Merry Christmas 2011

It is that time of year again. When too many people are spending too much money, buying toys for “Santa” to “deliver”, and overeating to “celebrate” the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the offspring of the Creator of the universe and all that is in it. For at least the few seconds it takes to read this short post, think about the living person Jesus for whom this Holiday (Holy Day) exists.

Luke 2:10-12
New King James Version (NKJV)
10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

Happy Birthday Jesus.

Following Jesus is not a “religion”, it is a personal, one on one relationship.


Press Release: New Linux Notebook PCs at ERACC

This is a notice that the new notebook PC systems are available onto which we will preload Linux (we recommend Mageia Linux), FreeBSD and FreeDOS. There are now two models that can be configured with choice of Intel Core i3/i5/i7 CPU, RAM amount, drive model and size. You may also choose a single OS install, multiboot OS install or single OS with preconfigured virtual machines installed using VirtualBox. We will even install a Microsoft OS as a special order, even though there are many other places to get a Microsoft based system.

These new notebooks include nVidia graphics chips for 3D capability with the proprietary nVidia graphics drivers on operating systems for which nVidia has provided 3D drivers.

We preload the OS and make sure all the hardware works, so you do not have to.

For more details see the page under the Laptop Quote menu item on our web shop.

Comments are intentionally closed on this article.

Site Changes – Cache Installed to Speed Things Up

I am posting this as a public notice so those of you who are interested in such things can know.

I had noticed the site was getting “slower” as we got more visitors over the last couple of years. One problem with slow page loading is people are generally impatient and will go away if a site seems to be not loading, or loading too slow from their perspective. Since I do not want to drive people away, I decided to do something about it. After reviewing some of the cache options for WordPress I picked one to install this weekend.

I did notice that as an anonymous user there is an anomaly when using a cache:

  • I posted a test comment on a previous article as an anonymous user
  • Then went to my administrator login in another browser and approved the comment
  • Then switched back to the browser where the comment was posted
  • Tried to reload the page – never reloaded

When I approved the comment the cache file for that page was recreated with a different file name and the old one was removed. So, it seems reloading pages that are being updated as comments are added is not going to work. I am going to see if there is an option to resolve that. If not, well this is open source and I can ask the author(s) to fix it or add an option to reuse a cache file name. So, I may end up running a beta version of the cache plug-in while helping resolve this, if there is not already a solution.

If you notice any quirks yourself, please post a comment here on this article and let me know.

Thank you for following our site. I appreciate it.


Update Sun Sep  4 10:17:06 CDT 2011: Oh well, the cache is still installed, but is disabled at this point. It interferes with our statistics plug-in. We do like our statistics.

Linux, FreeBSD and FreeDOS Laptops from ERACC

This press release is to announce that ERA Computers & Consulting (ERACC) is now offering a line of customizable* laptops available with Linux, FreeDOS and FreeBSD pre-installed by ERACC. Multi-boot installation by ERACC is available. Installation of a host OS and one or more virtual machines is another option. Download and view the PDF document below for more information.

These laptops can also be ordered with a bare hard drive for self-install.

Custom ERACC Laptops – Intel CPU and chipset

Request a quote for a laptop from ERACC at ERACC On-Line Shopping. Please note: we require a shipping address and a contact phone number before a quote will be sent.

* Custom systems are quoted first, then prepaid. Custom systems are only available with replacement in the event of hardware failure. No refunds are possible once the system ships from our distributor.

This article was posted with comments disabled.

ERACC Web Log User Accounts – Many Deleted

This is just a short article to let you know that I have deleted most of the user accounts here. The reason is, somehow WordPress settings were being reset at random. Since WordPress does not reset itself I suspected “cracking” via a user account since that has been known to happen with WordPress in the past. Since I cannot know which user account(s) may be compromised or be in use by a “cracker” I removed all of the ones that are not directly related to ERACC staff, clients or people I specifically invited to create an account. Unfortunately, if you made a comment with a registered account that comment is now assigned to the “deleted” user. I know, that sucks. I apologize for any angst this may cause some of you, but I could not avoid this.

We allow comments and access to the majority of this site without having an account. If you ever want to Contact e-Mail Form at ERA Computers & Consultingcomment and do not see a comment block then please let me know in an e-mail. You can use the contact form at our main site for that, as shown in the graphic next to this paragraph. Likely, if there is no comment block showing, it is due to one of those weird, random, “WordPress settings have changed again by themselves” events I keep seeing.

Again, I apologize for deleting some of your accounts as it is near 100% certainty the great majority of you are completely innocent. But until I get a clue as to what is happening with our WordPress settings, I need to eliminate as many factors as I can. One being (mostly) unneeded user accounts.

Gene Alexander

Added: For the record, this article was posted with comments disabled. I will try to remember to inform our readers when this is done.

