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Windows Home Server 2011–Update Rollup 1 Connector Install

Tuesday, 8 November 2011 1:59 pm Comments off

Having just upgraded my WHS server to WHS 2011 (post coming soon) , installing the connector was next on my list of things to do.

The original connector that ships with 2011 worked like a charm on both desktop and laptop.Then Windows Update kicked in and installed UR1 sometime last night and thus caused havoc this morning.

Now, in the spirit of voodoo trouble shooting, there are a number of things people have done to get things working again.

Please note that I’m just some computer guy doing some stuff. If this doesn’t work or screws your PC up, don’t hold me responsible. Proceed at your own risk.

Firstly, try restoring to a pre-Connector state and restart. This should give you a clean slate to install the new UR1 connector.

Secondly – Start or stop the NetTCPTransportService in services.msc (Control Panel-> Administrative Tools –> Services) and try installing again. You can restart before or after trying to install. I can’t remember precisely in what order I did that.

Thirdly, or in combination with the second step above, you need to fire up regedit and navigate to registry subkey HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control. There you need to modify and or create the DWORD entry ServicesPipeTimeout and set the decimal value to 100000.

Remember regedit is not for the faint of heart – you may want to backup your registry FIRST BEFORE messing around with it.

Restart and pray, possibly not in that order.

Some have suggested that the task scheduler service is a culprit on some Windows 7 and XP machines. The solution being to delete all the service cedentials and start again. The folder is located at: C:Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Microsoft\Crypto\RSA-S-1-5-18. Please note that I did NOT try this.

One think that did irk me was that after successfully installing the Connector and restarting at the prompt, Windows logged in as user:_clientsetup_$. This is not a big deal as you can log out, switch user, click the “Other User” tile and enter your credentials that way. I’ll update this post once thats sorted.

The curious think here is that the laptop updated the connector and prompted me to restart with no trouble at all. Very odd.

More posts on the move to 2011 coming soon.

The Solution of Minimal Effort – Drive Extender and Windows Home Server Vail

Tuesday, 30 November 2010 7:14 pm Comments off

Ever since Microsoft announced it was removing Drive Extender from the next version of Windows Home Server, there has been an echo chamber effect with everyone saying the same thing : we don’t like it, we want it back, WHS is dead without it.

The same goes for what Microsoft should do now: port DE v1 into Vail, re-ad DE v2 to Vail only.

So I wont go and repeat all that .

The fact of the matter that WHS does not make nearly enough money to merit the full attention its DE woes deserve (The disKeeper blog makes this point as well). I’m sure all manner of problems could have been solved  were the full might of the Developer Division to decent on  the WHS team like a deus ex machina … Ok, maybe I’m being a little dramatic here.  Nonetheless, my point stands – all problems can be solved with adequate resources  – read money-in fact its practically the American way (I’m looking at you Bernanke).

The reason why Xbox (a big leap but bear with me) has flourished so much is because the team understands consumers. They understand what we, the consumer, want from them, the team. Xbox went from being a niche to a multi billion dollar arm of Microsoft. Helped in no small part by the Halo franchise (again – understanding of the consumer wants and needs at work).

Windows Home Server is in a similar place at the moment. WHS v1 was perfect. perfect in a way that’s difficult to describe. It was perfect enough for me to go out on a limb and buy a Dell server to run beta 1 on. The kind of perfect where you feel it in your bones – “this is it”.  (PS Microsoft: try get a commission off Dell for that  if you can)

The fact is that WHS solved a number of difficulties at a stroke: back up  and redundant protection against hard drive failure. As a result I no longer have nightmares (well i do, but about fire burning down the house rather than hard drives and computers biting the dust, but thats another story). 

The peace of mind that comes along with this is simply priceless. The fact of the matter is that there is no other way of getting that peace of mind with as minimal effort as setting up a WHS server. I’m not Microsoft – I don’t have the hardware and legions of RAID experts to call on. So WHS is the only way (yes there are alternatives, but I’m talking about the solution of minimal effort here).

