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.