Site Changes – New Plugin CKEditor Added

Within the past few weeks I have migrated our on-line web shop to Drupal 6.x with the CKEditor module added for page editing. I have decided I like the ease of use brought by CKEditor for creating and editing web site pages under CMS. CKEditor is a powerful and feature-rich CMS editor that works very much like a word processor, such as Writer, AbiWord or KOffice Kword. As such it contributes to allowing a writer to concentrate on his writing, rather than HTML, PHP and other underpinnings of a web site. In any media content should be King. The medium to create and display that content should be unobtrusive and easy to use.

What does this mean to you, our readers? You get a small subset of the CKEditor features to create your comments. These features will allow reader comments to easily include bold, italics, bulleted or numbered lists and links to off-site URLs and images. Of course the other HTML code recognized by the standard WordPress comment editor still works too. If any of you want to see a specific CKEditor feature enabled on the comment editor, let us know. We will consider it, and may just add it for you.

Sat Aug 27 13:27:43 CDT 2011 – Reenable comments to test cache program with anonymous user comments.

WordPress Upgrade – Please Bear with Us

Some of you who have followed us for a while may have noticed a dearth of articles here over the past several weeks. This was intentional. We had a planned upgrade and wanted access to our blog to settle down prior to that. Now we can get back to writing articles.

As you can see there is a new look here. We have upgraded our WordPress to the latest release as of today. This required finding a new theme as the one we were using is not updated to take advantage of the new WordPress features. We found a theme we like and will get things set back up as soon as possible.

It does appear a few of the latest comments may have been lost during the upgrade. Please accept our apologies to you if your comment was one that disappeared. All in all the upgrade seems to be a success other than the handful of lost comments.

Linux: We Put Our Money Where Our Mouth Is

This press release is to announce that for the month of July 2010 ERA Computers & Consulting (ERACC) is following the idiomatic phrase, “Put your money where your mouth is!” when it comes to our Linux PC sales. What do we mean? Read on.

For every PC purchased from us in July 2010 with any Linux distribution preinstalled ERACC will donate 5% of the sale to the Free Open Source Software (FOSS) project of your choice. As with most such offers there are caveats. These are:

  • The PC must be ordered and paid for within the month of July 2010.
  • The PC must be configured with at least the minimal configuration to have a working PC (case, power supply, motherboard, cpu, ram, hard drive, video adapter and operating system). You can choose to use your existing monitor and input devices.
  • The PC must be preloaded by ERACC with a Linux distribution.
  • Multi-boot systems configured with Linux and one or more additional operating systems do qualify.
  • The 5% does include all hardware, labor and additional software purchased on a single order.
  • The 5% does not include shipping fees and taxes on a sale.
  • The PC must be kept past the date it can be returned for a refund.
  • We only ship our systems to locations in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

That is it. Figure it up, purchase of a $500(US) PC will generate $25 for your favorite FOSS project. So, if you are in the market for a new PC with Linux preloaded then July 2010 is a good month to get that PC from ERACC and help out an open source project of your choice. You can get started by filling out the form for a quote on our shopping site. Then when you check out, be sure to indicate in the comments area the FOSS project you want to sponsor.

For full disclosure about orders from ERACC please read our Quote Addendum: ERACC Quote Addendum (PDF)

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Edit Fri Aug 27 17:58:12 UTC 2010: Fix the URL to the quote form to point to our new form.

Linux: We Now Build Mini ITX Systems with Linux Installed

We are proud to announce that here at ERA Computers & Consulting (ERACC) we have researched the parts needed to build Mini ITX, Tiny PC, systems and are offering a quote option on our sales site. Each of these Tiny PC systems is built to end-user specification. We build these with or without a hard drive and with or without an operating system. The only operating systems we will install on these are all Linux. If you want something other than Linux then we will build the Tiny PC with an empty hard drive for self-install.

What are typical uses for such a system?

  • Point of Sale Station
  • Diskless Workstation (Network Bootup)
  • Controller for Manufacturing System
  • Dedicated System for Statistics Gathering
  • Extremely Small Footprint Desktop PC
  • Extremely Small Footprint Server
  • Use Your Imagination …

A quote costs you nothing, so please look over the options on the sales page and let us quote you a Tiny PC from ERACC.

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Notice: All comments here are approved by a moderator before they will show up. Depending on the time of day this can take several hours. Please be patient and only post comments once. Thank you.

Edit Fri Aug 27 17:58:12 UTC 2010: Fix the URL to the quote form to point to our new form.

Order a High Powered Linux Workstation on the Cheap

I just finished reading Paul Ferrill’s article at Linux Planet titled Build a High Powered Linux Workstation on the Cheap. As I am a system builder this article obviously piqued my interest. Paul goes into the specifications of his high powered workstation somewhat. So, I decided to see what I as a system builder could do to come close to matching his Do It Yourself (DIY) price.

