New Windows Home Server!

Following another failure of our home PC about 2 months ago, I got approval from the “the powers that be” (aka my lovely wife)  to buy a new PC….  So I duly went off to the Dell website, and spec-ed up something suitable (and not too pricey).

Dual Core 2.8Ghz, 4 Gb RAM, Vista 64 Bit (soon to be Win 7 – but that’s another post) and a 22″ full HD screen to cap it off.  Suffice to say, performance is superb – and knocks the old box into a cocked hat – not that it was shabby, just a bit old… 3Ghz P4, 2 Gb RAM, Shuttle RefleXion Chassis….

I was running an old HP SFF desktop with an assortment of external drives as my Home Server – and it was doing a wonderful job – it got all the data back following the PC failure, and it just sat in the corner of the Study humming away gently (if a little loudly). This week I took it upon my self to repurpose the old PC chassis as a replacement WHS box and to rearrange the layout of my LAN a bit 🙂

So, I started off by testing out a load of hard drives I had lying around – mostly in external USB enclosures, they had all “failed” in some way shape or form – I suspect thay had got too warm in the cases and “freaked out” a bit – so stopped being visible to WHS. They all worked quite happily whaen removed from their enclosures, so I set about working out the best arrangement for them in the Shuttle case…. there’s room for 3 disks (once I’d removed the card reader and DVD and grabbed a set of brackets from E-Bay to fit one in the 5.25″ bay) so I started with just one, SATA disk and loaded WHS…..

Everything went exactly as expected – as it should, and all the patches installed (eventually). I added the second disk, and dropped it into the storage pool – 1Tb… lovely….

Next up was the plan to move the server to the Garage – but there’s no structured wiring to there….. bring on the Devolo ethernet over power adaptors I bought AGES ago and never really got to work as expected (I put the original server in the garage when we first moved in – but it kept dropping it’s LAN connection – so I gave up and moved it next to the router)

The trick with these little devices is to not plug them into “Surge Protection” power strips – I discovered this after lots of searching…. and I now get 50 – 70Mb connections showing for all of them – which seems to be good enough for WHS 🙂

One weird thing I found was that I could only get an IP address on the server if I had one of the Devolo devices cabled direct to the router – rather than a switch away:

Router -> Switch -> Structured Cable Drop to Lounge -> Devolo Device -> Power Circiut -> Devolo Device -> Server  gives NO IP

but…

Router -> Devolo Device -> Power Circuit -> Devolo Device -> Server   works a treat….. bizzarre!!

It tool a fair bit of trial and error and a lot of walking up and down stairs to iron out this particular little glitch – but now that I’ve got it sussed, the new server is running very happily (and much cooler) in the garage.

I’ll be decomissioning the old server over the weekend – once I’ve copied all my data off it to the new one. Once it’s decomissioned, I’ll pull the remaining disks and add them to the new server – so I should end up with 1.75Tb connected to it initially, and I’ll look at adding more in the future 🙂

Share

It’s been a while…..

I know it’s been a long time since my last post – but as with everyone else in the world (seemingly) – I’ve been busy…..

Just got back from a week cruising the Venetian Lagoon (Le Boat do brilliant “self drive” trips) – Chioggia is MUCH nicer that Venice I have to say…. and Venice Lido is a dump…. but I’m suitably relaxed and feeling like posting something 😉

I’ve wiped the X41 I blogged about last and I’m preparing to get it in condition to bung on E-Bay – I’ve found the restore CD’s, so XP will be put back on to give it that “factory fresh feel”. I’ve got a Vista Upgrade for it too – but I think I’ll just leave it up to the new owner whether to install that or not 😉

Windows 7 has been pre-ordered for all the boxes at home – plus a spare licence (at £50 a pop it was a bit too good to not get my full allowance!)

I’ve also ordered a Xtreamer from Tranquil.co.uk to give me some additional options for the TV in the back room (Freeview signal no-worky with the internal ariel I got 🙁 and I can’t be arsed getting an external one and doing all the cabling…..) but this solution should allow me to use the content in my Media Collection wirelessly – I’ll let you know how I get on….

