Welcome to Windows 10

With Win10 build 10240 available, and my gaming machine in a bit of a mess (hard disk on mirror with SMART errors, Office 07668051-photo-windows-10-logo1installation unable to activate) I decided it was time for the Windows 10 revolution. Never one for half measures, I’ve decided it’s time to replatform my home server, currently Windows Server Essentials on my HP N40L server. I have a couple of Win10 builds (the Dell10v netbook, Office on Mac VMware Fusion)), but I have no ‘production’ Win10 as yet. Win10 is not yet supported by Server Essentials, which is poor, given the advantages of backup and policy. More on that later.

Clean gaming pc.
Performant home server running Plex & iTunes, with a smaller, more manageable video library
Consolidated pc and server backup repository

Gaming Client
Currently this is a core i5 4670k (3.4ghz overclocked to 4.1gz) with 24gb of memory on a Gigabyte Z87-G45 Gaming mainboard.


Boot – 80gb ssd
Mirror – 2x1tb Hitachi (plus one removed from array and in chassis with a SMART error)
Data – 3tb

I have decided to replace the 80g boot with a 250g SSD from a broken laptop (Acer – more later) and remove the mirror. With my ‘core’ data now saved on 1tb of OneDrive I don’t need a local mirrored store any longer.

First Steps
Get the Windows7 USB DVD tool http://wudt.codeplex.com/ from Microsoft, still nice and simple.
Install the network drivers. Surprised that the onboard Killer E2200 drivers are not in the Win10 repository,
Switch off User Account Control (UAC), it’s a pain. I know it’s there for users who stupidly install trojans, but it pops up so often.
Go to Settings/Updates – the new settings panel should have everything there, not convinced yet, Confirm and login as an ‘insider’ to get ‘fast’ updates and check for updates. Not completely sure of the UI for ‘Settings’
The video (Radeon HD7800) driver updated nicely, no old Windows VGA, although it does install the AMD Catalyst bloatware. My audio bloat (Realtek HD Audio Manager) is also installed by default. I don’t know why MSFT support this and don’t just stick to the driver package, systray crud is unneccesary.
To fix this, use our old friend ‘msconfig’
Note, just typing in the search bar finds commands, I think this was available on XP but has been gone for 3 releases, sometimes it’s the simple that works.
Disabled the AMD and Killer networking, then across to task manager startup items to kill more bloat Note that OneDrive appears to have 7 startup items (AMD has 4), why?

Reboot to apply updates.

Note, the boot time is excellent. I also finally ave enough ssd space for page and hibernation.

The ‘setup OneDrive’ dialogue appears. I have a 1tb OneDrive store wth about 300gb of usage, but I have it sync’d to my local home server accessible from all of my local machines – otherwise I find I have a OneDrive network firestorm when I add some big files, as well as some unpleasant duplication sometimes. I only sync my tmp OneDrive store to all machines for anything I want widely shared.
I also dislike the use of OneDrive on my C: users (esp on an 80gb ssd…), so I save to my 3tb data drive, just in case I want to sync the whole store. I’ll leave OneDrive until I login with my domain/essentials account.

Server Essentials
I use Server Essentials as means to
– share my common data stores (pics, videos, software)
– enforce backup and updates on pcs (Scott and Ross)
– have a common user management tool (domain)

Frankly, it’s pretty poor that Win10 is being released without SE support.

Firstly, my gaming rig (jzCorsair) needs removing from the domain, so it can rejoin with the same name. It would be nice to use the Server Connector, but it’s not available. http://blogs.technet.com/b/sbs/archive/2015/07/23/client-connector-availability-with-windows-home-server-small-business-server-and-windows-server-essentials-for-supported-client-os.aspx.
So, right click the pc, select properties and ‘change settings’ to attach to the domain.

Small thing I also always do, I hate the DVD assigned to D: and other drives to E: F: etc. I always change DVD to Z:

I also have a tmp folder on my big drive with a shortcut to it on desktop, and put downloads in tmp. With an SSD you can lose gb of space with downloads (and other user rubbish).
A couple of unidentified devices, as usual the Intel chipset drivers (why not on the Windows repository…), quick fix from Gigabyte.
Backup – nice to see Windows7 backup is back in Windows 10, sometimes a step back is a step forward…

So, what are the essential apps I use?
Acrobat Reader (but not the update crud)
iTunes (more crud…)
Tag&Rename – the best mp3 tagger, ever
DVDShrink – for ripping DVDs
Handbrake – for creating mp4 videos from DVDs
DVDFlick – for creating DVDs

Photo Gallery

New 2012R2 Server Essentials Install
My HP N40L is pretty slow at running Plex, especially if there is a transcoding demand. I’d also like to run some other apps on the server, but the Atom proc struggles.
A while ago a work laptop, Acer Aspire i3, got dropped and although it works fine, the screen cannot be easily opened and closed – a lot of movement will eventually break it. It has 8gb of memory and a decent processor, so it will work as a local server.
However, if I install Server Essentials on Server 2012R2 on this device, it will be tied to the physical install. Virtual machines have very little performance impact and provide the flexibility to more easily backup and move around. So, the decision is to run Hyper-V on the laptop and install SE as a vm. The virtual hd’s will be stored on a 2tb usb3 external disk.

