Thursday, December 17, 2009

Understanding and Set Up of Remote Access to your Windows Home Server

Hi, I’m Sean Daniel, and I’m a Program Manager who works on Windows Home Server and Windows Small Business Server. I am one of the team members that works on Remote Access, and I wanted to blog today about setting up and understanding remote access in Windows Home Server, as well as call out a few “gotchas” to be careful of.

Let’s start with the basics.

Windows Home Server provides so many functions for the local network, it’s easy to overlook that it also provides an extended set of features for when you’re not at home. While Windows Home Server attempts to make this set up process as easy as possible, but some users still hit issues that the Home Server can’t predict.  I’ll address those issues at the end of this post.

Understanding Remote Access

Before we set up remote access, let’s take a second to understand what’s going on. Think, for a second, as the Internet as … Read more at the Windows Home Server Team Blog.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Get Windows Home Server Power Pack 3 on November 24th!

According to the Official Windows Home Server blog, Windows Home Server Power Pack 3 will be available for install on November 24th!

The Windows Home Server Team is pleased to announce that Power Pack 3 will be available in all shipping languages (Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish) on November 24th, 2009. Power Pack 3 will be made available to existing users via Windows Update. Users need to have Windows Home Server with Power Pack 2 already installed on their home server. Power Pack 3 will automatically install as part of Windows Update if Automatic Updates is enabled on the home server.

Details on what’s new:

Windows 7 Backup & Recovery

While backup of Windows 7 clients worked prior to Power Pack 3, there were definitely some noticeable problems, such as when a Windows 7 PC was sleeping, when it woke up, there was no guarantee it would do the backup or not.  Having run Power Pack 3 for the past week, my two Windows 7 PCs haven’t missed a backup yet!  Additionally it suppresses that pesky Windows 7 backup warning designed for single PC homes!

Windows 7 PC Backup support

Windows 7 Libraries

If you haven’t used Windows 7  Libraries yet, you’re missing out.  On my Netbook I added the Home Server shares in myself, since there is no data there.  I was happy to discover this is done automatically for me on my other PCs now and I can access all my data with a simple CTRL+E without having to use the handy Share Master gadget.

Windows 7 Library Support

Windows Search

Windows Search 4 is included, which drastically increases the speed at which you can search shares from Windows 7 clients (and other clients with Windows Search 4 installed).  Additionally, EFS encrypted files are supported!

Windows Search

Windows Media Center TV Archiving

If you have a Windows Media Center in your home (which I don’t), then you’ll be easily able to Archive your TV to your home server.  Did you like that episode of “How I met your Mother”?  Save it without using valuable recording space on your MCE!  Additionally, you can get statistics such as storage space, backup status, etc right from your Media Center

Media Center Improvements

So, Tuesday night when you get home from work, you might want to check out Microsoft Update and get this little gem of free upgrade software for your Home Server.

Here’s what the MVPs are saying:

If you've recently upgraded to Windows 7, Windows Home Server Power Pack 3 is an essential download providing enhanced integration between the two platforms and a number of cool new features. Combine library support with enhanced features for Windows Media Center, and we're really starting to see Microsoft bring together the Windows Home Server and Windows 7 client experience so that your media can be stored on your home server and enjoyed seamlessly on TV, PC and Mobile devices with little effort from the user. The bad old days of copy, paste, convert and transcode may well be behind us,” says Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP) Terry Walsh of We Got Served.

Microsoft MVP Alex Kuretz of says “Windows Home Server Power Pack 3 makes storing and accessing your media easier by bringing all the content contained on your Home Server smoothly into your Windows 7 libraries. TV Archive is also a very nice feature that has allowed me to record TV shows and move them to my Home Server to be watched at a later time.”

Trackback: Windows Home Server Blog.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Windows SBS 2008 Hands-On-Labs available for download from MS Connect


Have you been wanting to get some hands-on experience with Windows Small Business Server 2008 but weren’t sure how to get started? We have just the thing! Four hands-on-labs for SBS 2008 are available for download from Microsoft Connect: Administration, Managing Clients, Installation, and Migration from SBS 2003. To take advantage of these labs, you will need a test server with at least 4GB of RAM running Microsoft Hyper-V Server or Windows Server 2008 with the Hyper-V role installed.

To download the labs, use your Live ID to login to Microsoft Connect, select Connection Directory, and enter the invitation code SBSP-62B6-K3TH, which will give you access via the SBS 2008 Downloads page. In addition to gaining access to these labs, joining the MS Connect community is a great way to stay informed and up-to-date about the latest developments with SBS 2008 and interact with some our most active and knowledgeable partners.



If you want to join the program directly, you can Click this link to jump right in!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Managing Hyper-V servers from Windows 7

Hyper-V and virtualization seems to be one of the most versatile ways to run servers and clients these days.  Single piece of hardware, many different machines.  For me, Hyper-V is really my primary test environment for building Windows Small Business Server and Windows Home Server.

