Monday, October 22, 2012

Windows Home Server 2011 Lack of UPS Support

After I finished rebuilding my server I suddenly realized that there’s now battery icon in the task bar for WHS2011! I had totally didn’t realize that Microsoft would remove that feature from WHS2011! One has to ask Why? It’s supported on the underlying O/S that WHS2011 is built on so why not include it?
Here a home user has a WHS2011 server and plugs it into a UPS, why wouldn’t they just expect it is supported? The Windows 7 on their computer supports it? Why not something that was being sold as a central storehouse for documents, music, photos, etc. for the house have not only backup services, but UPS services as well?
Luckily it’s not a deal breaker for me to have WHS2011 be my host O/S on my server. After all I do keep the files backed up to multiple devices and locations, so in the event that my server is damaged in a power outage I could rebuild the server. Probably would take less than a day.
I started to think, well, maybe I could look at the next O/S version that Microsoft has. Well, no more Windows Home Server so its Windows Server 2012 Essentials might be the nearest a home user might use. Doubtful as the price is greater than $450 so I know this home user won’t be purchasing it. And even if I did, it doesn’t support Hyper-V so for me, what’s the point?
I’m sure they want everyone to go to Windows 8, but for me Windows 8 isn’t a “server” solution. At least not now until I read more about it being used in a home server setup.
Heck I probably won’t even install Windows 8 on my desktops unless I was to get a touch screen.
So for now, I’m sticking with WHS2011. It does everything my house needs. My “cloud” backup solution supports it so for the immediate future that’s what it’ll remain.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Server rebuild 95% done

The WHS 2011 rebuild is almost complete. Got the server back to its room and it's reading the weather information from my weather station. Yeah for VirtualBox supporting USB dongles in guest O/Ses! Boo for Hyper-V not supporting USB.
There's still about 40 O/S updates for WHS 2011 to complete. I'll be doing those shortly.
The CloudBerry is working fine with Amazon S3. Still working with CloudBerry on issues with Amazon Glacier.
TrueCrypt finished encrypting the 2TB drive this morning. Now the only hastle with that is I'll have to login every time the server reboots. I don't keep a monitor on it so I'll just type it in and see if it boots (hard drive activity).
Oh there was one casualty, hardware wise, in the whole process. The server's DVD drive completely failed. Refused to open at all. Luckily had a spare computer around to take one out of. Placed an order for a replacement. Only $16 so not too bad for the only out of pocket expense.
The server has 8GB of memory in it and the WHS 2011 host, and two Windows 7 guests (1 GB each) take up about 1/2 the memory so plenty of wiggle room for WHS to do its processing and some space for a couple more virtual machines if ever needed.
I do admit the server and guests were much quicker to respond when they were running under Hyper-V. Luckily no major work is being done in the guests so I'm not going to worry about it at this point as everything else seems to be operating just fine. It is just very unfortunate that Microsoft hasn't added USB functionality for guests in Hyper-V.
Apparently VMWare does support USB, but as I'm unfamiliar with it, I wanted to stay with something I knew. If VirtualBox hadn't worked I would have most likely looked at a VMWare solution.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Server Rebuild

So far today the server rebuild is going well. I removed a couple of hard drives out of the server, that I don't need, and left a single 2TB drive. I installed WHS2011 on the box without any issues.
I had always wanted to encrypt my server's drives, so this time I installed TrueCrypt and it is still processing through the 2TB drive by encrypting it. You can do other tasks on the computer while TrueCrypt is doing that in the background.
I installed VirtualBox in WHS2011 and moved a virtual machine over from my desktop to the server and installed the software I used to communicate with my La Crosse Technology weather station. Fortunately VirtualBox allows for the use of USB devices by a guest (something Hyper-V couldn't do) so a little while ago I plugged in the USB dongle and got it up and going. So now I can keep my desktop computer off and only leave the server on for, well, doing server duties and recording the weather.
Still to be done is to move the server back to its original location and keeping fingers crossed that the weather station and it will still communicate through a floor as my office and the server are on different levels in my house.
Oh, another thing is to finish getting CloudBerry setup. I didn't realize I had to deactivate the software first before I reinstalled it so I'm in trial mode. I've fired off an e-mail to their support so hopefully soon that'll be rectified. But the other issue, though not sure if its really an issue yet, is that when I setup my Amazon Glacier in CloudBerry it doesn't show what I've already backed up. Not sure this is normal as I'm able to see what I have in Amazon S3. Got a message on their forum hoping to get an answer soon.
Probably will start up one of the backups just to see how well it does tomorrow. Been at the computer already too long today!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Changing Home Server Setup

For a couple years I’ve been running a home built server with Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V as a the host and Windows Home Server 2011 as the primary guest with a couple Windows 7 and a Windows XP guest that could be run as well. This was to allow for the WHS2011 to run always, and when I was needing to download a file I could fire up one of the other Guests and download the file without having to fire up a desktop PC in the house and leave it on.

The primary job of the server has always been to be the homes central point for documents, photos, MP3s, videos, etc.

So now I’m at a dilema. I always try to save energy and thus money so having the Server setup is very nice. However, now that I have a home weather station, I don’t want to have to leave on my desktop computer 24/7 just to record that data. Now, granted, it might add at most $5 to my monthly electric bill, but every little bit counts, and hey it’s just plain good for the world to not to have to have additional coal burnt for my weather station.

I had thought about just firing up a guest on my server and having it run 24/7 to record the weather information, but one (of many) of Hyper-Vs weaknesses is that it won’t allow a guest to use a USB device plugged into the host. So as my system is currently setup, that won’t work.

