Review: HP MediaSmart Server EX487

by Alex Kuretz on December 28, 2008 · 101 comments

in Reviews

When the MediaSmart Server was first released, it didn’t take long for limitations and areas of improvement to be discussed amongst the Home Server community. One of the first improvements was to upgrade the memory from the stock 512MB, usually to 2GB. More adventurous users began looking to increase horsepower through higher clocked or multi-core CPU upgrades. We found ways to increase the functionality of our servers through add-ins, hacks, and additional software installations. None of this was unexpected for a new product launch, especially for a whole new product category launch — the Home Server, and we all believed that a follow-on product had to be in the works.

Ever since we heard the first mention of Encore 6 months ago, there has been much speculation about what the next-generation MediaSmart Server would look like. The most commonly requested feature improvements from the MediaSmartServer.net community were hardware upgrades, more and improved media sharing options, capacity for more internal hard drives, better Mac integration, and Media Center-like functionality. Today we get our first look at the EX485 and EX487, and while not all of our wishes have been met the new MediaSmart Server is a tremendous step forward for the Home Server platform, reaffirming that HP is leading the way for all Home Server vendors.

EX487 MediaSmart Server

EX487 MediaSmart Server

I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to test both beta and final production versions of the new MediaSmart Server. In late October I was asked by HP to review and provide feedback on the Beta version of the EX487 (the EX485 is the single drive version and is identical to the EX487 in all other respects). Through mid November I spent a couple of weeks using the EX487 as my primary Home Server, exploring the new functionality and providing feedback to HP with some issues I encountered and new features that I really enjoyed. I’ve also been exercising the final production version of the EX487 for the past few days, and while I’ve noticed improvements in some of the problem areas there are still some issues with which I have real concerns, but we will talk about those later in this review.

I am expecting that most readers will have a basic understanding of Windows Home Server, and I will be delivering the review in large part as a compare and contrast with the EX470. If you’re new to Windows Home Server or the MediaSmart Server, I recommend you visit our forums, do a little reading, and ask any questions you may have.

Specifications and New Features

The EX487 specifications read much like those of the original EX475, with the only notable differences being the switch to Intel platform, 2GB memory (yay!), and increase of HDD size from 500GB to 750GB.

  • Intel Celeron 2.0GHZ 64-bit Processor
  • 2GB DDR2 Memory
  • 10/100/1000(Gigabit) RJ45 Ethernet
  • 4 USB 2.0 ports (1 front, 3 back)
  • 1 eSATA port (back)
  • 1 SATA 7200 RPM, 750GB hard disk drive for EX485
  • 2 SATA 7200 RPM, 1.5TB (2 x 750GB) hard disk drives for EX487
  • 5.5”(W) x 9.8”(H) x 9.2”(D) (approx.) 14 cm (W) x 25 cm (H) x 23 cm (D) (approx.)
  • One year limited warranty
  • EX485: $649
  • EX487: $799
  • Available in early 2009

There are several new features included with the EX487 which I will cover in further detail later in this review, but for you impatient readers here’s a quick summary.

  • Simplified photo sharing tool, including integration with Snapfish, Facebook, Flickr, and Picasa Web Albums
  • Media Collector for aggregating content from the client PCs to the Server
  • Updated Twonky media streamer, including Remote Media Streaming
  • Apple Mac integration, including the Control Center and a Time Machine backup drive solution
  • Amazon S3 integration for online backups

There are also several features that have largely stayed the same from the EX470 but are worth mentioning to show the entire value proposition of the MediaSmart Server.

  • iTunes streaming provided by the Firefly Media Server
  • Dynamic DNS services provided by TZO
  • Server Recovery DVD to restore your server in the event of system disk failure or corruption of the OS
  • All the usual Windows Home Server features, including integrated PC backup and restore, Remote Access to files as well as computers that support Remote Desktop, Folder Duplication to preserve data in the event of a hard drive failure, and the extensible Add-In architecture to support 3rd-party developers.

Setup and Installation

A number of you will be pleased to hear that I performed the initial setup of the EX487 from my Vista Ultimate 64bit desktop, removing the previous limitation of requiring a 32bit system for the initial setup. The process was uneventful and familiar to anyone owning a MediaSmart Server, with one notable change being that the aqua LEDs “pulse” in brightness when the server is ready to be set up, rather than the previous purple color indication. The update download process was very quick which means HP has included into the base OS image all the previous updates to Windows Home Server.

Upon completion of the initial client install and setup of the server, the user is presented with the main MediaSmart Server tab of the Home Server Console. This has had a major update, utilizing a tabbed interface to offer a vast assortment of both high level and detailed information all from one central location. Of particular interest is the Server Summary section, which at a glance gives the user overview of the hardware health, Add-Ins, storage status, and software update status.

EX487 Server Console Summary Tab

EX487 Server Console Summary Tab

One item that caught my attention and concerned me at first was the fact that in the Server Console my Health indicator was red (due to no anti-virus software on my client PC), yet the Health LED on the server was not indicating any problem, it was still aqua and not red as I would expect. Some investigation showed that the default config has disabled the option to show server health on the front LED. After enabling that feature, the health LED turned red as expected. I would have expected and recommend this to be enabled by default, with the mindset that many users will “set it and forget it”, and not realize when their server has a problem until it is too late.

EX487 Server Console LED Settings

EX487 Server Console LED Settings

There are also many more options available for choosing when health notifications should be issued by the HP software, which can resolve the issue many users had with the HP 1.3 update that would nag you about Add-Ins available for installation.

EX487 Server Console Notifications

EX487 Server Console Notifications

Control Center

The HP Control Center is a client application that primarily provides shortcuts to many Windows Home Server and MediaSmart Server resources, and is delivered at install time. With the EX475 this application was a 3-tab GUI with a few configuration options. HP has simplified this interface to a simple 3 row black “widget”-style GUI.

EX487 Control Center

EX487 Control Center

While the interface has a new look and feel, much of the functionality is the same as it existed for the EX470 except for the new “Wake Server” button. There is no real configuration to be performed in this application as the Media Collector config occurs in the Server Console. This is definitely a needed application on the client side to provide the end user with centralized access to the Server’s functionality, help files, and support links. However I would prefer to see this encompassed in a tool bar, sidebar widget, system tray icon, or some other less intrusive yet easily accessible way. Even making the GUI resizable and letting the user choose which icons are displayed would go a long way to making this feature more appealing.

Hardware

The first change we notice with the new MediaSmart server is updated packaging, showcasing the latest trends in HP branding and presentations of the new feature set available with the EX487. When first removing the server from its packaging, it is obviously of the same form factor as the first generation MediaSmart Server. The top has been changed to an attractive glossy dark gray color, and the drive trays now have a red button which make the use of the trays a little more intuitive and easier to operate. Also, all of the LED’s have been changed from blue to the new HP “aqua” color.

One nice touch that shows HP has been listening to the MediaSmart Server community is the “beefing up” of the tiny screws used to mount the inside lower grill which were so easily stripped when removed to perform the memory or CPU upgrade. While I imagine HP recommends against users taking apart the server, it’s good they made the process a little easier and less error prone.

The Hardware Status area has had the output of a few sensors removed, presumably to avoid the situations we’ve seen where the system thermal probe would occasionally malfunction.

EX487 Server Console Hardware Status

EX487 Server Console Hardware Status

Power savings is an area that many people have an interest in these days, and HP has taken steps to address this important issue. In my home, the MediaSmart Server always being on and accessible allows me to standby or suspend the PCs in my home yet still allow me to access all my files stored on the server, thus saving a significant amount of power. Some users will want their server to go to sleep after performing the nightly backups or while at work to save even more power, and HP has provided a Power Management setting to enable this feature which they claim consumes only 1 watt of power while in sleep mode.