To date I constantly am using Remote Desktop to connect to my virtual server, at which point I can connect to all my different machines.  While I could connect via remote desktop to all the machines, they are on a separate, network connection behind a router, and it’s just been easier to connect to one machine to get access to them all.

Well, I have recently discovered the Hyper-V Management tool, which is a part of the Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 7.  This manually installed Windows Update package enables the server administration tools to be installed via the turning Windows Features on or off in the Control Panel.

Turn Windows features on or off

Once you’ve installed the MSI, simply click on this section of the control panel and choose the remote administration tools you want, I chose the Hyper-V tools

Windows Features

Once this is finished installing, you get the familiar Hyper-V console, and you can open the machines on your client, and make changes directly.

My only caution is to make sure you continue to keep the host patched and up to date from Windows Update.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Big Easy Offer is back – Limited time

Woa, just received the U.S Partner newsletter and noticed that the Big Easy Offer is back!  This means that for a limited time (until January 2010), the Big Easy gives customers a choice when purchasing Microsoft products and solutions.

They get the right solution, and earn money back in the form of partner subsidy funds which can be used to implement their Microsoft solution.

Check it out at the Microsoft Partner Network.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Java With John – Windows Home Server Chat

Windows Home Server had some air time on Java with John.  John takes the time to interview Jonas (A community program manager) and Steven (a marketing manager). 

Launch the interview here

This show can be found in the Archives of Java wit John, for October 2009.

The talk covers a bit of how-to, and an overview of Windows Home Server with Jonas.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

How to Import your Facebook Events Calendar into your Personal Calendar

Facebook has really taken off these days, especially for keeping in touch with friends, family and things you Like.  I’ve been invited to Halloween parties, Soccer matches, Work events, pretty much any invite these days comes in through Facebook.  It’s taken over as the new social scheduling calendar.

Unfortunately for many of us, that means copying the details out of the Facebook calendar and into the one we use most primarily.  As you probably guess, I use Outlook/Exchange for my work functions, but for my home and personal events, I use Windows Live Calendar..

Recently I stumbled across a post from Sean Bonner on how to import your Facebook events into Google Calendar, discovered through one of my favorite blogs, LifeHacker.  All Sean is using is the iCal format, and not only Google Calendar supports this format.  In fact, most things do!  So I’m going to expand on his instructions, and provide you the same instructions for Outlook 2007/2010 and Windows Live.  Additionally I copied his steps for Google to have them all in one place.

Here’s how I did it.  First we need to get the iCAL internet link from Facebook:

  1. In Facebook, Go to your Events page
  2. At the top of this page, click Export Events, Facebook will give you a URL for the iCAL of your private events function.
  3. Don’t click and save the ICAL file, simply copy the link to your clipboard

 Facebook iCAL export

At this point you’re ready to import this link into a number of different calendar programs, choose the one that you use:

Windows Live Calendar

Windows Live Calendar is where I keep all my personal events, so I’m going to show this one first.

  1. Open your Live Calendar
  2. Click the Subscribe button at the very top of the page

Windows Live Calendar

  1. Paste the Facebook iCAL link from above into the Calendar URL
  2. Give it a calendar name, I called it “Facebook Calendar”
  3. Click subscribe, and then Done on the next page

The Windows Live Calendar will refresh every 24-hours from the Facebook feed.  Mine refreshed around midnight PST and then took another day to update.

Outlook 2007

  1. Flip to the Calendar mode and choose File and Import and Export…
  2. Select to Import an iCalendar (.ics) or vCalendar file (.vcs) and click Next.
  3. A familiar dialog will open asking you for a file name.  Paste in the Facebook iCAL URL from above and click Open
  4. The next dialog offers you a choice to import as a new or into your current calendar.  If you import into your current calendar, you can’t quickly remove it.  So I choose as Open as New.
  5. Outlook then names your calendar in the “Other Calendars” section based on the URL, To fix that, I right-clicked on this and choose Properties.
  6. I just chose a name and typed that in, such as “Facebook” Outlook 2007 Properties
  7. Chose OK

Now you’ll see your Facebook calendar next to your other calendar and you can drag and drop the ones you want into your actual calendar (if you want it on your Windows Mobile phone for example).  You can also turn this calendar on and off.

The challenge here is I don’t think that Outlook 2007 will auto-refresh this one, at least I can’t figure out why mine won’t refresh.  Seems to me like an area the Office team has improved on (given the Beta of 2010).