So, Microsoft. Please. Give us our Drive Extender back. Whether you decide to use v1 or v2. Whether Aurora and Beckenridge have it or not. Add it back to Vail. You will have the appreciation and loyalty of a grateful bunch of people. This is an opportunity to pour fire over burning bridges (and maybe rebuild them with stone).

In the meanwhile, WHS users have started a petition. Vote here (half tempted to call this Organising For Drive Extender – a pun on Obama’s organising for America).

WHS – Setting up a VPN server

Friday, 9 July 2010 9:59 pm Comments off

I’m away on holiday next week and thought, like any good geek, I’d set up a VPN connection to my Windows Home Server.

The thing is that there are Add-Ins that will set up a VPN server for you.

However, by way of The MS Home Server Blog, there is a delightful little walkthrough that is remarkably simple.

This is for when the WHS console just won’t quite do it.

I configured my iPhone with the VPN details, and will probably just RDP in through it. I setup the laptop with it as well – so being able to work remotely now makes this little holiday a little less likely to be relaxing :)

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Update on WHS2SmugMug

Thursday, 25 June 2009 3:53 pm Comments off

Back in January i said I’d get back to writing this Windows Home Server Add-In.

Its now June, 6 months later.  For 3 of those months my camera was back at Nikon being repaired. So I took exactly zero pictures during that time. Its now back and I’m bracing myself for the flood of pictures. I carry 26Gb’s worth of memory cards with me, so I nearly always end up over doing it.

Which brings me to the Add-In. I’ve set up a Codeplex page here. And I’ve made a few check-ins. This is not even pre-alpha code. Let me explain.

A few weeks ago, I asked, via Twitter,  Omar Shahine if I could use his Smugmug Uploader code. now I’m a great fan of the Uploader. I’ve used it for every single uploaded to SmugMug.

So Omar kindly emailed me his code.

So what you will find in the Check-ins, should you be brave enough to take look is Omar’s back-end code sans any UI as part of a WCF service. The WCF service is hosted by a Windows Service (imaginatively called “UploadService”). My plan ( cunning or not) is to have the UI in the Console communicate with the uploader process via WCF. There are other methods, but WCF gives me incredible latitude when it comes to moving data back and forth.

So the Home Server Console tab will simply be a UI for uploading stuff. Instead of Remoting in and using Omar’s uploader. This is an intermediate goal.

My ultimate goal is actually to have a “Smugmug” folder and under it a folder for every Smugmug Album in your account. the above mentioned service will monitor those folders for changes and replicate those changes to Smugmug.

So I’m building now with such a convoluted architecture with a view to where i want to get this Add-in to.

So hopefully I can get the Add-in working soon.

I’m a pretty good test case for this, but I will need testers for it.

Watch my twitter account or my FriendFeed account for updates ;)

PS If you’re asking why I’ve not moved blogs yet, I’m waiting for the next Oxite Release first.

Apple Tv – How It Fits In…..

Monday, 18 May 2009 2:20 pm Comments off

So i got me an Apple Tv last week, more on impulse than as part of any rational thought, as such things go.  i was planning on getting one, but only later this summer.

But such is life….

So its sitting there on my Tv cupboard, replacing the DVD player that does not work any way…. surrounded by my impressive collection of DVDs. Which do me no good sitting on the shelf instead of on my Apple Tv hard drive….

The solution to this is, of course to back up your DVDs to disk. I use DVDShrink 3.2 (the last version ever released), or DVD Decryptor. both of which leave you with a folder full of .vob files ( usually  a VIDEO_TS folder).  This will strip copy protection from the files.

These files do us no good. Apple Tv will not take .vob files. But, and I must admit my irritation here, Windows Media Center does ( serves me right for being a turncoat :) ).

So the next step is to use Handbrake ( for Mac and Windows) to take your backed up files and turn them into Apple Tv readable m4v or mp4 files. These files can be read across iTunes, Apple Tv, and your video capable iPods and iPhones.