I also invested in a DSLR camera – I’ve been hankering after one for a long time, and I finally bit the bullet a couple of weeks ago – a second hand Nikon D50 with kit lense from E-Bay was my 32nd Birthday pressie to myself…. with a bit of assistance from cash gifts from family 🙂 So far, I’m VERY happy…. I’ll post some example shots from the Venice trip once I get them organised and pick out some good ones….

Anyway – seeing as this is the most typing I’ve done in one go in months… I’ll stop now and try and think of something meaningful to write about soon 😉

Share

Tablet PC’s Rule!

I’m writing this in “ink” on an IBM/Lenovox 41 Tablet and it’s a surprisingly pleasant experience!

I’m running Windows  7 (build7068- gotta love those torrents hehe!)  and I’ve given it no training at all for my almost Doctor-worthy scrawl and it is amazingly good at getting my scribble!

I was forced to upgrade from the beta (build 7000) by a lack  of video drivers – it would work until Windows  update ran. . . . then it would freeze…. I pinned it down to the Vid / Chipset drivers. A load of google-foo  later, I discovered some posts that implied that  support was improved in newer builds  and they were right!

Support in this build appears superb –  I have screen rotation, and the box doesn’t freeze!  Way to go Microsoft / Intel…….

Share

Mini-Note for sale

I’ve come to the decision that the screen on my Mini-Note is just a little too small for my every-day use, it was a superb piece of kit for our trip round the world, but my eye’s are not coping so well with the small screen day in, day out…

If you’re interested in purchasing it, please let me know – the details are here:

It comes with a load of extras as you’ll see from the advert – the Waterfield Designs case is the thing I’m going to miss the most – it’s a beautifully designed case, and really well put together – not many cases will keep a laptop this immaculate for a 6 week trip around the globe!

I’ve got my eye on a Thinkpad X41 Tablet as my next toy…. I’ve always been intrigued by the form factor and I LOVE the handwriting capabilities …. so if I can make sufficient funding on this sale – that’s where the cash will be going…. 🙂

Share

Things I like….

Top of the things I like has to be the 1-Click upgrade to WordPress 2.6.1 that I did a couple of days ago…. it’s such a doddle 🙂  You click the “Upgrde Me” button and await an email telling you that it’s complete – the whole proces takes about 3 minutes and is utterly painless.

It copies your old install to a directory, and upgrades stuff as required – the only thing I needed to do afterwards were to click the upgrade button to do the required “stuff” (1) to the MySQL Database and  to move my custom header image back into the appropriate directory in the live version…. all of 30 seconds work and none of the (slightly) painful download, unzip, upload, tweak, pray, tweak somemore, pray again process that was upgrading before I switched to Dreamhost.

I’m going to try and blog a bit more in the coming months…. honest! We’re going off travelling in a little over 2 months – so there should be photo’s and comments from around the world…. the tech focus might go for a while – but that’s hardly the end of the world when I average a post every 6 months at the moment 🙂 We shall just have to see how dedicated I feel as  travel.

I’m selling my “big” laptop (an Acer Aspire 9301AWSMi – see the details here and give me a shout if you’re interested) and hoping to by an HP 2133 Mini-Note to take with us for the trip….. I’m happy to hear any thoughts people have on “better” options – but cheap, light and decent build quality are of paramount importance. I’d also like to be able to run XP and have a copy of my music / photo’s (and maybe a couple of movies) with me – so I’ll need ~50Gb of storage for that….. hence an SSD netbook is probably not suitable…..

(1) This is a highly technical term that means I have absolutely NO idea what goes on in the background 🙂

Share

I’ve moved…….

not that it should be all that obvious 🙂

I’ve moved the blog to Dreamhost and so far so good….. it’s nice – a 1 click install of WordPress and a quick Import / Export of the old posts, change the header picture and here we are…..

So far I’m very happy, it’s all good and I get Google Apps / Mail for domains into the bargain…..

The hosting costs are pretty much identical to Crystaltech give or take $1 per month (and I get a lot more space and bandwidth for my cash) – but it’s on a Linux host rather than Windows – so all sorts of things should work better including posting from my phone 🙂 a Nokia N95 8Gb which is very nice so far….

Anyway…. off for a bit more testing of phone posts etc and some plugins to install……

UPDATE – Some images seem to be a bit broken… I’m working on it 🙂

Share

I know…..

