Saturday, February 28, 2009

EarthHour 2009

In case you did not know, there are few things more frightening to a National Power distribution system than a step change in electricity loading.

When I used to work at the CEGB Park Street Power scheduling branch we saw (with horror) the effects of advert breaks between feature films on national broadcast television. The whole nation gets up, puts on the kettle and creates a step change in electricity demand.

So with this background I give my 99% support to the forthcoming Earth Hour 2009, which is of course scheduled for 18:30 Saturday March 28th. Aside from the above strains on nationwide power production and distribution the aims of Earth Hour are 100% laudable.

That is, primarily to raise consciousness on our profligate and wasteful use of energy.


and prepare to switch off in order to switch on your mind to this most pressing problem

Thursday, February 26, 2009

1111 things to do whilst unemployed



Because it is now only 32 days until I am "let go" by my current employer I have devised some targets to aim for so that my new freedom does not become too boring

0000 Sign up for Unemployment Benefit. Let's see, the last time I claimed was over 25 years ago, and with an unbroken employment record, surely I must qualify for some pay back

0001 Update the Web CV. Search the Web daily for a job and aim to apply for 1 job per week. This will mean picking up the phone and talking to those pesky agents

0010 Fanatically clean. There is no better time to make the home spotless

0011 Get a season swimming pass, and use it every day. Swimming is a fine all round exercise. Once you are in the water the extra kilos are well hidden.

0100 (And also) Go for a run or cycle every day

0101 Plan trips to visit relations and friends I have been neglecting

0110 Offer to spend 1 day per week helping people out

0111 Finish any home DIY, admin, e.g. bills, subscriptions, book scanning

1000 Complete off country backup of all computer systems.

1001 Get to the bottom of that mysterious Java Programming stack and Web DynPros in SAP Netweaver

1010 Get Serious with my IBM TSM6, Microsoft Hyper-V, DB2-9, DreamWeaver, Laptop Linux replacement computer projects

1011 Sell those old gadgets on eBay

1100 Listen to a French Podcast every day and try to understand it

1101 Re-adjust all bank accounts to maximise their return

1110 Continue the Cromemco Vintage computer restoration project

1111 Participate in at least 1 techy coding project per month

And that should be just the start!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Back to SAP, back to reality


So SAP BASIS 700 is finally up and running. Welcome home Netweaver 04S

Coming to Lausanne


I am confident you could do a lot worse than choosing Buddhism.

If you are a boy and as passionately uninterested in football as me you might also remember the childhood times when the local bully would corner you in the schoolyard and issue the jibe:

So which team do you support then?

Likewise today, when the devout, overbearing religious zealot corners you at a cocktail party I think a pretty safe answer to that same question based on religion would be Buddhism.

Whilst I am sure the Dali Lama has a great marketing team I'd like to point out that his holiness is visiting Lausanne, Switzerland in August 2009.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Choosing a (backup) medium

There is an unhealthy majority of computer users who patently don't care about computer backup, evidenced by the fact that they never do any.

But to count myself as one of a quiet minority, I take backups very seriously. I could recount the story of my friend Jagtar who over the course of some years patiently digitised his entire classical vinyl record collection onto a hard disk which promptly failed. But backup, like religion is ultimately an article of faith, you should not try to scare somebody into belief. To understand the limited mindset of the backupless majority please buy then watch Sex and the city Series 4 Episode 8 (transcript)

So for those of us who do believe, (I mean in backup of course) here are the results of my yearly backup media study (prices courtesy of the excellent SCAN computers)




So what does this table tell me? Well for archival, offsite, long term storage you would be hard pressed not to go with the Single Layer DVD option. Indeed this is what I've personally used until the end of 2007. During 2008 I upgraded to Dual Layer DVD, each disk having a capacity of about 8GB. (This allowed a complete years backup to fit inside a single 100 stack cakebox, even though I have paid dearly for my space saving whim)

I generated about 0.7TB of new data in 2008, I am estimating on 1TB for 2009 meaning about 100 Dual layer DVD, thus still fitting into a single cakebox.