Outlook 2010

Outlook 2010 is still in Beta, so these steps might change slightly.  This is much simpler than Outlook 2007

  1. Change to the Calendar mode and select the down arrow next to Open Calendar, then select From the Internet


  1. Paste in the Facebook iCAL URL from above and choose OK.
  2. Click the Advanced… button, given the folder name the name of the calendar like “Facebook” and click OK.
  3. Click Yes to subscribe to updates

I’ve noticed that Outlook 2010 takes about 30 mins to 1 hour to obtain any new items that appear in the Facebook calendar, this is the fastest of the lot.  I guess I’d suspect this since you’re doing it for yourself, where the other hosted services are doing it for millions of people.

Google Mail

As I mentioned earlier, this section is courtesy of Sean Bonner.

  1. In Google Calendar, you’ll see Other Calendars on the left, click the Add link and choose Add by URL


  1. Paste in the Facebook iCAL link you copied earlier

The Google Calendar will refresh every 12-24-hours from the Facebook iCal feed.  Everything I can find online says it’s 24-hours, but from my experience it’s twice/day

Once you set this up, Facebook becomes just a little bit more powerful, and you become just a little bit more in the know.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Meet Jonas Svensson – Community Program Manager for Windows Small Business Server 2008 and Windows Home Server


Many of the products that you use everyday are faceless and may be hard to identify with. We thought it would be interesting to put a face behind Windows Home Server and give you a chance meet some of the people that work on Windows Home Server day in and day out. I will be introducing you to different areas of the team, but we will start with our Community Program Manager, Jonas Svensson.

Jonas is someone that you may have already met. As our Community Program Manager, he participates in multiple events event throughout the year that you have possibly attended including SMB Nation and PDC. In this interview, you will find out how he contributes to the team and how Windows Home Server is a part of his daily life. Enjoy!

Trackback to The Windows Home Server Blog

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How to make a USB Thumb-drive bootable

Windows 7

With the impending general availability of Windows 7 tomorrow.  I thought I’d share a Windows 7 trick (although I have heard it works on Vista too, I have not done it.

One of the handy tricks I have used for installing Windows 7 on all my machines in my house is to boot off a USB Thumb-drive (also known as flashdisk).  Not only is the Thumb-drive faster than the DVD drives in many of my computer, it helps me load Win7 on my Netbook as well!

The requirement on the target computer is that the BIOS is new enough to support booting from USB devices, usually there is a specific option for flash disk.

Just a warning that this procedure will wipe all the data on the thumb-drive to setup the bootable partition.

So here is how you do it:

  1. Insert your USB thumb-drive into your machine, preferably a Windows 7 machine
  2. Open the command prompt (Start, then run, then cmd.exe if you need that)
  3. type in diskpart
  4. Inside diskpart you’ll want to do the following
    1. list disk (remember the disk number for they key, we’ll call this X)
    2. select disk X
    3. clean (WARNING: this will erase the whole thumb-drive)
    4. create part pri (this creates a new primary partition)
    5. select part 1
    6. format fs=ntfs quick
    7. active
    8. exit
  5. Close the command prompt window

At this point you can copy over ANY bootable DVD into the root of the thumb-drive, insert it into the target machine and then select to boot from the USB key (note, this requires the BIOS to support it).  Also, do not set your BIOS to boot from the thumb-drive first, otherwise you’ll get into an endless loop.  It’s best to use that “F12” ontime boot menu.

I use this not only to install Windows 7 on all my clients, but I also use it to install builds of Windows Small Business Server 2008 and Builds of Windows Home Server for testing.  It cuts down on wasted DVDs, being a little greener.

A visual guide is also over on – How to boot/install Vista from a USB flash drive

UPDATE: If you own a Netbook, Microsoft will help you create a USB flash-drive to make it Windows 7.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Top Mac OS (OS X) Security Myths

CRN, a pretty active magazine in the small business space has a great article on what to watch out for when installing MACs into your business, or that connect to your business.  Most of it boils down to protecting the end-user from themselves.  I’m copying the article below, but here is the original article.

Mac OS X = Security?

Mac OS X = Security?
You've heard the rumors: Macs are safer than PCs. Macs don't need separate antivirus software. Snow Leopard is the safest OS in existence. The list goes on and on. But how many of those claims are the truth and how many are just, well, myths? We explored fact vs. fiction, and here is what we came up with.


Myth 1: Macs Are Safer Than PCs

Myth 1: Macs Are Safer Than PCs
Thanks to aggressive marketing from Apple, Mac users often think they are impervious to the viruses, Trojans and numerous other assaults that have plagued Windows users for decades. Security experts say that if Mac users are less susceptible to attack, it's simply due to the fact that there are fewer viruses written for Macs than for Windows. That is rapidly changing, however, as Macs gain market share. Meanwhile, users who have the unfortunate experience of being attacked by information-stealing Trojans will likely have their systems compromised and their data stolen ... just like every other PC user out there.