Here is the list of components Paul mentions:

AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition CPU 3.4GHz (quad-core)
MSI DKA790GX motherboard
PNY Optima DDR2 memory (4GB x 2)
Thermaltake Element G case
1 TB SATA drive (No specific model mentioned)

He comes up with a total of $665.00 for the DIY builder that wants to build his own PC. Notice Paul does not include a power supply, which is sort of necessary to make this system work. Paul also does not include shipping fees to get the parts shipped to one’s door. One would need to add a power supply that is quad-core capable to this mix which puts the total over $700.00 when the power supply is added. Granted, one can find parts from online stores that will ship via UPS Ground or FedEx Ground for “free”. So, shipping fees may not enter into the picture for the careful DIY shopper.

This is truly nice for the DIY person that likes to tinker with her own hardware. However, for the majority of PC users building one’s own PC is out of the question. The average PC user wants to buy it off the shelf or order it off the web preloaded with an operating system and probably some software. For the average PC user these are the only choices she wants to have. Most people do not get “shivery” over putting together “sexy” hardware like we hardware geeks do. More than likely the average PC user will tend to go a bit “green around the gills” just thinking about trying to build his own PC. This is where the system builders, such as my own company (An AMD only shop), ZaReason, System 76 and Penguin Computing enter the picture.

Here is what I get when I fill out a parts list form here as if for a new customer ordering a PC from my company today. I am using as close to the same components that Paul used as I can get:

AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition CPU 3.4GHz (quad-core)
MSI DKA790GX motherboard
OCZ 8GB PC2-8500 (DDR2-1066) DDR2 Memory (4GB Kit x 2)
Thermaltake Element T Case
Thermaltake TR2 Series 430W Power Supply
HITACHI Deskstar 1TB SATA II 7200 RPM 16MB Buffer Hard Drive
Preloaded “free” GNU/Linux Distribution (Any of the top 20 at DistroWatch, Mandriva recommended)

This system for the Non-DIY person would cost $793.00, plus shipping and perhaps sales tax if purchased through a system builder such as my own company. Adding a decent flat panel monitor and keyboard/mouse combo to get a complete system would add roughly another $175.00 to $200.00 to the total. I will figure the higher $200.00 for a nice monitor and keyboard/mouse giving a grand total of around $993.00 for a complete system using (roughly) Paul’s specifications. At this point I am not thinking this is all that cheap. What if we went with different components that are not quite so cutting edge? This could be done to bring the price down somewhat. In the interest of completeness I decided to do just that.

Here is my new parts form for a complete PC with GNU/Linux preloaded for the more budget conscious user:

AMD Phenom II X4 3GHz (quad-core)
ASUS AMD 780G AM3 motherboard
OCZ 4GB PC2-8500 (DDR2-1066) DDR2 Memory (4GB Kit x 1)
Thermaltake WingRS 201 Case
Thermaltake TR2 Series 430W Power Supply
SAMSUNG 500GB SATA 7200 RPM 16MB Buffer Hard Drive
LG 20in Widescreen LCD Monitor
Logitech Keyboard/Mouse Combo (PS/2)
Preloaded “free” GNU/Linux Distribution (Any of the top 20 at DistroWatch, Mandriva recommended)

This more budget conscious, high power PC system would price out at $775.00 (See correction in comments below.). This is real pricing that would be used today if someone ordered this PC from my company. One does not care to do business with my company due to my shameless self-promotion? Fine, here is a comparable system from System76 with quad-core Intel CPU and only Ubuntu available: Wild Dog Performance. That is not quite as budget conscious though. Or, go find a system builder near you at the Naked Computers web site and make a deal.

The bottom line is whether one is a DIY type or an average PC user one can get a complete, rather high powered GNU/Linux based PC system for around $800.00. If one does not need a new monitor the total is closer to $600.00. Can one do this for no more than $500.00? I tend to think that might be possible if one were willing to settle for a more mid-range system with a dual-core CPU. Such as the Limbo 2550A from ZaReason, Inc. However, hardware prices for these more powerful quad-core components continue to drop. Perhaps in another six to twelve months one could build or buy a less than cutting edge, high powered, quad-core workstation for around $500.00. Time will tell.

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Notice: All comments here are approved by a moderator before they will show up. Depending on the time of day this can take several hours. Please be patient and only post comments once. Thank you.

Edit Sat Aug 22 15:47:18 CDT 2009: Change the incorrect “OCZ 4GB” to “OCZ 8GB” on the first build specs.

Edit Sat Aug 22 19:27:24 CDT 2009: Add link for price correction in comments. Change “under $800.00” to “around $800.00”.