EX487 Server Console Power Management

EX487 Server Console Power Management

In testing this feature I found that the server does indeed consume only 1 watt while in sleep mode, and after sending the Wake command from the client Control Center software the server was awake and available in approximately 15 seconds. Even more cool is that I was able to wake the server via the Wake On Lan feature of my router running the Tomato firmware and could wake the server while at work or on the road without needing the Wake utility of the Control Center.

HP also claims to have improved the power consumption of the server while it is on, with the base EX487 consuming 60 watts under full load with two drives in the system versus the EX475 which consumed 73 watts under full load with two drives in the system. Unfortunately my testing with the Kill-A-Watt P3 and using Prime95 to put the system under a high CPU load showed the EX487 consuming 72 watts, so I’ll be following up with HP on this to try to get an explanation for the discrepency I observed.

The EX487 comes with an eSATA port just like the EX475, however my testing uncovered that at this time the eSATA port is NOT port multiplier aware! This means that those of you with external eSATA enclosures will only be able to see a single drive, and can significantly reduce the potential storage capacity of your MediaSmart Server. Here’s the info I have from HP on this issue.

We did not have this functionality available to us in the storage driver we were using with the Intel chipset. We don’t see this as a major issue when looked at from the perspective of the majority of our customers. We do however continue to investigate this and it may be possible to develop a new storage driver and BIOS to include eSATA multi-port support in future versions of the product.

While perhaps not an issue for most MediaSmart Server customers, I do believe this is an issue for a significant portion of MediaSmartServer.net members, many who have huge storage needs and strong technical tendencies. I have asked HP to clarify if a storage driver and BIOS update is feasible after the EX487 ships or if it would only be possible for future revisions of the product, but at this time I have not heard back.

Media Collector

The Media Collector is a tremendous step forward from the Media Aggregator functionality found in the EX470. Instead of simply copying iTunes playlists to the server, the Media Collector is now cable of scanning your client computers for photos, music, and videos and storing them on the server in the corresponding shared folder.

EX487 Server Console Media Collector Summary

EX487 Server Console Media Collector Summary

As a test, I configured the Media Collector to search in my Music folder in my home directory which corresponds to my CD rip settings in Windows Media Player, and copy any music found and store it on the server by PC folder structure. I then ripped a CD, and in about an hour the Media Collector found it and copied it to the server, mostly as expected. I also configured the Media Collector to gather up my Photos and Videos from the default user home directory locations, and this performed similarly to the Music experience.

EX487 Server Console Media Collector General Settings

EX487 Server Console Media Collector General Settings

EX487 Server Console Media Collector Music Settings

EX487 Server Console Media Collector Music Settings

This feature seems to work as designed, though it will result in some wasted storage space if you don’t stay on top cleaning up content on the client after it has been copied to the server. My only real complaint with this feature is the lack of customization options for client source and server destinations. I’d like to be able to specify custom source directories rather than “My Music” or All Folders. I’d also prefer more flexibility for where and how the files end up on the server. The previous Media Aggregator would organize by each client PC, whereas the Media Collector dumps them into a directory named after the Client User in the top level of each folder share (for example, the CD I ripped ended up in \\hpserver\Music\akuretz\). If you’re willing to work within these constraints and reorganize your shared folders, the Media Collector can be a great time saving feature.

I do have a concern that HP is “strongly recommending” that users provide the Guest account full access to the Photos, Videos, and Music shares, especially when no warning is given about the potential risks of doing this. With so many homes still running unsecured wireless networks, this seems like it could be a dangerous thing to recommend. I had no issues with the Media Collector in my brief testing with the Guest account disabled and access controlled by my configured user account.

Media Streaming

Media Streaming on the MediaSmart Server originally was limited to Windows Media Connect 2.0, and the Firefly Media Server for sharing iTunes libraries. The 1.3 update from HP delivered Packet Video (aka Twonky) which provided a more rich media streaming experience by supporting more file types and displaying album art.

The EX487 still includes Windows Media Connect 2.0 (the Windows Home Server delivered solution which is fairly out of date), however it is now disabled in favor of an updated TwonkyMedia streaming software. Media streaming appears to be a fairly straight forward application, with file support being the most common differentiator.

EX487 Server Console Twonky

EX487 Server Console Twonky

Unfortunately I had some significant issues with the Twonky software and file playback compatibility. I had numerous files that would play on my Xbox 360 and MediaSmart Connect with no issues through Windows Media Connect, yet would be reported as “Unsupported Format” when streamed through the new TwonkyMedia and often had incorrect meta data displayed, such as file durations of thousands of minutes. Some of these files were H264 encoded .MP4 home videos recorded on my Sanyo HD camcorder, and some would play and some would error, all recorded on the same camera. The worst part was that these same files all played successfully via the older PacketVideo software on my EX475. I also had issues with various downloaded xVid encoded avi files.

I also experienced some very strange behaviors while attempting to stream via Windows Media Player 11 on my client PC, such as missing track listings in album mode, missing or incorrect album art, and just strange layouts that performed correctly when streamed via Windows Media Connect. I’ve read reports of these types of issues before, and unfortunately this experience has really soured my impression of the Twonky software.

Remote Access

The Remote Access abilities of the EX487 remain similar to the EX475, with a very notable addition being the Remote Media Streaming feature of the new TwonkyMedia software. The default Remote landing page contains links to the Windows Home Server remote pages, the Photo Publisher, Photo Viewer, and Web Media Streamer pages. One detail that has bothered me about the MediaSmart Server is it’s lack of single sign-on between the HP and Microsoft authenticated Remote web pages. HP uses the Windows Home Server user information to verify the identity of remote users, yet fails to pass those credentials on to the WHS specific pages, and it is very frustrating to see that continue with the EX487.

EX487 Remote Access Default Page

EX487 Remote Access Default Page

The Web Media Streamer feature provides access from anywhere outside the home to all the music and photos stored on your server. I’ve spent many hours over the past few weeks at work listening to music streaming off my home server, and really like this feature.

EX487 Web Media Streamer Music

EX487 Web Media Streamer Music

It can be directly compared to Fireplay, a Flash based web interface for Remote Media Streaming that many users have manually implemented to work with the Firefly Media Server delivered on the EX470. I really wanted to prefer this solution over Fireplay, as it provides some advantages, such as better playlist support, folder based browsing of music stored on the server, and streaming of photos stored on the server.

I did find some oddities and strange behavior with the Web Media Streamer software. Track counts were incorrect for most albums, often showing duplicated counts (for example, an album with 11 tracks would have a track count of 22), my best guess being that the software was combining the “All” and individual album track counts. I also found that longer tracks (6+ minutes in duration) would frequently stop playing and skip to the next track while streaming to where I was listening at my place of work. I have not yet been able to attribute this to a TwonkyMedia issue, router issue, or work firewall issue, but my suspicion is that the Twonky software is to blame as a Wireshark trace shows a server RST connection sent to terminate the connection as well as the fact that the same files play their full duration via Fireplay. The most annoying issue is the lack of preservation of track order. When playing an album, I like to listen to it in the order which the artist chose to create it, however the Twonky Web Media Streaming software lists tracks in a totally indecipherable order, not based on ID3 tags, file names, or track numbers. An example of both the track listing and track count issue is shown below, which is the CD I ripped in the Media Collector test scenario.

EX487 Web Media Streamer Weird Track Counts

EX487 Web Media Streamer Weird Track Counts

This experience basically has left me torn between using my old stand-by of Fireplay, which has limitations on playlists, does not support folder browsing, and does not support photos, and the new Twonky Web Media Streamer which supports all that Fireplay lacks, but won’t play songs over 6 minutes in duration, and plays albums with their tracks out of order.

