Just before my Windows Home Server crashed I had installed the Windows Home Server Power Pack 1 Release Candidate. As Ed points out it's not a public beta and in the hands only a few people who have ben testing Windows Home Server heavily.
My plan was to exactly test the new server backup functionality. Alas the unreliable Maxtor drive caused the whole thing to come down and the WD drive just is not good enough.
But let's look at the good side: the server is up again, now with 100% Seagate storage and working well. I managed to talk to the store where I bought the WD drive and I am able to return it - in which case I will get anothe Seagate drive and use it as the server backup.
This new feature (screenshot below) allows users to designate a drive to be used as a backup of user content on the Windows Home Server. Even with duplication you may have problems - what happens if the server is stolen or the house burns down?
With server backup you will be able to copy the files to an external unit and take it away with you or have it on a secure location.
Another new feature in the Windwos Home Power Pack 1 is the support for Windows Vista 64 bit. The original Windows Home Server did not have a Connector for that OS, but now users will have this option.
Upload and download of files to the home server is now easier when using a web browser. Also when downloading files you have the option of downloading multiple files in ZIP format or on a new self extracting format.
I still find a couple of problems though, mainly the Path Too Deep errors that happen when a very large file (more than 4 GB) is copied to the shared folders within the server itself (files copied from other PCs on the network are fine).
I don't know when the Windows Home Server Power Pack 1 is being released but it is already in the Release Candidate stages, so it should be soon.
This is an excerpt from a Q&A with Microsoft Office Product Manager Reed Shaffner:
PressPass: What are you announcing today and what does it mean for customers?
Shaffner: We’re announcing the availability of Service Pack 1 (SP1) for the 2007 Microsoft Office system, which delivers significant stability, performance and security improvements. These enhancements span the software applications and servers that home and office workers use each day and will make the 2007 Office system an even more robust and effective productivity tool. In essence, SP1 targets the issues that customers told us mattered to them most.
PressPass: What are the main improvements that customers will notice with SP1 for the 2007 Office system?
Shaffner: SP1 provides stability and performance improvements across the 2007 Office system, keying in on customers’ leading productivity concerns, and beefs up security precautions to stay ahead of the latest threats from malicious software and other risks.
Crashes are one of the most frustrating experiences customers have, and the team worked hard with SP1 to make our products more stable. We’ve also included most of the previously-released hotfixes that also help reduce the incidence of crashes in Office applications.
SP1 also provides key fixes and enhancements to make the 2007 Office system more reliable and easier to use. For example, SP1 addresses problems customers have experienced in Outlook 2007 when opening large mail files. It also delivers more accurate presence information in Microsoft Office Communicator to help improve collaboration and communication for customers.
We also did a lot of work to improve the reliability of the 2007 Office system’s server components with SP1.
We know that search is really important to our enterprise customers using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, so we spent a lot of time improving indexing to help make documents and information easier to find. SP1 includes support for AJAX deployments, which should help developers create custom Web Parts for their customers. Finally, SP1 bolsters the robust security standards built into Office 2007 by incorporating the very latest advances in security technology to deliver even greater protection against malware, privacy intrusions and other threats.
SharePoint Server 2007 and other server products are also now compatible with Microsoft Windows Server 2008, giving customers the peace of mind they need to proceed with upgrade plans.
PressPass: How can customers get SP1?
Shaffner: Customers can download SP1 immediately from http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/downloads/default.aspx. They can also place an order for a CD at http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/default.aspx. At a later date, we also will provide SP1 through automatic update.
Microsoft New Zealand has started planning the launch activites for Microsoft Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 and Microsoft SQL Server 2008. These activities include a "2008 Summer Roadtrip".
Chris Auld and Jeremy Boyd are going to be touring the country showing off all the stuff in Windows Server (Virtualisation, IIS, etc), SQL Server (File Stream, Spatial data types & queries, etc) and Visual Studio (LINQ, CSS designers, etc). In each location they will be joined by a local speaker.
These are the dates:
If you are available in any of these dates, come in for more information on these platforms and tools. Darryl's got more information on his MSDN blog.
PS. When you register you enter the draw to win one of two server hardware, Windows Home Server software and more. And you get another entry in the draw if you invite a friend.
We extensively use Hamachi as a private network. Hamachi works under Windows Server 2008, except that you will need to turn UAC off to have it running as a service, otherwise it won't start. There are ways around this but it involves some tweaking that you must do before the program is first started. In our case UAC is off.
We also have Diskeeper 2008 Enterprise running on Windows Server 2008. And it works perfectly. Great defragmentation software for your server!
The anti-virus solution is NOD32, although in our test servers Avast Server also did well.
HandyBackup Pro performs a great job copying the database backups to two different FTP servers every evening.
CsImageFile is a COM object we use to resize and manipulate images. I found it when in our first week testing Windows Server 2008 it was clear the old software wouldn't work - ever. So I contacted ChestySoft and got a prompt and positive reply. And it works exactly the way we need.
Another COM object on this server is FontVelocity, mainly used for manipulating graphics and text for my wife's site mywedding. It worked with no problems throughout the upgrade from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2008.
