WHS 120 day eval now available.

The 120 day evaluation of Windows Home Server is now available for purchase from Microsoft. Technically the eval is free, but they charge $5.99 for shipping (in the US). I’m not sure why they are not just making it available for download – maybe that comes later. Unfortunately they are not making the full version available on MSDN or Technet Plus Direct (for the first version of the software) which is a real shame – I’d have probably purchased a subscription to Technet Plus if they did. I’m not sure whether I’ll get the eval, I’ve been less than impressed with the performance and reliability of the system so far. After my recent backup corruptions I reinstalled the clients on all of the pc’s but now only the desktop and laptop will backup – Kristen’s pc refuses to do a backup.

120 eval of WHS to be available

I’m really glad to see that a 120 day evaluation of Windows Home Server will be available as per the WHS blog. This is great news as I love the product but the bugs in the beta would stop me buying the released product unless I know they work. I need a backup interface that actually works (after all the main point of whs is backing up pc’s) and I was very reluctant to purchase the product without knowing it would work first.
I’m also considering tying this into a vpn with my in-laws computer to see if I can back up their computer to my whs server so that they have off site storage but that will need extra disk space as I’m almost full already.

Windows Home Server RC1 available

WHS RC1 is now available according to Tom. I vpn’ed into my home network to start the download off over lunchtime. I did find that the webpage said the dvd iso image is too large to download, but it looks like it will download if you click the download button regardless.
I’m looking forward to installing this software as several of my bugs have apparently been fixed. Not sure if I will get time to install tonight though, but watch this space.

WHS beta CTP released

Winows Home Server CTP was released a couple of days ago and I downloaded and installed it last night. It seems to have changed a fair amount. The backgrounds are a lot fancier and modern looking with gradiented colouring for most of the applications and backgrounds.
As far as the main server itself is concerned, the re-install went smoothly and the little bit of data (I’m not trusting my main data to the server just yet) remained on the disks, but the OS part of the server gets wiped out completely so the users needed to be reset back up and the backups of the client pc’s were wiped. This wasn’t that big a deal seeing as though the backup engine on the previous install had somehow got corrupted and wasn’t backing up the clients anyway!
Thankfully the reinstall seems to have fixed the backup issue – sort of – and the backup functionality has the appearance of working and the remote access is now back again.
I set up two of the pc’s to backup last night, but only one of them actually backed up. The first was my main desktop machine and that backed up successfully. The only issue is that the option to exclude folders fails to work properly as often the application comes back with a “home pc not responding” option when you expand a folder to select for exclusion so I ended up backing up more than I really wanted to.
For some reason it failed to backup the laptop pc and the console had a message saying that the transport service had failed (again) so I’m doing a manual backup now which seems to be working ok.
The remote access seems to have improved and the ability to automatically open the appropriate ports on the firewall via upnp is now part of the interface. I didn’t actually use this as I had already opened the ports for the first beta release and everything was set up as I liked it. They have also included the ability to have your own subdomain that points to your home server. Currently there is only one domain choice – livenode.com but it looks like more will be on the way soon. The neat thing about this part of the application is there is no configuration needed at the client end. All you do is select the subdomain and the domain you want to use and that is it (assuming you already have a Windows Live ID – if not you are prompted to sign up for one). No need for the users to worry about ip address’s and whether they are going to need a static or dynamic option. I was surprised to see that they didn’t include support for dyndns.org out of the box, but I guess this is due to the fact that dyndns doesn’t need a Live ID and therefore it is out of Microsoft’s control somewhat. I was also expecting to see more domain options – there was talk about it being something like homeserver.com domain earlier on in the beta.
Another (cosmetic) option is the ability to change the “headline” and home page of the web interface for the server too but the headline is (sensibly) limited to letters, numbers and spaces – no dashes. This is probably to reduce the chance of user included html in the main page. There currently is no user interface to change the colours, graphics etc of the main page but that can be done in the raw html if you like to get your hands dirty (and your code overwritten with any new updates). I think there will be a few plugins released for this area of the system to include features such as your favourite flickr feed (or pictures from the photos shared folder) automatically to the front page of the server.
The server still fails to synchronise the time with time.windows.com but that seems to be common with a lot of windows servers – not just WHS but I really wish they’d accepted my bug request of allowing the user to select which time zone they are in – it still defaults to pacific time 🙁
The main console also includes status lines at the bottom that provide the backup status, whether the storage is balanced (data existing on more than one disk) and who the last person to remote access in was. I’m still awaiting the option to see event viewer on the console too – admittedly this is an advanced feature but Microsoft say they don’t really want people using rdp sessions and to tell them why you need to use rdp – but I guess you can also use eventvwr from a remote pc and just open up the logs remotely anyway.
Overall, this release seems to be more stable (a couple of my bugs have been marked as fixed) and feature filled.

Finally manage to get WHS installing.

The PC that has been giving me loads of grief succumbed!
Admittedly the pc is a bit old but should be ok for WHS specs but everytime I tried to boot off the WHS dvd (or any other tool using WinPE) the machine would hang. I took the hard disk out of the machine, put it into my live pc and installed WHS on the hard disk successfully, tried putting it back in the original case and the pc would endlessly recycle 🙁
The next thought was to flash the bios to see if this would improve things. Previously I had search for the Bios (ASRock K7S8X) and hadn’t found anything, but this time I found a bios update from ASRock’s website. The trick was getting it onto the pc as the machine had no OS and all my other machines have no floppy drive. In the end I copied the files onto a usb thumbdrive, booted into BartPE and copied the files to the floppy. Then booted from another techie cd that gave me a dos prompt and I was able to update the BIOS with asrflash.exe
A restart and check of bios settings and I tried the DVD again, and this time it is installing ok.
Now to go and close the various bug requests I have open with Microsoft and other Beta software companies.

crc check

One of the first requirements is to check the crc32 checksum for the downloads before the dvd is burnt. Unfortunately no link is provided to any crc32 programs so I found one on consoleapps.com. It takes a while to generate as the dvd image is pretty large.
After the crc check it took 3 attempts to burn dvd of the installation media. The 3rd attempt worked fine and I popped it in the machine that I intended to install the software on. Unfortunately the same error occurred that I got when attempting to install Vista – the pc hangs after the capslock, numlock and scroll lock lights flash briefly. I tried swapping out the hard disk and dvd drive and it didnt make any difference. Putting the dvd in my main pc, the installation routine got further – to the point where it started to ask me if I wanted to install the software and to proceed any further would wipe my disk, so I know the dvd disk is good too.
I didn’t receive any help from Microsoft on the Vista beta so I’m not holding out much hope for WHS on this machine either 🙁
I didn’t go out and buy the larger hard disk as it doesn’t look like it would help much and it is snowing – again.
Update It looks like the problem is something to do with the WinPE environment as I have another tool that uses WinPE and it also hangs in exactly the same spot.

I’m on the WHS Beta.

I received notification that I’m on the beta last night so started the download off. Interestingly enough there didn’t seem to be a NDA attached to the beta so my first feedback was to ask if permission was granted to talk about the beta (or even mention that I was included) and I am happy to say that permission was granted. I must say this is good news as the more people who blog about problems, the more answers are generated (and fixes provided too I would hope).