I just completed a fun project hooking up a dedicated low power, shoebox sized Windows Home Server to a University of California, Riverside project called QCN, or Quake Catcher Network. My home server now measures vibrations and sends the results to a central network. Very cool.
If you have a home server (or any recommended PC/laptop) and live in an area where the ground shakes a lot, you may want to take a look at using some of those cycles when your server is idle. More details on my setup and project at http://tekinerd.com/?page_id=123.
I’ve been running a Windows Home Server for about 2 years now using a low cost VIA based home built system, and I’m very happy with it. Just a few examples of how useful it’s been:
- I’ve used it to rescue my laptop twice from a corrupt C: drive
- Temporarily rollback my laptop to a point 9 month earlier to find a lost email
- Restore the family gaming machine more than once due to excessive build up of internet “plug ins”
- Create a set of bootable images for my various test servers so I don’t have to update to the latest OS as my master CD/DVD is getting old
Though the backup capability is nice (I have a lot active PCs in my house), the real value of WHS came home to me when I needed to find some old emails from 9 months back that I thought I’d kept when upgrading my laptop from Windows XP to Vista. My home server had been configured to keep both the old XP backups I’d been making regularily up until Nov 2009, then it was keeping a new set (under the same PC name) for the newer Vista Operating system I’d installed.
Here’s the steps I went through to get my now Windows Vista laptop temporaily reverted back to it’s Nov 2009 Windows XP state:
- Manual/instant backup of my current laptop
- Insert WHS provided Home Restore CD and reboot my laptop
- Let the restore program boot up (which can take up to 5 minutes….)
- When asked to select which machine, select the version of my laptop that contained the Nov 2009 Windows XP backup
- Click restore and let it run through it’s 1.5 hr process of copying everything back to my hard drive (blowing the exiting Vista copy away)
- Reboot the laptop back to it’s Nov 09 state and recover the needed files onto one of the WHS network directories I needed
- Reboot again with the Home Restore CD and restore the Vista backup I’d made earlier
A long winded process that took several hours (actually left some of it running over night on the last restore step), but it did the trick and worked pretty nicely. Of course, not as nice and instant as the Apple Time Machine (which wouldn’t have been able to go back to a prior OS install), but achieved the same functionality.
I have a Supermicro based motherboard which I installed several months ago in a test server and was delighted with the built base management which allowed me to do 100% of the pre-boot, OS install and applications installs remotely from my laptop over my LAN. Firing up via the dedicated Ethernet management port and a standard web browser couldn’t have been easier (once I’d figured out the default user and password).
Then I fired up the new Dell T110 server a few weeks later with the similar sounding iDRAC. I have to confess up front here that I’m not a Dell OpenManage guru, but I’ve come to personally expect a certain amount of simplicity with any type of management interface and given the amount of initial installation, downloading and reading through web sites and manuals, my initial reaction is that iDRAC is not yet ready for the lowly end user/SMB class of user. I basically went from a really simple to use interface on the SuperMicro that was pretty much self explanatory, to several hours of learning of which software to download for my Dell (I purchased without an OS so was provided no driver CD when it arrived). Once I identified what I thought was the right software, I’m still working on it. Hopefully I’ll get it going soon when I have a few spare hours and can report better results, but for now, the SuperMicro approach seems to be working much better for me.
I think keep-it-simple for us “stupid” users (KISS) is the operative word here and may have been lost somewhere in the OEM community …. Hopefully they can take a lesson from the simpler approach adopted by the SuperMicro (and other similar approaches using the same technology).
Check out the Server Pages for more information on my experiences with the Supermicro remote server management approach here.