Recently in WHS Category

I have a love-hate, approach-avoidance relationship with the Windows Home Server on the Centrale SOHO LAN here.  I love that it is always on and providing backups and shared storage of all of our computers and permanent information.  I cringe for the next time WHS will fail in some way.  This has me be wary and also quite aware that the WHS, a failed Microsoft product, is in need of a reliable backup and recovery strategy for itself.  It has become the household’s dominate single-point of computer failure concern.

I’ve been in denial about the precautions I must perfect.

Scary Messages about WHS corrupted/unreadable shared filesThis all came back to me when WHS recently reported that a small set of shared files, very old shared files, were reported as damaged or inconsistent.  The remedy is to remote-console into the WHS and run about 12 hours worth of chkdsk.  Before I did that, I did what I could to (unsuccessfully) grab the folder having the defective files just in case they were lost as part of the disk checking and repair.  In truth, I did not need the particular files any longer, but the same folder did have valuable content.

The chkdsk and a couple of reboots determined that WHS was restored to good health.  Watching the chkdsk reports, it appears that the problem was five index records needing to be created.

This reminded me that there another place where I was extremely complacent.  I have avoided backing up the WHS-shared files to USB drives because that also takes 8-12 hours.  I know these are USB 2.0 drives, but it is unbelievable how long it takes to backup about 300GB of information.

A successful incremental backup of WHS to USB DriveI had a USB backup drive already connected so I decided to perform a backup of all the shares.  I’m sure the backup on the drive was at least 12 months out-of-date. 

One thing I learned, while the lengthy USB backup was underway.  Computer backups still work.  That is, there is enough bandwidth and performance on the WHS that it can be doing incremental backups of computer images while backing up the separate shared folders to the USB drive.

I had to leave the USB backup running overnight.  In the morning, I learned that the backup was “incomplete.”  That’s all I knew.  There was no explanation.

Thinking that perhaps my 750GB USB drive didn’t have enough capacity for the full backup, or there were other problems, I removed the current USB backup and hooked-up a fresh 500 GB drive.  This time, I was careful to keep my system connected and watch the running log of the backup activity. 

Keeping my eye on the second backup revealed the problem: I had material in shared folders whose full path and filenames were too long to be recorded on the USB backup.  It was a small amount of material, but the backup process made several tries at backing up those after everything else was backed up.  I’m not sure why it kept trying.  I went to the shares of those files to see if I could do some renaming, but that was not possible because the files were in use by another program.  Guess who?

I ended the backup, satisfied that everything critical had been backup up.  Afterwards, I went into WHS and drastically cleaned up the two folders that had the problems.  They will be caught in the next backup to the USB drive.

It nagged at me that there was material that was all right on the server but couldn’t be backed-up because of path length and file-name length problems.   I mounted my backup USB on my desktop machine and immediately saw the answer:

The Extra Hierarchy on the USB Backup

Each incremental backup on the USB drive is in its own folder.  The folders from the WHS are two levels deeper.  There is a folder for the date and time of the backup (2012-11-13_1821, above) and another folder (shares, above) that then has the backup of the names shared-folder sets.   That was enough to make it not possible to backup some files deep in the Users folder.

The nice part is files that have not changed are not duplicated.  Instead, links are used to the earlier backup.  In this way, the backup drive does not fill so rapidly and each dated set appears as a complete snapshot.  The part that wasn’t obvious, until it happened, was the hazard of extending the file hierarchy that put some materials over the file-path-length limits of the file system.

I did it.  I have placed an order for a SOHO desktop and developer system to be named Astraendo.  It is a Dell XPS 9100 and delivery is expected before New Year’s Eve.

Because it is not an Alienware Aurora, I thought of changing the name from Astraendo to Eo (or E0 for you old mainframe hackers).  But, I figure, a good category is silly to waste.  In addition, I realize that the desire to return my attention to abstractions and foundations of computing inspires me.  I’ll keep the name.

