iCloud Photo Stream with WHS2011

This is just a quick post to say that iCloud works fine on Windows Home Server 2011. Though Apple don’t list Windows Server 2008 R2 or WHS2011 as a compatible product I’ve installed iCloud without any issues on my Windows Home Server and it’s been happily downloading photos sent by an iPhone 4 over the past week.

Simply logon to your Windows Home Server via RDP and go to http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1455 and download the iCloud Control Panel for Windows.  Install the application as normal but due to the fact it registers a new component with the Windows control panel you will need to reboot before you can access the system control panel.  Don’t install iCloud unless you can reboot right away or live without the control panel until your server is rebooted.

After you have rebooted you can go to the Windows control panel and find the new iCloud control panel applet:


You will be prompted to enter in your Apple ID and password and if you don’t have an iCloud account there will be some words to agree to as is the norm these days.  Once you have completed the sign in/up process you’ll see the main control panel.  From here I only selected to enable the Photo Stream option.  I don’t have Outlook installed nor do I want to sync my Bookmarks with Internet Explorer:


Select the “Options…” button and then change the Download Folder to a Shared Folder on your Windows Home Server.  I decided to make a new sub-folder in my Pictures share and left the Upload folder at default as I don’t plan to upload photos from the server to iCloud.  Do note that if you set this folder to a location where you will save photos on your network then you will potentially fill up your iCloud quota quite quickly:


That’s it! A very straight-forward way to sync all your photos from mobile Apple devices to your Windows Home Server.  In testing we found the latency from taking a photo on the iPhone to be able to retrieve it from the remote access website to be well under a minute.


SSD to Go

For a good year and half now my EX490 has served me well as the only server in my household.  It takes care of all essentials activities such as media sharing and backup.  It’s the hub of my digital archives, the brain in the distributed backup solution and with VMware it’s my own little cloud.  I’ve been thinking of upgrading to Windows Home Server 2011 for a while and I wanted to run my old WHSv1 in a VM to keep some of my old backups accessible.  My major concern was still being able to have a responsive server along the way.  I’m lucky in that in the past I’ve found a Q8400S and 4GB for relatively low costs and recently I acquired a Crucial C300 256GB SSD and a Kingston Storage Bay Adapter (SNA-DC/35) 

It was time to replace the system disk in the EX490 with an SSD and install WHS2011 on the way.

The Caddy

Kingston make great quality products and this one is no exception.  The unit is designed to house a regular 2.5” Hard Disk Drive (it doesn’t matter if it’s the traditional spinning Winchester unit or a more up to date SSD) and the C300 fits perfectly within it.  Any 2.5” SSD should fit absolutely fine, if you have a shorter than normal drive (I’m not aware of any) then you might have to make up the length with some material as the lever butts up against the short side of the drive.  Though the caddy is made of plastic it’s tough and well built.  There are two finger grips on the top of the unit and these are used to slid the top of the caddy away from it’s body allow the top of the unit to hinge up.  When open you can then clearly see where the drive should be seated.  The SSD easily dropped into it’s new home and after gently closing and sliding back the caddy lid we now have SSD power in a comfortable form factor for the EX490.  On inspection against a 3.5” drive the Kingston Caddy is identical in terms of fittings and shape.  Of course it is a lot lighter and though not really needed for an SSD there are some vents in place to help keep any unit inside cool.

Preparing for WHS2011

As I intend to move my existing WHSv1 into a VM I thought it was an idea to migrate my data from the internal drives to an external storage unit.  I also decided to export the backups at the same time using Alex Kuretz’s WHS BDBB Add-In.  I also uninstalled any software or add-ins which may conflict when they are running on the prime server, WHS2011.  I then used the VMware convertor software to clone the physical machine to a virtual machine.  For fun I decided to only clone the system disk to see what challenges I will have rebuilding the machine later on.  Fast forward to after a few days copying data and I was finally done.  Once my data had been copied off I removed each drive from the pool using the console and then physically popped the drive out of my EX490.

