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03.12.08

Windows Home Server: Microsoft’s Hall of Shame

Posted in GNU/Linux, Hardware, Microsoft, Servers, Windows at 4:22 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Breaking down the PR walls…

For future reference, herein we wish to demonstrate Microsoft’s inability to compete on fair grounds. This helps us substantiate and explain why Microsoft resorted to dirty tactics. Under today’s magnifying glasses: Windows Home Server.

We received some advice from a reader who wants us to cover a set of incidents which followed the recent release of what was seemingly a simple product whose primary function is — just as its tin implies — storing data.

Our reader writes:



I notice that the company famous for hiring bad programmers
(who else would fall down making a DST patch) is brushing more
critical problems under the rug:

A) Lose your shirt and lose your data:
   http://news.zdnet.co.uk/hardware/0,1000000091,39365952,00.htm

So rather than passively playing our part in making bad engineering acceptable, 
why not promote some good engineering:

A) Save effort, time and money while preventing the above data loss:
   http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=202605

B) Little out of date but more graphical guidance:
   http://howtoforge.com/samba_setup_ubuntu_5.10

Samba is already really good.  Now that the Samba team has been handed a
final victory in the 10-year legal battle to get the server APIs out of
the Redmond cult, an already good package can get even better.
  http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20070919214307459

We have till June before a fix is even attempted.  So until then why not
explore better options?


As further resources on this subject, consider the following references and excerpts:

Linux ‘Home Servers’

A Non-obvious Use for Debbie (a Debian 4.0 Home Server)

So far Debbie has worked in all of the relatively simple roles I’ve put her to. AVI, MOV and JPG files all work well on either the Linux or Windows clients when served by Debbie. PDFs work in either Linux or Windows. They even work when accessed by browser plug-ins, either FireFox 2 or IE6 or 7. Copying files to and from Debbie by the kids has been easy to implement.

Welcome to the Ubuntu Home Server Project

Ubuntu Home Server (UHS) will be an edition of the Ubuntu operating system which allows users to administer their home network.

Who needs Windows Home Server with Linux around?

Is this a joke? I only recently started paying attention to Windows Home Server, since I tend to focus more on desktop operating systems and enterprise server systems. So I didn’t realize until now that WHS is really just a vanilla file server.

Review: Excito Bubba home server

The Bubba is built around a 160MHz processor, which is only one tenth as fast as a notebook computer’s chip, but it uses a special version of the Linux operating system rather than Windows, which means it’s more than up to the task.

Despite Linux having a fearsome reputation as being hard to set up and use, setting up the Bubba was simple, as long as your router uses DHCP (this is switched on by default for most routers).

Multipurpose home server gains power, features

Quad Micro Works is prepping a second release of its Linux-based multipurpose home network, gateway, and server appliance. The new “Square One Personal Server” will integrate an 802.11g access point, along with a 4-port router and file, print, and Web servers.

Compelling Linux server slithers into the open

Given the compact size of the Slug (it’s smaller than most of the hard disk enclosures that plug into it), the low power consumption and the range of software available, it makes for a pretty compelling little Linux server, particularly for developers.

Hardware Review: Bubba – The Linux-Based Mini Server

Microsoft would like you to think that their new Home Server products are something new; affordable devices that sit quietly in the corner of your home, providing network backup for your most important files, and streaming your media around your home. While Home Server is definitely a new approach for Microsoft, it’s a niche that their nemesis Linux has been filling for some time. If Microsoft wanted a masterclass on how to craft their latest assault of consumers’ homes, they should look to Excito and their Bubba Mini Server.

Server device deemed “best Linux-based product”

Bubba is a compact, fanless server appliance with an internal hard drive up to 500GB, a 200MHz ARM processor, and a fully customizable Debian Linux operating system.

Compact, fanless home server runs Debian Linux

A small company in Sweden is shipping a low-power, ultra-quiet Linux file and print server based on Debian Linux. Excito’s “Bubba” is based on a 200MHz ARM processor, and comes equipped with 80GB to 500GB drives plus a customizable OS featuring a handy torrent/http/ftp download manager.

Windows Home Server

Home Servers Hold Big Promise, Limited Appeal

While Vista’s been grabbing all the headlines and hype, Microsoft’s gone and released another new operating system, and servers running it will probably be the coolest gadgets most consumers won’t rush out to buy.

Windows Home Server testing uncovers nearly 2,400 bugs

In an entry on the Home Server blog, program manager Chris Sullivan said that the group has received nearly 2,400 bug reports so far from beta testers, and still had 495, or about 21% of the total, classified as “active.”

Will Windows Home Server be Microsoft’s next flop?

If you buy-off on the theory that the world seems to be heading in the opposite direction that Microsoft wants to lead it, then you can’t help but wonder what the long term prospects for an offering like Windows Home Server are. Not good, if you ask me.

Windows Home Server fan club beats me up for asking if WHS is Microsoft’s next flop

Literally within minutes of each other (strangely coincidental), I received two e-mails — one from a colleague and the other from someone who concealed their identity — that basically told me I was out of line for questioning the chances that Microsoft’s Windows Home Server will succeed.

Will bad backups doom Windows Home Server?

