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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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7 Hidden Calibre Features That’ll Help You Manage Your Ebooks Better

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Calibre might not be the most polished app in the world, but it’s definitely the best software for managing your ebook collection How To Manage Your Ebook Collection For The Amazon Kindle With Calibre How To Manage Your Ebook Collection For The Amazon Kindle With Calibre The biggest problem with an eReader like the Amazon’s Kindle is that it requires unreasonable effort to move books between different devices. Before Kindle, I fell in love with Calibre. A bit on the heavy… Read More .

It ticks all the right boxes: it’s free, there aren’t any ads, and it boasts a vast number of powerful features. Sadly, many of those features fly under the radar, which is a shame because they can elevate your ebook management to the next level. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best hidden Calibre features.

Download: Calibre on Windows, Mac, and Linux

1. Merge and Split EPUB Ebooks

Some books come in multiple installments. Perhaps it’s a series of books like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, or maybe it’s a reference guide such as an encyclopedia.

Similarly, some books are exceptionally long; encyclopedias again spring to mind. A long book means a large file size, and that can be problematic when you’re waiting for a book to fully load in your e-reader. The solution is to use two Calibre plugins called EpubSplit and EpubMerge.

Combined, they let you collate multiple books or divide single books at your choosing. To install the plugins, follow the instructions below:

  1. Open the Calibre app.
  2. Right-click on the Preferences icon in the upper right-hand corner.
  3. Select Get plugins to enhance Calibre from the drop-down menu.
  4. Locate EpubSplit and highlight the plugin.
  5. Click on Install in the lower right-hand corner.
  6. Choose the toolbars and menus where you want the plugin option to appear.
  7. Locate EpubMerge and highlight the plugin.
  8. Again, click on Install in the lower right-hand corner.
  9. And again, choose the toolbars and menus where you want the plugin option to appear.

To use the plugins, click on the book you want to merge or split in your library, select the correct plugin in the menu bar, and choose the sections you either want to split or merge.

Note: The plugins only work with ebooks in the EPUB format. We’ll discuss how to convert books into different formats shortly.

2.

Get Your Favorite Magazines on Your E-Reader

Online magazine subscriptions can be confusing. Some offer an online-only digital version, some offer a Kindle version, and some are only available as Android apps Top 5 Best Android Apps For Reading Magazines Top 5 Best Android Apps For Reading Magazines For reading magazines on your Android tablet or phone, you will want these apps. Read More . Wouldn’t it be great if you could cut through the fluff and download your favorite magazines onto your e-reader automatically?

Well, Calibre makes this possible. To get started, click on the Fetch News tab at the top of the app’s home screen. In the left-hand panel, you’ll see a list of languages.

Click on your dialect of choice to see what’s available. 7 Hidden Calibre Features That’ll Help You Manage Your Ebooks Better Find the title you want to read and–if required–enter your paywall login credentials.

Next, in the right-hand panel, mark the checkbox next to Schedule for download and hit Download Now. Lastly, you need to force Calibre to send your newly downloaded magazine issues to your e-reader. Go to Preferences > Behavior and mark the checkbox next to Automatically send downloaded news to ebook reader.

Note: For automatic downloading to work, Calibre needs to be running on your computer.

3. Turn Calibre Into a Sharing Server

If several members of your household have a Kindle, or if you own multiple Kindles, continually syncing your data manually quickly becomes tedious. Instead, why not turn your Calibre app into a content server?

By doing so, you can make your entire Calibre library available on all your devices. You can even upload new content to your Calibre library from those devices. The process is remarkably straightforward.

In Calibre’s menu bar, go to Connect/share > Start content server. Your computer might prompt you to allow the app through its firewall. Next, click on the Connect/share tab for a second time.

You’ll see your computer’s local IP address followed by the port number. Make a note of them. 7 Hidden Calibre Features That’ll Help You Manage Your Ebooks Better

Now head to your Kindle’s browser (or any other browser) and type [IP address]:[port number] in the address bar. You should see all your Calibre books appear on your screen. Click on a book’s title to open it or click on the + icon in the upper right-hand corner to add more content to your library.

7 Hidden Calibre Features That’ll Help You Manage Your Ebooks Better Note: If you want to access your library when you’re away from your home network, you’ll need to allow port forwarding to Calibre’s port number on your router.

4. Convert Ebooks Into Different Formats

Sadly, the world of ebook file formats is a bit of a mess.