Installing WHS2011

I won’t go into the full details here as there are plenty of articles around to detail installing Windows Home Server 2011 on the EX series using a USB Flash key.  The important issue to remember is that if you have used the USB key previously to a successful install of WHS2011 is that you will have to remove the Processed line from your cfg.ini 

Also it’s a essential to physically remove all of your drives from the server (including USB and eSATA drives) and only connect the SSD.  If the drive is brand new then you don’t need to do anything else but if you are reusing an existing drive it would be an idea to remove all the partitions from it to ensure a successful install.  With the EX series being headless servers it’s hard to tell when the unit will come up.  I use DHCP reservations on my router so I was confident that I could keep pinging the servers IP address to know when it came up.  All in all the install took around 20 minutes (I wish I had timed it now, but then again with a Q8400S it would not be comparable to a stock server).

SSD Performance

I don’t have to tell you that SSDs are fast but as I have the exact same model C300 in my desktop machine I was surprised to find that the EX490 can utilise it with a bit more gusto than my Dell 8000 with an i7-860 running the 64-bit version of Windows 7.  Thinking about it a little more it must be that Windows Server 2008 R2 is optimised more heavily for server duties that the desktop variant of the kernel in Windows 7.  Sequential Read Write is in the order of 280MB/s but the big one we want for the server is Random 4K access without queuing. which is an unbelievable 80MB/s.  Reboot time from remote desktop back to remote desktop is a shade over 1 minute.

Home Server inside of Home Server

Initially I have only run up WHSv1 under WHS2011 utilising VMware.  There are a few tweaks you have to do to the Virtual Machine Configuration file do get the hard drive recognised as a SCSI disc but I will detail all of that in a later article. 


Turning your HP MSS EX49x into a Virtual Server – Part 2


This article will cover installing VMWare Virtual Server 2.0 on Windows Home Server and setting up guest operating systems.  Part 1 covered the steps in upgrading the hardware in an HP MediaSmart Server EX490 to deal with virtualisation.

You will need a copy of VMWare Server 2.0.2, a License Key (given for free after a no-fee registration with VMWare.com) and Remote Desktop Access to you Windows Home Server.

Got VMWare?

In the last paragraphs of the previous article on turning your HP MSS EX49x into a Virtual Server I said it was a good idea to get hold of VMWare Server 2.0.  You can download it by following this link and going through the download steps or by navigating the huge menus at VMWare.com.  You will have to register with VMWare but you get the option to opt out of emails if you won’t be interested in the odd email about Virtualisation and Cloud Computing.  The download is 507MB and I advise you go through VMWare’s Download Manager.  The version you need to get is VMWare Server 2.0.2 (10/26/2009) – it’s the first version under the Binaries heading, be careful not to download the Linux version or the API instead.  On this same page is the only time you will be given the licensing information for VMWare Server.  I suggest saving this page or making a copy of the License Key somewhere safe – keys are provided for both Linux and Windows versions.  As always I recommend you use a Client PC to do the actual download and move the file to your Windows Home Server Software Share once you have virus scanned the executable.

Unleash The Beast

Make no mistake, running VMWare and Virtual Hosts can be very demanding on your system.  That’s why I went with 4GB of memory and a Quad Core CPU in my EX490 to handle the demand.  If you are expecting to get increased computing power through software then this is not the way do it – if you find out how drop me a line and we can patent it together!

First open the downloaded installer for VMWare Server 2.0.2 and select run:


The VMWare Logo should come up on the screen and a dialog box will appear, disappear and reappear before finally getting to the first stage of the installer. Hit Next to proceed to the license agreement:


At the license agreement select “Yes, I accept the terms in the license agreement” and then select Next:


Accept the default installation location of “C:\Program Files\VMware Server” by selecting Next:


On the next screen go with the defaults by selecting next.  I don’t advise you change the port numbers unless you know exactly what you are doing.  There should be no need to map these ports to you router and they are purely for internal LAN access and to Access the VMWare Server Web Console.  One option you might decide to change is to start and stop virtual machines automatically with the system.  For me I want my Virtual Hosts running when my server is online though you can change this option later after installation if you change your mind:


