October 2007 - Posts

  • Technical Brief for Windows Home Server Drive Extender

    For those interested in the workings of Windows Home Server, behind the scenes, here's a great technical brief that describes the Windows Home Server Drive Extender technology and how it helps ensure that you can always add adequate storage space quickly and easily.

    http://download.microsoft.com/download/2/F/C/2FC09C20-587F-4F16-AA33-C6C4C75FB3DD/Windows_Home_Server_Drive_Extender.pdf

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  • Microsoft-Home-Server-House

    Microsoft has posted an interactive video demonstration of Windows Home Server and what you can do with it.

    Microsoft-Home-Server-House

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  • CD/DVD/ISO Creation Alternative

    Filed under:

    Ok, I've tried Nero and other utilities for burning CD/DVD media from ISO files, as well as creating ISO files.  While Nero works fine, 99.9% of the time (others less so), I've been using a free CD/DVD burning tool called ImgBurn.  It can be downloaded from http://www.imgburn.com.  There's a full write up on the web site about what you can do with it.  All I can say is, "It hasn't made a single coaster yet!!"  And that's good enough for me.

    From the author's web site:

    ImgBurn is a lightweight CD / DVD / HD DVD / Blu-ray burning application that everyone should have in their toolkit!

    It has several 'Modes', each one for performing a different task:

    • Read - Read a disc to an image file
    • Build - Create an image file from files on your computer or network - or you can write the files directly to a disc
    • Write - Write an image file to a disc
    • Verify - Check a disc is 100% readable. Optionally, you can also have ImgBurn compare it against a given image file to ensure the actual data is correct
    • Discovery - Put your drive / media to the test! Used in combination with DVDInfoPro, you can check the quality of the burns your drive is producing

    Enjoy!!

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  • Windows Home Server - My RTM Experience

    Ok, Windows Home Server has been RTM'd for over 90 days now, and many folks are getting their copies from various online retailers.  I won't go into who's been bad and good in that department for this post, but lets say some vendors have been worse than others.  We're also seeing a wide variety of pricing for the same disc set from vendor to vendor.  If you care to post a comment about the retailer your dealing with, please keep it neat, clean and family friendly (if you don't, I'll delete your comment. Sorry!). 

    Windows Home Server supports a "Server Reinstall", instead of an upgrade.  This method allows you to keep any backups made under the RC release, but sacrifices user accounts.  Shared folders are still intact, but they're no longer linked to a username, until you re-create the user account.

    Now for the bad news...

    1) I did a Server Reinstall and found that even with the same Administrator username and password I could not access any of the Shared Folders from the previous installation.  Fortunately, the External Copy Backup tool proved its worth.  It had completed its daily backup of the designated Shared Folders, so all was not lost. But due to the permissions issue, I did have to resort to a clean installation.  Again, thankfully the External Copy tool did its job!

    2) The Program Launcher add-in no longer functioned correctly.  While it does work, clicking the Browse button to locate the executable causes the Windows Home Server Console application to crash.  I could still enter the path and file name manually, but........ I liked this little tool.  I dropped a note on the author's blog about this behavior on 10/17, but haven't seen a response.  The blog post can be found at http://www.danno.ca/blog/WHS+Program+Launcher+12.aspx

    3) WHS shares the same lack of drivers and Windows Server 2003.  I'm running it on an Asus A8N-SLI Deluxe motherboard with an ATI X800 video card.  Neither of the onboard NIC's had drivers, nor was there even a generic ATI driver for the video card.  Why an X800 on a supposedly headless machine?  It was laying around :-)  Fortunately for those buying complete OEM systems, this won't be an issue. For those doing a "roll your own", have your drivers handy!

    And for some good news...

    I've been running RTM for about a week, and am backing up 7 PC's.  Every one has been successfully backed up on every day.  Even those that are set to go to sleep or hibernate.  Great job WHS Team!

    Another new feature since RC0 is the ability to set the "alarm" point for missed backups. In earlier builds it was hard coded for 5 days.  Miss a backup for 5 days and your SysTray icon would go red.  Now, you can not only set the number of days before it warns you about a backup failure, you can also set this on a per-computer basis.  Great for the kids laptops that may not be home during the school week, or even turned on if they are!