Myth 2: Macs Have Fewer Vulnerabilities Than Windows

Myth 2: Macs Have Fewer Vulnerabilities Than Windows
Not true. In fact, studies have shown that Macs actually have MORE vulnerabilities than their Windows counterparts, experts say. The reason? Constituting a "seek and ye shall find" phenomenon, it was simply a matter of attention, experts say. Some maintain that Apple's credibility in the security community increased as it gained traction in the marketplace. Others contend that a disproportionate amount of researchers in the field prefer Apple, and subsequently put their efforts into finding Windows' vulnerabilities instead. But once security experts began to seriously research Apple, the number of vulnerabilities increased exponentially, experts say. However, whether exploits target those vulnerabilities is another question.

"We can compare it to the situation with Internet Explorer and Firefox. Lots of people were saying that [Firefox] was so much more secure than IE," said Roel Schouwenberg, senior antivirus researcher for Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab. "It actually gained in popularity. Now all of a sudden a lot of vulnerabilities were being found in Firefox. I don't think you can underestimate the importance of market share."

Myth 3: Mac OS X Users Don't Need A Separate Antivirus Solution

Myth 3: Mac OS X Users Don't Need A Separate Antivirus Solution
Not so. Not even Apple says that anymore, even if it has downplayed the fact that users also should equip themselves with third-party antivirus software. There are just too many Mac Trojans and viruses out there that can evade Mac's built-in security systems -- and the numbers are growing.

"If you look at the Apple consumer base, and how they generally tend to think about security, the vast majority of Apple users will assume this is all they need," Schouwenberg said. "It's really nothing fancy and it can be easily bypassed."

Fortunately, there also are a number of antivirus offerings specifically designed for the Mac OS X platform.

Myth 4: The Antivirus Feature In Snow Leopard Is Enough To Protect Users

Myth 4: The Antivirus Feature In Snow Leopard Is Enough To Protect Users
Or not. If anything, experts say, the antivirus feature lulls users into a false sense of security -- that is to say, even more than the one they already had. Apple turned heads earlier this month with the release of its Mac OS X version 10.6 Snow Leopard, which touted that it came equipped with antivirus and additional security features. However, upon closer inspection, security experts said that the built-in antivirus feature was designed to block a whopping total of two -- yes, two -- Mac Trojans, despite the fact that researchers have detected dozens of malicious threats that target the Mac OS X platform. According to researchers at Intego, the built-in antivirus only scans files on a handful of applications, including Safari, Mail, iChat, Firefox, Entourage and a few other browsers, but fails to scan from other sources, such as BitTorrent or FTP files.

Myth 5: Most Mac Exploits Target The Operating System

Myth 5: Most Mac Exploits Target The Operating System
No. Actually, experts maintain that most of the attacks targeting Mac OS X will exploit the Web browser, and ultimately, the user's behavior. As in any PC, the biggest threat typically starts with the user and quite often via e-mail -- falling for phishing sites, clicking on malicious links, surfing infected Web sites, etc.

And as with their PC counterparts, Mac Trojans are becoming more sophisticated and stealthy, frequently designed to steal information and evade antivirus software. This means that as Mac's market share further grows well into the double digits, users can only expect to see more Trojans, worms and other Web-based threats taking over their favorite machines.

"The main danger for Mac comes not from the operating system but it comes from the behavior of the user," said David Perry, director of global education for Trend Micro. "Falling for bad phishing Web sites, responding to ads on Craigslist -- that is enough so that the end user requires additional protection."

Myth 6: Apple Is Just Like Microsoft And Has An Army Of Security Henchmen

Myth 6: Apple Is Just Like Microsoft And Has An Army Of Security Henchmen
Er, no. In fact, the company's historic lack of emphasis on security issues has left Apple vastly underprepared to deal with the barrage of anticipated Mac malware coming down the pike. Experts contend that Apple lacks the necessary manpower to create and test patches on a monthly basis and still needs the extensive specialized team needed to develop significant changes to Mac OS X internals that would make the platform more resilient to sophisticated malware attacks. And security experts also emphasize that Cupertino needs to stay on top of security issues in its open source projects and third-party components.

However, Apple appears to be trying. In light of a groundswell of Mac OS X malware, Apple recently hired its first security guru, the former head of security architecture at One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Ivan Krstic, to oversee the security division at Apple.

Myth 7: Apple Needs To Implement A Monthly Update Cycle Like Microsoft

Myth 7: Apple Needs To Implement A Monthly Update Cycle Like Microsoft
Not necessarily, security experts say. This is simply due to the fact that there still isn't the necessary volume of vulnerabilities to warrant a monthly update cycle. However, experts agree that Apple could definitely stand to address security bugs in a more timely manner. After all, there are more efficient ways to repair vulnerabilities than with a patch that averages 70 to 80 fixes every few months.

Meanwhile, Apple scrambled to repair a six-month-old critical Java vulnerability this spring after -- but only after -- researcher Landon Fuller published a proof of concept exploit exposing the flaw six months after it was first detected. Yowza.