Now this conversion process is eyewateringly long. I’ve resurrected an old laptop ( Intel Celeron M 1.4 ghz, 256Mb RAM). The average time is about 10 hours – at 4.3 frames per second. My 3ghz Pentium 4 with 2Gb RAM is actually only slightly faster, confusingly enough. in any case, i need the desktop and no the laptop, so the old and busted laptop is doing the conversions.

The 10 hours conversion does not bother me much. I set it up to go in the morning, and its usually almost done my the time I’m back home in the evening.

All this media is being stored on my Windows Home Server, with a normal install of iTunes being the server. I’m not sure if Firefly Media Server will work with Apple TV, but if it is, I’ll install that instead.

Finally, I use MetaX 1.0 for Windows (theres a Mac version, too) to add in metadata – pic, sypnosis, direcots, actor, etc…. This is amazingly useful and saved me loads of time….

Now my music library is full of duplicates (my fault for leaving the “Copy to iTunes library” option on when i import stuff), So I’m slowly going through it and deleting the duplicates (and saving space at the same time).

My Photos are spread across a hundred folders, so i have to get some sort of organisation going so i can sync them to Apple Tv and show them off on my Tv :) .

I have SageTv running on the same server. Their conversion process for Apple Tv takes just as long and won’t work – sigh. If I could just get Sage to save the files in m4v format, i could sync my recorded tv directly to my apple Tv without any (hours long) conversion in between.

Update 14-10-09: The latest version of SageTv does indeed convert to m4v perfectly. Works wonders, but the time is still rather long. I reccomend turning off everything, defrags, AV runs (and temporarily, backups) if you have a long queue of files to convert. Right now I have 16 files to convert all of which are about 2- 3 hours long. Usually two a day. So for this week, I have turned off the defrag passes. SageTv actuall scales its CPU usage remarkabely well in these situations.

If i could, i’d have uploaded everything to EC2 for encoding :)

Thanks to the guys over on Friendfeed for help with this.

Dvd backup software thread: here.

Metadata thread: here.

Windows 7

Monday, 12 January 2009 3:13 pm 2 comments

Yep. I’m writing this from my Windows 7 VM (on Virtual PC 2007 SP2).

Performance wise, The setup inside of the Vm is making it sluggish. But of the gig of RAM its got, its only using 32%. Which is notable. Vista beta 2, on the other hand) on the same machine in a dual boot configuration used up 80% (of one gig of RAM) standing still.

Talking of performance, I’ve backed the VM up to Windows Home Server. It took all of 20 minutes. Which frankly surprised me. given the fact that this was a new OS running under a VM.

So I’m inclined to wonder exactly how similar to Vista is 7, file wise? Since WHS only copies to the server files which it does not have a copy of (or a version of). Or, it could be that 7 is optimised for WHS to backup (Which makes sense on a number of levels, but not to the European Union).

The other thing i notice is the new taskbar. I’ve grown used to the Vista taskbar for some reason or other, but this is a pleasant change. The fact that the  task bar items can be configured to show application names or not, is really neat.

They do, however get confused with the buttons in the Quick Launch bar quite easily.

The UAC logo has changed colour, to yellow and blue, in keeping with the OS colour scheme. The UAC prompts themselves are worded differently.

The absence of a sidebar is nice. And I hope that the performance hit that running Sidebar produced is gone too. Gadgets are still there, just in the background and way less conspicuous.

Its quite a please feel to the whole OS. Does it feel like Vista?? A little. Its familiar territory. But In truth, I’ve yet to explorer the OS thoroughly. So that answer will have to wait.

One thing that is defiantly different is that Google Chrome 1.0 looks different.its a dark Blue instead of alight blue.

Talking of web browsers, i decided to install IE8. Which didn’t install. It didn’t recognize the OS for some strange reason. Must try again cause I hear that a few people have managed to do it.