Microsoft just announced it’s working on Windows Home Server, which among other features, will automatically back up files on all PCs in the home. But if the product uses the same kind of brain-dead backup built into Windows Vista, this is a product that will be dead on arrival.

The backup tool built into Windows Vista may be the worst utility every packed into an operating system. It doesn’t allow you to back up individual files, folders or even file types. Instead, you have to back up every single file and folder of broad generic types.

For example, if you want to back up a single picture, you have to back up every single graphic of every graphic file type on your entire PC, including all the graphics that Vista itself uses. This means you can be forced to back up hundreds of gigabytes of files if you only want to back up a few family photos.

Microsoft admits big delay on Home Server bug fix

Microsoft has admitted that it will not deliver a fix to a Windows Home Server data corruption bug it first discovered late last year until June at the earliest.

Stay Away from Home Server Day Care

The problem is fundamental in several ways. Data corruption or deletion occurs “when certain programs are used to edit or transfer files that are stored on a Windows Home Server-based computer that has more than one hard drive,” according to the Microsoft support document. So, the problems are with file copying and data storage—both fundamental features—and occurring in the likeliest of scenarios: Multiple hard drives. Surely Microsoft must have known that the earliest adopters would be enthusiasts?

Nine programs are associated with the data problems, seven of them from Microsoft.

Data Corruption Bug – List of Potential Applications Affected Grows

In summary, Microsoft has reproduced the bug successfully with the following applications:

* Windows Vista Photo Gallery
* Windows Live Photo Gallery
* Microsoft Office OneNote 2007
* Microsoft Office OneNote 2003
* Microsoft Office Outlook 2007
* Microsoft Money 2007
* SyncToy 2.0 Beta
* Intuit QuickBooks
* uTorrent

Home Server users have reported the issue occurring with the following list of applications:

* Photoshop Elements
* Zune Software
* Apple iTunes
* TagScanner
* Mozilla Thunderbird
* Adobe Lightroom
* Intuit QuickenMS Digital Image Library
* MP3BookHelper
* ACDSee
* WinAmp
* Windows Media Player 11
* Microsoft Office Excel
* Visual DataFlex

So, to put this in perspective, the list of potential applications affected is growing.

News Briefs: 1-17-08

Windows Home Server Anti-evangelism. Microsoft technical evangelist Volker Will is really unhappy about Windows Home Server. I’m a big fan of the product marketing, but Will’s anti-endorsement has me wondering about getting a HP MediaSmart Server as planned.

Windows Home Server bug corrupts files

Given that the point of Windows Home Server is to allow you to store your media files, a bug in the storage process that could result in corrupted files is bound to get attention.

Microsoft has issued a support document for the 13 or so (just kidding) people using Windows Home Server, the company’s latest product for those attempting to build the digital home of the future. Apparently there’s a flaw in the way Windows Home Server works with certain Microsoft applications, such as Windows Vista Photo Gallery, that could result in corrupted files if you use those applications to save files to the server. A list of the specific applications can be found in the support document.

By all means remember that Windows Home Server is a sibling of Windows Server and Windows Vista. They share the same DNA (codebase).

There are wonderful products in the market that just work. And then there’s wonderful marketing for products that just don’t work.

The emperor is naked. Share the word.

Microsoft ZUN

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4 Comments

  1. Woods said,

    March 12, 2008 at 4:54 am

    Gravatar

    >Welcome to the Ubuntu Home Server Project

    Couldn’t help noticing…

    From the UHS Wiki (section Backup http://wiki.ubuntuhomeserver.org/index.php ) They were suggesting something called iFolder for backup (hadn’t heard of that one before)

    On to the iFolder-site: http://www.ifolder.com/index.php
    What do you know, Novell and Mono, they’re everywhere…:-)

  2. SubSonica said,

    March 12, 2008 at 7:33 am

    Gravatar

    Not to mention mainstream hardware manufacturers starting to use Linux as OS of choice:

    http://www.iomega-europe.com/item?SID=a97b1249bf317bc9bb1822ca95189ca07b8:4715&sku=200133610&tab=tech_specs#learnmore

    Some other nice solutions ready to install on your existing hardware:

    FreeNAS: Ultra-easy web administration and fits in a 8cm CDR!
    http://www.freenas.org

    Ebox Platform: You can use as File and Backup server, but comes with advanced features (mail server, instant messaging, web and dns proxy-cache, firewall…) can go as far as fully replace a PDC windows server.
    http://www.ebox-platform.com

    If you need to add a nifty backup server to use with your existing linux machine (piece of cake with Debian GNU/Linux) I encourage you to give Restore a try:
    http://www.linux.com/feature/126716
    http://restore-backup.com/

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 12, 2008 at 7:41 am

    Gravatar

    Microsoft’s entry into this market where NAS software is a commodity seems as insane as a company’s attempt t sell ice to Eskimos.

    …Which reminds me of all that “Windows Server 2008 has a Linux slant” pitch (hot air), assuming with great prejudice that Linux=CLI, thus perpetuating myths. Just forget about stability, the licence and the cost.

  4. DOUGman said,

    March 12, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Gravatar

    Re: FreeNAS, I have been personally using and deploying NASlite, its a VERY stable product. You pay for a license to use it, but it helps out the developers, which btw are very responsive to the end users in the forums. Never once had a problem with file corruption, the MS home server product is a joke.

    D.

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