Ramblings of a Home Server User

July 1, 2009

UPDATED: Changes on the Horizon

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 8:30 pm

UPDATE (July 1, 2009): New blog has launched over at http://www.tomontech.com, please check it out, and update your RSS subscriptions.

After two years of blogging on Ramblings of a Home Server User, and several months of inactivity, I’ve decided that it’s time for a rebirth. I’ll be changing the name of the blog, as well as moving to my own hosting, where I will have more flexibility over my blog. I will also be expanding my focus from just Windows Home Server to all things relating to Windows. This transition will be completed by the end of the summer, so please stay tuned right here for the latest.

Don’t worry, I’ll still be available to help with questions on installing Sharepoint on Windows Home Server, and I don’t plan on changing my e-mail address.

I know there are several blogs that are focused on Windows out there, and I’m curious to know what is missing. What information do you want to know? Do you want interviews with people from Microsoft, product reviews, how-to guides? Please send me your ideas, I’m very interested into what the community wants. I make no guarantees that I’ll be able to satisfy everyone, but I will do my best provide you, the community, with the information you want to see.

Please email me: tom at homeserverblogger dot com, or follow me on Twitter, http://twitter.com/tziegmann

-Tom

March 8, 2009

Review: Windows 7 Beta – Apps and Gadgets

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 2:20 am

Welcome to the fourth and final installment of my review of the Beta build of Windows 7. This installment will focus on built-in apps and gadgets.

Windows 7 offers some much needed improvements to built-in applications that have been in Windows for a long time. Wordpad, Paint, and Calculator all have received a facelift, and other applications like Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center have received some added functionality and improvements to the overall user experience. Another noticeable improvement is the removal of the Windows Sidebar and the integration of Sidebar Functionality right into the Windows desktop.

Let’s dive in to the new and improved experience in Windows 7!

Wordpad:

Wordpad has been updated with the Ribbon interface that is so prevalent in Office 2007. There have also been updates to the supported file formats, and among them are basic support for the new .DOCX format introduced for Word 2007 documents. Wordpad has always been a favorite of mine. It’s a great way to open release notes, readmes, and other documents often accompanied with software, that you would install on machines that don’t necessarily have Office on them. With the updates made in Wordpad for Windows 7, I can definitely say that Wordpad is the easiest, most useful, text editing application to ship with an OS. While it lacks the fancy advanced features of Word, it now has some punch that make it a great entry level word processing tool.

wordpad

Calculator:

Alright, so finally Microsoft has given us a decent calculator. The calculator in Windows 7 is able to do unit conversions, statistics, scientific and programming calculations, and even has a history feature. This calcuator is an awesome tool, and packs a lot of bang for its buck. Seriously, if you’re goal when choosing an operating system is to find one with a decent calculator, Windows 7 should be your top choice.

calc1   calc2   calc3

calc4   calc5   calc6   calc7

Paint:

Ok, so we’ve come to the creme de la creme. Paint. Such a simple program, one that we all used to play with as kids. Well now, Paint has grown up. Sporting the same Ribbon interface that Wordpad uses, Paint has some kick. Paint now offers more brush choices, ability to modify color swatches, and more shapes to draw. Paint also has some nifty features if you are using a multi-touch machine. If you have a multi-touch machine and you haven’t tried out Paint in Win7 yet, go do that now. On a multi-touch machine you can use two hands and paint in different colors and do all sorts of nifty creations. Just when I thought that I had outgrown Paint, I find myself crawling back for more.

paint

Windows Media Player:

Windows Media Player in Windows 7 has been radically changed. The Player mode has been completely revamped and is now solely focused on what content is playing. Library mode has been updated, now using tabs for syncing, burning, and now playing. There is also new support for DivX and MP4 file formats as well as others. Having support for more formats now gives Windows Media Player a leg up on Quicktime since now users won’t need Quicktime to play standard MP4 files. Windows Media Player also sports a new feature called Play-To which enables you to play music on one computer in the house to any other computer in the house and control the song thats playing and the volume remotely.

wmp1  wmpplayto   wmp2  wmp3

My ratings for built-in Apps and Gadgets:

Paint: 9 out of 10

Windows Media Player: 9 out of 10

Calculator: 10 out of 10

Wordpad: 9.5 out of 10

Ribbon implementation in Paint and Wordpad: 3 out of 10 (needs some work…looks sloppy)

Gadget Experience: 8 out of 10 (I’m glad that the sidebar has been removed)

Overall: 8.1 out of 10

Hope you enjoyed this review series on Windows 7! If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to use the contact form to contact me.

