An example of why WHS needs to emphasize more than just media RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • I'm one of the people that thinks WHS needs to emphasize its power features and extensibility and not try so hard pretending to be dumbed-down to be just another NAS/(not all that capable) Media Server hidden behind the WHS Console. (Oh, and how dare you think about RDPing into it. And don't be thinking about using any WHS power features or installing services on it. And don't ever expect SVC working with DEM. Home users don't need or want or deserve any of that stuff. If you are interested in any of that you are just not the target for this product.)

    Another camp heard from:

    "Don’t get us wrong: The MediaSmart Server is a very good product, and the Windows Home Server OS is capable. But with a slew of media-centric NAS drives on the horizon that are just as promising, we can’t see a bright future for this platform."

    From: "WHAT WAS A BUST? Windows Home Server"
    • Edited by Dick Watson Sunday, January 11, 2009 8:07 PM fix typos
    Saturday, January 10, 2009 9:48 PM

All replies

  • I could't agree with you more. I did not pay all that money just to serve up files.

    I previously owned a Linksys NSLU2 NAS device which I loaded an opensource OS on. It was cool but it was linux based and I am a .NET Developer so I wanted a windows based OS.

    I try to use all my hardware to its full extent. If I have a Windows 2003 Server around you better believe that I am going to load some apps on it!
    Tuesday, January 13, 2009 5:56 PM
  • I agree that WHS has a lot of under-the-hood features and potential, but IMO the "dumb box" emphasis is appropriate. I am not an IT professional, but know enough to be dangerous. With Small Business Server in my background, I inadvertently broke and re-broke my trial copy of WHS; ended up installed it 3 times (actually maybe that's typical). Anyway, I think the cautious tone from frequent posters on this forum is good. Makes me do more research when I'm considering a new use for WHS.

    That said, I really did enjoy RDCing into WHS, installing a few printers and an all-in-one (even get scans via RDC), figuring out what undocumented stuff I could do over an internet connection to WHS, and generally poking my nose in all over the place looking for a neat new use. There, I just destroyed my own argument!

    BTW Kudos to this community. You folks are great...   Jeff
    Wednesday, January 14, 2009 2:25 PM
  • I think that in order for MS to market share with WHS they needed to appeal to the average user. That is probably why you get the "dumb box" impression. The great thing about WHS is that you can simply plug it in and never have to worry about it. However, if you like to tinker you can significantly extend its functionality by installing add-ins or full-fledged apps.
    It is really cool to see what people are doing with their home server. Keep us posted if you come up with any more cool ideas!

    Wednesday, January 14, 2009 3:24 PM
  • Well this item from the WHS team blog sums up the issue very nicely. 

    Even dumbed down without media features it is way cooler than a plain NAS. Drive extender, duplication, auto backup, remote access(with autoconfig), indexing...... I used to use FreeNAS on an old PC before. It was pretty good but after a while all the manual stuff gets tiring. Think about splitting your files manually if you dont have sufficient space on one drive. That feature and duplication by themselves are worth every cent of WHS.

    Anything that doesnt have a self limiting factor is of the devil.
    Wednesday, January 14, 2009 4:31 PM
  • I agree in the static sense of what the offerings were a year ago, WHS is far superior to things like the stock NetSLUg. (Hey, I didn't spend the money building a 3TB WHS box because I didn't believe in the product!) The plain NAS boxes will catch up to WHS in these areas rapidly. And in some of these areas, WHS isn't half as good as it brags. Media Serving comes to mind. All of the networked media devices in my house make happy with Vista as a server. The bag is a WHOLE LOT more mixed with WHS as the server.

    Also some of the things they claim in that blog post are pretty happy talk. WHS as an extensible platform? Sure for WHS-specific developed stuff. There is TONS of stuff you CAN successfully extend it with that will NEVER be WHS-ified and EVERY BIT of it is "UNSUPPORTED" and will earn you the "you shouldn't do it" and "it'll violate the EULA" and so on rath. Just read some of the postings here. WHS health monitoring of clients? Well, it's better than nothing but can't hold a candle to what was going on in the (departed) OneCare offering. Family web sites? Yah right. And if that web site grows bigger than REALLY SMALL you will resize the 20GB WHS system partition to support it HOW? Oh, and you will back it up HOW? Yes, WHS has the full features of IIS6 but 95% of it is hidden/unsupported/un-WHS-ified. (Frequent posters here would probably remind us that using 90% of those features makes for an EULA violation besides.) Search? Try to do a search on the WHS box itself. Just try.

