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How to Network Boot a Raspberry Pi Without a MicroSD Card

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Setting up a Raspberry Pi usually means writing the disk image to a microSD card, then using it to boot the operating system. It’s a good flow that works in most cases… but it’s not the only option. Now you can use network boot to run your Raspberry Pi, and forget about microSD cards completely!

MicroSD, USB, or Ethernet?

For Raspberry Pi

Traditionally, running a Raspberry Pi has meant writing the disk image of your preferred distro to microSD. This is usually done using a tool like Etcher (although Linux and macOS users can access command line tools for writing data). Having a fast, resilient microSD card is important, but even the best devices suffer performance degradation, and eventually fail.

Keeping a backup of the microSD card is a good idea, so that you can instantly copy the image to a new card. One alternative is to boot from a USB device How to Make Raspberry Pi 3 Boot From USB How to Make Raspberry Pi 3 Boot From USB The Raspberry Pi is a versatile piece of kit, capable of a diverse range of tasks.

But it has one glaring flaw: the inability to boot from USB. Until now, that is. Read More instead, but with the release of the Raspberry Pi 3 B+, things have improved. Now you can boot multiple Raspberry Pi’s over Ethernet, from a central server.

This uses Preboot eXecution Environment (or PXE, pronounced “pixie”) and is known as network booting (or “netboot”). It’s made possible thanks to a new feature in Raspbian, PiServer. PXE has been a common feature in desktops and servers for years, although it’s usually used in corporations and public institutions.

For Raspberry Pis in schools or businesses, using piServer, there’s no need to install the operating system on each Pi–instead, a single server runs the Raspbian x86 distribution Revive Your Old PC Raspberry Pi-Style With PIXEL Revive Your Old PC Raspberry Pi-Style With PIXEL If your computer can run Debian, it can run PIXEL. Not sure what PIXEL is? Here’s what you need to know and how to get it running. Read More as a server, and each Raspberry Pi acts as a client (a zero, or ultra-thin client, specifically) booting from the OS on the server.

This is an excellent way to control what is installed on each Raspberry Pi (it’s all hosted on the server), and monitor how they’re used.

What You’ll Need to Use NetBoot on Raspberry Pi

Setting this up is pretty straightforward. However, PXE doesn’t work on older Raspberry Pi’s, only the 2018 model, the Raspberry Pi 3 B+. Along with this, you’ll need a desktop computer or laptop, or some other suitable device to run Raspbian x86.

You’ll also require:

  • Raspbian Lite
  • MicroSD card

Both of these are required for configuration of PXE, but once this is done, the microSD card can be repurposed.

How to Set Up a Raspberry Pi Server

With Debian Stretch with Raspberry Pi Desktop (the official name for Raspbian x86) downloaded, you have several options. It can be run as a live disc from DVD-ROM or USB; alternatively, you could install it as a virtual machine using VirtualBox. If you’re planning on using a dedicated machine, meanwhile, then a full installation will be appropriate.

While it is possible to use a Raspberry Pi running Raspbian as the server, this will result in slower performance. Regardless of which solution you choose, ensure there is enough HDD capacity for each Raspberry Pi on the network. With the system set up, boot Raspbian x86.

How to Configure a Raspberry Pi Client

You should now be ready to configure your Raspberry Pi 3 B+.

You should have written the OS to your microSD card already, so ensure this is inserted in the Raspberry Pi and boot the computer. Open a command line (or connect via SSH) and input:

sudo nano /boot/config.txt

With the file open in the text editor, add the following to the end of the file:

program_usb_boot_mode=1

Save the file and exit with Ctrl+X, then power down the Raspberry Pi:

sudo shutdown

You can now remove the microSD card.

Note: You can save time with the above process using this all-in-one command:

echo program_usb_boot_mode=1 | sudo tee -a /boot/config.txt

However, you will still need to switch off the computer.

How to Boot Your Raspberry Pi Over PXE

With an Ethernet cable connected to your Raspberry Pi 3 B+, you’re ready to connect the power supply and boot. At this stage, nothing much will happen, other than the power LED lighting up. Put this to one side and configure PiServer.

On the server computer launch PiServer from the Preferences menu. Follow the instructions in the wizard to set up the network. You should see the MAC address of each Raspberry Pi 3 B+ on the network in the Add clients screen; proceed to the Add users screen to create one or more user accounts and passwords.

Note: More can be added later. Also, the accounts are portable, and not locked to specific Raspberry Pis. Click next to Add software, and select the operating system you wish each client to use.

Currently, Raspbian and Raspbian Lite are available. Click Next to complete the procedure, install the client operating systems, and finish.