-Tom

February 17, 2009

Review: Windows 7 Beta – Part 3 – Device Stage

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 12:00 am

Welcome to Part 3 of my Windows 7 Beta review. Today I’ll be talking about Device Stage.

Device Stage is a new feature designed to allow device manufacturers to create a “launchpad” for their devices. Using existing protocols and some XML, device manufacturers will be able to use the Device Stage to help enrich users experiences. Device Stage works much like AutoPlay. You plug your device into your computer, or pair the device over Bluetooth, and Windows will look for the most recent Device Stage definitions for your device, and then will display the Device Stage for your device. See the below screenshot for a sample Device Stage experience.

windows7-device-stage-1

As you can see in the screenshot above, the Fabrikam mPhone 1000 is attached to this Windows 7 PC, and in this case Fabrikam as used APIs to display information about the phone, an image of the device, as well as the company logos. Fabrikam has also defined a list of tasks that a user can perform from this screen. With this Device Stage, the user can setup syncing for their phone, change their ringtone, copy pictures and music from the phone to the PC, browse the device and change settings for the device.

Device Stage opens endless possibilities. There can be tasks such as downloading the latest software that comes with a digital camera or printer, viewing the Quick Start guide or User’s Manual, update firmware, or whatever else a user can do with a device can be listed right within the Device Stage.

Currently there is a limited number of devices taking advantage of Device Stage, but as the ecosystem grows, and more device manufacturers take advantage of this feature, there will be many devices able to use Device Stage. Look for this to be a feature that will take some time to grow, but once it’s grown it will provide lots of great value add to the overall Windows 7 experience. So far, this is one of my favorite features, and I personally am looking forward to seeing Device Stage blossom.

Stay tuned for Part 4, where I’ll show off the applications and gadgets that come with Windows 7.

February 16, 2009

Update: SharePoint on Windows Home Server

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 6:00 pm

Hey everybody,

I’ve made some updates to the SharePoint Guide as well as the scripts.

Current Revision:

Document: 2.0.2

Scripts: 1.1

Click here to download the guide and associated scripts

In the latest revisions of the guide and the scripts are the following changes.

– Scripts have been updated to correct a typo in the filename location of the Search Database and Log files

– Guide has been linked to the blog post detailing how to modify the database scripts if the server name is something other than “SERVER”

– Link has been corrected for download of SharePoint Database scripts

For those of you with issues syncing your calendar with SharePoint and Outlook, I’m not quite sure what’s going on. My efforts to reproduce the issues you’ve reported has not been successful. My only suggestion would be, you should make sure that you are using the same user name and password on both the server and the client, and that you don’t have issues accessing the SharePoint Calendar. Also, make sure that you have granted yourself proper permissions in SharePoint to update and modify the calendar. I have several servers running SharePoint and WHS, as well as some Vista and Win7 clients running Outlook 2007 and have not been able to reproduce the issue. If you’re running SharePoint already, make sure that SharePoint is up-to-date with the latest Service Pack. You can find it on Microsoft.com/downloads or by running Microsoft Update from the Windows Home Server Administrator Desktop.

If you have any issues, comments, questions, concerns, or suggestions, please feel free to contact me by using the Contact form available on the right side of this page.

-Tom

Review: Windows 7 Beta – Part 2 – HomeGroup

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 12:30 am

Welcome to Part 2 of my Windows 7 Beta review. In Part 2, I’ll discuss HomeGroup, a new feature aimed at home users wanting to share files and devices on the home network.

Windows 7 has a new feature called HomeGroup. HomeGroup was slated to be in Windows Codename Longhorn (what is now Vista), under the name “Castle.” However, this feature was cut along with many others in 2005 when Microsoft reset development on the Longhorn project. HomeGroup as I like to put it “helps keep sharing simple.” With HomeGroup, you can share documents, pictures, videos, and printers on your network. (Yes, I said printers.) This is shaping up to be a pretty cool feature. HomeGroup requires that all PCs in the group be running Windows 7. From my understanding at this time, and this could change, but it’s looking like there will not be support for HomeGroup features in Windows Vista or Windows XP.  What’s cool about HomeGroup is that everything is shared without using traditional usernames and passwords. All that happens is that when a PC asks to join the HomeGroup they are prompted for the HomeGroup password, and that’s it. The thinking behind this is two-fold. First, the design calls for simplicity, and using a single password for all machines in the group, keeps things simple. Second, since joining a HomeGroup is an “opt-in” feature, the user will want their PC to be a member of the group, and will participate in sharing with other members of the group. HomeGroup has some great potential. Families can share their music, pictures, and video collections with each other, across PCs, and across users. Kids that are working on their research papers can access the printer in the den, all without having to worry about how to add a network printer. I’m sure there are other uses that I’m forgetting right now, but there are definitely many reasons and many uses for HomeGroup. Let’s take a little walkthrough of HomeGroup in all its glory.