For 2010 I'd like to think about moving to Single or Dual Layer BlueRay if the prices would come down by at least 50%, allowing for the storage of about 5TB in a single cakebox.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Taking a look at TED


TED is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, Design.

TED produces many entertaining and inspiring short lectures which are now available for you to watch.

At the yearly 4 day TED conference in Long Beach California more than 50 talented and often world renowned speakers present an 18 minute talk on their level of expertise. To name but a few
former US President Bill Clinton, skeptic society founder Michael Shermer, politician Al Gore and Physician Irwin Redlener.

And now the tremendous news is that TED talks are now available to watch free of charge

Of course you have to be selective, and I have made some of the best talks available here, though this is of course subjective and I would recommend you go to the main TED site for a full list and faster download.

To get you started


Listen to the Paradox Of Choice (official TED Link)

The Paradox of choice (our local slower link)

How to grow your own fresh air



Thursday, February 19, 2009

Compex: The mi-iracle Worker


Over the last month intense nerve Pain in my arms and hands has been my constant companion.

But it has not been the drugs that has been one of my main forms of relief but simply the Compex mi-FITNESS machine.

We bought this unit about 2 years ago when Agata was recovering from her snapped Achilles tendon accident. And today it has become super useful in reducing the pain I feel using its
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator (TENS)
technology

Simply:
  • take the charged unit
  • connect a pair of pads
  • Place them on affected areas. The maximum selectable strength of the signal is proportional to the distance between pads, so I place pads on 2 affected areas as distant from each other as is possible
  • Apply them to your body (best connection using the Compex Gel)
  • Optionally stick them to your body so they don't fall off - I use masking tape, surprising effective!
  • Select the 20 minutes TENS programme
You can learn more about TENS here


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What is in a Windows Server Critical Volume

I was just reviewing my master (Windows 2008 Server) backups today and I found to my horror things are not at all correct.

Seems that my most recent backups are again failing because Windows erroneously regards by P: as a Critical Volume. P: however contains no OS information, nor swap file nor hibernation file relevent to the OS. Indeed as a test I can boot the computer without the P:

Lets look at the problem:

C:\Windows\system32>wbadmin get versions
wbadmin 1.0 - Backup command-line tool
(C) Copyright 2004 Microsoft Corp.

Backup time: 2009-01-19 19:53
Backup target: Fixed Disk labeled backup(Y:)
Version identifier: 01/19/2009-18:53
Can Recover: Volume(s), File(s), Application(s), Bare Metal Recovery, System State

Backup time: 2009-02-09 10:15
Backup target: Fixed Disk labeled backup(Y:)
Version identifier: 02/09/2009-09:15
Can Recover: Volume(s), File(s), Application(s)

So the backup of 9th February is not bare metal recoverable because although it was made with the command

wbadmin start systemstatebackup -backuptarget:y:

at the time of the command the P: existed and was online. Let me look at my P: for signs that it is a Critical Volume:

DISKPART> select disk 5
Disk 5 is now the selected disk.
DISKPART> attributes disk
Read-only : No
Boot Disk : No
Pagefile Disk : No
Hibernation File Disk : No
Crashdump Disk : No

DISKPART> list vol

Volume ### Ltr Label Fs Type Size Status
Volume 6 P code NTFS Partition 1397 GB Healthy
DISKPART> select volume 6
Volume 6 is the selected volume.
DISKPART> attributes volume
Read-only : No
Hidden : No
No Default Drive Letter: No
Shadow Copy : No

Therefore I have absolutely no idea why Windows considers this disk critical?

So what is a Critical Volume? Here is a good quote:

System state includes more data on Windows Server 2008 than in the Windows Server 2003 operating system. In Windows Server 2008, the exact system components which make up the system state depend on the configuration of the computer. System state data includes at least the following and may include additional data that is configuration dependent:

  • Registry.
  • COM+ class registration database.
  • Boot files, including system files.
  • Certificate Services database.
  • Active Directory Domain Services.
  • SYSVOL directory.
  • Cluster Service information.
  • Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) meta-directory.
  • System files that are under Windows File Protection (WFP).