However, Apple will likely consider a more frequent patch cycle as malware authors more frequently find ways to launch attacks that exploit its vulnerabilities.

Myth 8: Unlike Windows Viruses, Mac Malware Is A Recent Phenomenon

Myth 8: Unlike Windows Viruses, Mac Malware Is A Recent Phenomenon
Actually, some of the first and most destructive viruses were initially written for Mac, experts say -- back in the 1980s when Mac still had sizable market share. Viruses for Macs dropped significantly in the mid 90s, along with Mac's market share and credibility in the marketplace. But the viruses have since experienced a resurgence as Mac gained popularity after 2001 with its Tiger, Leopard and now Snow Leopard operating systems.

Myth 9: There Is Only A Handful Of Mac Malware, And It's Pretty Benign

Myth 9: There Is Only A Handful Of Mac Malware, And It's Pretty Benign
Granted, the number of Trojans and worms targeting the Mac platform does not even come close to the number for Windows platforms. That said, some of the current malware is pretty destructive. Last year a Mac Trojan swept from machine to machine, forcing users to download bogus antivirus software. Earlier this year, Mac users were pummeled with two variants of a Mac-only iServices Trojan distributed via pirated versions of Apple's productivity suite iWorks and cracked Adobe Photoshop CS4 applications. The Trojans later developed into a full-fledged global botnet that infected more than 40,000 Macs. And experts say that Mac users can expect to see more drive-by and browser attacks.

Myth 10: Mac Users Will Surely Complain When Security Issues Become A Problem

Myth 10: Mac Users Will Surely Complain When Security Issues Become A Problem
Here's the thing -- experience is always the best teacher. Unlike PC owners, Mac users are simply not used to dealing with rampant malware, experts say. As a result, Mac users are much more likely than their Windows counterparts to underprotect their machines, or not protect them at all. PC owners acknowledge, in fact expect, that their machines will be riddled with security flaws, which leaves them susceptible to all kinds of malicious code. If their PCs are a little slow or erratic, most will simply download that antivirus upgrade they had been meaning to install and go about their day. Not so Mac owners, who often assume that they're perfectly safe, even when they're not. So the upshot is, Mac owners don't know what they don't know. And that could likely be the biggest mistake of all.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Embedding Google Reader into Outlook

Today was I talking with Cody from EFluxDesign (A web design and search optimization company) about using RSS to follow different blogs for education, pleasure or whatever you follow blogs for.

While Cody only has one PC that he uses, following RSS feeds in Blogs is as simple as adding it to Internet Explorer, and then Outlook automatically picks those up and they show up right in the familiar Outlook interface. 

However, when using multiple PCs, you can find yourself reading the same blog post PC after PC after PC.  Google’s answer to this (I haven’t found one that’s run by Microsoft yet, suggestions?) is Google Reader.  Simply add the RSS feed into the reader and you have a simplified view.

The best part of it, is you don’t have to abandon Outlook.  You can have the Google Reader appear right inside of Outlook, here’s how:

  1. Open Outlook and right-click on the RSS Feeds folder and choose Properties. image
  2. On the Home Page tab, choose to Show home page by default for this folder and change the address to:


Now when you simply click on the RSS feeds link, Google Reader will show up in this list and you can take advantage of only reading blogs once/PC, and all the data about what you read as well.  If you’re using Exchange 2007 or greater as a back-end, this setting will replicate around all of your PCs as well!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Spotted! On Microspotting

Sean slaving away in his office. Not shown: his coworker Chico.

Recently I’ve been talking to Ariel Stallings who works at Microsoft and realized that many preconceptions about Microsoft weren’t quite right.  As a result, she’s made it her mission to meet as many ‘softies as she can and post about them up on her Microspotting blog.

This morning Ariel decided to feature me on her blog, as well as my crazy Chinhuahua, Chico.  If you’re interested, you can read more about my interesting working environment at Microsoft.

Click here to read the article.

And click around if you’re interested in learning about other ‘softies who make the products you love!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How to Add more Playlists to the HP EX485 MediaSmart Server’s Web Streaming Application

One of the most frustrating things for me when I first used my EX 485 HP MediaSmart server’s web-streaming application for my music was my playlists that I have in the Zune software don’t automatically appear here.

In fact, I couldn’t get them to appear at all!  I dropped them into the music share, I made new ones with Windows Media Player, both .wpl and .m3u and they still didn’t appear in the list.  Well, I finally figured it out and I wanted to share exactly what I did so I don’t forget, and in hopes that someone else might benefit from the same (wasting a little less time!).  If you have a simpler way, I’d love to hear it.  Comments are open!