By default, during the Out-of-Box-Experience (OOBE) you’ll be asked if you want to create a HomeGroup, or if you’ve already setup a HomeGroup and are adding a new PC to the network, you’ll be asked to join an existing HomeGroup. If you don’t create or join a HomeGroup at OOBE, you can create one through Control Panel or any Windows Explorer window, just by clicking on HomeGroup in the Folders pane. If you want to try out HomeGroup follow these easy steps.

1. Click on Start –> Computer and then in the Computer window click on HomeGroup in the Folder pane

HomeGroup1

2. Click on the Create Now button, and select the types of content you wish to share, then click Create Now.

HomeGroup2

3. After your HomeGroup is created, make note of the password. You’ll need it to add other PCs to the group. After you’ve made note of the password, click Finish to close the window.

HomeGroup3

 

Steps to perform on subsequent PCs:

1. Click on Start –> Computer and then in the Computer window click on HomeGroup in the Folder pane

HomeGroup4

2. Click on Join Now, and when prompted enter the HomeGroup password, then click Next and then click Finish.

HomeGroup5

Welcome to your HomeGroup! You can now browse pictures, music, videos, documents, and printers on your home network.

HomeGroup6  

Each PC will show up under the HomeGroup category by User Name and the machine they’re on, and you can then browse through and find what you’re looking for.

HomeGroup is a great feature and I think it has it’s place in the home. Hopefully we can see HomeGroup support in a future version of Windows Home Server. That would make me really happy.🙂

Tune in tomorrow for Part 3 – Device Stage.

-Tom

February 15, 2009

Review: Windows 7 Beta (Build 7000) – Part 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 12:00 am

Hi All,

Sorry for not posting for awhile. I’ve been busy with school, and have let the blog go stale. Fortunately, I have more time, and will be posting more frequently. I’d like to take the first post of the new year in a different direction. My primary focus is Windows Home Server, but with Windows 7 in the pipeline, I thought that it would be appropriate to offer an initial review. This post will be one of many posts that I will be doing on Windows 7, so stay tuned for all the Windows 7 goodness!

-Tom

P.S. For those of you with issues on SharePoint Calendar syncing, I’m working on trying to reproduce the issue, and try to work to find a fix. Hopefully, I’ll have something soon.

Windows 7 is the latest iteration of the Windows operating system. Built on the same underlying foundation as Windows Vista, Windows 7 provides excellent reliability, security, and many new features.  Some have said that Windows 7 is “Vista done right”, and I am going to say that I 100 percent agree with that sentiment.

Windows 7 offers some unique features, and has some welcome changes from Windows Vista. Part 1 will focus on what I consider to be the three biggest changes in Windows 7. Future parts will focus on other new features, as well as changes to existing features.

Jumplists:

Jumplists are integrated into the Start Menu as well as the new taskbar (referred to internally as Superbar). These Jumplists provide a new way to access recently opened files as well as common tasks in applications. I’m going to be honest, and say that I love Jumplists. They are a great way to perform common tasks, and when you want to get back to a recent file you’ve just opened in a given application, Jumplists help you find your way.

jumplists Figure 1: Start Menu Jumplist detailing tasks for the Getting Started feature of Windows 7.

jumplists2

Figure 2: Jumplist for Internet Explorer showing History of recent websites accessed.

The taskbar (Superbar):

The new taskbar is Windows 7, commonly referred to as Superbar, is in my opinion, a cross between the Mac OS X dock and the classic Windows taskbar. In my time with Superbar so far, I am pleasantly surprised at how much I like it. It’s a great way to easily access applications, and common tasks associated with those applications. Right-click on an application in the Superbar and get a Jumplist for quick access to recent files or access to common tasks. By default, the Superbar is set to show icons only and when you have multiple windows of an application open, it stacks what would be each taskbar icon for each window. It is customizable to show labels, combine when the taskbar is full, or to not show labels at all. It can also be customized to show large or small icons. Below are some screenshots of the Superbar in each state.

superbar1 Figure 3: Superbar in default configuration

superbar2

Figure 4: Superbar set to only combine icons when Taskbar is full.

