How would you change the HP MediaSmart Server?

by Alex Kuretz on September 1, 2009 · 24 comments

in News

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One of my favorite features of Windows Home Server is it’s extensibility — the ability for developers to create Add-Ins that deliver new features, and for end users to install software that makes the Home Server better meet their needs. HP have taken advantage of this extensibility by delivering a set of features in the MediaSmart Server that exceeds any other OEM offering to date, but as the technology enthusiasts that many of us are, we always want more. The community here has modified the MediaSmart Server hardware with memory and CPU upgrades, and a few have gone further to add a media player, enable debug cables, and even a new base with debug ports. We’ve modified the default software configuration by improving the features of the Video Converter, added remote music streaming via the FirePlay for WHS Add-In, and numerous other enhancements.

If it were up to you, how would you change the MediaSmart Server to be an improved product that better met your needs right out of the box? We’ll be asking you in a week or two for your opinions on how you’d improve Windows Home Server, so for now let’s focus on the MediaSmart Server and what you’d like to see in a new model.


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.


{ 24 comments }

Texas-Hansen September 1, 2009 at 10:07 am

In terms of “out of the box” and anticipating the demands of the next generation of WHS, I’d like to see:

dual core intel atom processor;
4 GB of memory;
built-in small SSD drive for the OS (allowing all 4 bays to be hot swappable for data drives)

I think the rest of the changes I’d like to see can be covered by the next version of WHS.

Diehard September 1, 2009 at 10:46 am

I agree with Texas-Hansen I would also like to see a side mounted slot loading DVD drive for My Movies like the Tranquil AVA Media, and a VGA service port. Give me back port multiplier 2 of them. Maybe add a programable 1×8 lcd screen for temp & storage space.

Damian September 1, 2009 at 10:51 am

Definitely put E Sata port multiplier functionality back (and make sure the 4 drive limit is taken care of). Upgrade to USB 3.0 to help future proof. I like Tex’s suggestions for some of the other hardware upgrades (especially the SSD drive concept). I don’t know if practical but either the ability to customize your MSS on purchase for a bigger case (instead of 4 bays you have your choice of 4, 6, 8, or 32 bays) OR create a separate HP enclosure that fits with the aesthetics of the MSS and can be used for additional storage (similar to how the Sans Digital enclosures are used).

Awake September 1, 2009 at 2:10 pm

a) Make using the MediaServer much easier to use as a print-server. Most of us have several computers but only one printer, so hooking up printers to the always-on server is a natural decision. Currently viewing the queues, checking the ink quantities, etc can be difficult without directly logging on to the server desktop itself remotely. Adding a little application to the clients that allows users to view the queues and printer properties from their desktops would be very nice.

b) Build a no-CPU slave device that can be used to expand the MediaServer beyond 4 drives. Maybe an ESATA connection with a port multiplier inside the device. It would look identical to the MediaServer, but only drives, no CPU.

c) More robust backup of every part of the MediaServer, including creating bootable images of the OS, and disk spanning for large backups.

d) RSYNC built in so that two or more hardware devices can be kept fully or selectively synchronized.

e) A basic VGA port that can be used to perform system maintenance locally.

f) A ‘regular’ by-user trashcan, similar to what users already know in Windows and Mac.

erail September 1, 2009 at 2:47 pm

I’m not a big fan of the atom processor, so what I would like to see is a dual core socket P mobile processor with a heatpipe heatsink and fan. I would also like to see an eight drive 2.5″ solution in approximately the same form factor with an esata that is port multiplier aware with good daisy chain capabilities.

Matt September 1, 2009 at 3:25 pm

I like most (if not all) the already posted ideas.

More options, as far as ports, are always good ideas. I especially like the video output, USB 3.0, and ESATA. The print server idea that Awake had would also be very nice.

Though, I would like to see them stick with the minimalistic internal hardware approach because I like my electric bill low. The Celeron processor is more than capable to do anything it was meant to do out of the box. If they go with a more media center/distribution approach (which would be very well received), I would be looking for a separate processor to do some of the more intense decoding operations but just have the small main processor to do the internal functions.