Photo Viewer and Photo Publisher

The EX475 included the Photo Webshare application, which by most accounts was a relatively clumsy application. The Webshare manager was forced to create user accounts with no mechanism to import address books, albums could only be created from photos on the client system and not those already stored on the server, and the original release was plagued by poor quality resized images due to the compression algorithm used by the server upon image upload.

With the EX487, HP decided to simplify and at the same time expand the options for sharing photos from the MediaSmart Server. The new Photo Publisher application allows the user to upload only photos stored on the server, and utilizes a Flash interface so is compatible with more browsers than the previous ActiveX control used in the EX475. This worked pretty well for me, though I had some strange errors occur when attempting to create albums via a remote connection that I attribute to timeout errors. Selecting photos to add to an album is as easy as click a checkbox next to an individual photo or a directory from the tree on the left.

EX487 Photo Publisher Upload

EX487 Photo Publisher Upload

Once an album is created and photos added, the Photo Publisher process is complete and any users is able to access your shared albums if you have Remote Access enabled, there is no longer any password protection for these albums. I did find a few limitations with this package. For one, I could find no way to rotate photos added to the album, so the Photo Viewer is anticipating that any photos stored on your server are already rotated correctly. Also, the software fails to add any default caption (often in other software packages the image file name is used), which forces the user to manually add a caption to each photo if they want additional info displayed. Finally, the Slideshow feature was quite nice and the resized photos retained high quality, however the slideshow controls and captions remained in the foreground on top of the images, obscuring the picture even when the window was not in focus.

EX487 Photo Viewer slideshow and captions

EX487 Photo Viewer slideshow and captions

Overall I think the Photo Publisher and Photo Viewer applications, while not “best in class” do a good job at making it easy to share photos with remote family and friends, plus it supported IE7, FireFox3, and Chrome browsers (I was unable to test Safari but suspect it would be fine) for upload and viewing. For improvements I would recommend that HP provide a mechanism to rotate pictures in the albums, as well as default captioning of photos to contain the image name.

In addition to the Photo Viewer, users can upload pictures to various online photo sharing sites via the Photo Publisher. Supported online services include Snapfish, Flickr, Facebook, and Picasa Web Albums.

EX487 Photo Publisher Online Services

EX487 Photo Publisher Online Services

The photo upload experience is the same, however the user is prompted to authenticate with the online service and any available online albums able to used as the destination target for photos uploaded from the server.

Online Backup

For many users, just having all their systems and important data backed up and duplicated on the MediaSmart Server is a huge step towards protecting their valuable photos, music, and documents. However in the event of a catastrophic event such as fire or flood, the server and all that data could be lost. With the EX487, HP is offering an Online Backup feature which allows the user to back up select shares to the Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3). Note that this is not a free service, see the Amazon link for pricing information.

EX487 Server Console Online Backup

EX487 Server Console Online Backup

Configuration and scheduling of the Online Backup feature is straight forward, though you will need to sign up for an S3 account and Access Key if you don’t already have one. I would have really preferred to have more granularity for selecting what to back up rather than just at the share level. For example, I’ll happily pay to backup my precious family photos but do not want to online backup all the other miscellaneous pictures in my Photos share. This forces me to reorganize the way I store content on the server and add new shared folders to TwonkyMedia.

EX487 Server Console Online Backup Settings

EX487 Server Console Online Backup Settings

I was also able to schedule an Online Backup during the Sleep window with no warnings, which could possibly be problematic. I did not test this thoroughly to see if Health Notifications were generated to inform the user of the conflicted configuration.

Mac Features

Unfortunately I do not have a Mac available to perform testing of these features, so I’ll just have to give an overview of what is available for the Mac user. First is the Client Control Center, which provides easy access to the shared folders on the Server, a link to the Photo Publisher, and the ability to wake the server from Sleep mode.

The second and very exciting feature is the ability use Time Machine to back up your Mac to the MediaSmart Server. My understanding is that this feature creates a virtual disk on the Mac from a network location on the Server, which Time Machine will use as a backup destination. Note that this is not a full OS backup/restore utility such as is provided for Windows PCs with Windows Home Server, as the documentation for this feature states that HP has implemented only a file restore process and not a full OS restore process. This feature does require OSX 10.5 or higher. Also be aware that should you need to change the size of your backup, you will lose all previous backup data.

EX487 Server Console Mac Features

EX487 Server Console Mac Features

This is a powerful feature for households that have both Mac and PC systems that need to be backed up, and I believe will be a true differentiator for some customers trying to decide on what to use for their home server needs.

Easter Eggs and Goodies

The MediaSmart Server team has included two Easter Egg features that I have discovered so far. The first is the same Light Show feature found in the EX475, which is accessed by navigating to the “HP MediaSmart Server” Settings Tab, selecting the LEDs tab, holding the CTRL SHIFT and ALT keys and clicking on the server icon. The Brightness slider will change to a feature slider that controls the behavior of the drive LEDs.

EX487 Server Console Easter Egg

EX487 Server Console Easter Egg

I did notice that what they call “purple” appears to be more of a tan/pink or off-white color rather than true purple, due to the aqua LEDs.

The second Easter Egg feature is a hidden album stored in the Photo Viewer application, and contains twelve photos of some members of the MediaSmart Server development team. The only way I found to access the album was by typing in the following URL: https://hpserver/PhotoViewer/HP/index.xml .

EX487 Photo Viewer Easter Egg

EX487 Photo Viewer Easter Egg

It’s good to see that the team was able to add a bit of their humor and personalities into the product.

Summary

The new EX487 is a positive progression and natural evolution of the MediaSmart Server. Overall the system is much more polished in presentation and provides a more broad and desirable set of features over the EX475. There are some issues and limitations with the new server, as I have discussed earlier in this review, and users should consider carefully their intended use of the server prior to choosing the EX487 over the EX475. I think almost all users that will find that 2-4TB of storage is adequate, they will want the performance improvement of the 2GB memory, appreciate the larger system drives, and will ultimately find the EX487 to be an excellent solution. For a portion of you, however, if your storage needs demand the use of an eSATA enclosure, for the time being you are out of luck.

Pros

  • A great looking and performing chassis that if anything has been improved to look even better
  • Much more polished and better designed Server Console interface
  • 2GB memory and larger stock hard drives
  • Mac integration for Time Machine backups
  • Improved content aggregation, remote media streaming, and online backup

Cons

  • TwonkyMedia and Remote Media Streaming software quirky and in need of some polish
  • eSATA port not port-multiplier aware
  • Still no single sign-on for Remote Access
  • Limited ability to customize Media Collector and Online Backup features

Future Tests and Activities

While I believe I’ve performed a fairly thorough test and evaluation of the EX487, there are some further tests and activities I’d like to perform.

  • Publish the pictures I’ve taken of the guts of the server
  • Perform disk and network I/O performance tests in comparison to the EX475.
  • Acquire a Mac suitable for evaluating the Control Center and Time Machine backup feature.
  • Do some more exploring of the system for registry and driver info to see if a MSS Fan Control style Add-In would be possible, though my initial investigations have shown that the mechanism for controlling the fans is different from the EX475.
  • Investigate if a driver update for the Intel Storage Manager would get the eSATA port working with port multipliers, or if a BIOS update is required.

If you have feedback, a testing request, or questions, feel free to leave a comment or post in this forum topic.





Article by

I'm Alex Kuretz, and I'm the founder of MediaSmartServer.net. I was the Lead Test and Integration Engineer at HP for the MediaSmart Server until April 2008 when I moved on to other opportunities outside HP. I've kept active in the Windows Home Server community, creating several add-ins and helping users make the most of their Home Servers.


{ 92 comments }

Alexander December 28, 2008 at 11:24 pm

The raid controller? What is it? Marvell?

Eager to see the guts shoots :)

christian December 29, 2008 at 4:39 am

great write-up – thanks Alex.

