Opinion: Thoughts on the Vail RC0 Release

by Alex Kuretz on August 16, 2010 · 14 comments

in MediaSmartServer.net

At the time this article was published, the Microsoft announcement originally called this release RC0. That blog post has since been changed and the Release Candidate wording has been removed. I still believe that this release should not have been given to the general public since it includes known data corruption issues.

Microsoft has today announced the availability of an updated build of Windows Home Server Vail that delivers several changes and bug fixes from the first beta we saw back in April. For an in-depth look at what Vail is all about, see our Overview and Review of the original Beta, and for coverage of what is new in this latest release see our writeup here. At the time of the original Beta release I and others questioned whether Vail was in a state ready to be presented to the general public, given the large number of significant known issues that were documented in that release.

The troubling part of today’s release is that Microsoft has had the audacity to label this new build as “RC0″ or Release Candidate, while the release documentation includes 10 pages of known issues, including 2 issues that can lead to data corruption and should be show-stoppers. They are also choosing to release a QFE update file at the same time as the RC0 release in order to patch a significant issue rather than fixing the problem and releasing an updated build.

The two documented items that I consider to be show-stopper issues are:

Issue
Do not use Storage Check and Repair.
Description
Under certain conditions, running Storage Check and Repair may lead to data loss.
Solution
No workaround is available.

Issue
Removing a missing hard drive from a storage pool may delete the wrong files.
Description
If a hard drive is missing, and you remove the missing hard drive from the storage pool, the wizard may incorrectly identify the files damaged because of the missing disk and may delete files that still exist on hard drives that are not missing.
Solution
Before removing the missing hard drive from the storage pool, copy all the files from server folders to a client machine or to an external hard drive, remove the missing hard drive from the storage pool, and then copy back the files.

Apparently Microsoft wants you, the general public user, testing this release but make sure your drives don’t fail and don’t use all the included features.

For those that aren’t familiar with the software release lifecycle, I’ll refer you to this Wikipedia article that captures my understanding of what a Release Candidate of a software product should be.

The term release candidate (RC) refers to a version with potential to be a final product, ready to release unless fatal bugs emerge.

I’ve been a software tester for 10 years, and I would never consider the current state of Windows Home Server Vail to be a Release Candidate. In situations such as this, my most likely theory is that somewhere at Microsoft there is a schedule published to management, marketing, and OEM partners that lists today’s date as when a Release Candidate build is due from the product development team.

I have to wonder what Microsoft is trying to accomplish by choosing to tempt the court of public opinion by releasing more Data Corruption issues when people are still regaining trust from the original data corruption issue of late 2007.

Apparently this type of behavior isn’t uncommon at Microsoft, as we saw the same situation occur in 2006 when two industry analysts “accused Microsoft of changing the meaning of ‘release candidate’ by pushing out a version of Windows Vista that still needs major work”.

Nor is Microsoft fooling anyone by applying ‘release candidate’ to this build of Vista. “Watch the source here, who’s calling this ‘release candidate,” Cherry said. “It’s Microsoft. They’re going to be overly optimistic to make it appear they’ll make their dates.”

When the Beta released in April, I expressed some concerns that the build wasn’t ready for public consumption. With today’s Release Candidate release I’ll flatly state that Microsoft shouldn’t have released this to the public in it’s current form, particularly with a Release Candidate designation. Microsoft, if you want me as your general public user to test a Vail Release Candidate thoroughly, give me a build that doesn’t include known data corruption issues, doesn’t require the addition of extra patch files out of the box, and arrives without a mile-long list of known issues and incomplete features. It appears that Microsoft has forgotten that Windows Home Server is a consumer product.





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.


{ 10 comments }

Damian August 16, 2010 at 11:35 am

Thanks for not sugar coating anything Alex. These are some very critical bugs that need to be brought to the attention of readers and not downplayed. Hopefully the people who are using Vail understand that it should be used as a testing platform and not to be trusted with critical data

wodysweb August 16, 2010 at 11:48 am

Well put Alex, it’s always nice to read some insightful comments that aren’t filtered to shade Microsoft in a disproportionately positive light. The data corruption issue is really surprising that they’d let it out at this point. I think the great orator himself G.W. said it best, “fool me once, shame on … shame on you. It fool me. We can’t get fooled again.”

Joshua Lee August 16, 2010 at 12:39 pm

I am not sure where they call it a RC? I thought they were still branding this as a public preview refresh. I know in the past they may use different names as part of their internal development, however I believe that calling it a preview refresh keeps this firmly as a release for testing, and not as an almost ready release as you infer.

Alex Kuretz August 16, 2010 at 1:01 pm

RC0 was the label on the Microsoft blog post when it first released this morning, they have since updated the post.

Comp1962 August 16, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Thanks Alex for bring this up in the mannor you did. I would rather Microsoft just take the time they need to get it right. I am in 100% agreement with your view point.

Lars August 19, 2010 at 11:59 am

I guess Microsoft just does not get it. The first data corruption bug already killed the trust of a lot of potential users for WHS. What saved V.1 after PP1 were a bunch of additions and integrated solutions from the likes of HP and others. Now they are playing with fire again … unbelievable ! Thanks for the straight talk, Alex!

David September 15, 2010 at 7:48 pm

Well,

After renaming a Vail folder from within the Dashboard app and finding out that the folder then appeared to be empty and seeing the message “unhealthy (missing mount point run check and repair) in the Dashboard server folders tab, I thought I would follow the prompt and run the Storage Check and Repair Tool. It now appears that I have just lost about 1.6TB of data. The space is still allocated according to the “used space” listing in the Server Folders tab but when I access the folder, it is empty. Rebooting and running the Repair Tool several times did not help. I had no idea there was an issue with the repair tool and/or drive extender related issues.

Not sure what if any repair options I can try to get back the “missing” data that appears to be still on the drive just not linked correctly. Any thoughts or suggestions?

Comp1962 September 15, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Unfortunately this version of VAIL was released with a ton of known issues listed in the 16 Page Preview Document. For this reason and others I chose not to install this version of Vail until yesterday when I was asked to look at something. Since I had nothing to lose I figured I would install it. Which actually took longer then expected. Took quite sometime to install the Launchpad and Dashboard software, longer then I recall for the initial release. Then of course I had like everyone else to install thier QFE KB2314473 which Microsoft released with the Preview when one would of thought they would of encorperated that into the release. I did notice there were some 33 updates downloaded so it does appear they are working on issues but some of course have to do with Server 2008.

Anyway I am not planning any full scale testing of the software but I do know enough not to rely on it.

Sethy October 10, 2010 at 10:05 am

Before I read this article, I’m looking for the right place to ask my question.

Asking when Vail will be released … is a none sense question …

Alex Kuretz October 11, 2010 at 8:47 am

If you’ve not read the article, how do you know the answer isn’t contained inside? :) Microsoft has not announced when Vail will be available.

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

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