Windows Home Server Vail Public Beta Review

Earlier in the year, I got my hands on a leaked build of Home Server Vail. I didn’t bother to upload or post any of my findings because it was a very early build and a lot of the features didn’t work, and in addition because a lot of other people posted the stuff too.

This week Microsoft released the Public Beta of Windows Home Server Codename Vail which is to be the second release of Windows Home Server, this time based on Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard Edition. I went through the installation process and then tried to get a few things configured in Vail so here is what I found.

I’m adding the break early on this post to stop the screenshots spoiling the view, but jump to the full post for all the screenshots and information so far on Vail.

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Windows Home Server Vail Expands Storage Possibilities

With Windows Home Server v1 being based on Windows Server 2003 Small Business Server you were limited to the features of Server 2003. This means no support for iSCSI in the case of my point today.

With Windows Home Server v2 (Vail) being based on Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard Edition, this opens the plethora of supported storage types to those supported in Server 2008 R2.

Server 2008 and Server 2008 R2 both have native support for iSCSI using the Microsoft iSCSI Initiator application from Control Panel. This is great news because it means that users will no longer be limited to USB or eSATA devices but can look to expand their storage out onto the IP space and look into opportunities for backup solutions for WHS using iSCSI.

Mark Vayman from the Windows Home and Small Business Server team posted on the Microsoft Forums confirming support for iSCSI along with a whole host of other features. My personal favourite besides iSCSI is the ability to now name the drives 🙂

http://social.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/whsvailbeta/thread/32844aae-9f41-41cb-8a4a-f6c26ddfdd6f

Configuring Plain Text Email Delivery

For a project at work I documented how to force Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 and 2007 to delivery emails to a mailbox in Plain Text format even if the sender sent the message as HTML or RTF. This is highly useful for server-side email ingestion processes which do not support HTML or RTF.

I have re-produced the document in a global audience format, and I have made it available for download on my Windows SkyDrive account.

Please feel free to use this document for your own personal means, and if you have any feedback then please let me know.

SIP VoIP for Home and the Day of Sadness

Today is a sad day, because yesterday I came up with an evil super plan, however today I realise that it just cannot be.

My evil super plan was this. To purchase a SIP line from an ISP, configure my Cisco 2651XM with CME and have the SIP line trunked into the router. From here, I was going to replace our existing Windows Home Server with Windows Small Business Server 2008, which I would install Office Communications Server 2007 R2 onto.

The combination of SBS and OCS would give us the ability to use Unified Messaging (UM for Exchange) and would allow us to use the Office Communicator client on the desktop and Office Mobile Communicator on our Windows Phone devices. I would then have configure the 2651XM and OCS to trunk the SIP line between each other using guides available online for configuring OCS and CME to talk so that inbound calls on the SIP line would be routed to the OCS server.

This just gets better now, because the second part of the plan was to configure a hunt group in OCS which would group both me and Nicky together. If someone were to ring the home phone, it would ring both of us simultaneously and then the first one to answer receives the call (that’s the hunt group at work). If nobody answered then the caller could leave a voicemail on the OCS server which would be delivered to both me and Nicky to our SBS Exchange mailboxes using UM.

Just stop for one minute to think of the power and the feature set am talking about here?

  • Imagine being able to answer your home phone anywhere in the world from either your PC or mobile?
  • Imagine being able to receive voicemails left on your home phone from your inbox anywhere in the world via PC, mobile or Outlook Web Access from an Internet cafe?
  • Imagine making phone calls to numbers anywhere in the world just like using a normal telephone but at the fraction of the cost?

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LinkedIn Outlook Social Connector for Outlook 2010

In the Beta period I had been using Office 2010 64-bit, however after reading a Microsoft article that Microsoft are recommending people deploy 32-bit still for compatibility of add-ins etc, I decided to uninstall LinkedIn_Logo60px[1]64-bit and install the 32-bit RTM.

After installing it I decided that I would install the LinkedIn Social Connector which I saw was released previously during the Beta period (but only for 32-bit).

The idea is great, however I’ve discovered a problem with it and that is the way is associates email addresses. My primary use of Outlook in Exchange email for my corporate mail, but I also check some POP3 accounts for personal accounts. I personally use my @richardjgreen.net email address as my primary LinkedIn profile address.

My primary activity in Outlook is corporate email: I am sending and receiving email for people using business addresses – Are you seeing the problem yet?

The majority of people in my LinkedIn network use their personal address to register. When I engage in communications via email the LinkedIn Social Connector isn’t picking up these people and it’s not displaying any of their LinkedIn profile information.

There is a resolution to the problem, however I don’t think many if any people are going to have investigated this. Adding multiple email addresses to LinkedIn.