I must say that I’m impressed enough to be considering upgrading one of my Vista machines to Windows 7.

This Beta 1 makes me look to Beta 2 and Release with a lot of hope that Microsoft have learned their lesson of the Vista Release debacle.

The one thing that no ones said anything much about is the WinFS file system that Vista was supposed to ship.

With Sun’s ZFS redundant file system, Microsoft are lagging behind. Even OSX has ZFS built in ( it has to be enabled with some obscure command line tricks, but its there).

Even if Microsoft released a separate beta version with WinFS, I’d be happy. 

NTFS is old. Time to innovate it.

Back and ready to rock

Saturday, 13 December 2008 5:35 pm Comments off

So I’m back from holiday (Florida – no ride queues and was great).

And I’m raring to go .

To start the year off, WHS4Smugmug development will resume ( after a year of being busy and feeling guilty). There’s a great series of posts on Add-In development on the tentacleBlog:

And I’ll be using them to bootstrap development and hopefully get moving.

One area I’m worries about is the file/folder structure that it’ll pull the photos from and send them to Smugmug.

So I’ll crowdsource this problem. Please leave a comment on how you organise your photo folder. Thanks.

This’ll help me with the 8000 photos I took in Florida.

Hard Drive Troubles

Friday, 29 August 2008 4:52 pm 2 comments

image

This picture was taken using WinDirStat to image the drive. Great utility, by the way. Its part of my Software Keychain now.

See that yellow area over there? Its 3.5Gbs of space that are used, but not accessible via Exploder and thus the Windows API.

Before you ask, I already tried RootkitRevealer from SysInternals, but it doesn’t work on Vista.

It was 63Gbs yesterday. Here’s what I did:

Then I decided that if I restore from a Windows Home Server backup, the unknown space shouldn’t be there as its effectively invisible to the Backup service at the time of making a backup.

Which I did. After booting up, it didn’t work.

However, this morning chkdsk started as part of the boot sequence, no idea why. And the hole in my hard drive is gone  reduced.

Whew. I was contemplating a complete rebuild of my laptop.

Out of curiosity I ran WinDirStat on my Desktop.

Here’s what I got:

desktopwindirstat

Again, there’s a 30Gb hole in the hard drive.

I ran chkdsk.exe and got a slightly tidier picture, but with the 30Gb hole still there.

Looks like I’m going to have to restore it from WHS as well.

WHS Add-In: WHS2SmugMug – Update

Wednesday, 9 July 2008 7:11 pm Comments off

I’ve neglected this project for a while mainly due to me being so busy with other stuff.

The hiatus has actually done the project good as feature creep was threatening to de-rail the thing the last time I had a look at it.

So I’ve cleaned up the requirements for the data to be stored locally. I’ve eliminated just about everything I can pull from SmugMug leaving me with a nice, clean object model to work with.

I was also struck by the fragmenting of the project into three – scheduled, service and WHS Console Add-in.

While this seems logical, it is a bit over the top. So I’m dropping the scheduled uploader and having uploads handled by the service.

Work is progressing nicely and I hope to have a working  service app soon ( if not a console add-in).

I’m now using the SmugMugAPIWrapper from Codeplex. Its MIT Licenced so WHS2SugMug will have to be too. This library is one that I can actually use without looking at the source as its built to use the current SmugMug API, so no worries there.

As with my Windows Live Writer add-in, I’ll host the project on Codeplex as soon as there is a release-ready codebase.

WHS: Virtual Server

Sunday, 11 May 2008 8:42 pm 1 comment

As I promised, I’m posting a How To for installing Virtual Server on WHS.

A word to the wise:

I’ve a 2.8Ghz Celeron D with 2GB RAM to run this on. Virtual Server can provision processor usage to an extent, but it uses RAM like there’s no tomorrow. Don’t forget that it has to play nicely with WHS (specifically DEmigrator.exe that burns CPU cycles) and other stuff like defrag passes and anti-virus.