    All along I've been very impressed with Windows Home Server.  The development team put a lot of thought and effort into it.  Sadly they were up against a hard deadline for shipping, so some much wanted features couldn't be included.  However, there are always Service Packs and Version 2.  While SP releases for OS's have historically been bug fixes, there have been a couple of exceptions.  Windows XP SP2 introduced new features.  The same happened with Update Rollup 2 for Windows Media Center.  So, maybe (and that's just my wishful thinking) we won't have to wait for version 2 for new features that aren't add-ins.  But don't get me wrong, there are some great folks writing some great add-ins for WHS.   A good listing of what's out there can be found at We Got Served, as I mentioned in an earlier post.  I expect we'll see even more add-ins now that the RTM version is more widely available.

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  • Vista Media Center with Four Digital Cable Tuners

    (or How Much TV Can You NOT Watch in a Week?)

    This is so very, very cool!  For those of you who are considering buying a new Windows Vista PC with one or more Digital Cable Tuners (DCT), there is hope for some rockin' systems.  We've seen various announcements that Niveus will be shipping a Vista Media Center PC with support for four (4) Digital Cable Tuners and I'm sure other vendors will follow. 

    I really, really wanted to see this in action, so I asked the Media Center beta team if they could accommodate me.  They were fantastic. They sent me two additional DCT devices and the information needed to set them up and have four DCT's working all at the same time!   I'd like to include a really big thank you to the Media Center beta team for letting me try this out!!

    Now, I've had my Vista machine with dual tuners working since the early days of the beta, so I'm not too worried about screwing things up.  So once I had the additional tuners in hand, and ready to go, I called Comcast and scheduled a service call to have the tech come out with the extra Cable Cards.

    The setup of those went pretty smoothly.  As I expected, the tech did not have any idea that they were to install the Cable Cards in a Media Center PC, but she didn't balk.  Once the cards were in, I called up the pairing information for the tech, soon I was able to watch and record up to four programs at once ( actually 4 are recording as I write this! ).

    This does put quite a demand on the system. With four programs recording, hitting Recorded TV on the remote control caused the one program that was playing to stutter for a bit, but once the Recorded TV screen came up, it settled out.  I suspect that I may need more RAM. But it could also be hard drive speed.  I've already got SATA-300 drives in the system, so there isn't going to be much improvement there.

    I've been asked not to go into the specifics of how to accomplish this, as for now its limited solely to the OEM vendor(s). So for now, we'll just have to content ourselves with the OEM offerings.  After all, you can't just go out and buy the Digital Cable Tuners at any retail outlet.

    More on this as I get a chance to play with this setup some more!

    System Specs

    Dell XPS 400
    3 Gig Intel Pentium D
    1 Gigabyte RAM
    Western Digital WD3200KS hard drive (for recording)
    4 - ATI Digital Cable Tuners

    Updated 10/25/2007

    Ok, after adding in the second Gig of RAM, things have been "just smashing" as our friends across the pond would say!  One, two, three, four shows recording/being watched at the same time is awesome!  My spouse even had the chance to catch a new show that she had written off due to lack of tuners in the primetime period.  Three were already recording, she called up the Guide and clicked on the show.  She happily watched it, while the other three tuners were dutifully recording what they were supposed to! 

    Ok, I won't ask the MCE team to send me four more tuners and see if I can push it to 8 tuners.  Would love to, but I'm pretty sure I'd need some major hardware upgrades in the CPU and RAM departments!  Plus the wife would shoot me when the cable bill came in.  In all fairness, being a "geek" has its ups and downs.  I've been able to test some great software and hardware from Microsoft and other vendors, but sometimes that comes with the price tag of having to upgrade things.  And the wife has been great about that, so far :-)

    Now, if the the MCE team would come out with a "software" Media Center Extender that retailed for $100 or less per copy, I would happily shell out the money for a kick-@$$ machine with tons of storage, upgrade to Gigabit ethernet throughout the house and build a really sweet Windows Media Server!

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  • Windows Home Server SDK now available

    For those who have been waiting for the necessary information to write Add-ins for Windows Home Server, the online documentation for the Windows Home Server SDK (Software Development Kit) is now available online.

    http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa496121.aspx

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  • Windows Home Server Toolkit v1 - The Nuts and Bolts

    As you've probably seen from Robert McLaws' blog post, there's a new Toolkit for Windows Home Server.  There are several components to this. Some run in the WHS Console as an Add-in, and others can be run locally on the client, or the server. 

