Using Windows Home Server

All about Windows Home Server, the Digital Home and Security.

Posts Tagged ‘Router

10 things I learned about Windows Home Server the hard way (on a Friday night)

with 4 comments

  1. If you really want to learn about Windows Home Server build your own
  2. It was about the same cost to build my own WHS as it would have been to just buy one (but not anywhere as fun)
  3. Advanced Admin Console should be your first Add-In
  4. Disk Management should be your second Add-In
  5. Gigabit, gigabit, gigabit
  6. Get a Router with UPnP
  7. Get the RSS feeds from the five blogs listed at Microsoft WHS (at least these five)
  8. You cannot use Restore to a change to a different size hard drive
  9. Backup WHS regularly
  10. Backup WHS regularly, again 

Blogs listed at:

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/windowshomeserver/community.mspx 

See you next Friday night

Timothy Daleo

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Written by Timothy Daleo

April 11, 2009 at 6:39 am

Installing the Remote Notification Add-In to Windows Home Server on a Friday night

with 2 comments

Background

According to the Add-In creator Alex Kuretz and his website, Remote Notification is “designed to forward the System Health Notifications from the Home Server to an email address. This can be particularly useful when configured to send to an email address that forwards an SMS (text message) to the user’s mobile phone.” This sounds really cool. I have a WHS and a cell phone. I have some extra SMS text time left on my cell phone bill at the end of each month so I am going to install the Add-In. Hopefully it will notify me any time there is a status change to my Windows Home Server. I will do the installation on my home-built WHS and my parents HP MSS. A real SA needs multiple clients, right?

Note: I already have this Add-In installed and working properly so I am going to uninstall it and go through the process again for this Friday night article.

Equipment Needed:

Remote Notification Add-In available at downloa … cation.zip or http://www.mediasmartserver.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=19

A cell phone and plan that allows text messages (you probably should check for text charges first)

An email account through a major service provider

One beer (optional, but you could need up to three depending on your router and ISP)

Serenity playing on Hulu (you pick the episode)

Installation of the Add-In

  1. Download the RemoteNotification.msi file to your server Add-In folder. You will probably have to unzip it and then move it to the folder.
  2. Open the WHS Console and click on settings.
  3. Click on Add-Ins on the left and select the Available Tab on the right
  4. Click on Install and wait for the WHS Console to restart

Pic1

The WHS Console will restart automatically.

Pic2

Settings for the Remote Notification Add-In in Windows Home Server

Click on the Remote Notification Add-In. For the Message Settings I am going to enter the data from an email I set up especially for my WHS. Check with your ISP. Most of the time they allow you extra email names.

I am starting with ISP information from a website that has most of the United States email providers. The website is http://snappermail.com/support/isp.cfm . Check with your ISP if it is not listed.

I have entered all of my information (not real data shown below of course) in the Add-In and sent the Test Notification.

Pic3

My silver cell phone just beeped like a little bell. I love WHS.

Pic4

That was too easy. My router is UPnP so I did not have to do any backend changes. I am not even done with my first beer. Something should have went wrong. It always does. Seriously.

Settings for the HP MediaSmart Server on a 2Wire Router

Time to remote in to my parents HP MSS. I have installed the Add-In and am waiting for the Console to reconnect. I have a few minutes. Do I open a second beer? Of course but I have to walk to the garage.

Mental Note: I should have got that damn mini fridge back.

I have entered all of my data in the Add-In settings on the HP MSS and sent the Test Notification.

Pic5

Error message and it is big one. Crap. My phone is just sitting there like a little silver turd.

Pic6

I verified that I have set up the same exact settings on my parents HP MSS as I did on my WHS and just sent the Test Notification again. Same error. Crap. Still a silver turd.

So it is really not working. What is going on? The same exact settings. Is the HP MSS WHS software different? It works on mine but not theirs. Same version of the Add-In. Crap³. Time to look around the forums and see what I did wrong.

Nothing I can find on the forums that match my error. Time for a new post and a new beer.

Sweet, I got a response from the author of the Add-In. Based on the information I provided, Alex said that I need to check that port 25 is available. I remember enabling ports on their 2Wire router when I first installed the MSS. Dumb router. I hate the 2Wire interface because it is not UPnP. Dumb. I could do a router behind the router but it seems like such a pain in the butt. Maybe for another Friday night…

Mental Note: What should I write about next Friday?