The only thing I would add to the list is native video transcoding for the media server. I have accomplished this with VLC, and the hardware in the EX485 is more than capable. But something I don’t have to ‘homebrew’ is always appreciated.

Awake September 1, 2009 at 3:41 pm

I have to agree with the low power standard for the MediaServer. It should consume as little power as possible. That means a low end processor, such as Atom. By default, the system should be setup to use virtually no power unless doing some useful work. Disks should only be running when necessary or be asleep, file duplication should only kick in during ‘business’ hours, only one drive should be awake for system backups, etc.

Things like transcoding really belong on ‘real’ workstations with plenty of RAM, high end processors, etc. Do the work there and then copy it to the server, don’t try to turn the minimalist server into a power hogging workstation.

Mike September 1, 2009 at 5:05 pm

I would like to see it come with built in cable card TV tuners. Tvs should exist that can plug into Ethernet and I can watch TV or tell it to record. I should also be able to watch TV on my Laptops and PCs. Note that I do not want any sort of box at the TV, the intelligence should be in the TV. Probably a lot to ask, but it has to start somewhere.

DamianP September 1, 2009 at 5:30 pm

Mike – you can install a network tuner such as the HDHomeRun, install SageTV, and do exactly what you are asking for with the MSS. If you are talking about actual cable cards that is a completely different beast that is very difficult and expensive to even set up on an HTPC

Mike September 2, 2009 at 9:38 pm

DamianP. Thanks for the input. I have some familiarity with these options. But, what I am looking for is a single package solution. I have FiOS with most channels encrypted, so I really need a CableCard solution. I am very annoyed that the Cable Industry has so dragged their feet on making this a viable choice.

Aron Lasky September 6, 2009 at 8:08 am

Two things;
1) Ability to use some of the main drive as backup space
2) Ability to have a FULLY customize the remote login page; ability to have the OPTION of a UNIQUE login page for EACH remote user.

Martin February 13, 2011 at 5:08 am

Hello,

can you explain how to customise the loginpage within hp mediasmart server.

Thanks in advance.

Alex Kuretz February 13, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Hi Martin, please do a search in the forums, there are a few topics on this that vary depending on the version of the HP software that you are running.

Caveidver September 8, 2009 at 6:13 pm

8 bays in the main box like the Via 7800 with 2 port multiplier aware esata ports. Small internal ssd for the system drive. low wattage dual core cpu with plenty of ram.

Netnewbie101 September 9, 2009 at 12:23 am

Soup up the EX line if you wish. Next update to the LX line must retain SMALL, LOW-POWER REQ’TS, LOW-COST — but with enough upgrades so we don’t have to crack the box open to upgrade as soon as we get it. One internal drive is OK as long as it’s reliable and it’s easy to schedule backups to external USB drives. Importantly, we need to know that software and driver support will be available over time (i.e., not orphaned like the EX470, V2.5 issue).

jselzer September 9, 2009 at 2:03 pm

-Quiter, cooler and more energy efficient. Not that it is none of those now, only better.
-eSATA functionality back.
-Dual ethernet ports.
-make it bayless, put OS on flashrom, add a couple of eSata ports and things could get interesting.

Alex Kuretz September 9, 2009 at 5:25 pm

I’ve seen people ask for this before, what do you need two ethernet ports for?

jselzer September 9, 2009 at 7:41 pm

2 Ethernet Ports: multitasking. One can be busy and another process can access the other. Still would be limited by your ISP connection speed.