Served December 29, 2008 at 4:52 am

“Still no single sign-on for Remote Access”

aw geez! and this is for a new interface we’d be proud to show our friends and family?

CBick December 29, 2008 at 5:30 am

Alex,

Will your MS fan control Add-In work on this platform?

Texas-Hansen December 29, 2008 at 6:07 am

Thanks. Great review.

How does the Intel Celeron 2 ghz 64 bit processor differ in performance from the AMD Sempron LE-1150 2.0 ghz processor that is currently appearing in the Ex 47x series?

Will these software updates and improvements for the new MSS eventually make their way to the current owners of MSSs as updates?

All4Fun December 29, 2008 at 7:12 am

Thanks for taking the time to write this review Alex.

Diehard December 29, 2008 at 9:27 am

The EX487 comes with an eSATA port just like the EX475, however my testing uncovered that at this time the eSATA port is NOT port multiplier aware! This means that those of you with external eSATA enclosures will only be able to see a single drive, and can significantly reduce the potential storage capacity of your MediaSmart Server.

I’m assuming the EX47x eSATA port IS port multiplier aware.
Is this because of a different CPU or has another chip changed ?

Jason Alinen December 29, 2008 at 1:40 pm

They should really have a solution to backup online with some of the free services out there; google and microsoft have free solutions and those of us with less than 20gb of pic’s should not have to pay Amazon for this feature….

Alex Kuretz December 29, 2008 at 2:46 pm

Thanks for all the feedback!

Cbick, as it exists currently, MSS Fan Control will not work with Encore. It may be possible to release a new Add-In but I have not yet investigated that fully.

I did get final word from HP that there will be no update to the EX485/EX487 to enable the eSATA port to work with port multipliers, which means no external multidrive enclosure support. :(

Er December 29, 2008 at 5:01 pm

Alex, you are truly a HP WHS Hero. Thanks for the great work. As I will be upgrading my memory to 2gigs I am not really concerned over 2 points in cpu upgrade. However what I would really like to know is, will that great looking software package be a upgraded to us EX 470-475 owners? I just got my 475 server 2 weeks ago 12/08
Thanks keep up the great work.
ernie

Diehard December 29, 2008 at 5:06 pm

I did get final word from HP that there will be no update to the EX485/EX487 to enable the eSATA port to work with port multipliers, which means no external multidrive enclosure support.

Now that’s a step backwards. I’ll just take the software and update my EX470 with a AMD X2 3800 Dual core and a few 1.5TB then get a TowerRAID TR4U-B

Mark Zetzmann December 29, 2008 at 5:12 pm

I have the current Media Smart Server. I have not seen any information on weather HP will offer a software upgrade for current users. Any info would be appreciated.

Alex Kuretz December 29, 2008 at 5:16 pm

HP has told me that yes, some features of the EX487 will be available for the EX470/EX475 via software update, specifically the Mac Backup and S3 Online Backup features. They have not committed to a delivery time or date, though it seems reasonable to presume it should be near the launch of the EX487.

Diehard December 29, 2008 at 5:16 pm

the new MediaSmart Server is a tremendous step forward

I wouldn’t go that far.

Jen Smart December 29, 2008 at 5:19 pm

Hi, we use Time Machine and it does backup the entire System OS and all and then it updates the changed files. It does use a disk image that is autoresizing so as long as there is disk space, it will continue to resize. Then when you run out it will start to delete the older backup files automatically. Still allowing for a full reinstall if needed. This is all managed by the Time machine app in OS 10.5 or higher. I have asked HP to let me try one and I will let you know how it goes.

If you will be at CES, be sure to stop by and say Hi. I will have my mobile studio in the Plaza again this year.

Jen

Alex Kuretz December 29, 2008 at 5:28 pm

Hi Jen,

Thanks for letting me know more about how Time Machine works. I based that part of my review on the HP documentation, which states:

We have implemented a restore process where you can restore your data that has been backed up. We have not implemented a program where you can recover your Mac Operating System.

I should have been more clear and stated that the feature is not designed to restore the OS, I will update the review accordingly.

Thanks,
Alex

Lee Jamilkowski December 29, 2008 at 9:42 pm

I’d like to know more about the captioning in the photo webshare. On our current Mediasmart, this is a severely lacking feature (something like 12 characters). If they implemented captioning more along the lines of any of the major photosharing websites, it would be a great improvement.

Alex Kuretz December 29, 2008 at 10:33 pm

Hi Lee,

I tried adding a really long caption, and after a few sentences I stopped because I had not yet hit the limit. One weirdness, however, is that in both filmstrip and slideshow modes the caption shows two rows of text and has a tiny scroll bar on the side, which is a fairly unwieldy interface. Fortunately in slideshow mode a tooltip style text box appears on mouseover, showing the full text.

I’ve uploaded a screenshot so you can see what this looks like.

I hope this helps.
Alex

Rex Allen December 30, 2008 at 11:01 am

Nice incremental upgrade (especially with the Mac add-ons). Next time, be more ambitious – ideas:

1. Single sign-on
2. Embedded HMDI port(s)
3. TV Tuner card with onboard decoder
4. More integration with other Home Theater/TV remotes/iPhone
5. Tighter intregration of software not just add-ons
6. Much simpler user interface (ala Apple TV)
7. Full support of Macs
8. Built-in Router/VPN

Alex Kuretz December 30, 2008 at 11:15 am

Hi Rex,

Thanks for your feedback and input, and I’m pretty sure HP is watching these reviews. :)

I’m torn with some of your suggestions, to be honest I’m not sure I want my homeserver to be the “everything” media box in my home. Should it really be a HTPC? Do you want it sitting on a shelf next to your TV? Do you want a router in it, that gets outdated when the next wireless standard shows up? Now you’ve got to buy a new server with a new router to upgrade. You’ve also significantly increased the size, power consumption, probably noise, and heat of the device. See where I’m going with this?

I do want to easily be able to have my HTPC store my recorded TV on the server, and have any of my Extenders able to access that recorded content throughout my home. I do want it to be frugal with power, heat, and noise, so I can have my PCs sleep while the server is on.

Alex

Mistah Bonzai December 30, 2008 at 1:54 pm

I have a question(s) regarding the HD configuration options… Specifically, is it RAID (I assume so) and if so what are the supported profiles?

I’m a bit confused concerning the disk redundancy options. It would seem to me that a single HD configuration poses a single point-of-failure risk. This kinda defeats the purpose of a backup server – no? When using the 2 HD configuration is RAID 1 an option? RAID 0 is really adding risk as you now have (2) single points-of-failure. Are there other RAID options for 3/4 HD combinations> TIA -Mistah Bonzai

Rick December 30, 2008 at 2:28 pm

I too would like to get more information regarding the disk redundancy options. I’m evaluating the EX487 vs. the QNAP TS-509, and having full redundancy for my media is of utmost importance.

Alex Kuretz December 30, 2008 at 3:44 pm

Hi Rick and Mistah Bonzai,

Windows Home Server does not use RAID, it uses a technology developed by Microsoft called Drive Extender. There are a few advantages to this; it allows you to add any size drive you like and it just show a single large volume of storage. When you need more storage, just add a new drive. Duplication is managed on a per folder-share basis, so say you only want to duplicate your precious photos but don’t care to duplicate the videos you’ve downloaded off the internet. Also, the drives are formatted with NTFS, so if the server motherboard dies, you can still remove the drives, insert them into a PC and recover your data.

Microsoft has a nice writeup on their blog, and there are also whitepapers available that discuss the various technologies in Windows Home Server.

I hope this helps.
Alex

Rick December 31, 2008 at 2:01 pm

Sold. Thanks Alex!