    The Console Add-in gives you a new item under Settings, labeled Toolkit.  From there you have 4 available tabs. Remote, Storage, Backup and Support. 

    On the Server side of things.............

    The Remote tab gives you access to tools to help with troubleshooting and configuration of the Remote Access web site.

    whstoolkit_rmt

    Of particular interest is the Remote Access Website Configurations button.  Here you can adjust the Session timeout of a Remote Access connection.  The default value is 20 minutes for an idle connection.  This can also cause large downloads and uploads to fail.  You can change this value up to 24 hours.

    The Storage tab gives you access to diagnostics for server storage. And after you run the diagnostics, you can view the log.

    whstoolkit_stg

    The Backup tab allows you to wipe out the backup database (yes, this deletes all backups).  This could help you recover from a problem that might require a full re-install to correct otherwise.

    whstoolkit_bkp

    And you can change threshold in number of days before WHS will start nagging you about a client not being backed up.  And very cool, it apparently can be set on a per computer basis!   So, if you have kids that are out of the house all week and their laptops are only home on Sunday, you can change their settings to accommodate their lifestyle.

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    The Support tab gives you the ability to upload the Server logs to Microsoft to help them assist in troubleshooting issues.  You're given the CAB number to provide to MS so they know what file to look for.  Its basically a GUI presentation of the TalQ diagnostic tool from the beta days.  You can also get a Command Prompt window, directly from the WHS Console and view the Event and Tracing logs that are relevant to WHS.

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    On the Client side of things............

    There are two ways to run the Windows Home Server Toolkit on a client PC or even on the Server if you're logged in via a local keyboard or RDP.  You can either run the basic EXE which will give you a dialog like the following:

    whstoolkit4

    And then open a new Internet Explorer window with something like this:

    whstoolkit3

    Or you can run the Toolkit in Advanced mode.  The documentation says to open a Command Prompt window and change to the Program Files\Windows Home Server\Toolkit directory and type in clienttroubleshooter.exe -a to run the utility in Advanced mode.  Unfortunately the filename is connectortroubleshooter.exe, but that's not a big deal.  Even easier??  Copy the Start Menu shortcut, add Advanced to the name and put the -a after the command line to run it.  When you launch it in Advanced mode, you'll see the following:

    whstoolkit1

    Click on the Server menu bar item and you'll see Publish Server Add-in.  This automatically sends a copy of the relevant MSI file to the \\Server\Software\Add-ins folder, so you don't have to do it manually.

    Click the Run All Tests button and you'll see something like this:

    whstoolkit2

    Now, you can see here, that everything went fine until it got to the Application compatibility check.  It seems that it doesn't like the name of one of my installed programs, but I couldn't find anything the indicated which one it was!

    And now for the good part.  Here's where you get it!!

    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=DE10C0E9-2D46-4770-91FE-6B84AE06F960&displaylang=en

    Now for the bad part.  According to the documentation, the Toolkit should install as a WHS Console Add-in, the same way all the other Add-ins are supposed to install (copy the MSI file to the \\Server\Software\Add-ins folder, then open the WHS Console, go to Settings, Add-ins, Available and install it.  I could not get it to install this way.  However, I finally just used Remote Desktop to access the server, navigated to the \\Server\Software\Add-ins folder and double clicked on the MSI file and it seems to have installed itself just fine.

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  • Windows Home Server Add-ins | We Got Served

    This site has some of the newest and handiest Windows Home Server Add-ins available.  One I particularly like is the Program Launcher add-in.  Great for getting into Regedit, Command Prompt or just about any other program you need to run from the WHS console.

    http://www.wegotserved.co.uk/windows-home-server-add-ins/

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  • Download details: Windows Live OneCare Virus and Spyware Repair Tool

    Filed under:

    Brief Description

    Resolves the issue entitled "Contact Help Center - OneCare virus and spyware protection encountered a problem and cannot start". You MUST save this file to your computer and then run it. Do NOT select 'Run' from the download dialog.

    Overview

    After an install or an upgrade of Windows Live OneCare, the antivirus and spyware component may not start properly. Users are shown a red action item entitled: "Urgent, Contact Help Center - OneCare virus and spyware protection encountered a problem and cannot start".
    This tool will attempt to repair the virus and spyware protection component of OneCare on this computer.

    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=70adca25-950c-4b1b-a5e2-297e80aa67b1&displaylang=en&tm

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