I must resist premature retirement of Scampo.  I can’t switch to a Windows 7 machine until I have figured out how to support my web site development using IIS, FrontPage Extensions, and Visual SourceSafe.  The problem is having Expression Web and Windows 7 be able to do check-outs and check-ins properly.  Until I have that resolved, I need a copy of Windows XP running Microsoft Office FrontPage 2003.  Beside rearranging the SOHO Layout and cabling, that is the critical-path prerequisite for the development-system upgrade.

There should be FrontPage Server extensions on WHS, my Windows Homer Server operating on a Windows Server 2003 base.  Assuming that there is a standard configuration of IIS 6.0 (which is already used for web functions of WHS on the HP MediaSmart Server), it is straightforward to install and enable FrontPage 2002 Server Extensions (and WebDAV for that matter), and I have done that.

If I need to revert to an IIS 7.0 Server on Windows 7 or Server 2008 at some point, I’ve just gone by the use-by date for IIS 7.0 FrontPage Server Extensions.  However, there is an independent source.

Once I have the extensions, I need to create a site in addition to the ones already there.  I then need to see if I can have the site, with FrontPage Server Extensions, integrate with Visual Source Safe.  After confirming that I can get check-in and check-out working properly from FrontPage 2003 on Windows XP, I need to see how to get it working from Expression Web from Windows 7.  At that point, serious migration of functions can proceed.

I remind myself of that here because I must stifle myself and not go overboard installing and cutting over to Astraendo until this is accomplished.

 

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I must declare bankruptcy for the timeline and work items of “Got SMRs?” and my 2011 nfoProjects Launch Sprint.  I have completely fallen off the cliff into the rapids and that timeline and its work items are DOA.  I will update the current spreadsheet timeline documents to reflect that sorry state.

All of the activities are relevant, but I have been completely distracted from them.  Furthermore, it is clear that I don’t have the capacity to forward them in parallel.  This may have to do with having too much work in progress as well as lacking a sustainable pace (a major discrepancy between my vision and my perfornance).

I shall tear down my planned structure and create a fresh one with an honest and workable critical path.  That means finding what there is that is essential and indeed critical.   One problem is that there is only one resource (me), so moving something off the critical path means putting it beyond the essential immediate.  The dependencies must work for that.  I suspect that means creating technical debt and I will have to risk-manage that too.

In particular, I am still shifting gears in 2011, and the support for that includes straightening out the blogs, web sites, and the development procedure for them.  Now to identify and work on the critical path for that, with the critical end point being whatever that much takes.

Onward …

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There’s a big dust-up about a mammoth breaking change that is coming in the successor to Windows Home Server 1.0.

This week, the Microsoft team announced that the Drive Extender technology was being removed from the planned Windows Home Server 2.0, codenamed “Vail.”

The announcement on the Windows Home Server Blog was updated yesterday, 2010-11-23.  I think this is going to go down as the Microsoft Turkey Day event thanks to the proximity to the US Thanksgiving holiday, right up there with the famous Halloween memos.

This appears to be a problem of serving too many masters by a one-size-fits-all search whose solution serves no one, or at least not those of us who bought WHS because it was WHS, and not something else.

Here’s the key declaration:

“When we first started designing Windows Home Sever code name “Vail” one of our initial focuses was to continue to provide effortless support for multiple internal and external hard drives. Drive Extender provided the ability to take the small hard drives many small businesses and households may have acquired, and pool them together in a simple volume. During our current testing period for our Windows Home Server code name “Vail” product, we have received feedback from partners and customers about how they use storage today and how they plan to use it moving forward. Today large hard drives of over 1TB are reasonably priced, and freely available. We are also seeing further expansion of hard drive sizes at a fast rate, where 2Tb drives and more are becoming easy accessible to small businesses.  Since customers looking to buy Windows Home Server solutons [sic] from OEM's will now have the ability to include larger drives, this will reduce the need for Drive Extender functionality.”

