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ESXi on an Asus Chromebox M004U

I recently stumbled across the ASUS CHROMEBOX-M004U. It’s a Chromebox, which is cool in its own right, but I was interested in using it’s dual-core Celeron Haswell CPU, expandable RAM (up to 16GB), and M2 Sata storage for other purposes.

First things first, you’ve got to enable the box to run things other than ChromeOS… Thankfully that’s well documented ( http://kodi.wiki/view/ASUS_Chromebox ), so I won’t go into detail at this time. But I will say, I used the standalone, custom coreboot firmware and chose the headless option, as my current planned use cases are for servers. Apparently you want non-headless if you plan to use the box as a Plex Home Theater or Kodi box. Oh, also, I set it to boot first from USB if  available.

Now the Chromebox will boot happily from it’s internal SSD or USB if attached.

Time for ESXi! I haven’t been blogging much in the past couple years, but I have been doing a lot of home work with virtualization, ESXi, vSPhere, ZFS, SmartOS, OmniOS… so at this point I’ve got a bunch of crazy tech projects going on at home.

First, you need an ESXi installer ISO image… I’m using ESXi 5.5u2  and it’s freely available from VMware…https://my.vmware.com/web/vmware/evalcenter You probably have to register to get it. 6.0 is out now, but I haven’t made that jump. However, while 6.0 DOES have USB3/xhci driver, even the latest ISO for 5.5 does not… Even though the matrix of VIB versions per release https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/10Vzx4NLhx1XzhmS-hQuIO1wXa98_8EKN3bhXjFx2GgQ shows later versions which have it. So we’ll have to add that/upgrade after install. (Also, this is helpful information about that matrix: http://www.v-front.de/2012/11/are-esxi-5x-patches-cumulative.html)

Second, we need to customize our installer to have non-standard packages for this machine.

I’ve been using ESXi Customer: https://vibsdepot.v-front.de/wiki/index.php/ESXi-Customizer

And, you’ll need to get some custom VIBs (drivers/configs)… you need the following 2, and you want the offline-bundle versions

To customize, you use a source ISO and add an offline bundle… ESXi Customer only does one VIB at a time… so after it gives you one customized ISO, rename it, then use it as the source, and add the second VIB.

Now, you are ready to install…  We will install to a different, better supported machine, ensuring your install is good to go, then move to the Chromebox. 

Using your custom ISO burned to a USB flash drive (various tools to do that, on windows I use Rufus), install to a target USB flash drive at least 8GB (not the one you are installing from). Installing can take some time, so be patient. Also, make sure you only install to the desired, target flash drive, not your hard drive or something. 🙂

Once installed, remove the installer flash drive, and boot from the target ESXi flash drive. Again, it takes a while.

Now we have a few configuration steps.

First, we’ll use F2, to customize the system… navigate to troubleshooting options… press enter on “Enable SSH” ( screenshots here: http://www.thomasmaurer.ch/2012/09/activate-ssh-on-vmware-esxi-5-1/ )
For the rest of the steps, SSH into your ESXi machine, it should be displaying it’s IP on the screen.

Second, we need to fix a network setting. By default, the vmk0 (virtual NIC created on which the DHCP client runs) will do a one-time clone of the MAC HW address of your system’s NIC, so you’ll need to fix this, else when booting the USB in a different machine, the installation will boot with the original machine’s MAC… it will CONFLICT with your original machine, you’ll have network issues, including using same IP if you have DHCP static addresses, etc.

esxcfg-advcfg -s 1 /Net/FollowHardwareMac

more detail from: http://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=1031111

Third, you need to install and make sure that USB3/xhci gets loaded at boot…

esxcli network firewall ruleset set -e true -r httpClient
esxcli software profile update -d https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-depot-index.xml -p ESXi-5.5.0-20141004001-standard
esxcli system module set -e true -m xhci

and add following to /etc/rc.local.d/local.sh  :

vmkload_mod xhci

more detail from: http://www.v-front.de/2014/11/vmware-silently-adds-native-usb-30.html

Finally, you should be able to shutdown, remove the USB flash drive with ESXi on it,  put into Chromebox, and boot. And it should come up with it’s own HW MAC, IP, etc, have access to update its own config on its USB drive, and be able to use an attached keyboard.

SSH to new ESXi IP and/or use the vSphere Client to manage as normal.

Time Machine backup to Linux via Netatalk

So, when I got the upgrade from Tiger to Leopard on my MacBook Pro, I was looking for a good backup solution. I’ve used rsync in the past, but when I saw that Apple had a new Time Machine backup tool, I was curious to give it a shot. The catch is you basically needed an external USB or Firewire drive, until they recently came out with the Time Capsule. Anyway, tonight I got the itch to really see if I could make Time Machine work without buying extra hardware. I mean, seriously, I’ve got a good hunk of mirrored disk sitting on my home server; that seems like a good place to do backups.
Some googling found me this link to a blogger who’d done it!
I’ll make my own version of this post, since I had a few differences from the original I where I found the info.

Continue reading Time Machine backup to Linux via Netatalk