System state can be backed up separately at the command prompt only (using PowerShell):
wbadmin start systemstatebackup -backupTarget: [-quiet]

Critical volumes (volumes storing system components including NTDS.dit, SYSVOL and %windir%) can be backed up. On domain controllers which are using the DFS Replication service for SYSVOL replication (i.e. Windows Server 2008 domain functional level), the DFS Replication service co-operates with Windows Server Backup in order to backup the SYSVOL folder.

So here is the terribly kludgy workaround:


a) Locate the P: drive and set it offline


diskpart
DISKPART> select disk 5
Disk 5 is now the selected disk.
Microsoft DiskPart version 6.0.6001
DISK - Offline a disk that is currently marked as online.
DISKPART> offline disk
DiskPart successfully offlined the selected disk.


b) Start the enhanced backup

C:\Windows\system32>wbadmin start backup -allcritical -backuptarget:y:
wbadmin 1.0 - Backup command-line tool
(C) Copyright 2004 Microsoft Corp.

Retrieving volume information...
This would backup volume boot(C:) to y:.

Do you want to start the backup operation?
[Y] Yes [N] No Y

Running backup of volume boot(C:), copied (99%).
Backup of volume boot(C:) completed successfully.
Backup completed successfully.

Summary of backup:
------------------

Backup of volume boot(C:) completed successfully.


c) online back the troublesome disk

DISKPART> online disk
DiskPart successfully onlined the selected disk.


d) check backup it because I am paranoid

Backup time: 2009-02-18 22:26
Backup target: Fixed Disk labeled backup(Y:)
Version identifier: 02/18/2009-21:26
Can Recover: Volume(s), File(s), Application(s), Bare Metal Recovery, System State


So overall if somebody can enlighten me how to detect why Windows 2008 server believes my P: is a system volume, and then how to correct it, I'd be most grateful.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Swiss Car Prices

"Put that light out, don't you know there is a war on" is indeed a catchphrase from the past.

Today in these difficult times I'd like to counter with:

You can't charge that, don't you know there is a recession on

The most annoying factor though is that here in Switzerland most people seem to be slow to recognise this as a fact. As an ageing car bore nowhere is this clearer than in the murky world of second hand car pricing


To take a practical example:




English high spec 2008 M3, 6700 miles from main Sytner dealer ... 37K GBP





Swiss M3: 2008/06. 6K Km. 96K CHF == 57,000 Pounds equivalent

At this rate the only business you can expect from me this year is a free trip to the Geneva Motor Show (starts March 5th). And speaking of Geneva here is the 2009 Geneva Motor Show preview

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Who stole my disk space

I was just about to ftp the latest Mandriva 2009.1 Beta DVD when I noticed to my horror that my laptop seemed to be out of disk space ...

On further investigation an incredible 34GB of files were being stored inside the System Volume Information folder:






Inside that folder the files were helpfully named like this

After some digging I found this article on the interweb:

Previous versions of files in Microsoft Vista

Seems like Vista has been studiously saving snapshots of C: drive changes big time. From the above link the default is to allocate 30% of your hard disk space to this activity. But how could I reduce this figure ...



This disk space can be recovered by using Disk Cleanup of course



But hey, why not just used the vssadmin program instead. You know you want to:



And so with one command it is resized.


There, that is so much better now

Friday, February 13, 2009

1234567890 time

Slightly less significant than Neil Armstrongs footsteps but again it was time to sit in front of a screen and watch a very memorable moment....

Number of seconds since UNIX time is counted has just passed 1234567890

Happy Rollover UNIX, time for a Valentine tastic celebration

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Late New Years resolutions for 2009

I drew up a list of 8 resolves for 2009. Here they are:

  • Provide a low bandwidth free WiFi Internet connection from home

  • Replace every failing light bulb with an energy saving equivalent

  • Promote an end to the tolerance of intolerance

  • Contribute to 1 secular charity

  • Seriously consider retiring (again)

  • Try to stay healthy and positive minded

  • The use of running and cycling for all journeys and by exception only Public transport, car or plane

  • The move to 100% digital, Carbon free media. All newspapers, magazines and books should be paperless

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Defi Sportif Lausannois 2008


Agata and I had a marvelous time at the Defi Sportif Lausannois 2008 celebration which is held as usual at the casino de Montbenon.