It’s been too long – but I’ve been busy!

Work is hectic, I’ve booked a round the world trip (more info to come soon on that…), and there’s just generally been a lot going on …..

I’ve been playing with U3 and the Portable Apps suite in the last couple of weeks – and Portable Apps has won the battle – my Sandisk Cruzer Micro 8Gb U3 drive has been formatted and Portable Apps installed – it’s mostly the same applications – but it’s less “intrusive” 🙂

My Home Server is a little more stable now – but I guess I’m going to have to save up and buy a “proper” one at some point (I like these), the mix and match approach doesn’t really seem to be conducive to a stable server and a happy backup database…. thankfully I’ve not had to try and restore any data recently!

Another bonus is that the “XBox360 as a Media Centre Extender” concept that I introduced to the house 6 months ago is finally gaining some traction, Becs is getting the hang of streaming DVD’s (converted to HD-WMV and stored on the Server) and I’m giving serious thought to getting an “Arcade” for the other TV in the Kitchen / Diner to allow us to stream to there as well…more for music admittedly, but with HDMI it’s as capable as my Elite for video 🙂 I’m just waiting for a black version to appear now…..

Share

Home Server – lost in post?

Following my post yesterday, and my excitement at the availability of the RTM software it was only a matter of time before I was disappointed…… Novatech are now reporting that they are expecting stock on September 14th rather than yesterday 🙁

On the plus side, the wonderful guys at SVP have got stock of their 500Gb PATA drives again (£52.30 + VAT) – so one was duly ordered first thing this morning and is en-route now. I suspect that it should arrive along with its’ SATA siblings tomorrow if all goes according to plan 🙂  This will give me all the storage I need to rebuild my server… Just a USB2 PCI card to come. I’ll have 1 500Gb PATA drive internally, 2 500Gb SATA drives in external caddies attached via USB2.0 (hopefully), and still have 2 USB2.0 & 4 USB1.1 ports free for expansion – loadsa room!!

I’ve managed to source a PCI USB2.0 card in the UK, but it’s also out of stock until ~18th September – so it looks like the big rebuild is gonna have to wait a while 🙁 There’s also the small matter of no guarantee that it’s supported by WHS – it’s got Windows 2003 Server drivers – so I’m hoping that it’ll be OK… otherwise I may be in the market for a new chassis to house all the kit…. more expense I could do without….

In the meantime, I have my CCNA exam a week on Monday – so the study has commenced 🙂 and so far, so good….. subnetting actually seems to be making sense this time around – I’ve “understood” it before – well enough for MCSE at least – but I suspect that a better understanding is required for CCNA 😉

Enough waffle for one day – I’ll post my impressions of the new hardware once it arrives – especially the drive caddies…. I’m hoping they’re better than some of the previous ones I’ve had.

Share

Home Server coming…. home?

Having been in the beta since it first went public, and absolutely loved the product, to say I was very excited when the announcement was made that Windows Home Server (WHS) had RTM’d would be something of an understatement!! 

Now that it’s available in the UK for a reasonable price…. I’ve ordered my copy 🙂

Novatech are selling it for £86.95 inc. VAT – considerably less that some other resellers in the UK, which is nice…… 🙂

In addition to this, I’ve ordered up some big (500Gb) SATA disks and USB caddies for them. The disks are lovely and cheap from SVP and they are supplying the caddies as well – USB 2.0 ones that support SATA / IDE / eSATA so I’m future proofed for a while at least….The plan is to rebuild the server “properly” – this will involve wiping all the data and starting again – so there’s some BIG backups to run once it’s complete…. the only downside at the moment is that I only have USB 1.1 on my old server chassis 🙁  so I’m looking for a supported PCI card with USB2.0 ports now.

I suspect it’ll be a week or so before I have all the bits and I’m ready to start – but I’ll post my first impressions of the finished product once I have it built. I’ll also be posting some stuff on the fun and games I’ve had trying to get a reliable wireless connection for my XBox 360 so I can use it as a Media Centre Extender – 802.11a might be more “reliable” but it’s not easy to find hardware (at least not here in the UK) – that’s all I’ll say for now…..

Technorati Tags: , ,

,

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Share