Select your choices here but I find it handy to get to the console in a number of ways, hitting next will take you to the final step before installation commences:


If you are sure you want to go ahead with the installation select Install and go off and make a cup of tea while the installation takes place:


You’ll get the standard Windows Installer Progress Status window whilst installation is in progress:


When all has completed well you should be greeted with a Window saying installation is complete.  Hit Finish to complete the installation: 


Finally you will have to reboot the system as VMWare has installed drivers and services required for it’s successful operation:


During the installation VMWare will install some virtual network adapters.  You may find that some Windows Home Server processes such as the Port Forwarder or Windows Live Custom Domains detect these adapters and try to make an internet connection through them.  This will result in temporary failure in these services and an error will be generated.  Windows Home Server will recover automatically once it works out where the real connection to the outside world is again.

Get On Board

Once you have rebooted and you’ve given your Windows Home Server enough time to start all it’s processes and services you should be able to navigate to the VMWare Server Web GUI.  You can do this from any PC on your home network.  Access from a MAC of Linux machine should work but I’ve not tried it myself.  The address you need to go to is https://hpstorage:8333/ui/ – replace hpstorage with the name or IP address of your server but make sure you include the https and that the port is 8333.  As soon as you connect VMWare Server will prompt you for a Login Name and Password – though before that is may ask for a client certificate, ignore it and select cancel.  The login credentials used within VMWare Server are the same as your Windows Home Server User Accounts.  However for now only the Administrator will have access to the GUI.  Also you will note that there are some warnings about the website certificate not being trusted, we’ll fix this later.  Enter the Administrator Username and Password and select Log In:


When you first login you might be prompted by internet explorer to run the “VMWare Remote Console Plug-in” you can allow this as it will let you to see a view of your virtual machine when it is running.


License Key

There are a few steps we need to take before we can get started with creating a Virtual Machine.  First we need to enter our serial number.  From the “Application” Menu Item in the Top Left of the Window select “Enter Serial Number”:


In the Serial field enter your serial number and hit OK.  Now you are registered for unlimited use of VMware Server 2.0. 

Certificate Issues

Next lets fix the certificate warning.  Click on the “Certificate error” warning in the address bar to reveal more information about the problem and select the “View Certificates” link:


In the next window select “Install Certificate…” :


Select Next on the Certificate Import Wizard:


In the second stage of the wizard select the “Place all certificates in the following store” radio button and then select Browse:


In the pop up window select “Trusted Root Certification Authorities” and select OK:


Select next to move on through the wizard, finally completing the wizard by clicking Finish:


You will then be prompted with a security warning that a Certification Authority change is about to take place.  Select Yes to confirm as we have instigated this change:


You will then get confirmation that the import was a success.  Close the remaining certificate windows.  You will still get a warning about the certificate but Internet Explorer won’t inhibit you from getting to the site initially like before.  Next time you restart IE the warnings should be gone.

Adding A User

Personally I don’t like to type in my administrator user name and password unless I need to so I’ve added access to the Web GUI for my regular Windows Home Server User Account.   From the Web GUI ensure that HPSTORAGE (or the name of your server) is highlighted in Inventory and then select the Permissions tab:


Then you want to select the “New” link to bring up the new permissions view.  From there select your desired login user name and in the Role Drop Down List select Administrator.  When you are done select OK:


You should then notice that the selected user has been added to for access.  Next we will run through creating a virtual machine.

Your First Virtual Machine

Now I appreciate not everyone is going to be interested in Linux, after all this is a Windows Home Server blog but rather than go through the longer steps of installing Windows and reply to questions on why didn’t I use such and such a version of Windows over another I decided to setup Damn Small Linux.  The other neat thing is it’s only a 50MB download and installation is fast and easy for demonstration purposes.  First download the ISO to your datastore.  You will have to download to a shared folder on your Windows Home Server and then you have one of two options.

1) Add the shared folder to your available datastores within the VMWare Web GUI

2) Using a Remote Desktop session move the ISO from your download location to the existing datastore location in “D:\Virtual Machines”

I’ll go through the first step only as the later option is quite straightforward.