There’s a serious non sequitur here about the size of drives being tied to the need for Drive Extender functionality.  If this is the actual reasoning, it reveals the degree to which the team is immersed in their own Microsoft-inward-checking reality.  It is also apparently the case that the implementation of Drive Extender had been changed dramatically and that is leading to difficulties that have been frustrating testers, based on the comments on the Microsoft Connect site where a beta-test issue is being raised in objection to the elimination of Drive Extender from successors to WHS 1.  [Is it really necessary for every maturing software company to be morphed into IBM as some sort of technological-hubris curse?  It is easy to suspect, in the absence of better transparency, that what may have happened is that changes being made to Drive Extender in moving WHS onto a Windows Server 2008 base have been FUBARed and this is how the team is extricating itself.]

The non sequitur is important to understand.  The ability to pool several drives into a single volume is not just about being able to scavenge drives from an obsolete computer.  In fact, the capacity of lower-cost, power-efficient drives increases so fast that it is almost always affordable to add larger new drives to a WHS to expand its capacity.  The specific appeal of WHS is that this can be done by hot-swapping.  Because of folder duplication on the file-server (i.e., the Drive Extender) part of WHS storage, there will be no loss of data, assuming it is not the system drive that needs to be pulled out.  A new drive added under Drive Extender management will be automatically included in the distribution of duplicated content, with the Drive Extender pool appearing to be a single volume (found as \\WHS: on my configuration, for brevity of path name) with the configuration and use of the actual drives in the pool completely invisible.   This is superb for consumer-level usability.

Whatever the complexities of getting this right as a technical and technology problem, this is unbelievably sweet for home and SOHO users such as myself who have far more interesting things to do rather than become a qualified IT system administrator and user support.

It is amazing how the need for Drive Extender is being dismissed in the Microsoft Home Server Blog post.  Notice that none of the important functionality of Drive Extender and the convenience for home and SOHO users is acknowledged.  It is all about drive size.

At first, because it wasn’t being emphasized, I thought that the announcement was about something different than the way duplication is managed and kept self-healing with hot swapping of failed or old drives for bigger new ones.  That led to my comment among the hundreds now on the Microsoft Connect site.   Those don’t have permalinks, so here is my text:


Posted by orcmid on 11/23/2010 at 8:11 PM

Although I voted up the request, I have mixed feelings about this.

I suspect that RAID would ensure that the WHS itself is backed up, and so would the backups be.
At the same time, it is seriously cool that the duplicated storage (essentially the file-server part, not the backup part) can be grown, hot-swapped, etc.

The [concern] that I have is that the upgrade from a WHS1 to a WHS2 is now more costly in terms of not being able to reuse drives from WHS1 to WHS2. Since I just ordered a 1.5TB SATA drive (since they are so cheap) as my 4th drive, this has me sad.

I'm also not sure about the [exterrnal] drives that I have that are used and formatted for backing up of my folder storage, rotated off-site periodically, etc.

So, if the upgrade is going to be essentially a throw one out and put a different one in, what am I getting for this that I couldn't get from a 3rd party NAS/file server with backup software on the clients? I don't use the remote access capability or the media stuff. I have the WHS 1 for providing a sustained backup regimen and a replicated, recoverable file system. This is a home server in a SOHO and household setting.

What I would rather see is a WHS 2 that has the backing up of backups and of the WHS 2 itself handled in some smooth way, such as having a boot image on an alternative drive that could be swapped in were the system volume to fail, along with ways to back up and recover the system volume, for that matter.

Maybe that's too much added complexity and simply going to RAID is the answer. In that case, I will be holding onto my WHS1 for a very long time.


As I read more of the comments, it became clear that the entire Drive Extender technology is what provides for the automatic duplication of files in the extended volume and the automatic healing when a drive must be removed and replaced because of failures or the need for more capacity.

But here’s how the abandonment of this feature is adjudicated in the next paragraph of the Windows Home Server Blog post:

“When weighing up the future direction of storage in the consumer and SMB market, the team felt the Drive Extender technology was not meeting our customer needs.”