Let’s say I want to move my “Favourite Albums” playlist.  Here is how I did it:

  1. Browse using Windows Explorer to the location of your playlists.  They are “.zpl” files.  If you aren’t sure where this is, in the Zune software click Settings and then select Collection. Look at your music folders for where it might be stored.
  2. Once you’ve found the .zpl file, copy it to a new location like your Desktop.  This can be an auto-playlist, or a made playlist, it doesn’t matter.
  3. We’re going to need to change the extension on the file to one that Windows Media Player will read.  So if you haven’t already you’ll need to show the file extensions in Windows by using a Windows Explorer Window. 
    1. Press Win+E to open Explorer
    2. Press Alt to activate the menu
    3. Under Tools select Folder Options.
    4. Under the View tab, uncheck Hide Extensions for known file types.  (you can un-check this again after your finished if you don’t like the extensions showing)
    5. Click OK and close Windows Explorer.  You will notice your Zune playlist will now be <name>.zpl .
  4. Rename the file either by slow-clicking or pressing F2. Select the .zpl extension and change it to .wpl . 
  5. Click Yes on the dialog that warns you about changing the extension. Notice the icon will change to one that is recognized by Windows Media Player.
  6. Double click the playlist, and it should open in Windows Media Player.  I’m using Windows 7, so these steps will be for that version of Windows Media Player
  7. Click the icon to drop the player into library mode.  I circled it in red for you:
  8. Before we save the playlist, we have to remember that the HP MediaSmart streamer has a limit of 500 songs in a playlist.  Windows Media Player will tell you how many songs are in your playlist at the bottom of the “Now Playing” list.  Make sure this is < 500 before you continue.
  9. Now we need to save the list as a .m3u file.  Again press the ALT key to activate the menu, and hover over File and click on Save Now Playing List As…
  10. Choose the same location, the Desktop, just to keep things easy.  Then drop the Save as type box down and choose the .m3u one:
  11. Change the extension on the file name to .m3u and save the file:

Now we’ve got a .m3u file.  All of the above steps are to convert from either a .zpl file or a .wpl file as you see fit.  If you already have .m3u files, those steps can be skipped.

Now, as I mentioned above.  I dropped custom .m3u file into the music folder before, and it didn’t work.  The challenge here, is since the streaming app is running in the context of IIS, it’s access to the folders on the server is limited.  If you opened the .m3u file in notepad, you'd see that each music file’s location is referenced as “\\HPSERVER\Music\<Path to song>” .  IIS doesn’t have access to this.  So we need to reference from the directory that the playlist is going to be stored in.  I keep my playlists at the root of the Music directory, so we’ll do it this way.

To make the playlist readable by the Streaming application, we need to change the path to the file location:

  1. Open Notepad on your computer.  I use Start, then Run, and type Notepad and press Enter
  2. Drop the .m3u playlist you created into the notepad window using the mouse, you’ll see it has the path to the file as mentioned above:
  3. Click Edit and then Replace.
  4. In the "Find what:" box type in \\hpserver\music\ , in the Replace with: box type .\
    1. .\ is a reference to the location of the playlist file of where you will place it on the server.  If you plan to put it in a folder such as \\hpserver\music\playlists, then you should use ..\ instead.  the period references the current directory, two periods represent one directory higher, three periods are 2 directories higher, etc. 
    2. Don’t forget the \ at the end of each item, otherwise you may build an invalid path to the music file!
  5. Click Replace All and the file should change to look more like this:
  6. Save the file now using the File and Save menu in Notepad, then close Notepad.

Now we have a perfect .m3u file that won’t work from a client inside your network, but it WILL work from inside the media streaming web UI.  As the final step:

  1. Copy the .m3u doctored file over to \\hpserver\music.
  2. Log into your media streamer
  3. Enjoy your familiar playlist from the Zune software, or any other application you use to create playlists.
    1. You may have to wait for the TwonkyMedia server to recognize the new playlist and show it in the UI
    2. Finally, the TwonkyMedia add-in periodically tests for new playlists, so it might not appear for a while.  The first one I did appeared in 10 minutes, the second one took a few hours.

Phew.  I think I broke a sweat on this one.  It’s not pretty, but it works, I now have my familiar playlists on my EX485 HP MediaSmart server, available for media streaming. 

I do want to ask, does anyone know a better way to do this?  I’d love to have Zune automatic playlists automatically update on the HP MediaSmart server, but this is just a huge process to try to automate.

OEMs ratchet up the competition with SBS 2008!


it’s unusual for me to talk about prices and stuff on this blog.  But I wanted to call out some new competition in the market, get you thinking about buying from an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer).  When you’re purchasing Windows Small Business Server 2008, it’s always good to at least consider one of the major OEMs that offer it as a package with the hardware, such as Dell or HP.  Both of them are offering a bundle for as little as $1,299.  I’m sure some of you with bigger businesses will opt for some more beefy hardware, but that’s at least an amazing starting point.

