The Trials and Tribulations of Installing Windows Home Server 2011

As I sit here now in my study at home, I am blessed by the new soothing sound of my self-built Windows Home Server 2011 system. And why is the sound soothing? Because it’s silent. My rack is still making some noise, which is coming from the Cisco switch and router which both probably need a good strip down and de-dust to help with the noise, it is nothing compared with the noise of the old PowerEdge SC1425 that I had running.

Unfortunately, installing Windows Home Server 2011 for me wasn’t smooth sailing, and I hit quite a few bumps along the way, so here is the list of problems I faced to help others avoid the same time wasters.

Before even starting the installation, please make sure you do read the release notes. Ed Bott has gone through some of the crazy requirements in a post at ZDNet (http://www.zdnet.com/blog/bott/before-you-install-windows-home-server-2011-rtfm-seriously/3134). The biggest one to watch out for is the clock.

Due to some kind of bizarre issue with the RTM release of WHS 2011, you must change the time in your BIOS to the time for PST (Pacific Standard Time) or GMT –8hrs. You must then leave BIOS and consequentially leave the Windows clock to that time, and during the installation when prompted for Time Zone, you must set this to Pacific Standard Time.

Once the installation is complete, you must then wait a further 24hrs before changing the time back. If you chose not to heed this advice, then the release notes state that you will not be able to join any client computers to the Home Server during this 24hr period. Once your 24hr period is up, you can log into the server and change the time and the time zone accordingly.

The first problem hit at the first phase of the installation, Extracting Files, while it was at 0%. Reviewing the error log from the setup process, I saw that it had encountered a (Trackback:80004005) Setup Error 31: Trackback:80004005 error. A quick look on the Microsoft Social Forums led me to discover that WHS 2011 doesn’t support any kind of RAID or array type disk to be attached for the installation. For me, this meant disconnecting the RAID-10 controller and powering down the disks attached to the controller for the duration of the install. Once install was completed, I simply reconnected the controller and installed the drivers and everything is working perfectly as I expected.

The second problem occurred once the installation was complete and it runs the WHS 2011 customisation process after first logon. It seems that WHS 2011 goes out to Windows Update and pulls a couple of required updates, and as such, needs a suitable network card. My motherboard uses a NIC which isn’t natively supported by WHS 2011, so I had to install the driver, however to my shock, the initial lack of a NIC terminated the setup process and I was forced to restart.

As my existing home server and the new home server where to be using the same IP address, I had the new one disconnected initially. This caused the next problem, because after installing the NIC driver, I was given a prompt that there was no network connectivity and that I should connect a network cable. Once again to my shock and disbelief, this required another restart.

At this point, I also released that my Cisco switch had switchport-security turned on for the Home Server port still and this meant I had to disable that on the switch as it was bound to a different MAC address at the time, and guest what? Reboot again.

My final problem laid with the network card on the motherboard itself. In the BIOS, I enabled the maximum power saving mode setting. It turns out, that for the ASUS E35M1-M PRO motherboard, this prevents the network card operating in 1Gbps mode and drops it to 100Mbps. It took me a while to figure this one out with changing cables, switching between switch ports etc, but I eventually discovered an option under the network card in Device Manager for Green Ethernet. Disabling this setting, which was previously set to Enabled, reset the network connection, and it was then connected at 1Gbps.

After all of this, I have a fully working and perfect home server for me and the family. I’ll be writing some other posts to explain my setup in detail, but this post is purely for the installation process

WordPress Development – functions.php

As I travel down the road of WordPress theme development, I have discovered many things.

A problem that has been hurting me for the last week at least as I develop the new theme is errors I would occasionally receive, which would read Cannot modify header information – headers already sent. For me as a non-programmer, this didn’t really mean an awful lot, and trawling the WordPress support forum didn’t help me hugely as I didn’t understand some of the lingo being used.

I had a starting point, which was my functions.php file. This filename was referenced in the errors, with a line number however upon inspection of that line, I couldn’t see a fault, so I looked elsewhere.

This evening, I compared my functions.php file to that of the TwentyTen theme which ships with WordPress 3.1, and I noticed something interesting. My functions.php file used multiple PHP statements opened and closed as needed, however the TwentyTen functions.php file only had a single set of PHP tags, opening at the start of the file and closing at the end, with each of the functions contained within it.

When I looked back at my file, I saw that the line indicating the error was in fact a closing PHP tag.

This post is more to serve as reference for other newbies out there trying to develop your first WordPress theme. Make sure that your functions.php file is a single PHP statement from start to finish with no leading or trailing line breaks or spaces. For me, this problem caused PHP errors when trying to modify Widgets in the admin interface, configure Plugins, manage the Theme settings and also stopped RSS and XMLRPC from working, so it’s a pretty big issue.

VMware vSphere 4.1 and VCP Web Links

Having just finished the course for vSphere 4.1 today, it’s going to be all hands on deck revising this stuff for VCP for the next week or so. Here is a list of useful links for vShpere and ESX/ESXi related knowledge which will liekyl help others along with myself in my quest to obtain VCP.

http://vmetc.com/2008/02/12/best-practices-for-esx-host-partitions/

http://www.vmware.com/pdf/vsphere4/r40/vsp_40_config_max.pdf

http://itknowledgeexchange.techtarget.com/virtualization-pro/choosing-a-block-size-when-creating-vmfs-datastores/

http://vmware-land.com/esxcfg-help.html

http://pubs.vmware.com/vsp40/wwhelp/wwhimpl/js/html/wwhelp.htm#href=install/c_vc_hw.html

http://www.vmware.com/pdf/vsp_vum_40_admin_guide.pdf

I will be updating this list on an on-going basis with all of the resources I come across.