LinkedIn allows you to have multiple addresses associated with your account, so this means Outlook and the Social Connector will be able to detect you using either address (or three in my case as I added my corporate address as well as both my personal addresses).

On the LinkedIn site, select Settings in the upper right corner. and then Email Addresses from the Personal Information section within Settings. From here you can add as many addresses as you need to link your profile to all your addresses. LinkedIn will send confirmation emails to each account to verify the addition and once it’s done they will appear as Confirmed in the list.

I’m an MCSE – What’s Next?

I  had a booking today for what was to be the final exam in my path to becoming an MCSE – 70-298: Designing Security for a Windows Server 2003 Network.MCSE

I arrived at the testing centre to be told there was a problem with the link to Prometric and that the exam would need to be rescheduled. Whilst the centre organised a Prometric Incident ID for the fault they managed to get the link restored I was exuberant that I managed to sit the exam today.

I passed with a sore of 784 – Not the highest I’ve achieved on an exam but neither was it the lowest so I was quite happy with that fact.

The pass today does indeed mean that I have now met all of the criteria for an MCSE certification. These are the exams I’ve actually sat to make up my MCSE:

70-290: Managing and Maintaining a Windows Server 2003 Environment
70-291: Implementing, Managing and Maintaining a Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure
70-293: Planning and Maintaining a Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure
70-294: Planning, Implementing and Maintaining a Windows Server 2003 Active Directory Infrastructure

70-270: Installing, Configuring and Administering Windows XP Professional

70-298: Designing Security for a Windows Server 2003 Network

70-350: Implementing Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2004

My plan was originally to also complete 70-299 to allow me to obtain my MCSE: Security status, however this Server 2003 usage falling by the wayside and Server 2008 and Server 2008 R2 ever increasing in market presence, I’ve decided to drop 70-299 from my calendar and proceed ahead with the MCITP track for Server 2008.

I ordered the book for the 70-680: Configuring Windows 7 Technical Specialist exam on Thursday last week and Home Delivery Network should be bringing me that either later today or tomorrow.

In the mean time, I already have the ICND1 CCENT under my belt and I am sitting the second week of training and Global Knowledge in late May to allow me to plough ahead and sit my ICND2 to give me my CCNA certification.

My aim is to complete the ICND2 and the CCNA track by mid-June so that I can move to start the Windows 7 training and hopefully the Windows 7 exam by around July or August time. I slacked in 2009 on my personal training and development and I didn’t really get a lot of it done, however with 2010 being the year Microsoft seem to have a real product development rocket up their bottom, I’m going to try and make 2010 the year I put the rocket up myself.

Response to My Digital Economy Bill Email

At the time of the Digital Economy Bill being passed, I emailed my local MP Maria Miller who is now the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Basingstoke.

I emailed her for two reasons. One was to express my disapproval that she failed to attend parliament on that day to vote for or against the bill – Although she did vote strongly against revealing MP’s expenses information earlier in the year. Secondly because I wanted to voice my concerns over the bill.

Here is her response to me today which ironically got flagged as spam by my mail server:

Dear Mr Green,

Thank you for your recent correspondence concerning the Digital Economy Bill. I share your concern about the way this piece of legislation has been handled by the Government. Since the Dissolution of Parliament, there are no longer any MPs, but I can continue with casework/correspondence.

The Bill contained important provisions regarding the regulatory environment for the digital and creative industries. It is completely unacceptable that the Government failed to allocate the sufficient time in the House of Commons for proper legislative scrutiny. It is wrong to push through these issues and because of this I did not support the Bill and I abstained from the vote.

The reason that I did not vote against the Bill is that a number of the measures within it have great merit – particularly tackling online copyright infringement. This is an extremely serious issue that costs the creative industries hundreds of millions of pounds each year. I want to make sure that Britain has the most favourable intellectual property framework in the world for innovators, digital content creators and high tech businesses.

Also, the measures in the Bill designed to tackle illegal peer to peer file sharing set up a proportionate regime that would, only following public consultation, repeated warnings and due process, lead to people having their internet connection temporarily suspended. It will not, as many have suggested, lead to people being disconnected without an appeal. Even if people are disconnected they will be able to sign up to another ISP immediately without penalty.

However, the Government should not push through such significant issues without proper debate – the handling of this Bill means that the debate on copyright is not over and my Party will seek to revisit options for a balanced solution as part of a broader update of copyright following the General Election.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact me.

With best wishes,

Maria Miller, Parliamentary Candidate

(Sent on her behalf by Lynn Fox, Secretary)

 

I’m not going to bother voicing my opinion to this email response because I’ve actually already made my opinions quite clear through over postings etc, however I read this article on TorrentFreak yesterday regarding a report produced in the US Government Accountability Office which is available from http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-423.