Awake September 9, 2009 at 8:13 pm

It is virtually impossible to saturate a 1Gbps Ethernet port with any amount of processing power available on a home system, so I also wonder why people are asking for more than one ethernet port.
The main reason for multiple ports is to have a distinct IP address for each port, isolating the ports from each other from a networking perspective. If your main network is VERY VERY busy, with many devices (dozens of computers) competing to transfer data, systems that need constant data rates might not be given sufficient time on the wire to transmit their data, since the wire itself is too busy. So you use a secondary ‘dedicated’ network for items that need a constant data flow, hence the multiple ports. For example you could put your ‘Entertainment’ network providing an HDTV data flow on one network, and the ‘other’ stuff on the other really busy network.
From a practical standpoint on a typical WHS setup dual ports are not needed, since the number of devices on the network is fairly small, the WHS system itself can not come anywhere near to filling the available bandwidth of the Ethernet cable, and demands from devices are relatively small.

jselzer September 9, 2009 at 10:07 pm

You asked for Wish List items. don’t forget, the server is capable of handling 10 user accounts at the same time, which leaves the possibility of them all being external. Some people are hosting a web page from there WHS. Start listing all the possible services that can be added, FTP, Outlook, backups,media streaming. I personally have not bounced off my 1 Gbps port limit, but i bet you won’t have to look hard to find more than a few who are. Also, by adding the second port, allows for future expansion later.

photon September 14, 2009 at 12:06 pm

The WHS OS boot drive needs to be restorable to it’s previous state just like the workstations can be restored in the event of a drive failure. The current restore to factory default is not sufficient. That still leaves you to rebuild your system from that point forward. This can be via periodic manual backup or nightly automated backup so long as you can replace the OS system drive boot from built in memory stick and restore to the state of the last backup.

Photo webshare that is fully developed, fully functional and comparable to web based services in features. The attempts so far fail to do even the features it attempts to provide very well. Alpha quality comes to mind…

Tim December 2, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Two words WEB HOSTING. Serious lack of ability here. MS has finally marketed WHS as a SOHO solution which is brilliant, but incomplete. I’m a lawyer in a small office with three attorneys sharing space and one office manager. Right now the two alternate solutions are Server 2008 R2 Foundation or Apple Snow Leopard Server on a mac mini together with four mac minis for each of us. MS needs to know that tech savvy folks in small business don’t like paying techs $100 an hour to fix the SBS or Server 2008 R2 Foundation. We use hosted exchange server, sharepoint and web hosting, but would love to be able to bring at least web hosting in house. The Mac is a serious option now that you can run windows for those industry specific apps that are MS only. Mac Snow Leopard Server has calander/email/task with push technology, web hosting, Wiki, Web DAV and unlimited users for $999.00 (Of course the external drives will add costs). I have played around with the mac mini server and it is very, very, very easy to manage easy interface that can can be switched to advanced and then back to a operator friendly interface in a snap. I love my WHS, I love seeing the little green light day in and day out telling me my network is healthy, but making the investment in Mac is a one time hit and is tempting as it can grow with my business.

The other Option is to develop a SOHO Server like WHS, but with added features. Foundation with a friendlier interface and ease of operation, if you will. As crazy as it sounds for MS to develop YET ANOTHER version of server software, I think MS may be missing out on a huge market and potentially to Apple. There are a lot of small business folks whose kids use Macs that will take some of the fear of switching away. All that is really missing is a sharepoint app on Snow Leopard Server. If a third party develops one, I think I would take the plunge.

Alex Kuretz December 2, 2009 at 8:52 pm

Interesting perspective, Tim, thanks for sharing.

Scott December 8, 2009 at 12:21 pm

I can’t tell what ideas would apply to the mediasmart servers vs. windows home server in general. But:
-I would like to be able to see if someone is using my home computer before I access it remotely, to avoid kicking anyone off.
-I like the idea of two CPUs, a monster and a low power, similar to how some of the newer laptops are doing.
-I would like some sort of Playon type software (or the Playon software itself) to come with the server. I love being able to stream hulu and other online content to my xboxs.

I love this guy’s idea:
Ability to FULLY customize the remote login page; ability to have the OPTION of a UNIQUE login page for EACH remote user.

Don’t care as much for some ideas: (no offense)
I like transcoding being a function of the server and I dread the idea of a dvd player built in. I have around 200 dvds and with the blu-ray switch underway I’m in the process of getting rid of all the dvd players I already have.

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