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Which Network PC Needs WSH? RRS feed

  • Question

  • I'm not sure where to start, but here's what I want to do.  I have several computers around the house running Microsoft's media center edition with assorted TV tuners in them.  Well, I guess, to cut to the chase here - I want to watch TV, without commercials, from bed.  Or the office.  Or whereever I am in the house where there is a capable Windows 7 PC installed.

    I have 2 PCs that are nearly new (< 1 year old) running Windows 7 & Media Center.  One is going to be using the living room TV as it's console, so I won't be able to access it as much.  The other is in my office.  Both have adequate hard drives (~500 GB free) and to further complicate things I have a Netgear ReadyNAS that I was hoping could be used to shuttle the media.

    Which leads me to ask - which computer should WHS be installed upon?  The actual media center one or the office PC?  I was leaning towards putting it on the one that is our primary TV recorder (hooked to the set top box), but then I read that WHS can help with doing network backups and so on, I then began to think that maybe the one in the office would be a better place to have it running?

    I am very new to this concept on a home computer network, although I work with Microsoft Servers every day and understand the differences between a client and a server.  Probably the answer it so "buy another computer!" and if my wife hears that she'll just die.


    Steve
    Sunday, October 4, 2009 2:36 PM

All replies

  • Steve:

    Tell your wife to cover her ears for a moment. WHS is a server OS and is not intended as a client OS. While it can serve admirably as a file server for storing your video content, it won't run Media Center; you have to run that on your client PCs.

    However, the hardware requirements for WHS are modest. If you have an old machine that you can dedicate to be the WHS box, then that's your best bet. I'm currently running WHS on a small form-factor PC with a Pentium-M based motherboard, 1 GB of RAM, and an 80 GB notebook hard disk together with a 1 TB storage disk. The entire system consumes less than 40 W when the big disk spins down, so I don't mind leaving it on 24/7. If you can build a PC from parts that you have lying around then your wife won't have to die.
    Sunday, October 4, 2009 3:51 PM
  • Ok, I happen to have an old Linux box sitting in the attic and at least 4 HDs that could be deployed.  This raises just a few more questions:

    1.  Does it need any OS on it at all or just WHS PP3 will do it?  Sounds like this is just like Windows Server 200x in that it has Windows functionality but not some things and more of others.  I guess I was confused about what constitutes a Media Center Server if such a thing even exists - just a place to watch TV and collect media files for dictrubtion to other TVs.  I would have expected that it could serve up TV and so I thought the WHS was just an add-on, but it's an OS all to its own, eh?

    2.  Can I access it without having a monitor on it?  What about a keyboard?  I envision that it would eventually just sit in a closet somewhere.  The features imply that you can manage it remotely, but should I be prepared to use Remote Desktop and RDP into the box that way?  Is that hard to do in Windows 7 on a home network? 

    I'll have to see what kind of processor is in there.  Some kind of an AMD from 3 to 5 years ago.  Thanks for your help - saved me from making a big mistake on my newly built HTPC.

    Steve
    Sunday, October 4, 2009 4:17 PM
  • Steve:

    1. Windows Home Server is a complete OS and is based on Server 2003. PP3 is similar to a service pack, although PP3 is still in Beta. PP2 is the current service pack level. And yes, WHS will serve content to a Media Center PC. Each client PC needs a program called Windows Home Server Connector installed on it, and there is an additional program to install on each Media Center PC in order to fully function with WHS backup and Media Center, respectively.

    2. Yes, the server can be headless. The commercial Home Server hardware sold by HP and others are headless. Most administration can be done via the client PCs after installing WHS Connector on them. The connector includes a console app which is just an RDP session without the added bells and whistles. You can also RDP directly into the server from any OS that supports RDP.

    Most of the PCs on my network are running Windows 7, but I do have an older XP machine also. Setup has been relatively simple, other than I made it a little more complicated by wanting to have certificate-based SSH remote access capability instead of the built-in SSL-based remote access, so I first needed to get Cygwin up and running. But that's just me. Most people probably just use the built-in remote access capability for accessing their WHS from outside the home.

    Sunday, October 4, 2009 5:15 PM
  • Steve:

    1. Windows Home Server is a complete OS and is based on Server 2003. PP3 is similar to a service pack, although PP3 is still in Beta. PP2 is the current service pack level. And yes, WHS will serve content to a Media Center PC. Each client PC needs a program called Windows Home Server Connector installed on it, and there is an additional program to install on each Media Center PC in order to fully function with WHS backup and Media Center, respectively.