Lastly, I cannot and will not vouch for any of these sites. These are merely just sites I have found to be useful for me.

A Busy Week at Home and Work

As the title suggests, its a busy week this week all round. On Monday, I started the five day journey on the road to VCP while I attend the VMware vSphere 4.1 course with Gloval Knowledge, and with VMware currently running their own version of Microsoft Second Shot, hopefully I can have a chance if sitting the exam soon.

The wife, Nicky, Sat her final exam for her foundation course, Access to Higher Education for Midwifery, which means she now has the nervous wait to find out her final graded.

Me personally, I went to the doctors yesterday about my ongoing knee problems post-running and have now been referred to a physiotherapist for possible treatment.

As I write all this from my Windows Phone WordPress application, sitting in the car while Nicky runs into Tesco, we are about to go out for dinner with the girls to celebrate Layla’s birthday with another family, Gary and Amy and Joe’s birthday too.

The Blog is Back

For anyone who frequents my blog, you may have noticed it’s been offline for a couple of weeks.

I recently moved to a new server with my current hosting provider, and I took this opportunity to seperate a forum I run and the blog into their own seperate MySQL databases. Unfortunatly the blog had some issues, which today turned out to br a typo’d database username. We live and learn 🙂

Now that the blog is back, I’ve taken the liberty of upgrading to the latest version of WordPress. I’ve also decided that my old theme was looking tired as I do about every six months or so. As you will see, I’ve switched to the new TwentyTen theme that’s included in the new version of WordPress. This is only temporary while I make my new theme, which is going to be one I saw by Touchality based on a Windows Phone 7 Metro UI.
For the record, this is also my first ever post from the Windows Phone 7 WordPress application.

Corsair AX750 Professional Power Supply and Memory Installation

So in the latest episode of part installation in my progressive Home Server 2011 build, I received my power supply and the memory in the post today.
The memory is the same as that originally specified in my home server design: 4GB of Corsair 1333MHz DDR3 as two 2GB sticks so that I get the most from the dual channel memory controller. This isn’t XMS or Dominator or any of the special Corsair models of memory, but instead the standard Corsair memory. The reason for this is that the home server isn’t going to be running a large number of memory intensive processes and especially not one’s which require ultra-low CAS latency and timings or lots of paging in and out.
I’ve always used Corsair memory since I switched from unbranded about 4-5 years ago due to lots of back to back memory related issues. I’ve never had a single stick go bad, even the three 2GB sticks of Registered DDR2 in my current Dell PowerEdge SC1425 home server build (which has been up and running every day for the last three years). If a stick ever did go bad I know I have Corsairs lifetime warranty to back me up too which is nice.
The power supply has a three key requirements in this build. One is to be silent or as very near to silent as possible. Two is to provide enough SATA connectors to support the six SATA-II disks that will be going in the server, and lastly but not least is to be as energy efficient as possible even as low power draw levels.
Silence was a difficult one for me to find because all of the silent power supplies I was able to find didn’t support more than four SATA-II disks and I didn’t want to be using Molex to SATA converters in the build as it’s just another thing to go wrong or stop something working at 100% efficiency. As per the previous point, six disk support was hard to find. It was achievable but only on the higher end power supplies capable of delivering silly amounts of power up to 1200W in some cases. Whilst a power supply only uses the power is needs, they have power efficiency curves based on the demand. Typically, the lower the draw from the PSU’s peak or recommended continuous load rating, the worse the efficiency, and alas the final requirement.
I was mainly after a supply rated at 80 PLUS Bronze, however anything better was a plus. When I found the Corsair AX750 Professional Series Modular PSU, I was in power heaven. With a peak load of 750W, sleek black good looks, and a modular design supporting up to twelve SATA—II disks, I would not only have enough SATA connectors to meet the needs of my current six disk design, but also capacity to extend to the full ten disk capacity of the case if I wanted to in the future, but thanks to the modular cabling I am able to maximize the air flow in the already airy case by only installing the cases I need to deliver power to the disks and motherboards.
The power supply is 80 PLUS Gold rated the supply delivers a massive 90% efficiency at 230V even when operating at below 20% load (I will probably be in the 6-7% region) which is something very rare for a power supply. The power supply does have a fan, which is rated at 35dB at full 750W load which is load, however when running below 20% load, the fan is disabled due to the lack of heat generation which means I meet the final criteria for silence.
The supply comes with a full seven year warranty from Corsair, and because I will be only running the power supply and extremely low load levels, none of the components are likely to ever be taxed to a level to cause them to fail which means this supply ticks all the boxes I had as minimum requirements, goes an extra ten miles with tonnes of extra features and nice touches but leaves me safe in the knowledge that it will outlast my projected storage utilization for this server (and most likely the shelf life of Windows Home Server 2011 too).
Lastly, I decided that as I not going to be using the rear case fans that I should remove them to give me a bit more through flow for the air and also to get the hanging Molex connectors out of the way. There is a shot of the case without these fans now and the extra ventilation it will give me. The front case fans are still installed as once the build is complete I am going to review the temperatures and make a decision as to whether the temperature warrants having some air movement and if the dB level from them is acceptable.