The report in summary states that “Lack of data hinders efforts to quantify impacts of counterfeiting and piracy,” however it then goes on to point out the following that “For instance, companies may experience increased revenues due to the sales of merchandise that are based on movie characters whose popularity is enhanced by sales of pirated movies.”

So is the Digital Economy Bill really going to help anything and is it in actual fact going to further hurt the economy because people procuring these downloads now aren’t going to buy the associated merchandise?

Configuring Eye-Fi Manager as a Service for Windows Home Server

After configuring my Eye-Fi Manager appliction on the Windows Home Server, I quickly noticed a problem. The application is executed by the currently logged on user and not as a service. Because I am connected to the Windows Home Server via Remote Desktop I logoff the server once I’m finished and the application shuts down.

Solving the problem requires it to be running as a service. I looked at the forums for Eye-Fi and their website and there is a thread on the forum for exactly the same thing – Configuring Eye-Fi Manager as a service, however it doesn’t actually go into any details so I had to figure it out for myself.

The Service Command (sc.exe) application makes this real easy for me to do. The following command should as done the trick.

sc create EyeFiManager DisplayName= “Eye-Fi Manager” start= auto binPath= “C:Program FilesEye-FiEye-Fi Manager.exe”

Unfortunately when I tried to start the service, Process Explorer showed me the Eye-Fi Manager.exe application as running however after a few seconds it terminated and the Services MMC console gave the error that the application didn’t respond in a timely fashion, so the application is obviously not designed to be a service, I therefore needed a middle man.

Microsoft produced a utility for NT4 called srvany.exe which still works in Windows versions today. The premise is very simple. srvany.exe is the service executable and you provide your executable as a parameter for srvany. The result is that srvany handles the service and responds to Windows as required.

I’ve put a copy of the executable srvany.exe on my Windows Live SkyDrive for you to download for your own uses. In my example, I placed the executable in the System32 directory so that I can call it without declaring the path to the application and without having to add custom strings to the Path environment variable.

To this end, the command becomes the following:

sc create EyeFiManager DisplayName= “Eye-Fi Manager”  start= auto binPath= “C:WINDOWSSystem32srvany.exe” 

Once this is done, you need to instruct srvany the name of the executable you want it to handle. This is done easily using the reg command line tool as follows:

reg add HKLMSYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesEyeFiManagerParameters /v Application /t REG_SZ /d "C:Program FilesEye-FiEye-Fi Manager.exe"

Starting the EyeFiManager service I created that launches srvany.exe will now start the Eyei-Fi Manager.exe application and it will run as required, with the exception that none of the user interaction such as thumbnail previews of the uploading pictures can be seen as it’s a background service.

I proceeded to test it and unfortunately I noticed a problem. Although the application was running it wasn’t processing any uploads. I immeadiatly assumed the problem was the permissions relat

reg add HKLMSYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesEyeFiManagerParameters /v Application /t REG_SZ /d "C:Program FilesEye-FiEye-Fi Manager.exe"

ing to the default account used by servcies which is the System account. I decided to change thhe service to use the NetworkService account as this would allow it access to the network.

The following reg command performs this for me:

reg add HKLMSYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesEyeFiManager /v ObjectName /t REG_SZ /d "NT AUTHORITYNetworkService"

After restarting the service, I still couldn’t upload the photos. I assumed it was NTFS permissions now, so I added the NetworkService account to the RW_7 group on the Home Server, which is the group created by Windows Home Server for permitting Read and Write access to the Public folder*.

* The reason I upload to the Public folder is that I like to rename, tag and adjust all my pictures before allowing them into the Photos shared folder.

Unfortunately this still didn’t solve the problem. Using Process Explorer and comparing the results (specifically the TCP/IP Stack) of the Eye-Fi Manager.exe process when it was running as a local user and the NetworkService account showed that the NetworkService service version didn’t open up the required TCP Listening ports.

At this point, I created a service account called svcEyeFi and used that account to launch the service, however this has the same results as the NetworkService account even after adding the account to the Local Administrators group.

I have now resorted to the the idea and am running the account using the Local Administrator account which is the account you use to login to the Windows Home Server Console for management purposes. It’s not ideal for security and principal of least privilege, however it works so that’s a plus I guess.