Considering that there is a “single consumer and SMB market” is a serious problem.  I am also not clear who Microsoft thinks is their customer in this matter.

  Perhaps WHS is a flop as a consumer product and WHS is being retreated up to the SMB (Small-Medium Business) level.  Even thinking of SMB as a single market is a stretch, unless Microsoft expects their OEM and services partners to rescue this product with provision of integration and services for those SMBs who find that affordable.

ZDNet columnist Mary Jo Foley has an useful recap of the situation in her 2010-11-23 All About Microsoft post, “Testers riled by Microsoft decision to pull Drive Extender storage from ‘Vail,’ ‘Aurora’ servers.”

This is my current plan, as announced on the Workaround tab of the Microsoft Connect issue on the removal of Drive Extender:


Posted by orcmid on 11/24/2010 at 12:28 PM

Yes, it looks like the thing to do is:

  1. At some point when they become very inexpensive, obtain a second WHS 1 server (with minimal investment in included drives) that can be used as a standby for when my main WHS finally fails.
      
  2. Come up with workarounds for backing up the WHS itself (that is, the System drive) and the backup sets which are currently not backed up.
      
  3. Find a better way to backup the Drive Extended volume content that don't tie up the WHS for so long, making those folders inaccessible (or making the backup fail because of files locked for writing). I use my Drive Extender volume as primary file storage for many files that I don't want kept on any one of my desktop systems for capacity as well as sharing (and desktop failure mitigation) reasons.
      
  4. For functions that don't work well on the Drive Extended volume, such as streaming, development web server, etc., look at how easy or hard it is to also have non-Drive Extended volumes for special purposes on different drives.
      
  5. Be prepared for the day when some version of Windows comes along for which there is no WHS 1 Connector support.

I am (belatedly) expanding my use of my HP MediaSmart Server as part of retiring my currently-dedicated web-development laptop, Compagno, and staging around other obsolescence of tools and machines.  I am counting on WHS as I refine my blog and web development and deployment technology. 

The lack of a future for that WHS is going to have me revisit my contingency planning for that migration and anticipate potential obsolescence of the WHS.

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Got SMRs?

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Whenever I write “SMRs” I think of smores, the Graham cracker, Hershey bar, and toasted-marshmallow confection that my family learned on my sister Carol’s return from a Girl Scout Brownie outing.  I think our mother already knew of them, but my recollection is that’s when they entered my experience.

That is, perhaps, my playing with the notion of Specific Measurable Results, the outcomes in reality of defined, actionable tasks.  SMRs as tasty morsels.  I did not realize how much the term has been taken over by business-coaching lingo.  I confess to first hearing the expression in 1993, from Landmark Forum Leader Linda Zraik, and it was already a catch-phrase in that setting.

The combination came up for me today when I realized that my nfoProjects Launch Sprint is too airy and lacks SMRs for me to chew on.  Consequently, it is easy to let days go buy without measurable results.  That was happening here:

Noticing that everything slips with no SMRs to produce each step of the way.

I noticed this because there were no simple actionable work items that led to SMRs, even basic, produce-this-today ones. 

Looking more closely, the labels on the stages that the boxes represent are conceptual.  It made sense for envisioning and looking at opportunities in the available time, but that isn’t concrete enough.

Today, I have been stepping back to create SMRs for the stages themselves, and then for those individual results that I will produce on the path to the SMR of the stage.  

Although it would be wise to start at the end point of the Sprint and work backwards, I will fudge and start by looking closely at the stages that I am managing over the current fortnight.  I won’t go long without filling the gap from the objective back to what’s next right now, but I am forcing in some small immediate activities to ground my effort in the meantime.

The tracking spreadsheet is not going to include all of that detail.  I will use my Personal Kanban board to manage them in a fluid way and also ensure that I provide supplemental envisioning, planning, and reflection on a weekly basis.

I’ve been looking at all of the projects that I have and the number of burners there are for my efforts.