The format is pretty much the same year by year in that we are entertained by some of Lausanne's sporting bigwigs and we kindly listen to the charming speeches of some of the Defi sponsors (such as the Electricity company Service Industriels) without whose generosity the many yearly events would not have happened.


This year the additional twists were that of course Marcus was sitting uncomfortably (on the floor) with arms and neck in agony and also the Credit crunch was in mind. So with free food economics firmly taking hold, apres speech I fairly sprinted down the stairs to the basement to take part in an intensive evening aperitif session of wine and canapes.

I can say that even in my partially disabled state I was able to leave the event with a large alcohol fuelled smile and a determination to recover my health fully ready to participate in
Defi Sportif Lausannois 2009


Learn more about Defi Sportif here

Monday, February 09, 2009

Not very interesting photographs

When you get a new camera you are sort of obliged to take great quantities of meaningless photographs. Here is my attempt:

My new, floor based bed for the foreseable future. We found that the situp machine is 100% ideal. It firmly supports the head and means not much pressure on rear shoulders, and C7 spine area since this brings on the agonising pain.

Here is marcus in sleeping position

Agata washes the car, Marcus gets the white balance totally wrong


Checking the close up resolution on the Ski Jacket which in my present condition is not going to be used for skiing!

With the intake of enough pain killing drugs even I can manage a smile before a walk to the Doctors


Now this is a real computer, a Cromemco computer

Since I am homebound you see above my breakfast, lunch and dinner.


Surgical operations on the big server are in progress. RAID controller installation pending


Now these are some real hard disks. Seagate ST277R, almost brings tears to my eyes. For testing in the Cromemco Z2 with the Cromemco STDC Hard Disk Controller under Operating system Cromix 168




I think it has been snowing nicely


Our neighbours smart may need a push start to get to the main road


Ready to jump


No wonder there are no snow ploughs left in England, they have all been exported to Switzerland

Marcus in the Forest



Close up Macro test

Agata on the bridge


Simply snowy


Icicles


Goose with head


Goose without head

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Outwitted by a camera


It would be nice to claim that the disappearance of our trusty Panasonic LX2 camera was that it was misplaced in one of our international residences.

Unofortunately the truth is that after the Christmas break we came back to beautiful Lausanne but somewhere along the way LX2 was lost.

So with some excitement we ordered the Panasonic Lumix LX3. After 1 week I can confirm that it's a worthwhile improvement over the LX2 and the kind of camera which begs the question, do you really need that big bulky SLR?

To give you an idea of complexity and capability the English LX3 users manual is over 200 pages in length. I would recommend that you read it, suffice to say here are some of the features that you might like to compare with your current camera

  • 10M pixel, compact, and 265gram camera with widescreen and Leica lens, still and movie (1280x720 pixels, 24fps aspect 16:9) modes

  • Face detection, aiming to change focus and exposure to best display face

  • Focus tracking: identify an object and track it even if it moves

  • Auto Bracket: take 3 pictures at different EV

  • Multi Aspect: Take 3 pictures at 4:3, 3:2 and widescreen 16:9 aspect ratios

  • May choose Variable ISO upto a limit that you set for flashless low light photography

  • Image stabilisation

  • Burst mode continuous shutter at 4fps in fine mode

  • Between 2.5 to 4.5 optical zoom depending on aspect ratios

  • Supports 32GB SDHC, e.g 2000 picture capacity when simultaneously writing 9MP 16:9 and raw

  • Custom date/time/text stamping

  • From intelligent Auto mode to Program, Aperture, Shutter priority etc

  • Improvements in the User interface as compared to LX2
So the only question left is do you buy

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Web Stupid

I am not trying to dwell on my current forced nocturnal life but one of the few advantages is the extra reading and studying time.