I decided that I wanted my service to look a bit less like a virus or trojan service and more genuine, so I deleted the service using the sc delete EyeFiManager command and then re-created the service using these commands as follows:

sc create EyeFiManager DisplayName= "Eye-Fi Manager" type= own start= auto depend= Netman binPath= "C:WINDOWSSystem32srvany.exe" obj= .Administrator cEyeFi password= [password]

reg add HKLMSYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesEyeFiManagerParameters /v Application /t REG_SZ /d "C:Program FilesEye-FiEye-Fi Manager.exe"

reg add HKLMSYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesEyeFiManager /v Description /t REG_SZ /d "Starts the Eye-Fi Manager application as at automatic system service allowing it to run without a user logged in."

So what does all of this do exactly?

Well the first line creates the service, marks it as Automatic start-up type, sets it to start using the local Administrator account and lastly adds the Network Connections service as a dependency. The addition of the dependency means that this service cannot start until the network connection is up and available.

The second command adds the parameter to the srvany application to start Eye-Fi Manager.

The last commands sets a description on the service so that anyone looking at the Services MMC will see what the service is doing.

For a bonus point, you can configure the recovery options so that if for any reason the service fails it will automatically restart the application.

If anyone trying to configure this runs into problems, email me and I’ll be sure to help you out.

The Passing of the Digital Economy Bill

Unless you live an anti-technological cave and don’t listen to the news, you will know that as has been feared amongst many people for a while now, the government have rushed through the Digital Economy Bill without a proper democratic review and have ignored the pleas of ISP’s such as TalkTalk, large numbers of the voting public along with IT experts advice all to please music industry.

The good news is none. The bad news is that as of now, copyright agencies can demand information regarding the subscriber of an internet connection to begin legal proceedings over alleged copyright infringements without gathering a shred of concrete evidence.

Evidence used in Peer-to-Peer file transfer cases has been and will continue to be disputed and has time and time again been proven to be incorrect and not uniquely identifying the to accused, however this aside the government still feel that these copyright agencies have it right. It’s like sentencing someone to murder without finding a murder weapon or having any evidence linking them to the crime. All the Digital Economy Bill will do it drive the users of Peer-to-Peer applications deeper underground and into using VPN and other encryption technologies.

The result of the Digital Economy Bill could even mean that people who provide public Wi-Fi hotspots such as those provided by McDonalds, BT OpenZone or the likes would be held responsible if their network was used for illegal Peer-to-Peer transfers and law now makes to distinction between being the person doing the downloading and being the person providing the means which is disgraceful.

What I personally find more disgraceful however is that my MP in Basingstoke didn’t even bother to turn up to parliament and cast a vote. The site ‘They Work for the BPI’ at http://www.theyworkforthebpi.com/ shows a list of all MP’s who voted and how they voted. The MP for Basingstoke, Maria Miller of the Conservatives didn’t attend the vote, nor did Julian Lewis, the MP for Totton where I am originally from.

An online comic website, DotGif has made a vey funny strip comic about the passing of the bill. Although funny, it’s sadly true at the same time to show how the music industries have managed to poison our democratic system. You can see the original at http://www.dotgif-comic.com/04/the-cost-of-the-bill/:

2010-04-09-mandelson[1]

I think that in the case of the Digital Economy Bill the British democratic system has failed its people and the nation that it is designed to serve and I think that the MP’s who voted in favour of the bill should be utterly ashamed of themselves for allowing this bill through to drive money deeper into the pockets of the music industries who have failed to keep up with consumer demands and changing media trends and for ruining the potential technological growth of Peer-to-Peer based services in Britain.

Sky Remote Record for Windows Mobile (and BlackBerry)

4943510[1] Remote Record is one of those excellent features which Sky offers but doesn’t flaunt anywhere near enough not helped by the fact that Sky are loving the iPhone and ignoring Windows Mobile, Symbian, Android and BlackBerry in the process.

In the past I spent a long time looking for a Windows Mobile application for Remote Record, and I managed to find one which was a Java hacked version of the application which was previously available for the Orange SPV however as this was a non-touch screen device the UI was clunky on my touch screen device to say the least.

Needless to say, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered an article on wmpoweruser.com at http://wmpoweruser.com/?p=10795&cpage=1&mobile=1 about Remote Record for Windows Mobile which was posted in November 2009.

The application looks like something genuine that Sky would have produced, however it appears via the website of a software design company called Wecomm who seem to specialise in mobile application development. Even more surprising is that all this development seems to have been done without Sky ever officially releasing the product to the market.

Hitting the link to http://p.wecomm.com/prov/prov.action?releaseId=10 will give you a list of mobile manufacturers (including RIM for BlackBerry owners) which then takes you to a list of models. Once you have selected your model the site will provide the appropriate download link.

I downloaded the version for HTC HD2 which has the same resolution as my HTC Touch HD and installed the .cab file.

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