In theory, the standard format is the open-source EPUB. However, Amazon’s Kindle devices–which are the world’s most popular e-readers–can’t read it. Instead, they rely on the proprietary AZW format.

And let’s not start on MOBI, LIT, AZW3, or the other dozen different formats you see out there. Suffice to say, you need a way to convert ebooks into different formats. Thankfully, Calibre delivers.

To convert an ebook into a different file format, use the following instructions:

  1. Open Calibre.
  2. Right-click on the book you want to convert and go to Convert Books > Convert Individually.
  3. In the upper right-hand corner of the new window, choose your desired new format.
  4. Click on OK and give the conversion a minute or two to complete.

7 Hidden Calibre Features That’ll Help You Manage Your Ebooks Better You can verify if the conversion has been successful by clicking on Jobs in the bottom right-hand corner of the app’s home screen. You can also check whether the new format is listed in the book’s information panel on the right-hand side of the screen.

7 Hidden Calibre Features That’ll Help You Manage Your Ebooks Better Note: You can also automatically convert new ebooks when you import them into your library How to Auto-Convert Ebooks to Kindle Format When Importing Into Your Library How to Auto-Convert Ebooks to Kindle Format When Importing Into Your Library Calibre has another nifty trick up its sleeve: it can automatically convert any ebook into the Kindle’s MOBI format when you import it into your library. Read More for the first time.

5. Remove DRM From Ebooks

We now live in an age in which true ownership of digital media is becoming less common.

Luckily for bookworms, Calibre lets your wrestle back control of your ebooks by offering a way to remove the DRM from titles you’ve bought from Amazon and other online stores. We covered the process in detail when we explained how to remove the DRM on every ebook you own How to Remove the DRM on Every eBook You Own How to Remove the DRM on Every eBook You Own No one likes DRM. We all understand why it exists, but that doesn’t mean we’re ready to embrace it.

Therefore, this article explains how to remove the DRM from every eBook you own. Read More . So we recommend reading that article for the full scoop.

6. Automatically Download Ebook Metadata

Like any media library, you need to keep the metadata organized.

Doing so will lead to a much smoother and more enjoyable experience, especially if you have a vast number of books. But who has the time to enter all that information manually? Calibre offers a little-used feature that lets you scan for your books’ metadata automatically.

It can even find the correct book covers. To scan for metadata, right-click on the book in question and go to Edit Metadata > Download metadata and covers. A new box will pop up on your screen.

You need to select Download both. 7 Hidden Calibre Features That’ll Help You Manage Your Ebooks Better When the scan is finished, you’ll see a notification appear.

Click on Review downloaded metadata and make any tweaks as appropriate. 7 Hidden Calibre Features That’ll Help You Manage Your Ebooks Better Calibre can pull metadata from Amazon, Google Images, Overdrive, Open Library, Edelweiss, Douban Books, and more.

7.

Put Your Ebook Library in the Cloud

If using the content server method that we described earlier sounds too finicky, you can instead use Dropbox as an alternative Combine Dropbox & Calibre For Universal Access To All Your E-Books Combine Dropbox & Calibre For Universal Access To All Your E-Books Read More . By keeping your books in Dropbox rather than on your local machine, you’ll be able to access them from anywhere. However, if you set up the Calibre app correctly, you’ll also be able to use the app to manage your library locally.

Firstly, you need to download and install Dropbox on your computer. Next, head to Calibre and move your library to the shared Dropbox folder on your machine. The fastest way of achieving this is to go to Preferences > Run Setup Wizard and point the Calibre app at the Dropbox folder.

7 Hidden Calibre Features That’ll Help You Manage Your Ebooks Better Lastly, drag-and-drop your ebooks from their current location into the Dropbox folder. Et voila, you now have a cloud-based ebook library that you can manage locally using Calibre.

Do You Need More Books to Read?

The seven features we have covered in this article are all great, but you won’t be able to enjoy them if you don’t have a library of ebooks to begin with.

But building a library doesn’t necessarily involve spending money. There are lots of sites to get free ebooks The Best 6 Sites to Get Free Ebooks The Best 6 Sites to Get Free Ebooks If you’re a voracious reader, buying ebook after ebook can burn a huge hole in your wallet. Thankfully, there are plenty of websites offering free ebooks, and these are the best. Read More , and you can even download free books directly from Amazon How to Download Free Amazon Kindle eBooks to Your PC How to Download Free Amazon Kindle eBooks to Your PC Even if you don’t have a Kindle, you can still download free Kindle ebooks to read on your PC.

This article eases you through the process. Read More .

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