And so it was that for about 3 hours this Saturday AM I've been trying to discover why our Internet connection keeps dropping. To make a long story short, an idiot (that's me) left our apache64 Webserver pretty wide open. As a consequence well over 40Giga Bytes per week has been grabbed by opportunists on the web, and with the nature of Very high bit rate Digital Line Subscriber
(
VDSL) these intense uploads have caused our Internet download connection to come to a partial and sometimes total halt.

So I finally have to admit it: I'm WEB STUPID

In my defence my web career started with IBM GML (Generalised Markup Language) in the 1970's actually predating the web. GML was then replaced by IBM BookMaster and then wouldn't you know it, they used these 2 text markup languages to define (static) HTML.

So for the first few years of the web, coding static HTML was second nature and I did not have to put in the effort of studying it, so that when the game moved on, I've been left woefully behind.

Which brings me to the point:
When you are no longer the expert who do you turn too?

At college it was commonly observed that particularly incomprehensible Maths or Engineering problems would be sorted out by Marcus, so much so that all my lectures notes were written for ease of photocopying. Today there remains a steady stream of Computer systems advice to keep my mind active.

But for the Web I feel more confused than confident, So if you are a Web guru please feel free to befriend me, I have so many questions to ask you!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

JBOD and promise of RAID


This is a review and comment on the recent upgrade of our server to use a Promise Supertrak EX8650, 8 Port SAS or SATA II disk controller card. For some time now our master data-server has been on the limit of its disk controller capacity. The Supermicro X7DWN+ motherboard might have 6 native SATA II ports (via the Intel ESB2 chipset) but recently anything connected to port 5 caused a machine hang. I was therefore looking for an 8 port SATA card to provide replacement ports and some for expansion.

To summarise: The machine is upgraded, but things have not gone smoothly.
  • The Promise Supertrak EX8650 card was selected since it has a PCI express interface and memory cache. I thought it might perform well

  • It can support SAS or SATA II hard disks

  • The 8650 card has 8 ports and the 4650 card 4 ports. Not so much of a price difference so go for the 8650

  • It has two SFF-8087 connectors. To support SATA disks you need to get a SFF-8087 to 4 way SATA cable. These are difficult to find, but the benefits are some degree of cable management over individual cables.

  • You can configure drives, and arrays in the BIOS, or once you have installed the 60MB gui, on your OS desktop. For windows this actually installs a tomcat server and serves out a https interace! You interact with that to configure the card.

And now the gotchas .. I did not want to use RAID for multiple reasons, but mainly since RAID would mean that I'd need to use identical drive sizes which I could only achieve by upgrading everything to 1.5TB disks which is not cost effective now (and I'm a little worried about the reliablity of the new 1.5TB units :-( )
  • To use the drive as Just a Bunch of Disk (JBOD) the best I could do was take an existing formatted disk and configure it as RAID 0. Along with various worrying BIOS parameters like this
This works but read on!

  • I configured a blank disk at the BIOS level and then tried to use windows standard GUI compmgmt.msc Disk management to create a partition and drive.
It did not work!! I think the problem is that the size that Windows sees is slightly larger than the actual size
  • The workaround was to use the command line diskpart to create the partition using commands like
list disk ; what do we have?
select disk 4 ; in my example

create partition primary size=1380000 ; lose a bit ie create it smaller than reality

format fs=ntfs label="mydisk" quick


That worked !
  • DVDs are not supported! So you have to attach any SATA DVD drive to some other controller
  • the Gigabyte iRAM was not seen . This 4GB RAM cache card was used to speed up the server and has been removed. Hmm, this is most disappointing.

And the Peformance?
Apart from the planar SATA controller I was also using a Promise SATA 300 TX4
and Highpoint Rocketraid 2310 controllers. Both those controllers have been great value and very reliable. With them the performance of hard disks maxed at about 45MB/sec sustained. In the new environment (planar and 8650) we are now upto 75MB/second sustained. A welcome improvement.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Swiss Sirens


Since my pirouetting fall onto my neck on January 10th; sleep has not been easy. The protracted nerve pain that has partially paralysed both my arms and hands is so painful that lying down for more than 2 hours is still impossible.

So this Wednesday lunchtime after 2 hours sleep at midnight, I set out for a little nap. My sleep was rudely interrupted by the sound of the Swiss Sirens.