Ok, I have added port 25 to the 2Wire router, saved the new settings and clicked on Test Notification. Still a quiet turd. What is going on here? Time to check with the forum again.

Another response. Coolio. Alex said that my ISP only allows access from their customers, so they will not allow me to send email from my parents AT&T IP. Either I need to configure Remote Notification to use their AT&T mail server settings or use Gmail or some other web mail provider. I say F AT&T so Gmail here I come…

Ok, created a Gmail account for the server and the Gmail settings are entered (I am pretty sure that yourmamasWHS @ gmail was taken) and I am clicking on the Test Notification.

Pic7

Flipper. What is going on now? I knew my WHS install went too easily. Beer and posting number three I guess.

Alex just responded back again via the forum (he is never going talk to me again after this) and said that Gmail doesn’t accept connections on port 25 (I never changed it from when I switched from my ISP to Gmail) so I should try port 587. Back to stupid 2Wire.

Pic8

I get it now. The port number 587 for Gmail was also listed on the web site I referenced above but I must have missed it. I am dumb. Not as dumb as 2Wire though.

I will check all of the settings one more time.

Pic9

Here we go again with the Test Notification. Please work. Seriously.

Pic10

It worked! I hear silver bells, silver bells. It is like beeping Christmas here.

Conclusion

The Remote Notification Add-In works great and all of the issues I had were just incorrect settings on my part. This Add-In is really cool because it allows you to turn it on and off without affecting the settings. It also allows you to choose which messages you receive. I feel like an SA now with Remote Notification.

A special thank you to Alex for the Add-In and the help with the installation. Oh, and one more thank you to the 2Wire developers for making such a POS interface and router without UPnP.

See you next Friday.

Timothy Daleo 

Parts of this article restate the actual issues I had back in December when I initially installed this Add-In. That original posting can be found at:  http://www.mediasmartserver.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=2995  however the beers were consumed tonight in real-time. The email settings were changed to protect the innocent.

Written by Timothy Daleo

March 28, 2009 at 9:33 am

Upgrading Windows Home Server to a gigabit network on a Friday night

with 6 comments

Equipment required:

Gigabit capable Windows Home Server and at least one other gigabit capable computer

Gigabit router and switches

Cat 6 Cables of various lengths

4 Beers (2 of which are optional)

Windows Media Center playing your favorite party mix

7,246 zip ties

Background

In my home office for the last six years I have been growing a 100 Mbps network. I water half an inch twice a week in partial shade for best results . The current network is comprised of a cable modem connected to a WRT54G Linksys wireless router with two Netgear 100 Mbps switches. I have four Dell laptops on docking stations, two Dell desktops, a fax, multiple NAS devices, a HP3600 printer, one beer (as shown in the picture) and WHS running on a Dell SC440 PowerEdge. One office, two people, seven computers and nine LCD screens. The ratio sounds about right.

DSC_0023_stitch

I would like to say thank you to my wife for always letting me go free range and another thank you to Microsoft and the Image Composite Editor for creating the above panoramic.

http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/redmond/groups/ivm/ICE/

Mental Note: That little girl on the MS commercial totally smoked me on the quality of the panoramic picture of her fort. Loser.

Why am I upgrading to Gigabit?

In the last few months I have expanded my network out of the office to the living room with a HP Media Connect and Netflix Roku. In addition, five of the seven Dells have underutilized gigabit controllers and my Roku and HP are just screaming to get off of wireless G. Now, while I only get 10 Mbps from Charter out of the modem, I am constantly battling slow speeds inside the house during file transfer, streaming and backup. I like HD content through Miro downloads and WMC and have been waiting for 1000 Mbps to come down in price. Apparently, this week was the price point for which I have been waiting. Sorry wife, this might hurt a little. Remember prom?

My shopping list was the following:

  • D-link DGS-2205 5-Port Switch for $24.99 after rebate
  • D-link DGS-2208 8-Port Switch for $34.99 after rebate
  • D-link DIR-655 Wireless-N Router for $92.99
  • 15 Cat 6 patch cables ranging from 1-50 feet for $58.00
  • 12 pack of Taurino from Fresh and Easy for $6.99

Total for this upgrade is $217.96 plus tax.

