Monday, May 31, 2010

How Developers “Extended” the Vail Launchpad

Vail LaunchpadIf you’re a developer and you’re interested in writing something for Windows sHome Server, our Lead Developer Dileep has another tip for you on how to extend the Vail launch pad.  Dileep has had a previous post on the location of the SDK for Vail and how you can get involved.

Most recently, Dileep appeared back on the Home Server blog with how to extend the launchpad, and when you should extend the Launchpad.  You can read that blog post here.

If you haven’t been on the forums already, I did a forum post on why we created the Launchpad, with feedback from you, the customer.  Dileep extended on this, copied here for your reading convenience.

What is Launchpad?

Launchpad is a light weight and extensible client-based user interface that we built for Vail. It was born out of a couple of pain points that our customers experienced from Home Server v1. While Home Server v1 provided the ability for developers to add what we call ‘administrative’ or ‘server management’ tasks to the Admin console, it did not provide any means by which a day-to-day or non-administrative task could be presented to users in a coherent manner that resonates its association with Home Server. As a result we started seeing add-ins for day-to-day consumption of home server capabilities that were deployed to Admin Console, but did not belong there since they were not administrative tasks. We realized that there is a need for providing a coherent and consistent grouping as well as entry point for home server related tasks that everyone in the household can perform from their client PCs. This was the first pain point.

The second one, and perhaps the more significant one of the two, was the limitation around having matching usernames and passwords on the server and the PCs. If you recall, in Home Server v1 we require users to create user accounts on the server that had the same username and password as that of the client PCs so that they can seamlessly access the shared folders on the server as soon as they login to their PCs. This generated lot of confusion with consumers, as was evident from the feedback that we got. With Vail, Launchpad acts as the login UI for signing the user onto the server, thereby granting them access to the Server shares and other platform services exposed via the SDK. We no longer have the requirement to have the user accounts matching on server and client, instead users can use Launchpad to ‘sign-in’ to the server with any user account and password combination that was set up in Dashboard!

In short, Launchpad serves the following purposes:

  1. It is the entry point for the day-to-day tasks related to Windows Home Server from the client PCs.

  2. It eliminates the need for matching usernames and passwords setup between server and client, and eliminates the password sync dialogs.

  3. It Provides a logical and centralized location where all home server related tasks are exposed, resulting in much better awareness of home server and its capabilities.

  4. It allows everyone in the household to have visibility to developers' add-ins, than just home server administrators.

So, if you’re a developer, head on over to Dileep’s full post, and start coding up some cool apps that will make users love your add-in, and increase the value of Vail.  I know I’ll appreciate it when we ship!