 User Account Control (UAC):

User Account Control in Windows 7 has been improved significantly, and I mean significantly. No longer does it pop up asking for permission when doing tasks like opening Device Manager, Computer Management, and viewing Advanced System Settings. Windows 7 brings more granular control to how “in your face” User Account Control is. In the below screenshot of System Properties, you’ll notice that the UAC shield is still next to items that in Vista would normally display a UAC dialog. In Windows 7, by default, these items do not require a prompt. However, the shields are still there because if you change the UAC level, you will incur the UAC prompt.

systempropertiesFigure 5: System Properties showing UAC shields

When it comes to more granular control, Windows 7 now has 4 settings for User Account Control. There is Always Notify, Notify me only when programs make changes to my computer (use Secure Desktop), Notify me only when programs make changes to my computer (no Secure Desktop), and never notify. The higher you go with the slider the stricter UAC gets. By default, Windows will only notify you when programs make changes to your computer, and will use Secure Desktop to display the notifications. Secure Desktop is a feature that is designed to prevent malicious code from circumventing UAC. User Account Control in Windows 7 is a major improvement over Windows Vista. I think that most users will be satisfied with the changes.

uacsettings Figure 6: User Account Control Settings in Windows 7

User Account Control, the new taskbar, and jumplists, are three of the newest most notable features in Windows 7. I think they all have great benefits, and provide a lot of value. However, I do wish that instead of reviving the “Classic” Start Menu, there would be an option for the Vista like taskbar. Other than that, I’m liking what I’m seeing so far. Windows 7 has great potential.

Stay tuned for Part two which will cover Homegroup, Device Stage, and built-in apps and gadgets.

-Tom

August 30, 2008

Join in the fun on Facebook!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 6:38 pm

If you are an avid Facebook user come on and join the Windows Home Server page! This page will be updated with event information, event photos (as I can get them and permission to post them), and much more!

http://www.new.facebook.com/pages/Windows-Home-Server/12129340515

-Tom

Tip – for SharePoint Database Move Scripts

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 6:30 pm

Hi All,

I know it has been a long time since I last blogged. I’ve decided that I need to get back to regular blogging and now that I have the free time I can. To start us back off, I’m going to post a tip for using the SharePoint Database move scripts.

Some of you have contacted me saying that you haven’t been able to run the scripts because it fails saying the database can not be found. Usually this is because the script is hard coded to look for ‘SERVER’ as the server name, and you are using a different name for your server. I apologize for not making that clear in the documentation and for the delayed response on this, but I’d rather get the information out then see people turned away from the blog. I will be updating the guide with this information soon.

To Change the Server name referenced in DB move scripts:

1. Open sharepoint.sql in Notepad

2. Modify the bolded sections with the name of your server. Then save the SQL script and follow the SharePoint guide as normal.

EXEC sp_detach_db @dbname = ‘WSS_Search_SERVER

go

EXEC sp_attach_db @dbname = ‘WSS_Search_SERVER‘, @filename1 = ‘D:\SharePointDB\WSS_Search_SERVER.mdf’, @filename2 = ‘D:\SharePointDB\WSS_Search_SERVER_log.ldf’

go

Happy SharePointing!

-Tom

UPDATE 2/16/09: I’ve updated the information above to properly reflect the script as distributed and the possible changes one might need to make.

June 9, 2008

Windows Home Server Power Pack 1 RC4 now available!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 4:23 pm

Today the Windows Home Server team released Windows Home Server Power Pack 1. This build has the much awaited fix for KB946676 (the data corruption bug), as well has new features.

Download the build @ http://connect.microsoft.com/WindowsHomeServer

For information about what’s new in Power Pack 1, please visit:

http://forums.microsoft.com/WindowsHomeServer/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=3448644&SiteID=50

Thanks!

-Tom

May 26, 2008

Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Tech Edit Request

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 2:46 pm

Hi all,

For anyone who is interested, I have uploaded the new version of the SharePoint how-to guide to my SkyDrive for anyone who would like to help test and help to edit the guide.

The database move scripts assume that your server is named SERVER. If you server is named something different, you will need to edit sharepoint.sql, and replace all instances of SERVER with your server name.

Screenshots for installation will come later. I would like to have the actual content perfected first, and I’ll add the screenshots in for the final publish of the guide.

I recommend that only those that are interested in testing the guide download and use. I am not responsible for any data loss, or other issues arising from the download or use of this guide.

Guide updates:

· Updated to use installer for WSS w/ SP1

· Includes steps for changing the database and search locations for SQL and WSS

· Fixed typos

· Removed bug in Alternate Access Mappings directions

· Using SharePoint Database Move Scripts provided by Ken Warren (Thanks Ken! )

If you run into issues or have comments, please comment here or send me an email at tziegmann at homeserverblogger dot com

Download SharePoint How-to

Download SharePoint Database Move Scripts

UPDATE 2/16/09: Thanks to everybody who offered their feedback on the SharePoint Guide. Please refer to this post for more information about the current SharePoint on Windows Home Server guide.

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