    WHS is a GREAT client backup solution and decent network storage. And it's very simple for the bulk of the target audience to get that much functionality out of. (But I can serve a share off Vista and have previous versions--can't do that from WHS. And I can serve up a printer with Vista without violating EULA or using some "UNSUPPORTED" feature like RDP to set it up.)

    I guess my point was that WHS has the underpinnings to be SO MUCH MORE than any of the NAS boxes will ever be but Microsoft is trying incredibly hard to keep these capabilities locked away behind restrictive licenses and dumbing down and "not supported". Some of the motives are reasonable--mostly driven what the vast majority of "home users" are ready for which is not much at all. Others are just pure profit protection driven by the desire to keep WHS out of more profitable market spaces. Those reasons I have more issue with.
    Wednesday, January 14, 2009 7:49 PM
  • I should add:

    For those of us with an investment in WHS who would like to see it be successful and continue to be vigorously developed, none of this will matter a whit in the long term if Microsoft doesn't SELL A LOT OF COPIES. The biggest contraint to this is probably not whether it is dumbed down or not or on what features it has or doesn't have. It probably comes down to price. And the biggest factor in price, probably by a long shot, has to be the BoM costs for a box that can run it. From this point of view, it would probably have been a better choice to build WHS on top of WinCE which can run on $10 worth of hardware--think NetSLUg--than on WS03R2 which takes $75 or $100 worth.

    Microsoft Money, to name one, is slowly dying because they can't sell enough copies of it at $30 to make a decent return. $30. And what's an HP MSS selling for? Managing personal finances is something that ranks very high on the list of things people say they would like to do with their home computers. I wonder where "serving media" and "remote access" and so on rank?
    Wednesday, January 14, 2009 8:38 PM
  • I really think that technologies like Drive Extender could be useful with a variety of Windows operating systems. Is it really necessary to limit this technology to just the HomeServer OS?

    Perhaps it could be sold as a separate software package. In any case, if the WHS product line does not survive the technologies developed for it should not be forgotten. I would love to see a shrink wrapped software package from Microsoft that would allow you to add "WHS functionality" to a XP or Vista machine.
    Wednesday, January 14, 2009 8:58 PM
  • Sorry to disappoint, Dick, but Windows Home Server is a success in the marketplace. HP has sold tons of MediaSmart Servers, and Microsoft has sold several times that in system builder software. It may not be what you thought it would be, or what you wanted it to be, but it appears to be something that a lot of people need (or think they need).

    I see no reason to believe that the product is going to die any time soon. Eventually? Sure, or it will morph into something so unlike what it is today that it will effectively not be WHS any more. But not soon.

    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Thursday, January 15, 2009 12:42 PM
  • I'm completely at a loss why you would say "sorry to disappoint".
    Thursday, January 15, 2009 1:23 PM
  • Dick Watson said:

    I'm completely at a loss why you would say "sorry to disappoint".

    To be honest, you are (recently) quite enthusiastic about the shortcomings of Windows Home Server, as you see them. And you seem enthusiastic about the reasons you think it's a failure. I am providing a contrary opinion.
    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Thursday, January 15, 2009 3:30 PM
  • I am not "enthusiastic" about WHS shortcomings or about any prospect for it less than unqualified commercial success. But I am realistic and not a WHS cheerleader without regard to facts on the ground. I also have never suggested WHS is a failure nor expressed enthusiasm for that coming to pass. (I have no insight into sales or, perhaps more important, market share relative to what MS/HP perceive to be the competition.) I am concerned WHS might become insignificant or irrelevant in the marketplace at some point and know from first hand experience that when a Microsoft product becomes that, users dependent on that product tend to end up in the cold. (Being concerned about making bets on bleeding-edge technology seems to be a way of life for me as an early adopter. At one point in 1983 I was concerned about my investment in Compact Disc Digital Audio. I hope WHS works out as well.)


    If the intent of this forum is only happy talk--WHS can do no wrong and there are no bugs only features--then perhaps I will just move on. Say the word.


    Since you raised my needs and WHS's satisfaction of them.


    Needs that led me to WHS, in declining order of priority:


    1) client backup solution

    2) platform for services migrating from an aging Win2kPro machine--server functions include printer serving for one USB connected printer, mail relay, and web site development/test platform for a very small website that uses PHP and MySQL.