Mistah Bonzai December 31, 2008 at 5:31 pm

Thanks Alex. I appreciate the clarification concerning the MS ‘Drive Extender’ functionality. That said…

It surprises me that RAID isn’t included. For instance if I do full system backups of the 4 PCs I have here to the WHS then I’m depending on the integrity of a single HD in the WHS. I can see spreading your ‘must have’ media files over 2 HDs for added security however should that drive fail and it contained system backups I would need to redo all backups to the replacement HD. Unless of course I made redundant copies to additional HDs… It would seem that RAID 1 would be a far less troublesome solution in that regard.

I guess what I’m getting at is that I’m amazed that anyone would release a “Home Windows Server” appliance without RAID. Thanks again. -Mistah Bonzai

Alex Kuretz December 31, 2008 at 8:06 pm

I hear what you are saying, and some people remain attached to RAID as what they perceive to be the best solution. I’m not sure how much info you’ve read about WHS, so I’ll try to address your points.

If you think about it, you already have a backup of your PC backup database — the PCs themselves! Granted, if you lost a PC and at the same time lost a server HDD that contained PC backups, you could be in an uncomfortable situation. The likelyhood of that occurring is probably extremely slim. If you’re super concerned about it, I have created a WHS Add-In that automates the manual steps documented by Microsoft to backup the PC backup database. You could also enable duplication of the PC backup DB, though this is an undocumented and unsupported process.

Also note that WHS decides where all data is stored, you do not have any choice or say on what drive the PC backups (or any files for that matter) are stored.

There are also some disadvantages to RAID over Drive Extender. A RAID 1 setup has to dedicate an exact copy of the volume for redundancy, everything is duplicated whether you want it to be or not. With Drive Extender you get to choose what information is duplicated and what is not, saving valuable disk space yet providing confidence that important data is stored on multiple physical disks. With Drive Extender you get to add arbitrary disks to the volume, there is no dependency on matching disk sizes (or wasting space by creating volumes smaller than the disk size to conform to the RAID array size). In a hardware RAID scenario, you are dependent upon the RAID controller; should that controller (or motherboard) die, you no longer have access to the files stored on those drives unless you are able to find an exact replacement controller. Since Drive Extender uses NTFS formatted disks readable by any PC (and pretty much any Linux or Mac system) you can recover data off the drives even in the event of an OS or hardware failure.

I’ll admit it took me a while to get comfortable with Drive Extender, and I recognize it’s not the perfect solution for every scenario. For the average home user, however, I think this is a great solution that doesn’t require too much technical knowledge, is reliable and robust, and simplifies home storage.

Thanks for you comments,
Alex

Mistah Bonzai December 31, 2008 at 9:21 pm

First off I’m not a ‘RAID fanboy’ and certainly have no axe to grind here – I simply need to understand the limitations (and benefits) of utilizing the DE capability of the WHS. I’ve spent the last few hours reading reviews and articles associated with DE. The article on the WHS Team Blog did a great job of explaining the pros/cons of DE versus RAID. I also read the posts by “Fear The Cowboy” – he made some good points but I did come away with the feeling that he over played the advantages of DE while downplaying RAID reliability (given the unusual circumstances of his RAID failure example).

What I didn’t find was a real world example of how DE could be configured to insure that duplicate copies of mission critical files were written to separate drives which would persist unless configured otherwise. If I can set up the DE to provide RAID1 level of reliability then it appears that DE will work for me. Maybe simply set the WHS to ‘shadow copy’ everything…?

Question: Would you care to share your experience with what it takes to create/maintain redundant copies of PC backups and ‘must keep’ media data on separate drives? TIA. -Mistah Bonzai

Mistah Bonzai December 31, 2008 at 9:41 pm

Looks like I was busy posting questions while you were providing the answers *lafin* I didn’t expect such a timely response – especially on New Years Eve. Thanks! I guess we know who the geeks are *grinz*

You touched on the issue that’s been bugging me when you said:

blockquote cite=”Also note that WHS decides where all data is stored, you do not have any choice or say on what drive the PC backups (or any files for that matter) are stored.”>

I read many times that DE could create duplicate folders but if they were on the same HD then what benefit would that provide in the way of data integrity (assuming a HD failure)…? I keep feeling that I’m missing something basic here. I’m off to read your WHS Backup Database-Backup Add-In article. Thanks again for your all patience and helpful information. Happy New Year! -Mistah Bonzai

CBick December 31, 2008 at 10:46 pm

While you don’t have control on which drive your data is stored on all duplicates are stored on a seperate drive.

Never on the same drive as the original.

Mistah Bonzai December 31, 2008 at 11:29 pm

Thanks to all for helping this ‘newb’ get a foot hold on the ins/outs of the WHS *smile* It turns out that the WHS Backup Database-Backup Add-In article and more importantly, the forum posts, gave me the info I was looking for. Nice job and thanks again. The EX487 is now on my ‘gotta have it’ list.

BTW: I’m a 30 year DEC/CPQ/HP veteran..Global Solutions Engineering – EEP and MSE Lab support. Mostly in Littleton MA and Cupertino CA. Retired in May 2007 and lovin’ it here in Portsmouth NH *grinz*

Dave January 1, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Alex, would you clarify something: You mention that the new version’s drive LED’s “pulse aqua” until the server is set up, rather than glowing purple. I have a four-drive 470 right now and I use two of the four drives as network-mounted drives, rather than assigning them to be DE drives. My unit sits where I see it, and I’m perfectly happy with those two drives being purple rather than blue. But I’m wondering if doing this with the new versions mean that they would pulse aqua forever?

On a slightly different note, while my 470 is new enough that I could return it, I’m delighted that I don’t find myself wanting to do so. Not only do I like the fact that the current eSata connector works with multi-drive setups, I dislike the change of the blue for aqua LEDs!

I’m curious how others feel…

Dave

Alex Kuretz January 1, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Mistah Banzai, glad we got your questions answered and great to hear you plan to pick up a MediaSmart Server! :) Definitely sign up to the forums ask any more questions you have, there’s a friendly helpful bunch here.

Hi Dave, when a new drive is inserted into the EX487, the aqua LED blinks and a medium pace. Once it is added to the storage pool or as a backup drive, the LED turns solid aqua. If you are a user has just another drive added as a new volume with a drive letter but it remains in the “Non Storage Hard Drive” section of WHS, then the light may blink indefinitely. I have not investigated a hack to change this behavior but imagine it’s possible.

There’s a couple forum topics where people share more thoughts on many aspects of the EX487, including the change in LED colors. There is a whole forum dedicated to the EX487 hardware and another thread specifically about my review and people’s impressions of the new MediaSmart Server.

I hope this helps,
Alex

Ed January 2, 2009 at 11:57 am

Alex, I’m rather new to the MSS scene, just received the EX475 and x280n a couple of weeks ago. The only real issue I have is with playback of photographs through the x280n, paging from image to image dreadfully slow. Is this the fault of the MSS? If so, is the EX487 any faster?

Thanks

Alex Kuretz January 2, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Hi Ed,

I’d be happy to discuss this with you, but since this isn’t really related to my review or the EX487 I would recommend you post a question in the Media Streaming or Troubleshooting sections of the forums where I and other members of the site can help with troubleshooting.

Thanks,
Alex

Ronald johnston January 2, 2009 at 10:12 pm

I would like to know if the software release for the EX475 will allow the control center to appear on the mac desktop. Will apple TV recognize the server and allow streaming media files to be broadcast via apple tv?

Alex Kuretz January 3, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Hi Ronald,

I’ll refer you to my original comment about updates to the EX470/EX475, HP has only stated that an update will be available, not exactly what will be delivered. Hopefully we’ll get more info on this soon.

Thanks,
Alex

Jerry January 3, 2009 at 7:31 pm

Hi,

It would sour many to learn that the new software on the 485/487 would not also be extended to the 470/475 units. They have not been out very long and many merchants still sell them. The sales would stop cold if users discovered no more major updates would be made them. Merchants might also shorten their orders on new units as well if they can’t sell the older ones. Not a smart move. Continue to to upgrade the software aboard both.

