Richi Jennings

I'll be your Windows Home Server (and I pity tha' foo')

January 09, 2007 6:59 AM EST
Backup your IT Blogwatch, in which bloggers dissect the Windows Home Server news from CES. Not to mention architecture in the Los Angeles underground (if you can find them)...

Marc Ferranti talked to Big Bill:
Microsoft is at a crucial point in its expanding efforts in the consumer arena. Company Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates used his keynote address here at CES to unveil the Windows Home Server ... [I asked Gates how] the Home Server fits into [Microsoft's] vision of the connected entertainment home.
...
Gates: Whenever you have multiple devices including multiple PCs that you want to share information with it's always been a bit complicated. Do you leave those PCs on and do connections PC-to-PC? We need something that you just plug in, is very simple and not only allows access within the home but remotely, and so that's what we've been working on. We've got some good partners. HP is a lead partner on this. We've made it awfully simple and we think in a multiple PC household this could be quite popular.
Alec Saunders explains:
Windows Home Server combines storage, streaming, network management, automatic backup and remote access in a single headless box for home. It’s easily expandable, too, so that as your storage needs grow, it can accomodate them.

Speaking selfishly, I can hardly wait.  I’m one of the many who has cobbled together solutions like this over the years.  My current “home server” is an old PC with 250G of disk in it, tucked into my wiring closet in the basement, running headlessly.  Automatic backup is done by running Foldershare on all the PC’s that need to be backed up.  It’s not perfect, but it’s the best solution I’ve found to date.  A real solution is far preferable.
...
A server for the home as Microsoft’s top story out of CES?  Who would have guessed…
Nathan Weinberg adds:
[It's] a simple box that sits at the center of your home, acting as central storage for your media and backing up all your computers, as well as enabling remote access to media and networked computers ... will be here by early summer, and even if manufacturers design horribly expensive systems, the system builder channel guarantees you can buy a “grey market” copy of the Home Server operating system and build a more than decent Home Server out of a five-year old Windows XP PC and some big hard drives ... based on Windows Server 2003 R2, and that hard drives can be removed from the Home Server and the data will be readable by other PCs.

[Nathan also has screenshots]
Preston Gralla worries:
If the product uses the same kind of brain-dead backup built into Windows Vista, this is a product that will be dead on arrival. The backup tool built into Windows Vista may be the worst utility every packed into an operating system. It doesn't allow you to back up individual files, folders or even file types. Instead, you have to back up every single file and folder of broad generic types. For example, if you want to back up a single picture, you have to back up every single graphic of every graphic file type on your entire PC, including all the graphics that Vista itself uses. This means you can be forced to back up hundreds of gigabytes of files if you only want to back up a few family photos.

Don't be surprised if Microsoft uses this same technique with Windows Home Server. I've talked to Microsoft honchos about the awful backup in Windows Vista, and they insist they did it because they didn't want to confuse people with too many choices about backup.
Microsoft's Rory Blyth has a video interview with the product team:
Microsoft is a big company. Everybody knows this, but it really hits home when your job is to go around and interview people from its many divisions. Before shooting this video, I didn't even know there was a Windows Home Server coming out.
Including Charlie Kindel, who writes:
[This is] the product I have been slaving over for the last 3 years ... I can't even begin to describe how excited I am that the word is finally out. Microsoft is not known for keeping secrets and I'm very gratified of the great job my fellow Microsoft employees did in keeping it confidential.
...
The photo you see in this post ... is a Windows Home Server Prototype that we built to explore innovative hardware design. I put my hand in the shot so you could get an idea of just how big (small) this particular device is. This prototype uses 2.5" hard disks and thus has less storage expansion capability than the HP MediaSmart product will, but it was built to show another perspective of what a Windows Home Server could be.
Mary Jo has better pictures of that and more:
At CES, Microsoft was showing off several Windows Home server prototypes developed by original device manufacturers (ODMs). ODMs build hardware for OEMs, or system vendors. On display: The "hockey puck" prototype, created as a reference design by Microsoft itself ... The Inventec Home Server IHS2B.500, a two-drive, 500GB configuration that allows for horizontal or vertical placement in a home/home office ... The Quanta Computer S36, an Intel-based, two-bay system, with an expansion bay for support of up to six additional drives ... A 64-bit AMD Live! Home Media server ... A couple of Intel-based "Model 1" and "Model 2" systems.
John Spooner shows us the money:
Who was smack in the middle of Microsoft’s Windows Home Server launch, at the Consumer Electronics Show last night? ... It was Advanced Micro Devices. AMD unveiled the AMD Live Home Media Server. This AMD home media server, which compliments Microsoft’s Windows Home Server, is not a product. Instead, it’s a hardware reference design the chipmaker is offering to PC manufacturers. Manufacturers can use it as the basis for building their home servers. Thus we can assume AMD has done much of the work of assembling and testing the hardware—of course based on its processors—that will underlie a home server. AMD is, put simplistically, helping to cut down on the time spent and the cost associated with bringing such a product to market. This encourages PC makers to do so and also to use AMD’s chips.
Ryan Block:
Here's the rundown of the facts on Windows Home Server ...
  • There is no common web interface. Interaction is entirely client software based, or done over SMB.
  • It cannot directly stream media to Media Center Extenders, but it can stream media directly to Windows Media Connect-enabled devices.
  • It does not use RAID, but instead uses a RAID-like drive pooling system with built-in redundancy. Expanding capacity is as simple as adding additional drives internally or externally via USB ...
  • The client software, which is installable only on Windows PCs (duh) monitors PC health, manages backups, and supports full disk images and versions. If your computer crashes hard you can pop in an restore CD and it'll pull the disk image over the network.
  • Your WHS device gets registered with your Windows Live account and is made easily-findable by authorized parties (i.e. you and anyone you designate) while on the go. You can even connect to it via Live and pipe a Remote Desktop connection to a PC on your home network through this Home-finding Live feature.
Buffer overflow:
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Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at blogwatch@richi.co.uk.