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How To: Boot your PC from a VHD

With the release of Windows 7, Microsoft added the ability to boot off of VHD files using the new BCD boot manager. The major advantage of this is that it allows you to create the virtual disk on an existing partition and boot directly off that file rather than having to create a new partition on your physical hard disk/SSD.

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FreeNAS 8.0.1 Storage Appliance

In a previous post, I mentioned that I was planning on re-purposing an old linux server I had laying around to a FreeNAS storage server. While I was learning more about FreeNAS I decided to hold off on the upgrades I mentioned in the above post. Since there have been a couple of major releases since then, and now that my comfort level using FreeNAS for my important data has risen considerable I recently decided to splurge on some brand new hardware.

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Overview: Quick and Easy SSH SOCKS Proxy

SSH (Secure Shell) is a very versatile tool that can be used for far more that just remote command line access. In the following example, you can create an SSH tunnel mapped to port 9999 that will allow you to proxy your Internet connection to bypass content filtering, IP Geolocation lockouts, or anything that filters/monitors your connection based on your public IP Address.

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How To: Dell Studio Hybrid Home Theater PC/Media Center

About a year ago I purchased a Dell Studio Hybrid (now discontinued) to use as a discreet and silent home theater PC. The hardware in the base model is powerful enough to easily handle 1080p video and maybe even run a virtual machine or two in the background for testing purposes. My first configuration included Windows 7 with Boxee, but this soon proved to be rather unstable and the boot times were horrendous (as in nearly five minutes) with the slow laptop hard drive in the hybrid. After doing some research, I was able to find a much more lightweight approach using Ubuntu 10.04 Server. At the same time I decided to switch from Boxee since development has pretty much stopped after the release of the Boxee Box. The interface was very buggy as well and it would become unstable for no given reason which required frequent application restarts.

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FreeNAS Storage Server

A couple years ago I had purchased the D-Link DNS-321 Network Attached Storage device to centralize my files and backup to two separate HDDs (Raid 1) to help prevent data loss. This worked great, until I needed additional storage capacity and support for making Time Machine backups on my MacBook Pro. I have heard tons of great feedback on FreeNAS and decided to give it a try.

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DIY Router/Firewall Build with PFsense

I have been thinking about building my own router for some time to take advantage of the features in numerous open source router operating systems. I finally settled on PFsense and the following parts below. The company that manufactures the board and enclosure (PC Engines) is located in China, however I decided to purchase the parts from a distributor (NetGate) in the US for shipping reasons. It was slightly more expensive this way, but all in all the parts came to just under $200. Not to shabby considering the features included in PFsense, which is the software/OS I finally settled on running since it is much more feature rich than other alternatives like SmoothWall. Even my $600 Cisco Router couldn’t do some of the things PFsense can.

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