The Official SBS Blog has some more information on these prices and why you should consider SBS 2008.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

How to Make a Shortcut Always Launch as Administrator / UAC

Windows 7

Since the User Account Control (UAC) was introduced in Vista, and improved in Windows 7 I’ve been looking for ways to optimize ways around it, while still being able to keep it on for safety sake.  This is shown by my previous post on how to always launch a program as elevated

With Windows 7, there is a super fast way to do this.  I use the command prompt a lot, probably because I’m always looking at IP addresses, routes and other networking items that are just easier for me to do in a command prompt.  As you probably know, I use AutoHotKey to make Win+C open a Command prompt window for me, but that only opens it in non-administration mode.

On the Start Menu, I have another command prompt that opens in Administrator mode.  To do this do the following:

  1. Right-Click on the item you want to always launch as administrator, and go to properties.
  2. On the Shortcut tab, click on Advanced.
  3. Check the Run as Administrator check box Run as Administrator

Now each time you click on this link, the shortcut will always launch under administration mode, and you no longer need to right-click and choose run as administrator, which is far more clicks!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Testing AutoDiscover using Outlook

A while back on this blog, I discussed how Outlook AutoDiscover works and how it aids in mailbox configuration on the client side.  I also went into detail on a service the Exchange team provides to troubleshoot remote connectivity.

But I wanted to inform you of a handy troubleshooting tip that sits right on your desktop (provided you are running Outlook!)

In the notification area of the task bar (near the clock) there is an Outlook Icon( ).  This icon is your access to troubleshooting AutoDiscovery.  Here’s how:

  1. Hold down Control and then right click on the Outlook Icon, you’ll get two new options in the menu that you wouldn’t normally see if you were just simply right-clicking. Those options are Connection Status and Test E-Mail AutoConfiguration. The second one is the one we want, click on Test E-mail AutoConfiguration. Test E-Mail AutoConfiguration
  2. Type in the user you want to check E-Mail address and password and click Test

When the test launches you’ll get a bunch of results, reading through the results you’ll be able to determine what’s broken and where.  For example, here is mine that is fully functional:


Here is what you might see if the ports aren’t open on your router, or your SRV record is miss configured:

Play around with it, get use to it and use it to troubleshoot what’s going on with your remote Outlook over the Internet connections.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Help Configuring your Router for Remote Access

Windows Home Server

Windows Home Server and Windows Small Business Server 2008 depend heavily on the router protecting your network to allow remote access to your server while away from the home or office.  Both servers will attempt to use UPnP to automatically configure the router and keep it up to date, but on many routers, UPnP fails, or the router is reset etc.  As a result, sometimes it’s the right thing to configure your router manually to ensure it just always works, regardless of if a UPnP call fails.

For this, I have recently been alerted to a great Wiki on HomeServerLand that goes through the UI for a bunch of common routers.  Click here to find that Wiki database. While the database is designed for Windows Home Server, such that it creates DHCP reservations for the server on the network (Windows Home Server is configured with a Dynamic IP address on the Local Area Network (LAN) ).  It also talks about how to configure a port, which is all you need for Windows SBS 2008.

Each router model listed has step-by-step instructions on how to configure both the DHCP exclusions and the port mappings.

To modify these steps for Windows SBS 2008, simply ignore the DHCP reservation steps, and instead get the IP address of your server by typing ipconfig at the command prompt on the server.  The “IPv4 Address” is the address of the server you’ll want to give the router.  Remember for SBS you need 80 and 443 (same as Home Server), and also 25 for email, and 1723 (if you plan on using VPN).  Port 4125 is only used in Windows Home Server and SBS 2003 (the previous version of SBS).

And while you’re in your router configuration UI, make sure you turn the Wi-Fi security to WPA or WPA-2.  Remember, WEP is easy to crack, and isn’t considered secure.

Again, it’s the Remote Access Router Configuration Wiki

Friday, August 21, 2009

Digital Lifestyle: What’s all this Tweeting About?

Digital Life

Well, I’m back with another Digital Lifestyle corner post.

Today’s Topic is about Twitter and social networking.  I often witness the debate, “to Twitter” or “not to Twitter”, so I thought I’d take some time today to explain why I Twitter, and most importantly, how I tweet.

Think of Twitter as individual 140 character real-time updates.  Each 140 character update is called a “tweet”.  In fact, there is no reason for me to hash out all the basics here, as I have discovered this amazing beginners guide to Twitter Speak.  The key thing to remember, is if you’re updates are not locked, then it’s an update to the world.  Let me dive right into how I use Twitter.

I’ll be the first to admit, when I first signed up for my account at Twitter, and got a feed of updates from friends, I was a little underwhelmed, it wasn’t until I started using additional applications combined with Twitter search, that Twitter became useful to me.  Being able to get up to date information on topics that I care about and socializing with other people who care about the same topics is pretty powerful.