Simple Raspberry Pi Servers Without MicroSD Cards

By now, you should have at least one Raspberry Pi 3 B+ running as a zero client, and a PC running the Debian Stretch distro for 32-bit computers. The end result is a simplified, networked, Raspberry Pi environment that is centrally controlled and doesn’t require a microSD card.

It may not be ideal for offline projects, or many online projects, but as a solution to many computing tasks, network booting a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ is ideal. You might have a home server to connect your Raspberry Pi to, or use PiServer as a central server in a classroom scenario. PiServer might even control a bunch of Raspberry Pis using Power over Ethernet (PoE) in an industrial scenario.

It’s all pretty exciting, isn’t it? Want more Raspberry Pi server solutions? This little computer is capable of so much, from Raspberry Pi media servers 3 Ways to Set Up Your Raspberry Pi as a Media Server 3 Ways to Set Up Your Raspberry Pi as a Media Server Which media center application should you install on your Raspberry Pi?

Several options are on offer, and we’re going to walk you through them now, looking at the features, advantages, and disadvantages of each. Read More to Raspberry Pi web hosting servers Host Your Own Website On Your Raspberry Pi Host Your Own Website On Your Raspberry Pi Need to run a website but can’t afford the hosting costs?

One way around this is with the low-powered Raspberry Pi, which is more than capable of running basic web server software. Read More !

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Review: Samsung 860 Pro SSD

Samsung Knows We Need Higher-Performance SSDs with Greater Endurance Unlike the general computing audience, who may write an occasional email or create a birthday card in Photoshop, multi-tasking DPs, DITs, and content creators work with enormous data loads, reading and writing files sequentially. Consumer SSDs do well enough writing files in a random fashion to an SSD, but they can perform poorly when subject to the more stringent demands of 4K video, digital cinema, and other high-power applications that place maximum pressure on the drive and its controller. Samsung has long recognized that content creators in film and television place an onerous burden on media drives.

This spring, the company introduced a higher performance, more durable SSD, the 860 Pro, to facilitate high-data-load 4K video applications. Compared to previous generation drives that utilized a 48-layer V-NAND chip, the 860 series Pro and Evo drives employ Samsung’s latest-generation 64-layer V-NAND memory, allowing transfer rates up to 560 MB/s in the Pro version, at various capacities up to 4 TB. Of particular note to filmmakers, the 860 Pro features substantially greater flash memory endurance.

Earlier Samsung drives could only manage 450 TB terabytes written (TBW) to a 2 TB capacity drive. (TBW represents the total writes and erasures that can be guaranteed within the SSD’s specified warranty period.)

Today’s DPs, DITs and content creators of 4K programming require a durable SSD and controller that optimizes reading and writing heavy sequential data loads. The Samsung 860 Pro with a 4800 TBW (4 TB version) is said to be up to eight times more durable than previous-generation Samsung drives. The 860 Pro ups the ante considerably over earlier generation drives, offering 2400 TBW in the 2 TB drive and 4800 TBW in the 4 TB version.

The increased endurance is particularly important for rendering high-resolution animation or special effects, with their concomitantly massive files and data loads. It is less important for more run-of-the-mill applications in a non-professional home environment, for which the lower cost and somewhat less durable 860 Evo would be more appropriate. Still, writing 4 PB of data to any SSD over the course of its five-year warranty period is a lot of use.

Beyond that, most SSDs will almost certainly continue to function well and reliably for many years.

The lower-cost 860 Evo, available in 2.5-inch. mSATA and M.2 form factors, features the same 64-layer V-NAND architecture and controller but is intended for lighter duty use, such as reading and writing more randomized data, like email, text documents and spreadsheets. Curiously, Samsung has reduced the warranty period in the new 860 series from 10 years previously to five years now. The 10-year warranty, Samsung argues, was really overkill, when one considers the typical real-world usage patterns in the client space.

Most users, they note, upgrade their computer systems every three to five years, so the 10-year warranty in previous SSD iterations was really more about bragging rights than any practical consideration. The 860 series drives feature Samsung’s more efficient MJX controller. Over many years and learning the hard way, filmmakers and DPs have come to recognize the weak link in many HDDs and SSDs.

The cheap, one-size-fits-all, third=party controller boards that many drive vendors employ are prone to failure. We’ve all experienced the following nightmare scenario late at night in a hotel room far away: A chock-full media drive that fails to mount. The drive may be technically fine, but a defective controller board will prevent the HDD or SSD from accessing crucial data and functioning normally.

Review: Samsung 860 Pro SSD

The Samsung 860 series SSDs feature the revamped MJX controller.