So here’s what I plan to do this weekend.

Backup everything, of course, I maintain 3 sets of hard drive backups and a set in the “cloud.” So that’s covered.

Then I’m going to install WHS2011 as the main O/S on the system, after all that is its primary job. Then inside that I’m going to install Oracle’s VirtualBox, which does allow for the use of USB devices in a guest. What I might do first, is on my desktop, which has VirtualBox it to make sure the USB device will work in a guest as not all USB devices work flawlessly in a guest.

So if all goes well, the weather will be recorded 24/7, and all my documents will be on 24/7 leaving the rest of the PCs in the house off when not being used by someone.

One downside that I was thinking of on the bus this morning, is that when I run my cloud backup, it will probably see all the files as “new” and re-upload them all. That’s about 40 GB worth. So for about 3 months I’d have to pay a couple bucks extra for the space (after 3 months it’ll purge the old files in the cloud storage).

But in the long run, once everything is setup, I’ll not have to spend that extra money for having a desktop PC running 24/7.

Though, I think our cat would rather I ran my desktop PC 24/7 as she lays under the PC for warmth!

Dumping Hyper-V
When I was first setting up my home server I wanted to use the bare metal version of Hyper-V as it would reduce the memory footprint of the host and leave more memory available for the guests. So I installed it and got it initially setup. So far so good. I then went to try and remote into the box to start setting up my guests but couldn’t access it via my desktop, though I had the user name and password for access.

Eventually after searching for solutions I found some scripts that you had to run to try and get access! Excuse me? Why is it so difficult I was thinking? If I have a username and password I can fire up remote desktop and get complete access to a server! Or heck, even in SQL Management Studio if I have a user name and password I can gain access to the databases WITHOUT running any special scripts! Nada!

Well, even with running those scripts and trying to jump through many hoops I had no success. So eventually I had to get one with it and installed the full server software. And gee, with the username and password I could access the whole server and configure away. But to install, and get to work, the Hyper-V Management tools on my desktop involved running scripts, opening up ports on my firewall, etc. etc. etc.! You would think that a product that you are trying to get a hold of some market share away from the defacto king of virtualization, VMWare, you’d make it as easy as possible to use. Not Microsoft.

Windows Home Server 2011 (WHS2011) and Cloudberry Labs

I have a Hyper-V server that has WHS2011 running as a guest, which handles all of the household’s documents, videos, MP3s, etc.

For backups I have three external hard drives that I use, with a different one each week, that I backup all the files to. These are encrypted with TrueCrypt as I keep one hard drive with me all the time. That’s fine and good, but I’ve always been concerned about that extremely rare catastrophic event that would wipe out my server and my backups.

I’ve read about cloud storage and have seen it offered but never found an easy and cheap way to access it until I found the flexible Cloudberry Labs product for backup up a Windows Home Server. Using it with Amazon’s S3 storage I’m able to backup my most important documents, around 7 GB worth, for less than $1 a month. So far so good.

Recently Amazon announced the Glacier product, a penny a GB for storage, though you don’t have instant access to it like S3. Cloudberry Labs has now made their backup product able to use Glacier so now I’m backup up the less important photos and MP3s to it. These take up about 40 GB of space. I haven’t been using it long enough but It should cost under 50 cents a month to store all that data.

I'll post back when there's more.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

La Crosse Tech Weather Station

As a geek of all sorts, one of the Geekness that I am is a weather geek. To me the most important app on a phone is the Weather! Without that, it's just a dumb phone! Ok, so I exaggerate a little! For my birthday I got a La Crosse Technology Weather Station which is shown in the video below. It's all setup outside and collecting data at the moment. The wind gauge is solar powered, so I'm still waiting for it to get charged up.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Virgin Mobile Fix the HTC EVO V 4G!

I've been a user of Virgin Mobile for over 10 years now. I started out with a candy bar type phone, moved to a flip phone, and then the Rumor Touch which had very poor internet. Then the Samsung Intercept came along and was a great beginner Android phone. I didn't have any illusions, as many did, as to its capabilities and was quite pleased with it. Then the LG Optimus V came along and for me was the most error free of the phones and if I still had it (my niece now has it) I'd go back to it.
After the Optimus I went to the Motorola Triumph, an excellent phone, except the GPS was defective. Those that rooted got it to work just fine so obviously it was a software issue that could have been fixed if Virgin Mobile had just taken the little effort it would have taken to put out a fix.
Then came along the HTC EVO V 4G, potentially a great phone, but it too has a flaw. The much talked about Text sending and Receiving flaw. And, yet again, those that root are able to get it to work just fine. So yet again, another software error that could be fixed by Virgin Mobile.
One has to wonder why doesn't Virgin Mobile do anything about these flaws? Do they just hope one ignores them until the next "better" phone comes along and buys it? Twice burned already, I won't be burned a third time.
Virgin Mobile, you aren't the only game in town for pay as you go, it is becoming a crowded field with many companies vying for my money.
Many feel that your Customer Service is already poor, but think of the kudos you'd receive from actually supporting the hardware your customers use and update them, at least with software fixes that fix hardware problems! As it is, you are loosing customers, and soon I will be one of them.
For now, I can't afford to get a new phone to use on a new carrier, but I'm already considering getting a Google Nexus and using it on T-Mobile. At least it would receive updates.
So, no more chances Virgin Mobile, either fix the hardware problems by releasing software fixes or I will go, and I'm sure many others will too.
I can only shake my head, such little effort, could get such big gains for you.