100_2561

I have always been a Linksys man but the latest performance statistics for a new gigabit network led me down a different path. You should choose your own equipment based on need, price point and coolness factor. All of my network is hidden under the desk so I do not care what it looks like. For performance I referenced the site below to get speed ratings for all of the equipment I purchased.

http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/

This website tests almost every piece of network hardware you can imagine. The menu bar at the top of their website directs you to all of their tests. This website also did a review of the HP MSS a few weeks ago that was very comprehensive. There are other sites out there so find at least one to research before you shop.

So back to my Friday night…

Installation

Every installation will be different and I will suggest one thing: Replace your router/wireless (gateway) first, and then the rest of the cables and switches. I changed my router first and once everything was working again I started on the remaining network changeover. The last thing you want to do is gut your network, have a problem and then try and troubleshoot the whole system. Do not do it. Seriously.

I upgraded from the WRT54G to the new DIR-655 and it is working well. I will have to adjust the settings and reconnect all of the wireless devices after the install.

I am going to skip the narration of the equipment change out and cabling runs. I will say that all of my existing 100 Mbps Cat 5 cable is blue and I went out of my way to order yellow Cat 6. The color change will always keep me from mixing up cables in the future. I have also finished running the cables and everything looks good.

100_2564

This is the underside of my IKEA desk. The one white cable is the one that I used to connect to the other switch in the server closet. The router LEDs change color based on 100 or 1000 Mbps speed.

100_2562

I have my printer and server on the switch shown above.

While I was down on the floor I cleaned up the APC for each of my five power groups and moved the NAS boxes (will hook up again someday) to the closet. NAS? Oh really? I mentioned that earlier. I, probably like you, started out with an external hard drive, then moved up to a NAS (or two or three) and then realized that I could have spent the same amount I paid for multiple NAS boxes on a home-built WHS. Lets join together and stop others from making our mistakes. Seriously. Viva WHS. Viva WHS. Viva WHS.

Testing

Now that everything is connected, and the network is up and running again, let’s see if it was worth the $217.96 plus tax. I will need a significant increase in speed if I am going to continue to justify future expenses to the wife.

For testing the new network speed I am going to do two tests. I am going to copy the first episode of Star Trek Voyager which is 952MB to the server and one folder with 973 MB (240 SLR pictures) from our hiking trip last weekend. My purely scientific timing method goes like this:

  1. Right eye looking at the sidebar clock through the bottom of my full Taurino bottle. Left eye on the progress bar.
  2. Start file upload and start drinking.
  3. If I complete the file transfer before I finish the beer then we have a successful test.
  4. Document the results in Windows Live Writer (to qualify these results as “scientific”).

Let’s set this pig on fire…

 

Download Before

Download After

Upload Before

Upload After

952 MB Video File

1:37

:55

1:31

:44

973 MB Picture Folder

2:12

1:16

2:52

1:04

What the heck? What happened to my pig? Where are my superfast increased speeds?  If I did the math right, I think I went from 78 Mbps to 138 Mbps on the download of Voyager? How can this be? Double the speed is good but I was expecting more. Crap². My upload is 173 Mbps? I was expecting like 600 Mbps. Crap³.

Well, after an hour of searching around to see if I had made some massive mistake, I found an article that I wish I had read before I started this endeavor.

http://on10.net/Blogs/EnglishBloke/how-can-i-speed-up-my-windows-home-server-file-copies/

After reading this article I realize that my speeds were not too bad considering I am using folder duplication, full sharing and have a Seagate Desktop Pro USB drive as part of my WHS storage. Should I be thankful for my transfer speeds? I would not mind a few comments from the readers about their file transfer times. Please make me feel better about this people. Seriously.

Your Mileage Will Vary

I have left out some topics that you might want to address for your specific installation.

  • I am not going to use Jumbo frames (4K or 9K) since I still have some older computers on my network.
  • Flow control should also be researched to see if it can help your network speed (My WHS Flow Control was already disabled and I adjusted each gigabit card accordingly)
  • I did not talk about managed switches and segmenting your network or VLAN. Maybe I can talk about that later in the Friday night series.

You can find detailed information on these topics at:

http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/content/blogcategory/22/54/

In addition, if you have VoIP, integrated home security or home automation you may have additional concerns. Our alarm backup plugged back in without any issues.

Conclusion

If you have an existing 100 Mbps network you may want to do you own research and time trials before moving up to gigabit. Upgrading the router was worth it since my extenders use Wireless N. For the switches and cabling, although I did see increases in speed, it was somewhat costly compared to the net change.

See you next Friday.

Written by Timothy Daleo

March 14, 2009 at 5:11 pm