The 64-layer V-NAND architecture contains many more levels and requires a more efficient controller to manage trim, GC (Garbage Collection) and other OS-initiated tasks. As loads and SSD capacities increase, data must be stored and distributed evenly across the many levels of the V-NAND chip to prevent overstressing individual cells, which can lead to premature drive failure. To achieve optimal performance and reliability, Samsung’s in-house, tightly integrated controller development team offers a major advantage, as flash memory engineers and the controller group can collaborate more effectively to create a protocol linked directly to the chip’s architecture.

With the 860 series featuring 64 layers of V-NAND memory and thus an increased number of layers in which to store data, a redesigned, more efficient controller spreads the data around more evenly and minimizes stress on the individual memory cells.

Sadly for Mac users, Apple’s proprietary drive connector precludes use of the 860 series Pro and Evo drives in Mac computers; the 860 2.5-inch drives are suitable only for PCs with a SATA III interface.

Sony Xperia XZ3 rumor review: love child of the XZ2 and Premium

Sony is known for releasing flagship phone versions every six months or so and is at it again, it seems, with an Xperia XZ3 just around the corner, after the XZ2 got announced as recently as the MWC expo back in February. There are already plenty of rumors and leaks fleshing out the XZ3 handset that will likely see the light of the day for the first time at the IFA expo in Berlin at the end of August, as has become a tradition with Sony. This is why we are rounding up everything we know so far about Sony’s upcoming nth flagship for the year.

Design and display

A slimmer, lighter love child of the XZ2 and Premium

Judging from the claimed design leak, Sony’s Xperia XZ3 will house the XZ2 Premium specs in an XZ2 body.

It’s got the same taller and narrower design, compared to previous Sony flagships, with thinned-out yet still significant top and bottom bezels. Moreover, it seems to inherit the same soapy-shaped, fairly chunky glass body of the XZ2, and will reportedly carry over the same 5.7″ FHD+ LCD display as well, not the 5.8″ 4K panel of the Premium.

The XZ2, however, has a single camera on the back, while the XZ3 seems to be landing with a dual-camera effort, perhaps borrowed directly from the XZ2 Premium, whose first camera samples we were treated with not long ago. Still, the alleged XZ3 specs tip a thinner body – 10mm vs 11mm – and a lighter weight.

That’s welcome news, as the XZ2 is pretty chubby for what it is, compared to other flagships out there.

Sony Xperia XZ3 live images

Sony Xperia XZ3 rumor review: love child of the XZ2 and PremiumSony Xperia XZ3 rumor review: love child of the XZ2 and Premium

Specs

More than an XZ2, less than a Premium

A claimed specs sheet of the phone has leaked out of Japan, and it lists a handset that shares a screen panel with the XZ2, but is thinner, lighter, with more RAM, and ? slightly larger battery. You can still expect the lightning fast Snapdragon 845 chipset, but there’s a move to 6GB RAM from 4GB, and a 3240 mAh pack, relative to the XZ2’s 3180 mAh, though this might just be the actual capacity, as these things go, we doubt that Sony will develop a separate battery just to squeeze 60 mAh more in it.

Bummer, but Sony’s phones usually have very, very frugal displays, resulting in surprisingly good endurance out of average battery capacities, so we keep our hopes high for the eventual XZ3 as well.

Cameras

Here Sony really stomps its high-end foot

It seems that Sony has pegged the star of the XZ3 show to be a camera set taken directly from the Premium version of the XZ2, which scored the company’s first mobile effort in dual camera shenanigans. While the Xperia XZ2 carries a single 19MP camera on its back, with F/2.0 aperture, the eventual XZ3 is listed with a dual camera – the same 19MP sensor, but with wider F/1.8 aperture, and a 12MP sidekick with an even wider F/1.6 lens.

The front camera seemingly will also get a bump, to 13MP this time, and this is exactly what the XZ2 Premium carries, so the samples from the XZ3 might look pretty close to the ones in the slideshow below.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium camera samples

Sony Xperia XZ3 rumor review: love child of the XZ2 and PremiumSony Xperia XZ3 rumor review: love child of the XZ2 and Premium

Price and release date

Sub-£800 is today’s bargain hunting

With a few minor but meaningful hardware upgrades from the Z2, a more refined design, and a huge improvement in the camera area, the XZ3 may be the Sony you might have been waiting for this year.

If this rumor review holds water in the end, the Xperia XZ3 may turn out to be Sony’s love child of the Z2 and its Premium offshoot, so we expect the price at launch to be between the £680-£800 that the two predecessors currently command.

We’ll keep our eyes peeled and ears to the ground when we land at the IFA expo in August, as that’s when Sony usually unveils its semi-annual flagship upgrades.

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