In the past week, I realized that I needed a consolidated plan with defensible, risk-managed timelines for getting to where I want to be on New Years Day, 2011: Launching a family of interoperability-centered tutorial, test-fixture, and reference-implementation projects around document formats and their processing.  (Hmm, short enough for an elavator speech but not something I would be able to recite at gunpoint.  Needs work.)

I have gathered my envisioning into a spreadsheet that keeps my commitment and my management of it in a structure that holds my vision in existence.  Here is the finish line and, at the bottom, where I am standing right now:

2011 nfoProjects Launch Crunch tracking-document extract

This is a high-level perspective.  I blocked out the calendar weeks and arranged more-or-less week-sized chunks in which to make headway along four tracks.  Since I am a solo developer, this is enough for me to follow and use as an instrument for keeping my eye on critical setbacks and interdependencies that I must keep my attention on.  There’s an opportunity for some Personal Kanban  and Personal Software Process.

The OpenDocument Format continuation work is related to my current involvement on the OASIS ODF and OIC Technical Committees, as well as the ISO/IEC JTC1 SC34 WG6 working-group for ODF maintenance.   As ODF 1.2 moves toward ratification as an OASIS Standard in early 2011, there is a hiatus that allows me to devote more attention to Interoperability and Conformance and the alignment of the ISO/IEC and OASIS efforts. 

The blog, web, and development system (Centrale) efforts have been identified here in a piece-meal fashion.  This three-track view provides my first projection of a coherent feasible structure on those activities.  There will be many opportunities for adjustment and course-correction as progress is made and details of further steps are reviewed.

In simply arranging these activities, I found how to avoid a situation in which I was retiring Compagno and in a sudden-death gap on being able to move everything I needed to the Windows Home Server.  This was definitely sky-diving without a parachute.  What I had not seen until I placed the activities in this form, is that Quadro, my Tablet PC, can mirror Compagno perfectly and also assist in verifying how migration from FrontPage to Expression Web can be accomplished while preserving practices that serve me too well for them to be abandoned without a fight.

I have also noticed, already, how having my eye on New Years Day gets me out of bed in the morning, excited to make further headway on these activities.

I will be reporting results and updates here on the week-by-week progress.  And, for those playing along from home, here’s the tracking document  on-line:

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Scampo Setup on Centrale I have a serious itch to move from Scampo to a fire-breathing multi-core Windows 7 development platform.

Although I have my eye on some contenders (basically a hot Dell XPS 9100 or its comparable Alienware Aurora configuration), I must resist making the jump.  Although I will likely upgrade before the end of 2010, there are some things I need to keep my eye on.

Core Scampo Functionality

Before I cut loose from Scampo, I must remember that there is on-going use of this Gateway 831GM Media Center PC running Windows (Media Center) XP SP3.  As much as I want to be on Windows 7 and desire to be able to upgrade to tools that are no longer supported on Windows XP, there is some baggage.

  • An E-MU 1820M that I need to move to Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit (and there are new drivers available, and Cakewalk Sonar will support the 64 bit operation).  I must make sure that the upgrade has slots and connectors for the 1820M PCI boards.
      
  • My Hewlett-Packard ScanJet 7400C, although a little long in the tooth, is still my primary scanner and it will need to run on the upgrade (name yet to be chosen).
     
  • Battery Backup may need upgrading to handle the 550-850 watt power-supply, depending on configuration.  Apparently, some of the higher-performance machines will see spikes on backup kick-over and shut down.  That is an additional problem, as well as making my office setup provides enough power through the outlet cluster my computing equipment is dedicated on.
       
  • Centrale Network HubGigabit Ethernet?  A router/hub upgrade to provide Gigabit Ethernet connectivity to the Windows Home Server might be wise.  The greater capacity of the new development engine, with multiple virtual machines for interoperability testing and confirmation of software porting on multiple platforms may stress the WHS capacity.  There may need to be some upgraded drives and perhaps even an upgraded WHS machine.
      