Your Own Updates


I struggled a while here on what I was going to update.  I mean I work from home so updates such as “I’m at my desk” or “I’m still at my desk” is just not that exciting.  I essentially use Twitter now to follow people, and update people on technology and such that I find interesting, or useful.  To me the most important thing to realize is you have 140 characters to say something interesting.  When you do that, your followers increase, and you’re more interesting.  I try not to reply to people about private conversations, unless it’s useful to the general public.  If you decide to join, or do already, here are some tips (albeit for Facebook, it still applies) about how to avoid being annoying.

I post a lot of URLs to my Tweets, with a limit of 140 characters, it’s important to use a URL shrinker.  Most of the Twitter applications will do this for you, but you can also go to many different places to shrink your URL, my place of choice is TinyURL, which will take something that can be > 140 characters and make it quite small.  Think of it as a forwarding service.  You send your reader to one place and they turn around and send them to the correct place on your behalf.

Who you Follow

This is where I think Twitter gets very interesting.  You can follow specific people, or searches.  You’ll need to be careful here, I find it’s super easy here to get information overload here by following too many people who’s updates are not useful.  I tend to keep it to a short list of key people who have interest to me.  I often follow someone, and after a day, remove them from my follow list.  I’ve also noticed that on Friday people tend to Tweet who they like following, so if someone is particularly interesting, sometimes I check out who they follow.

Following searches is just as important as following people.  On Twitter, people tend to use search tags, or “Hash” tags as they are called, such as “#WHS” (For Windows Home Server) or “#SBS08” (for Small Business Server 2008).  These allow you to generate searches on these hash tags and view common themes about specific themes.  I also follow #yyj, which is my airport code for my closest city, and #seahawks, although this is more beneficial during a game.  ;o)

One of the places where Bing and Google are currently lacking is this life search.  There is a site I found for Bing called “BingTweets” where you can search for something and get instant Tweets next to your search:


I use the instant search to keep tabs on what I care about, such as where I life (what am I going to do on the weekend, I can just search for what’s going on in #yyj.

Here is an example from today, simply by following #yyj,  Yesterday my town was considering a $200,000 investment in a 2 week Olympic Games party.  My wife said it was all the controversy yesterday (as I knew already from yesterday’s tweets).  However, I’d already read a tweet from a news source in town that said they had opt’d for the $50,000 viewing screen, which was widely accepted by the public.


I’ve tried a number of applications, including Twhirl, Opera, Witty, Blu and Seemic, but my application so far of choice is TweetDeck.  I’m a little disappointed it uses Adobe Air, as I dislike installing infrastructure pieces for applications, but it works well, and does what I need.  TweetDeck allows me to easily see everyone that I follow, and either reply or forward (re-tweet) their message, people who mention my me, my direct messages, and all my searches in one window. 


TweetDeck also supports some key features that I need.  Multiple Personalities is one of the key features for me.  Working for Microsoft I also can Tweet on behalf of @WindowsSBS and @WinHomeServer, so it allows me to easily jump between accounts, or post to multiple accounts at the same time.  Additionally, as you may have read in my last digital life corner post, I have a few PCs.  TweetDeck allows me to create an account with them and keep my searches and columns in sync between PCs.

As a note, Seemic desktop had similar (and in some places flasher and cooler features) than TweetDeck, but it drank the RAM as if it was going out of style, which doesn’t work for my netbook.

Extending Your Twitter Experience

Twitter is super accessible, you can configure it to send updates via SMS to your phone (US & Canada only I believe at this point), and you can also text twitter to send an update if you’re on the move.  You can also point your mobile browser to Twitter’s mobile page if you want to quickly check your friends on the go without the SMS.

Additionally, if you’re looking for a bit more with Twitter, like pictures and video, sign up with TwitPic, or TwitVid, allowing you to put links to videos or pictures in your tweets!  Since pictures are similar to 1000 words, maybe you can use this to expand beyond 140 characters.

Final Note

I’ve been asked a lot of times “Why do you use Twitter”, and I want to officially answer that question with “to stay up to date”.  I keep track of my friends around the globe, I keep track of changes in my home town, things to do where I currently live, trending issues, problems and exciting things to do with the products that I sell, and just all together engaging.  It’s like a public IM conversation, just like Blogs can be considered a public e-mail. 

I have seen plenty of other uses as well.  For example, our product teams are working on leveraging twitter to announce new things or problems with the product and how to go ahead and fix those.  If you’re going to consider corporate twittering, I suggest checking out HootSuite, which will allow multiple twitters to participate on the same twitter account without duplication.  I’d also highly recommend going against “Bots” to tweet for you, it’s obvious and people won’t listen, plus you never know what a Bot might re-tweet.  ;o)

A co-worker once told me that sending a tweet or reading a tweet is like tossing a stick in a large river.  Some people will notice you, and some won’t, and you shouldn’t feel like you need to start at the bottom of the river and read back.  Just plug in and unplug when you have time.

I hope to see you online in the future.