Adding A Datastore

The first thing to remember that this datastore is purely for installation media (ISO files).  You don’t want to be using this datastore to store anything to do with a running Virtual Machine (VM) as Drive Extender and VMWare will get quite upset and at the very least you will get file conflict issues and in some cases loss of data in your VM.

I already have an ISOs folder in my Software Share that I use to store all my Installation CD Images.  First in the VMWare Web GUI ensure that HPSTORAGE is selected in the Inventory List.  Then in the right hand tab select summary to show the Datastores section and from the Commands section choose Add:


Fill out the Add Datastore form with the following information.  Make sure you use the “Local Datastore” method and specify the server as localhost.  You then want to add the \\localhost\software\ISOs folder or your chosen location but make sure you don’t use the CIFS options or fields.  When you’ve got those parameters entered click OK:


You should now see the datastore listed and this will allow you to share installation files between Windows Home Server and VMWare.

The VM

From the same command section as in the previous step select “Create Virtual”.  A Create Virtual Machine Wizard will be presented.  The first step is to specify the Name and Location of the VM.  I called mine DSL and the location must always be in the Datastore location – never install a VM in a Windows Home Server Shared Folder.  When you’ve got it how you want click Next:


Next you must select the Guest Operating System and Version.  VMWare uses this to work out what settings to use and also what devices to expose to the VM.  If you were going to install Windows then you would select the Windows operating system and choose the correct version from the drop down list.  For Windows 7 choose Vista.  For this example you will need to select Linux Operating and Other Linux 32-bit:


Next choose memory and processor count.  Don’t go crazy here, you are sharing resources with your Windows Home Server so 256MB and a single core processor is fine:


Next we are going to create a Virtual Disk.  Remember only create a big enough disk for what you need.  With Thick Provisioning of Virtual Disks any free space left on the drive is only free to the Guest Virtual Machine – the free space is considered as used by Windows Home Server and too much overhead is simply a waste.  Select “Create a New Virtual Disk” and on the next screen stick with the default options and select next:


At the next screen ensure you are going to add a network adapter and select next.  Leave the connection as bridged and check the box for “Connect at Power On”:


At the next step of the Wizard check that “Use” an ISO” is selected and hit next.  On the next windows hit browse, navigate to the ISOs and select the DSL install ISO we downloaded earlier and then select OK:


Ensure that the ISO is connected at power on and select next. Select “Don’t Add a Floppy”, then select “Don’t Add a USB” and finally you should be presented with a final summary of what will be created.  When you are ready select Finish for the VM to be created:


Whilst the VM is being created a summary will be presented in the bottom of the GUI keeping you up to date on the progress of the VM creation.  When it has been completed you can move on to the next stage.

Power Up

From the VMWare Web GUI there are a number of ways to start the VM.  You can click on HPSTORAGE and view the VM in the Virtual VM list or you can select the VM in the Inventory List.  Both will then enable the transport control buttons in the top of the GUI or you can use the commands provided in the section on the right.  However, selecting the VM in the Inventory view will allow you to select the console option.  If you select the console option and click the big ‘play’ icon the VM will power on.  After a few moments you will then be given the option to open the console in a new window – simply click again.  You can then see your VM starting up:


That’s it – you are now in the world of virtualisation.  There are quite a few things that remain but I will leave that to the many resources out there on the internet.  One very important item is the installation of the VMWare Tools.  As far as you VM is concerned it thinks it is a real computer but it will need to know that it is in fact running within another system for the purpose of shutting down and rebooting cleaning if the server is ever rebooted.  From the VM summary in the Web GUI there is a link in the Status Section allowing you to install the VMWare Tools.  Non-standard Linux installations can be tricky to get the tools running as you need to crack open a compiler but setting up the Tools on Windows VMs are straightforward.  If you get stuck drop a line in the forums and we’ll be glad to help out.

I hope you enjoyed these two articles on getting virtualisation running on your Windows Home Server.