  • Although not part of the initial upgrade, the desire is to eventually upgrade from 24” to a larger monitor (at least 27” but 30” preferably) once they are more affordable and Energy Star compliant.  The upgrade will have the graphics power necessary for that and for multiple monitors, even if the completion of upgrading is later.

Obsolescence Staging

Although I want to deal with fundamental system configuration and upgrade issues, there are also problems of preserving in-progress project and dealing with my current dependence on software that will have to be changed-out as part of platform upgrading.

  • Microsoft Money is now on life support.  I still use it and have not migrated to Quicken.  I doubt that the version I have will run very well on Windows 7 (although it might on the Windows XP VM that will be provided).  I need to be prepared to do a financial software migration along with or prior to pulling the plug on Scampo.
      
  • Microsoft FrontPageMicrosoft FrontPage and web-development Issues.  It appears that Microsoft FrontPage and FrontPage extensions don’t operate properly between a Compagno on Last LegsWindows 7 system and a Windows XP SP3 machine running IIS and the FrontPage extensions.  This may also be related to issues with regard to Visual SourceSafe integration.    There is a long-overdue retirement of Compagno that moves the IIS development web to WHS, moves VHS support, and then moves from FrontPage use to Windows Expression for continuing web development.  I can’t stop web development using Windows XP SP3 until I accomplish that transition.  It will be an eventful November-December 2010 because of this issue alone.
       
  • Microsoft Office 2007/2010 Upgrading.  Because I run two copies of Outlook, one on desktop, one on laptop, I must have the same version of Microsoft Office, with Outlook, on both machines so I can move my .pst files back and forth.  I am on Office 2007 now, but my Windows XP SP3 Tablet PC does not handle Office 2010 well enough for me to do a synchronized move to Office 2010.  It is also a pain to run multiple versions of Office on the same platform, another reason why I want to have a VM-capable development machine. 
        
    I need to be running 2010 and beyond for interoperability testing purposes, but I will have to stay on Office 2007 as my working installation simply because of the need for Outlook parity.  At some point I would like to have a single PST that is on the traveling machine, but I can use it from the desktop when I am in the office.  If I keep the PST on the traveler, using it in the office by remote-desktop is an option but it may not go quite so well with the degree that I use copy-and-past between Outlook and other applications.  A weird but promising solution would be to run Exchange server on a future traveling replacement for my current Tablet PC, and then I would have full Outlook access to it locally and from my office desktop when I’m at the home office.
      

There are probably more considerations and setbacks I have to deal with.  But this is enough top-level to serve as a reminder that I can’t just throw a switch and have a shiny new high-performance development system up and running.  I must address the staging issues.  And I shall.

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[update 2010-08-23T04:14Z I realized, when posting about additional web-development categories, that I can seed the unseeded subcategories simply by using the seeding post: this one.  This repost is strictly to accomplish that.]

As part of the nfoCentrale anchor-site stabilization, I am seeding all of the new categories I have established.  This will cause each category subfolder to be created and populated as part of the nfoCentrale Status blog structure on the hosted site.  I will then bring those folders under the construction-structure management of the nfoCentrale anchor site.

I have been quietly repaving the nfoCentrale anchor, as part of bringing a systematic sites cleanup and repaving under a single coordination point.

I will also be experimenting with alterations of Movable Type templates here and on Spanner Wingnut in preparation and confirmation of the stages to be undertaken in the systematic re-animation of my now-dormant blogs.

Although this seems to be a diversion from the task of restoring blogs, and I have this pent-up urge to be posting anew on them, this repaving work is crucial for providing me a place where I capture my experience and arrive at a guide that I can follow systematically.  This is also a precaution against any future situation where I need to do more of this, whether because of upgrading to new releases of Movable Type, porting to a new hosted site, simply adding more blogs, or integrating with new, now-unanticipated content-management facilities.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the WHS category.

scritto is the previous category.

{retired} is the next category.

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