    2. Yes, the server can be headless. The commercial Home Server hardware sold by HP and others are headless. Most administration can be done via the client PCs after installing WHS Connector on them. The connector includes a console app which is just an RDP session without the added bells and whistles. You can also RDP directly into the server from any OS that supports RDP.

    Most of the PCs on my network are running Windows 7, but I do have an older XP machine also. Setup has been relatively simple, other than I made it a little more complicated by wanting to have certificate-based SSH remote access capability instead of the built-in SSL-based remote access, so I first needed to get Cygwin up and running. But that's just me. Most people probably just use the built-in remote access capability for accessing their WHS from outside the home.


    To clarify one of Mark's points:  although you can use RDC to reach the server desktop, it's unsupported and, unless you're troubleshooting some problem or installing an app on your server (which is also unsupported), it's not necessary.
    Sunday, October 4, 2009 7:25 PM
    Moderator
  • I can probably get by with using the Connector and not going to the console.  Interesting about using certificate based SSH with Cygwin for remote access.   I presume it's more secure than the built-in SSL?
    Tuesday, October 13, 2009 4:15 AM
  • To answer you question I installed WHS on the server and have a Vista Home Premium / Media Center PC as the Home Theater PC (HTPC).

    Streaming media (music, movies, pictures etc) from your server to your client pc's is nothing new. There are various ways of doing this with either hardware (XBox 360, PS3 etc) and software (Tversity, PlayOn, Windows Media Center etc). Each box (PS3,XBox) has advantages and dis-advantages and unfortunately it is going to be up to you to decide exactly how much you are wiling to invest in time and dollars.

    There are TV's out there that have networking built in ... high end Pioneer and others but you will have to figure out what video file types that they will playback. My Pioneer will play back MP4s but the decompression of the data stream is too slow for a good picture on the large screen, lots of pixelation - blockiness... mpg's play just fine plus you get 5.1 surround sound. The whole codec (compression/decompression) is a universe to itself.

    I have been playing with PS3's / TVersity and Playon Media server software... both do the job as advertised. TVersity will transcode on the fly to the PS3 and is a very slick system and the best thing it is free. I have 3 PS3's that can stream media to each of the TV's that they are hooked up to. Through trial and error I have put WHS on the server which btw, runs both the Tversity and PlayOn software and all that is required to playback is turn the TV - PS3 on, select the media streaming server, select what I want to stream and press the Enter button on the PS3 remote. A problem rises when it does not work... what is the problem and how do you go about figuring if it is the server, the LAN, the client pc or the media from the internet... It is very frustrating if the wife wants to watch something and it is "broke" and you need to "fix" it... now.

    If I can find an XBox 360 cheap enough I will buy it and play with that format but from what I have heard is that it requires additional hardware purchases to do what the PS3 does out of the box...
    Tuesday, October 13, 2009 7:07 AM
  • ...Interesting about using certificate based SSH with Cygwin for remote access.   I presume it's more secure than the built-in SSL?
    In my opinion, yes. I do not want port 443 on my network open to the world and I do not trust password-based login schemes; passwords can be guessed or dictionary-attacked. Instead: SSH can use a private port, can refuse password-based login attempts, and can require a remote user to have two items in their possession before being granted access; a certificate file and knowledge of a secret passphrase (something you own and something you know). For more info search for "WHS + SSH".
    Tuesday, October 13, 2009 12:11 PM
  • I would echo some of what Glamisman said - there may be better ways at getting at your content than having PCs all over the place.  In an ideal world WHS would also work as a media server where you could put in a bunch of TV tuners and also use it as a file server.  For some reason MS decided not to do this.  However you can do similar things with other apps.

    I am using SageTV which is a Media Center app - essentially quite similar to Win MC.  The advantage is that SageTV Media Center will install on WHS.  I have a WHS server in my basement running SageTV connected to 2-HD cable boxes, one SD cable box and an OTA tuner.  THis box has 6.6 TB of disk and also has all of my ripped DVDs, other video files, music, photos, etc.

    Throughout my house I have 4 Sage HD Theater extenders.  These extenders can play all of the media from my server, including live TV.  The extenders are the size of a small book and cost $180.  They are also plug and play devices - not futzing around required.

    Sage also lets you use PCs as clients that connect to other Media Center PCs - ie. you can watch live TV from a tuner on a different Media Center PC.  For some reason MS has never implemented this in Media Center even though it has a code name "softsled".  Sage also has a Placeshifting client that allows you to play your content over the internet - very nice if you travel a lot.

    Sage is not as pretty as Win7 MC but it has much more functionality and is much more "open" to add-ons.  You might want to look into it.
    Saturday, October 17, 2009 11:24 PM