Since WHS is built on top of Small Business Server,  the underlying OS is essentially the same. Hence no compatibility issues.

Installing Virtual Server is relatively straight forward.

First, download Virtual Server 2005 from here.

Then Download the Service Pack from here.

Open a Remote Desktop Session or use the Advanced Admin console tab to access the WHS desktop.

Now, its up to you whether you want to install the program files to C drive or D drive. Its worth noting that the Virtual Machines are stored separately in a location you specify on a per VM basis.

Once the install( including that of the service pack) is completed go to Start -> All Programs -> Microsoft Virtual server and hit the Administration Website shortcut.

You get this:

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Note: I was accessing this remotely so had to prefix the user name with “server\”.

Otherwise, these are your WHS credentials that you use to access the console or remote in to WHS.

This is the webpage you get to (click for a larger version):

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As you can see I have two virtual machines listed. One of which is currently  running.

I find that its easier to manage the server remotely, so copy the web site shortcut from the Start Menu to a network share. This now allows you to reach the web site from any connected PC.

If you’ve done this, close Remote Desktop and try it. The Default IIS settings that the install configures for you should be OK.

Setting up a Virtual Machine couldn’t be simpler:

First we want to set the default location of our Virtual Machines. Go to Server Properties at the bottom of the Sidebar and click on Search Paths. Change the Default virtual machine configuration folder to your desired location. I’ve been using a network share with replication turned off.

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You can also set default paths for ISO’s that you will use. These will show up when you configure the VM’s Cd/DVD drive.

And press Ok when you’re done.

Hit Create under the Virtual machines section of the sidebar:

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Enter all the info on the screen.

The RAM that the Virtual Machine is assigned is occupied as soon as the VM starts up. So be careful when doing this.

You have a choice of creating a new Virtual Hard Drive or attaching an existing one. make sure that the size of the hard drive is enough for your needs. Expanding it later can be a little difficult.  And choose a SCSI bus if you intend to have multiple VHDs attached to the same machine.

The VHD actual file size increases as you add data to it. It stops at the logical size of the VHD. So a 80Gb VHD can no be larger than 80Gb on disk.

You can also choose to create the VM without an attached hard disk.

Pressing “create” takes us to the Vm config page:

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You can also reach this page by selecting your VM from the Configure menu under the Virtual Machines Section of the Sidebar.

This is where you change items such as memory, hard disks, CD/DVD ROM drives, Networking, SCSI Adaptors, COM and  LRP ports.

Each option takes you to a new page were you configure settings specific to that area.

Its worth noting here that the VM needs to be Shutdown for some operations. But you can still change the location of the media that the CD/DVD ROM drive captures while the VM is running.

You can also set the VM to start up automatically with WHS by going to the Server properties.

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With my Windows Server 2003 VM running constantly, the WHS automatic restarts could be a problem. All I do is check the box, input the account details, set a delay ( in my case, 600 seconds) and tell Virtual server to save the VM’s state when WHS shuts down. The delay is actually a pretty nifty feature as it allows WHS to initialise itself, bringing all its processes online, before starting the VM.

One more thing I have to cover for running this on WHS is Resource Allocation:

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You’ll find it the bottom of the sidebar.

As you can see my VM has 50% Max Processor capacity to play with. This protects the WHS processes from being starved of resources.

Once you’ve got your VM set up and you’ve installed you software all you have to do is remote in using the Remote Control facility the web site provides you with ( its good for the initial setup such as enabling Remote desktop Connections and so forth). All you do is double click on the VM icon  on the front page.

I also recommend installing VM Additions (the ISO for it comes with Virtual Server and is a default option for the CD/DVDROM drive) that will improve the way the VM behaves within the Virtual Server environment.

Additionally, this post probably scratches the surface of what’s possible with this.

And I’m sure I’ve got a few things (unintentionally) wrong along the way so its not fool proof, so YMMV ( Your Mileage May Vary).

Happy Hacking…

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