    3) consolidation of multiple client data shares to a single server


    My grading of WHS's satisfaction of these needs:


    Backup: A- -- WHS is a great solution to client backup. I have had occasion to do a full restore of one client and was very pleased with the results. My two reservations: 1) lack of support for backing up the backup DB, preferrably just the latest cummulative image for each backed up client, off-site for disaster recovery, 2) I see occasional inexplicable and non-repeatable client backup failures. E.g., just last night one XP client failed to backup: "Backup server failed". That client has been the least troublesome over time of all four of my clients and has not failed to backup in many months. I'm probably seeing one backup failure in every 200 or so attempts. And the diagnostic information is generally about that helpful.


    Services host: B+ -- WHS has been capable of everything I wanted to move to it. My issues here are: 1) not a WHS issue, per se, but there seems to be a belief among some in the WHS community that users really shouldn't be using their WHS in these ways and a tendecy toward discouragement or dismissal of these use cases. 2) I'm beginning to suspect--based on postings here primarily by you--that I'm probably somehow violating my EULA by using these features in WHS. I confess, I've never read the WHS EULA. (Life is too short to read hundreds of these each year; besides, there's never a "Negotiate" button.) But I infer that the WHS EULA must say something about not using any feature on the CD but not accessible via the WHS Console. It is not my intent to violate the EULA. 3) I am concerned that the general direction seems to be that Microsoft will, indeed should, disable the ability to use WHS in these ways at some future point. (E.g., disable RDP.) There seems to be a belief that this is a Good Thing amongst some in the WHS community. Neither Apple nor Vista/Win7 go out of their way to disable or "unsupport" powerful and flexible features for geeks who know where to look "under the covers" just to make their products "easy to use" for the "average user". Why we should think doing just that in WHS a good thing escapes me. 4) By virtue of things like the lack of support for system backup and the fixed and immutable size of the system partition, some of these things are at greater risk or require greater care than I'd prefer.


    Shares server: B- -- Exporting an SMB share is not rocket science, so the grading curve starts pretty high here. My only issue, now that PP1 supports offsite backup of the shares data for disaster recovery, is the lack of support for "previous versions". I expected this was a given for WHS in that a) it's enabled by default, b) Vista can serve shares this way, c) WS03R2 can serve shares this way. But it's broken in WHS. And some members of the WHS community appear to think this is entirely to the good in the name of keeping WHS safe for "average users" and perfectly acceptable as a necessary trade for DEM. Both disappoint me.


    Extra credit:


    Media serving: C -- It was not an initial requirement for my WHS deployment. But it gets marketed a lot and I have acquired a number of home entertainment devices in the past fifteen months that support media networking so I thought I'd try it. Perhaps I'm just too ignorant about all of the details here--I've confessed as much in all related postings--but I was SURPRISED and, yes, disappointed to discover that all of the box top blurbs about WHS as a Media Server* omitted the disclaimer: * not nearly as compatible or interoperable with the less than two year old devices you just happen to own as the older Microsoft O/S named Windows Vista.

    Thursday, January 15, 2009 4:34 PM
  • Dick, could you drop me a line in email? I'd like to continue the dicsussion, but I think we're getting really far afield from the main purpose of this forum, helping people who have problems or questions.

    My address is in my profile here; just remove the anti-spam device.

    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Thursday, January 15, 2009 10:57 PM
  • Will do ASAP.
    Thursday, January 15, 2009 11:56 PM
  • Since I already broke the cork on my lurker status on a previous post, I can say I am totally in Dick's camp here.  I am an enthusiastic supporter of WHS and praise it whenever I can.  But, on the realistic side, we can all theorize on Microsoft marketing strategies and recognize things could be done better for our favorite product.  (Well, it ranks up there anyway.)

    Now having read the rumors on WHS 2, code named: Vail ... it seems profit protection may slowly heed concessions in the traditional model of providing never ending re-licensing revenues in exchange for that next killer feature (which could have been added much earlier).

    I enjoyed your posts and can only say ditto.  Great discussion topic.

    Friday, January 16, 2009 5:15 AM
  • Wow. Well I dont really know what else to say because Dick said it all. I just wanted to throw in that I agree with you Dick. You hit the nail on the head. Just makes me feel better to know I am not the only one that feels this way about WHS.

    On a side note: I am happy to report that I have actually been able to make it through well over a month without having to re-install the WHS OS. Thats the first time that has happened since I started using WHS. Lets see if it continues to hold up for me when I do my client restore this evening.
    Friday, January 16, 2009 3:50 PM