I bought a phone system by Talkswitch several years ago and any additional features to the product are FREE with a simple download to the firmware. Very Smart. They made a decision not to let the product get outdated but to improve and expound on the existing architecture.

HP are you listening? Please update 470/475 users with any new feature enhancements to the software.

Thanks for reading?

Alex Matthews January 4, 2009 at 9:13 am

Hello Alex,

I´m also using the XBOX360 to looking videos. Is in the final Version the EX 487 the described bug solved?

Best regards
alex

Richard January 4, 2009 at 10:56 pm

It would seem like HP would want to make good on its original documentation that noted that Macs could be backed up by providing this feature as an update.

Christian January 6, 2009 at 6:01 am

Do I understand you correctly that it is possible to wake the server EX487 via the Wake On Lan feature from a web approach.
Thanks

Alex Kuretz January 6, 2009 at 10:17 am

Alex, my review was based off the final production version of the EX487, so I expect to see the issues I describe until Twonky provides an update. Judging from their history with the EX470/EX475 I would not expect an update any time soon.

Christian, I’m not sure what you mean by “web approach”, do you have a specific example? As I mention in the review, I was able to wake the server via the Wake On Lan feature of my router. I can log into my router from the internet so I could wake up the server while away from home.

I hope this helps.

Christian January 6, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Thanks for the reply, just to be sure you only use http/s:// ip address and not VPN and client application. If there are problems with the router / firewall the solution can be:The default port for the wake-up transmission is UDP port 9.

Alex Kuretz January 6, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Your browser must be magical, mine does not know how to send the WOL “Magic” packet, which needs to know the MAC address of the target computer to wake up.

No VPN or client application is needed in my case, as the Tomato firmware on my router includes WOL functionality.

Ryan January 12, 2009 at 9:02 pm

I am looking into both the Media Smart Server and Drobo. Mainly, I need to replace my tired old file server with something that works smoothly with both mac and pc. Primarily MAC though. I am constantly working with files directly on my server ie. In design, photoshop… The Media Smart Server looks fine if your simply working with familly photos, some music but how well does it work when you put it into a small professional company where multiple users, both pc and mac, will be working with large files on the server over the network?

Anybody else have a similar situation?

Doogle January 16, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Hi all – A newbie question: I have a Media Vault (MV020) that I use for backing up PCs on my home network and for storing videos so I can view with my MediaSmart exstender. Can someone tell me the advantage of upgrading to a MediaSmart Server? Thanks

daveparm January 17, 2009 at 3:13 am

Ryan – I am in a similar boat. I’m a digital artist that focuses on animation and video and while I wouldn’t necessarily work off the server all the time, I’d like to have the option to open a few files now and then without copying everything local. I’d definitely like to have a more centralized location to keep all of my stuff within my reach. I do a lot of my work on a 15″ Macbook Pro, but I also have a PC tower and y wife has a PC laptop.

The bigger issue I’ve been having is pulling the trigger on the latest EX48X series, or picking up an older (and most likely refurbished) EX47X series model and upgrading the RAM for much less $$$. I’ve been trying to see if HP will extend all of the new software updates into the older ones.

Alex, through the use of multiple add-ins, is it possible to achieve most of the functionality of the newer EX48X models on the older EX47X models? For example: HP has added remote streaming of your music into the new software, but it appears that this has already been available through firefly/some other add-ins. Thoughts?

-dp-

Alex Kuretz January 22, 2009 at 2:07 am

Ryan and daveparm,

I tend to use my server primarily as backup and storage, and do my work on my desktop with local files. In network performance tests the MediaSmart Server has performed very well, though it’s not like a dedicated high performance disk array. I think the answer of how well it will work in the situation you describe really depends on your expectations and use model. Do note that WHS does not like for files to be left open on the server for long periods of time, as Drive Extender is not able to migrate or duplicate files while they are in use.

daveparm, you can achieve the remote media streaming with Fireplay as I mention in the review. The Mac backup solution does not exist elsewhere to the best of my knowledge, though HP has told me they plan to port it back to the EX47x servers. The new file sharing feature is superior in almost all ways over the Webshare, and from my experience the new Twonky software is a bit of a regression from the Packet Video of the EX47x in terms of file support. So, you can get close in functionality when HP releases an update for the EX47x series but it won’t be an exact reproduction of the new EX48x series.

doogle, the backup solution in the MediaSmart Server is more tightly integrated and in my opinion a better backup solution than the NTI Shadow of the MediaVault. The primary differences between MediaVault and MediaSmart Server are three main points:

  • Expandability – more drive capacity
  • Extensability – able to install Add-Ins and other Windows software
  • Performance – faster processor and more RAM allow the server to be able to do more

The Remote Access features are a little more advanced as well.

I hope this helps!

Ryan January 23, 2009 at 1:32 pm

I have multiple external hard drives and am concerned. Is the fact that this machine is not port-multiplier aware mean that I cannot daisy-chain nor plug in multiple external hard drives to this unit for the computers on my network to see?

Additionally, the limitations on remote accessibility which you mentioned concern me. I would like to smoothly and without impediment, access my files while at school or out of town. My main use for this server is to host and be a bank of all of my files, so that I may access them from either of my two Mac’s or my PC.

Thoughts?

Alex Kuretz January 23, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Hi Ryan,

The port multiplier functionality is specific to the eSATA port. This means that an eSATA enclosure connected to that port will only show one drive instead of the 4 or 5 drives that are possible with many eSATA enclosures such as the Sans Digital TR5M which I have reviewed on this site. There are 4 USB ports that you can connect to the server (there are multi-drive USB enclosures, Sans Digital makes several including an 8 drive unit), and a single external eSATA HDD could be connected to the eSATA port. This is massive expandability.

I’m not sure what limitations on Remote Access have you concerned. The only issues I noted in my review were with the Twonky Web Streaming application which is for streaming music or photos from your server over the internet. The standard Windows Home Server Remote Access features still exist, allowing you download and upload files to and from your MSS.

I hope this helps.
Alex

Ryan January 23, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Alex,

Thanks for the prompt response and for hosting this informational venue.

With the mediasmart server, will I be able to remotely access documents (not just photo’s, video, or music files) from outside of the network, as well?

Ryan January 23, 2009 at 2:54 pm

Sorry for all of the questions:

Are you saying you cannot fill up the many (I guess four) ports with eSata drives? It’s not expandable? You can’t buy and install more drives in the remaining slots/dock space?

Or are you saying that I cannot connect a bulk enclosure such as the Sans Digital TR5M to one of the terminal/docks in the Homemedia Server?

Alex Kuretz January 23, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Hi Ryan,

I think maybe you should peruse the Microsoft site to get a good overview of the Windows Home Server feature set. The Remote Access feature provides a web interface to access any file stored on the server.

The server has 4 internal SATA drive bays which you can fill however you like. eSATA is External SATA, there is a single eSATA port on all MediaSmart Servers, along with 4 USB ports for connection of external hard drives and enclosures.

I hope this helps.
Alex

Ryan January 27, 2009 at 6:50 pm

One last question:

Anyone know of the proposed release date for this????? If you can pre-order in January ’09, then it must be shortly thereafter, yeah?

Alex Kuretz January 28, 2009 at 12:28 am

HP has told me they expect the EX485 and EX487 to be available the first week of February, which at this time would make them available next week. That doesn’t wasn’t carved in stone, so it could be delayed slightly but I would expect to see them in a week or two.

Let us know if and when you buy one! :)

Ryan January 28, 2009 at 10:24 am

I bought (pre-ordered) one from Amazon last week… just can’t wait for it to get here!!!