Many non Swiss do not realise that the whole of Switzerland is covered with over 7000 high volume sirens, which are tested during the first week of February each year. This was the noise that awakened me.

Should there be a general alert (e.g. nuclear attack) or flooding; the sirens sound and you then need to listen a local radio station and follow instructions. And really I am not kidding! See this link:

Alerting the population in the case of a disaster

You might think that a nuclear attack might not be survivable but I would point you to this excellent talk that might just change your mind:

How to survive a nuclear attack (TED site)

How to survive a nuclear attack (copy on majzel.com)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Serial Expectations

After a scary week when Agata began to revisit our DVD collection of Sex and the City I began to notice a disturbing more self assertive and strident tone coming through. It seems that watching TV soaps or serials has a mind warping influence on all of us.

In a self re-enforcing cycle we become attracted to series that we want to identify with, then after series immersion the series begins to bolster our already confirmed viewpoints. We had a quick scan of our Swisscom PVR and our recent DVD collections. Here is what we found:

24: Los Angeles is the most dangerous place on earth, with higher terrorist densities than Baghdad.

Desperate Housewives: Are best avoided

Eastenders: The East end of London is a miserable place to be especially at Christmas time.

Greys Anatomy: If you get sick with a major, unusual or even trivial ailment, a flurry of hospital staff will tend to your every need until you are fully recovered (yes right!).

Heroes: Even with extraordinary powers the human race seems doomed

Jpod: All families are psychotic

Knight Rider: No need to believe in a talking snake anymore, a talking car that is bulletproof and can transform and fly - now's that is much more reasonable

Lost: If you survive a plane crash on a desert island you are not one of the lucky ones.

Sex and the City: Mankind, be very afriad








Monday, February 02, 2009

Embracing Windows Home Server

Well another year has passed without me visiting the LAS Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES). A product that has long fascinated me was Microsoft Windows Home Server (WHS), a Microsoft Windows 2003 base server with add ons to enable it to be the hub of your family data storage.

One attractive implementation of WHS would be HP's mediasmart Centre.

Of course neither the
EX485 nor he EX487 (datasheet) are available yet in Switzerland so I decided to build my own subsitute: (Note the new HP models are powered by a 2GHz Celeron processor with 2GB memory a step up from previous models and most other NAS devices.)

My build was: The 4 year old Lian Li V1100 case, 3GB memory, 4GB ramdisk, humble ASUS A8N Premium AMD 3800 socket 939 i


Battling with the Build
  • ASUS A8N motherboard has 8 planar SATA ports. The NVIDIA 4 port controller is capable of simple mirroring / striping raid, the second chipset by Silicon Image 3114 supports Raid5 support
  • Initially 2x500GB disks were connected on the NVIDIA controller and software BIOS striped to form a 1TB system OS volume. This is a mistake as Microsoft says the system volume should be a simple volume
  • In other words make sure all software or hardware RAID is disabled otherwise your install will not work
  • I found that a burnt DVD from the WHS 120 time limited download on a DVDR or DVDRW could not be reliably be read on my ancient DVD ROM drive so I had to use the Microsoft supplied WHS original (which I feared was less current)
  • Weird install errors like this were seen:

    ERROR: creating data volume failed (0x80004005) [TRACE] CreateVolume : Exited (0x80004005) [9/11/2008 10:35:46 PM 45c] Creating volume failed. Error 0x80004005.

    This a hardware motherboard issue: Some problem with the Asus A8N motherboard means that when the Windows installer does a soft reboot the hardware is not reinitialised correctly. Therefore the work around is ... when Windows reboots the machine, quicky manually power off, wait 30 seconds, power on. Hardware resets nicely and OS installation then continues fine
Forgotton Drivers
  • The initial install of WHS is further incomplete because the A8N motherboard specific drivers are absent from the WHS media
  • The latest NVIDIA drivers for Windows 2003 server (i.e. the platfom on which WHS is built) are combined in the Vista drivers for the ASUS A8N motherboard on the ASUS website.
Initial Configuration
So at this point WHS is now installed. WHS creates a single 20GB OS partititon and dedicated the rest to a first data partition.
  • 1 x 500 GB boot drive which WHS splits as above
  • 4 x 750 GB disks using 3114 silicon controller split like this

Please read: no RAID configurations
By refusing to listen to various installation documents I next tried to configure the data 750GB disks into a hardware redundant RAID array. This did not work!


