk, but even so, we can certainly do better.

The second, and in my opinion the superior choice, is to stop using traditional BIOS-style partitions and to instead make use of a relatively new standard known as GPT (GUID Partition Table).  Unlike BIOS-style partition tables, a GPT uses 64-bit addresses, meaning that each partition has a maximum size of 2^64 blocks x 512-bytes per block = 8 ZB (that’s zettabytes; for comparison, 1 ZB = 1 billion TB).  That’s A LOT better than 2 TB!

The tradeoff, if you choose to go the GPT route, is that not all operating systems support it.  At the time of this writing, the following are known to NOT support GPT (or at least not without jumping through some hoops): FreeBSD (partial support for GPT partitions exists), OpenBSD, NetBSD (GPT filesystems are supported via dkwedges, but cannot be booted from directly), OpenSolaris (again, GPT is supported for separate data partitions, but cannot be booted from directly) Fedora Core, CentOS and RedHat Enterprise Linux and Windows XP or below (GPT only works in Windows XP x64, and only for separate data partitions).  This is not an exhaustive list.  By contrast, here is a list (also not exhaustive) of operating systems that do fully support GPT partitions out of the box: Debian, Ubuntu and Gentoo Linux, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Your choice of operating system will therefore determine whether or not you can take advantage of what GPT has to offer.

Filesystem Considerations

Now that we’ve got the partitioning figured out, we’ll have to consider filesystem limitations.  The rest of this article assumes that you’ve either made use of a GPT partition or that you’re on Linux and have created one large LVM volume.

You might be tempted to think, “now that I have a large partition, I just have to format it and I’m done!”  Sometimes this is true, as is the case with any version of Windows that supports GPT partitions and *BSD (assuming you’ve jumped through the hoops necessary to create the partition in the first place.)  If you plan to use Linux, however, you’ll need to be a little more careful, as you have a few choices available to you, not all of them supporting large volumes.

The default Linux filesystem for a long time was ext3.  It does support large filesystems, but with a 4K block size, it will only address up to 16 TB of space.  You can create an ext3 filesystem with an 8K block size, for a maximum size of 32 TB, but only if you’re working with an architecture that supports 8K page sizes (and unless you’re using an Itanium or an Alpha processor, you’re probably out of luck.)

More recently, ext3 has been superceded by ext4.  Theoretically, ext4, with 4K blocks, supports up to 1 EB (exabyte, equal to 1 million TB).  However, for now, due to limitations in the tools used to create ext4 filesystems, you’re still limited to 16 TB.  Hopefully, this will be fixed in the not too distant future.

Fortunately, Linux does support filesystems that can span across large volumes.  These include (but are not necessarily limited to) XFS (up to 16 EB) and JFS2 (up to 32 TB).


Eventually, these issues will be smoothed over, just like all the others that have surfaced throughout the history of computers.  For now, however, one must take some time to plan how best to utilize large capacity volumes, as the software industry still has quite a bit of catching up to do.

eRacks Open Source Systems well understands the issues faced when dealing with so much storage, and will be more than happy to help you with your needs.  Check us out at, and call for a quote today!

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August 4th, 2010

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It’s been our goal for some time to bring compelling value to Linux Laptops, in a way that truly surpasses whats available from a Windows or Mac laptop, beyond just “Almost as good but cheaper with free software”, which seems to be one of the prevailing current perceptions we need to overcome.

The lovely style and features of Sony laptops and notebooks, have always generated inquiries from our customers about our plans to carry them.  (Also others, like Lenovo, which we already carry).

This series of posts is about our ambitious plans to add value, and truly make your Linux Sony Laptop experience from us far superior to what it would be from a run-of-the-mill vendor.

Read on.

The OOB (Out of Box) Experience

Windows Tax, File Format leverage, and FUD

For years, we’ve sold laptops with Linux only, and with no “Windows Tax”.

Although this has been good, and has been well-received by the market and the Open Source community, Microsoft and other proprietary software vendors, notably Intuit, have been tenacious about leveraging control of their file formats, limiting control over your own data, and using the usual other vendor lock-in techniques to ensure you can’t move away from their products without severe switching costs, “Compatibility issues”, and other FUD (fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) and FUDlike behavior.

“I’m your new bookkeeper.  I assume you have QuickBooks?”

“Hi, joe, this is Fred, your CPA – do you have those latest QuickBooks files of the company’s books, so we can get your taxes done on time?”

And so forth.

True Value

With this in mind, we are introducing some solutions, courtesy of Virtualization (specifically, KVM, the excellent and well-received hypervisor built into the Linux kernel – not the proprietary VMWare, although that could be used, too), which will allow the best of all possible worlds –

  1. Native Linux compatibility and raw speed
  2. Complete windows compatibility and instance, with full control or greater
  3. Isolation from viruses and other malware
  4. Ease of backups, system administration, and forth
  5. Freedom from restrictions controlled by proprietary vendors (Sony, Microsoft).

Coming Up

In this series of posts, we will be going over many things – the installation process, moving partitions around for both OSes, running windows “In Place” with the original licenses, etc, reviewing various linuxes (Linuces?) for their hardware compatibility, Dual Boot vs Virtualized Windows-in-a-window, “Tech Tips” and what we did to get things working, how it works and what it does, in the end – and so forth.

This concludes “Part 1 – the OOB Experience” — Stay tuned, as it were…


May 27th, 2009

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