Do you think adding a gigasbit switch to the network would be a good idea? Presently, I have the stock 2wire (AT&T)modem/wireless router.

Alex Kuretz January 28, 2009 at 10:28 am

A gigabit switch is a great idea, as long as your computers have gigabit ethernet ports. All other systems will run at the highest speed they support, usually 100mbit. It can’t hurt!

pmk January 31, 2009 at 1:30 pm

has anyone done ‘my documents’ redirection from multiple PCs to the Home Server? All PCs are Vista in workgroup mode.
Does that work well and synchronizes easily?

thanks
pmk

Alex Kuretz February 3, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Hi pmk,

While I’ve not done this myself, I know of others that have done this with success. The disadvantage is that the computer must then always be connected to the server for you to access those files. IMHO a better solution is to keep your documents local, and know that they are safely backed up on the home server. If you have need to also store them on the server, you could set up a synctoy or robocopy job to periodically back them up to your user share on the server.

I hope this helps,
Alex

Jace February 2, 2009 at 7:48 pm

Hi Alex,

I’m looking for a media server like this one that can also function once in a while as a large external array of storage to be used at mobile events to stream music videos, etc. Most the time it would serve as a media server in home office and backup solution.

My question is can this media server be hooked up to another computer via the eSATA connection and then have files accessed and streamed this way for speed. And if not, can I hook up another computer via Gigabit ethernet directly without a router and access the data this way and if so, any idea on the speed?

I’m a newbie to media servers so these question may seem stupid, but I’m just looking for a large redundant storage solution who’s throughput is fast for large video files and can also have the advantages of a media server like backup of all computers on a small business network. I may be wanting too much from 1 machine.

Thanks for any input you may have.

Jace

Alex Kuretz February 3, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Hi Jace,

You won’t be able to connect the server to another computer via the eSATA connection, however you could bring it with you along with a router and play content off the server to the PC. However, this would probably not be my recommendation as the server isn’t meant to be a portable device. I’d probably suggest you use the server as it is intended as a home-storage/backup/streaming solution, and then purchase a more portable large external drive that can contain a backup of your media suitable for taking on the road and connecting to your PC.

This would also benefit you as if the drive were to be stolen/damaged/lost, you’d still have the original copies safe at home on the server.

I hope this helps,
Alex

Allen February 4, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Hi Alex,

I am very seriously looking at the unit. I have read the threads here and am stil not clear on the eSATA so forgive me if I’m slow on the uptake.

I have a 2 bay external eSATA box in RAID1 that has it’s own internal multiplier thus only having a single eSATA cable running to my PC. My PC see’s it as a single drive but the box writes data sent by my PC to both disks in RAID1.

So, if I plug my box into the HP server will it see it. Will it write to it and the box taking care of the mirroring tasks?

Thanks!

Alex Kuretz February 4, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Hi Allen,

What you have is not a port multiplier but rather a RAID controller built into the external hard drive. This should work just fine with the MediaSmart Server, though I would probably recommend using it as a Server Backup drive rather than as part of the Windows Home Server storage pool. I say this because the RAID nature of it is very good at protecting your data in case one of those drive fails. WHS is already doing this with Drive Extender.

I hope this helps,
Alex

Allen February 6, 2009 at 4:07 am

Still looking at it. Can I allow folks to download images or other file types remotely?

KLC February 7, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Alex, I’m really interested in servers given the digital photo and video files I’m accumulating.

One question about the HP, why don’t they sell it without any drives?

Alex Kuretz February 7, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Allen – Yes, WHS comes with a Remote Access feature, though it does require a user login.

KLC – Most users want a system that works out-of-the-box, I would argue it’s a very small subset that want to fill their server with 2GB drives right away. Also, the system is useless without WHS and requiring the user to perform a Server Recovery as the first step to setup isn’t very friendly.

Dougie Fresh February 7, 2009 at 8:41 pm

Thanks for the terrific write-up. Looking through the write-up and the posts I’ve just said aloud, “I’ve learned so much today”. I am in the process of learning about WHS and the MediaSmart server.

Two comments:
1) About TwonkyMedia: I don’t have any experience with TwonkyMedia and I am disappointed to hear about these issues. I’ve been using a media server called “Tversity” for the past few weeks and I’ve been pretty happy with it. There are quite a few free/open source media servers out there with a good reputation, including Tversity. I wonder if you could disable the TwonkyMedia server and install a different media server?

2) About having TV tuner cards: it would actually be nice to have the media server also be a PVR so you could then stream your recordings to extenders throughout the house (bye bye Comcast DVR!) but have a central recording location. It wouldn’t have to be located next to the TV. It could be hooked up where the cable comes in maybe controlling a couple of cable boxes. Something like a Media Center Extender instead of an HTPC then could be what sits next to the TV.

I have to guess though w/o WHS being Windows Media Center it’s not going to work with Media Center Extenders. Wouldn’t it be nice in addition to having something like the MediaSmart serve your PCs it could also play with STBs like Media Center Extenders? One location for music, photos, video (tv or camcorder) served to PCs and set-top boxes. More convergence.

Maybe someone will read this and think to add Media Center to WHS so we can put a Media Center Extender next to the TV instead of a full-on PC.

allen February 9, 2009 at 6:01 pm

Hi Alex, Before I cough up the cash I need to ask you again but more specifically about remote access to files on the 487.

Can I setup user login & password access to any kind of file such as johndoe.zip, or jane.rar and so on. I keep thinking it’s just for media type files only.

Follow me. Sorry if I’m slow but I don’t want the trouble of assuming then disappointment and doing a return.

Alex Kuretz February 9, 2009 at 6:42 pm

Hi Allen,

Access to files is on a per-share basis, and only the users configured on the server can log in to the remote access site. Any file in the share is accessible, it is not limited to types of media.

You can read more about the Remote Access (and all other features of Windows Home Server) here:
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/windowshomeserver/connect.mspx

I hope that helps,
Alex

Allen February 9, 2009 at 7:38 pm

Yes, I needed it spelled out for me as HP’s site has nothing saying All File Types are available to share or allow remote access to.

Getting a real itchy trigger finger.

Allen February 9, 2009 at 7:52 pm

Another for you. I have two Western Digital RE3 750GB drives I plan to add and wonder how they rate against the Seagate drives in the unit. Are the Seagates enterprise drives.

Lee Jamilkowski February 14, 2009 at 8:47 pm

One more question regarding the captioning; I should have asked it before. With out current mediasmart server, when you type the captions, the box only shows 15 1/2 characters (one small lines) before you stop being able to see what you’re typing until you hit Enter/Return on the keyboard.

Is the data entry area what the yellow box in your screenshot represents? Any chance you could do some sort of Youtube video or something to show what the captioning process looks like.

Alex Kuretz February 15, 2009 at 9:23 pm

Sorry, no video at this time. The gold box is the mouseover caption, the black translucent box at the bottom middle is the text entry area. The new Photo Sharing application is much nicer on the new servers than the old Webshare.

Lee Jamilkowski February 16, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Thanks, Alex. I guess that is my main concern – it’s… difficult, at best, to enter 15 or so characters and then have the ability to keep typing but without seeing the rest of letters until you hit the enter key.

I just hope they can churn this new photo webshare for the old systems.

Alex Kuretz February 17, 2009 at 10:15 am

I agree with your frustrations, unfortunately HP has not indicated to me that they plan to supply the new Photo Sharing application to the EX47x series. I guess time will tell until we see an update…

Alan Davis February 21, 2009 at 10:52 pm

I’m looking at this device to serve as central storage for a growing music collection and a budding photography collection. Will it support using Media Monkey as my music collection software and a different photo organization software? Would also need to feed a Sonos music distribution system. Right now I have Media Monkey on my laptop and the music on an ancient Dell in the closet – works fine but can’t grow it any more.