And one of the most important software we use here: LogMeIn IT Reach, for remote management. We actualy block Remote Desktop connections at the firewall level (although it goes through when using the Hamachi VPN), and instead rely on LogMeIn for remote access and management. Great tool you should have on your server.
I haven't tested Acronis Enterprise because their support has replied to my inquiries saying that there won't be official support until the OS is released. Acronis touches a very sensitive area: the disk subsystem, so I decided to keep it out of the loop - unless someone from Acronis contact me and confirm it works so I can test it and deploy. The problem with Acronis is that every time you contact them you get someone different replying to your e-mails, even if it's an open case...
We did find a problem between Firefox and IIS 7.0 redirections. I submitted this as a case to Microsoft Support, but after some investigation I found the fault and managed to create a workaround. I am going to raise this as a bug on Connect, but the workaround works fine and does not impact in the functionality we need.
To give you an idea of the workload on this machine, we serve approximately 500,000 unique users a month, not counting the RSS feeds (currently over 10,000 daily users with an average 60 minute refresh interval).
Overall I am happy with this upgrade install - looking forward to installing the RTM on this machine in a few months time....
We also heard from Nortel and HP about their delivery capabilities, and all sounds really cool... I have been waiting for a consistent "unified" approach to communications for years - back at Unisys I was the architect for a couple of projects involving desktop VoIP, voice mail and web integration but this launch today is really something beyond that - very exciting seeing all this finally coming together.
The Microsoft Unified Communications suite includes Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsft Office Communications Server, Microsoft Office Communicator and Microsoft Live Meeting. And of course Nortel, HP and others are providing services and products that complement the platform.
After the briefing we all got some bags with documents and product information but Nortel went beyond and provided each one of us with the new LG-Nortel IP USB Phone 8501 (pictured).
Now I have to get the software from MSDN to try it... And since the LG-Nortel phone only works with Microsoft Communicator I managed to get a second handset from a journalist who couldn't see himself using it - cool.
I know AnywhereExchange was running a trial of Exchange Server Outlook Voice Access. I wonder if they will be providing a hosted Office Communications Server product? We currently use VoIP in our home and home office and it would be great integrating all our communications resources - specially since I am travelling so much these days.
Indeed why not.
After asking around and receiving some good feedback I decided to apply for the Go Live licence and install Windows Server 2008 in our servers.
On this virtual machine I tried the migration to SQL 2005 and the upgrade to Windows Server 2008.
I tested it during three weeks, finding some problems during the experiment - breaking things, restoring the virtual HD file and trying again.
After all those tests I finally had the confidence to go for it on the real box. The total upgrade took about two hours on the actual machine (a dual proc Xeon 3 GHz box).
My first impression is how responsive the UI is. Also it looks like Windows Vista in many aspects and it's easy to use. There are some new features that I will be trying soon. The next thing I notice is that pages are actually faster now - to create and load.
For Microsoft this is another showcase: Geekzone is now one of the top 15 New Zealand websites in number of unique browsers, which is a good traffic to try the new OS.
The plan now I to leave the server alone for a couple of weeks, to allow it to "settle down" and make sure we don't run into anything strange on the standard install.
I contacted Microsoft during the weekend and was informed that this was not their intention and it was the result of some wrong configuration.
I have just been informed - and confirmed - that @gmail.com are no longer blocked and can be used as a Live ID when registered through their site through the option to use an existing e-mail address.
All in all a very good and quick response from the Microsoft Windows Live team.
There aren't ibm.live.com or dell.live.com though.
This is interesting because those subdomains are in general reserved for live.com services (mail.live.com, messenger.live.com, skydrive.live.com, account.live.com and so on).
UPDATE: I found out that Lenovo and Microsoft have a deal since March 2007 on this (through ArsTechnica).
You can go to Passport, click the link under "Use an e-mail address you already have" and enter other e-mail address. This is very convenient because it allows you to keep using your current e-mail address in all Windows Live services, including Windows Live Messenger - except of course Windows Live Mail.
But if you have a GMail account you are out of luck. A friend has just asked me if I knew why Microsoft doesn't allow @gmail.com e-mail addresses to be used as a Windows Live ID.
I have no explanation for this message:
The portion of your e-mail address that follow the @ symbol is part of a "reserved domain" such as live.com, hotmail.com, msn.com or passport.com. Please type a different e-mail address.
No mention of "gmail.com" as being reserved anywhere...
UPDATE 1: as noted in the comments below, you can use @googlemail.com instead of @gmail.com and it works.
UPDATE 2: I have contacted Microsoft who confirmed this is not their intention and it was something related to other configurations. Registering with @gmail.com accounts is now possible again.
I saw one person on the IE blog comment and ask why we're taking so long to just up and remove this. The simple answer is many customers don't like it when we make big changes to IE.
That's about time. I wonder if we will see any increase in the advertising click rates? For some time many of flahs banners required two clicks: one to activate the object, and one to actually click through.
My inner conspiracy theorist makes me ask if this removal of "Click to activate" is really for the benefit of users like you and me, or a request from the powerful advertising forces on the Internet?