Configuring a PC client
  • Install the client code by download of the PC client from the WHS server itself. (Or browse to a share or use a CD)
  • http://:55000 (port 55000 will send you the code)
Adding Music and Pictures
After the Client is installed
  • A link is placed on your PC clients desktop with shares

Making a PC backup to WHS
  • Define your PC on the WHS console
  • Configure what directories not to backup
  • Start the backup either from the WHS console directly or by clicking on the WHS tray icon on the PC itself and selecting "Backup Now"
Getting Back some files
  • Start the WHS console on the system where you will restore files
  • Select your PC client, then a particular backup (e.g most recent)
  • Click Open to open that backup and ignore any local messages to reboot PC
  • Eventually a drive is mounted from the server which is the previous backup, so then just copy the files from that pseudo drive to your local PC and you are all done

Testing
Bare Metal Restore
There were some further troubles so in case you have the same
  • Incorrect restore CD: I accidentally used an older Restore Wizard CDROM image. This booted fine and was able to find the WHS server but insisted that the WHS password was incorrect. Turns out the old restore CD does not work against the 2009 code level server.

    If your install CD does not allow you to specify your language and keyboard layout you are using the wrong CD!!

  • Cannot find WHS server
Once the correct CD was being used, the WHS server could not be located! The old restore CD allows to specify the IP address of the server but the new does not. After many frustrating hours I figured it out. The initial WHS server IP had been registered in the DHCP server. I had changed the IP to a different static IP but the router kept the WHS DHCP lease. So when the restore CD tried to find the WHS server it always used this old IP address which of course is now incorrect. Answer: delete the DHCP lease table at the router.

teddy> reset dhcp server flushing DHCP lease table and NVRAM copy

teddy> show dhcp server leases DHCP server lease table:
Host Name IP Address Hardware Address Status Timeout (dd:hh:mm:ss)
minint-oh2jebs 192.168.0.52 00-14-c2-df-74-5e Active 00:23:56:39

Impressed with adding a variety of machines
I was able to support Windows 2008 Server, Windows Vista 64 ultimate, Windows XP Professional 32 bit, Windows Vista Business 32bit as valid clients to the media server


Making sure WHS is itself backed up
When you add a disk to the server it is either added to the general storage pool for all media and backups, OR for backup of the server itself. Clearly if any of your storage pool drives were to fail some or all of a client PC's data would be lost. So specify an equivalent disk pool for backup of the server itself
Add-ins

An addin is a custom program that adds to the functionality of WHS. Addins are free and fee depending what they do. Example add ins here

Installation is the same as with all add-ins; copy the MSI to \\server\software\add-ins\, and then install using the WHS Console (click the Setup button in the console and change to the Add-Ins tab - Disk Management will show up as an Available Add-in


Some advanced Functionality
More features yet untested:
  • WHS can serve as a remote login gateway so you can view any of your powered on PC's from the internet. The Remote desktop connection goes thru WHS
  • WHS can let you access any of its server data remotely via a secure http connection. So you could grab that important presentation you left at home on the server of grab some MP3's from your work PC

Links
The Free trial: Why not invest some time and install the 120 day free trial?
Some technical documents on WHS worth reading

Summary and Conclusions

Windows Home Server actually works. It's straightforward to install and you can turn your old sleeping PC server into something useful. I can use it as a target for all the Bootable image backups of all the household PC's and perform bare metal restores from those images if any PC drive catastropically fails.
Not only can you backup your PCs but protect the WHServer itself with a set of copy drives. By not using RAID, WHS is more flexible and can utilise any group of Direct attach or USB connected hard disks as a storage pool. Thus far I wont be storing my Media e.g. videos and music on this server (because we already have a custom built server) but perhaps in the future this might change.