Ima DingBat February 22, 2009 at 8:43 am

Last week we got our first HP ex485 WHS unit. We had it on back order for a few months and were very pleased to get one of the first units that our distributor received in stock. Over those same waiting months, we also accumulated four (4) Seagate 7200.11, 1.5 TB hard drives (the ones with the corrected firmware), and wanted to see what that new unit would do with a gross of 6.0 TB of drive storage. We were pleased to see that the OEM hard drive in the new ex485 was, in fact, a Seagate 7200.11 drive (750 GB), so we figured the 1.5 TB drives would work. We were correct in that assumption.

Initially we replaced only the original OEM drive with a 1.5 TB drive and restored the entire WHS system with the restore CD-ROM that was provided with the ex485 unit. The restore went flawlessly and completely installed all the HP WHS software, just as it had come from the factory. Once we initialized the ex485 and got it functioning correctly (which was a very easy task), we sequentially added each additional hard drive to the array, until all four drive bays were humming along with 1.5 TB of storage in each slot.

That was a week ago, and the ex485 hasn’t skipped a beat since then. The HP tweaks to the original WHS software suite are also quite nice and very useful. I must honestly say that it will be hard to beat this new ex485 with a home built WHS unit (and I’ve built many of those during the past year). I’m damn impressed with this little shiny black box, and its awesome storage capacity of 6.0 TB. Try one, you’ll love it!

Best regards to everyone. Ima DingBat

Yves March 26, 2009 at 12:00 pm

I use two EX475 on the same network.
Of course every NAS has a different name and I realy enjoy having one NAS for Home usage and the other one for my business.
My question is very simple: can I remote control my second EX475 ?
I access without any trouble to the first one, but I presume I should change some ports numbers to access the second one using the same DNS adress ?
Thank you so much for your answer.

Alex Kuretz April 5, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Yves, you’d need to change the ports that IIS listens, which could have more broad implications with software update and other included functionality. If you want to try it, this site has instructions

pam hawkins May 9, 2009 at 8:32 pm

Every Time I try INSTALL An UPGRADE most of them fail.When I purchased this PC from Walmart,in Ashheville N.C. I was assured all the upgrades were up to date. I am sorry to say ,I am not at all pleased with the service I have been recieving and I am about
to the point of returninng it, for false advertisement and mis- repretension. But I do think you for FOR ACKNOWLODGING the problem, but maybe you should make it known before it is purchased.
IT WOULDSAVE PEOPLE A LOT OF GAS ,BECAUSE i DO LIVE IN ANOTHER COUNTY.let alone the time and money I was out and even made another sale for your company : I even convienced me daughter to
also buy one of the P.C.’s now how does that make me look?
SO thanks For nothing. I’m already on disability, Thank You for making me life a lot easier during these times. P. HAWKINS

pam hawkins May 9, 2009 at 8:55 pm

I am so confused, when I bought this P.C. a was under the understanding all of the upgrades were up date. Every time I try to update HP MEDIA SMART UPGRADE it fails. I am ready to return my P.C. for mis-represention. I buoght this P.C . at the Walmart location in ASHEVILLE,N.C. Every time I try to upgrade the HP MEDIA START IT FAILS.I bought this P.C. in FEBRUARY, which wasn’t long ago. But i was assured everything was good to go.which it must nt have been. I am a disabled female and it has not been up to my expections,so any information you can give me ,i will THANK YOU. PAM HAWKINS

mora May 23, 2009 at 9:26 am

I am thinking about purchasing the HP Smart Server. Can I have this server be a central file sharing server for all my network? Basically, I want it to act as a File Server that will hold all documents (doc, xls, pdf. etc.) for all of my computers on the network instead of documents being stored on local PC hard drives. I know that it will scan and backup documents, but I want to use it as a centralized and active file sharing server.
Thank you.

Alex Kuretz May 27, 2009 at 1:52 pm

Hi Mora, you can definitely use the MediaSmart Server as a central location to store and access your files, both within the home and via the Remote Access webpage when you are outside the home. If you have further questions you may want to check in the Forums, any member of the community would be glad to offer their input.

Alex

Stephen June 12, 2009 at 8:04 pm

Alex, I am having a considerable amount of trouble with the Media Collection feature. I have about 28GB of music and wife has probably a similar amount but spread over mp3, video and pictures. I keep getting the error message. I have pored over the instructions and searched on web, but still unable to ascertain why it will not work. I have had the MediaServer up and running for about a week at this point.

I have the EX487 and 1.5TB of storage (SATA Hard Disk Seagate 1.5TB 3.5” 7200.11 ST31500341AS) and will be adding a second. I have set-up the guest account with no password and made sure all settings allow guest full access (to my chagrin).

Is it just that it will need to process the files over time. The password on my laptop is the same as the login for the server. I am the Administrator on my computer. sorry if this is the incorrect forum but driving me a bit nuts. if you could kick me in the right direction….

Alex Kuretz June 14, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Hi Stephen,

Congrats on the purchase of the MSS, and sorry to hear you are having difficulties. If you’ve not seen it yet, check out this Wiki entry, in particular the troubleshooting section. If that doesn’t resolve the problem, then please post in the forums and we’ll try to help you.

Thanks,
Alex

Stephen June 16, 2009 at 6:21 pm

Tks. tried but still an issue. When I checked Media Status Colletor tool gave me the following: Media Collector did not have read/write access to the server

also when i checked the task, had this recurring error message… thoughts? still not collecting music/pictures

Task Scheduler failed to launch action “C:\Program” in instance “{12735e40-d427-4c93-8eaa-79b26284c953}” of task “\DPC-mediaAgg”. Additional Data: Error Value: 2147942402.

Stephen June 16, 2009 at 6:26 pm

full log…

-

203
0
2
203
101
0×8000000000000000

20847

Microsoft-Windows-TaskScheduler/Operational
DPC-PC

-
\DPC-mediaAgg
{12735E40-D427-4C93-8EAA-79B26284C953}
C:\Program
2147942402

Alex Kuretz June 17, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Please post in the forums for troubleshooting assistance.

chrisweir July 23, 2009 at 2:01 am

Hello all,
I am hoping you can help me. I have just completed the HPMSS 2.5 upgrade for the second time, long story. I am running WHS on an HP Proliant server and with a few hours of playing have managed to get all but a few small functions operative, the main being HP media collector which is why i re-installed and which i cannot get work AT ALL! (frustration levels rising).

Anyway, following last nights re-install in a foolish and big headed know it all way i made a mistake. When i was testing all features, as i had the first time, an error came up when testing the photo viewer, media streamer and photo publisher tabs.

I resolved this last time by editing the config files in the C>Programme files>Hewlett Packard…..files. Last time i deleted a certain line in all three of the services and it worked fine. In my hast i did this again but believe i have deleted the wrong line as cannot now access the Photo viewer remotely or on the actual machine desktop.

Would anyone be able to copy the text from their webconfig text file and send it to me PLEASE so i can see which line i have deleted in error and resolve.

I am loathed to re-install for a third time.

Thank you in advance to anyone may help

Alex Kuretz July 23, 2009 at 9:30 am

Hi Chris, thanks for posting in the forums, we’ll get you sorted out there.

Alex

Thomas Y Hansen August 10, 2009 at 6:44 am

Hi and thank you.

Does it suport iSCSI? Can i map it as an exsternal disk….? And use it as an main HD for all my computers…?

Thank you :-)

Alex Kuretz August 12, 2009 at 1:01 pm

I do not believe it supports iSCSI but I’m not an expert on that so am not certain. You can map it’s shares as shared drives on your client PC.

Otto A December 3, 2009 at 1:32 pm

Q: Any way to install or add Windows Media Center/Windows Media Player?

Live video stream can broadcast to Tome TV over PS or XBox

Thanks

Comments are closed, visit the forums to continue the discussion.

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