Server Installation
The objective is a minimal server install just to support Hyper-V. Pretty painless, use the USB tool to write the iso and install. Run 122 (yes) Windows updates (around an hr), backup, domain join, and install the Hyper-V and Wireless LAN features. I have just linked Hyper-V network to wired, not wireless.
Also had to add the Windows Server Backup feature

VM Install
Same again… core install and 122 updates. At least I can store this as a reference base image once I sysprep it. However, seems to be a new issue with generation 2 vms failing to update with secure boot enabled https://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/bfe47936-0430-446b-86c3-3d0ae832f1f8/windows-2012-r2-fails-to-install-updates?forum=winserver8setup
indoze update seems a bit hit and miss today

Backup Server
I have a old HP EX495 server sitting around. It is headless, and was tied to Windows Home Server, but I installed Server 2008r2 (start the install on another machine and switch over at reboot) and can use it as a backup device – as it’s quiet and has 4 drive bays. First to test the 3 x 1tb drives from the gaming rig to see if one is really busted.

Connected one 1tb and Crystal Disk info does flag a ‘caution’ SMART status. Depends on the others whether I use it. Always ok as a spare/scratch disk.


Windows Server 2012 Storage Pool – Reinstall Operating System

Interesting wrinkle, I reinstalled my boot drive, having checked that I could re-use the storage, to find no disks on reboot. However, the virtual disks were there, but with error status ‘detatched’, not funny, with my photos and docs on there.

In summary, powershell is your friend. I found this post http://itkbase.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/windows-server-2012-storage-spaces-virtual-disks-detach-after-reboot/ and this command

Set-VirtualDisk -FriendlyName yourdiskname -IsManualAttach $False


Server Essentials VPN

rras_ip_addressSetting up Essentials on a physical (HP N40L) server after some testing on virtual, only one wrinkle. When connecting to VPN, no IP addresses were issued. Have to install the RRAS GUI management feature and then go the server properties and assign an IP range, odd as I have DHCP running…

Windows Server 2012 Essentials R2 Experiences

boxartMany businesses today have a mix of technologies, often with business applications, file and print services running in the office, and email and web running on ‘cloud’ services. Remote and mobile workers often struggle to access company resources and information back at the office, and if faced with the complexity of dialling up to connect via a VPN, will often just not bother and keep valuable company data locally on PCs or iPads.

Windows Server Essentials is the replacement for Small Business Server, and is intended to make management of corporate info easy, integrate cloud services and make access simple for mobile devices.

It brings some technical compromises though, this blog is intended as an intro to some of my experiences looking at Essentials for my home lab, before we consider deploying at work. Essentials is not for everyone, it’s limited to 100 users and 200 devices.

My home lab is probably more complex than many home users, with a couple of Macs, iPhones and iPads, Windows Phones, and a mix of Windows 7 & 8 PCs and servers running Server 2008R2 and 20012/R2 with Hyper-V and Windows Home Server 2011. Never mind the games consoles and internet connected TVs.

I run a local domain for user management, with 2 local domain controllers and one on Windows Azure, with some other test resources in the cloud.

Remote access has always been a pain, as I have 5 public IP addresses I have typically published resources I need directly, as VPN is a PITA. I have never got to DirectAccess as I’ve run into challenges with picking up on certificate services.

So there are a few things that Essentials could do

– integration with Azure & Office365 user management
– ease of mobile/remote access
– backup infrastructure (my clients are backed up on home server, but virtual servers just typically vhd copies)

Domain Setup

Essentials technet notes say that a single domain is required – that’s fine for me. However, not so clear is that a single domain controller is required to enable integration with Azure/365. That’s a pain, and the rationale is not clear – I have to demote my other 2 DC’s and will install Essentials as a role on my remaining DC.

Update – well that didn’t work ;-( Installing on the old DC results in a meaningless error (retry…) with no help. I created a new WS2012R2 vm and

– domain attached
– promote to DC
– demote ‘old’ DC
– install Essentials role

This worked cleanly – very nice.

Cloud Integration

Seems to ‘just work’ 😉

Prompted for a login to windows live, and the Azure integration sets up. On reboot, selected the Office365 option and that seems to connect too, very nice.

Sadly Azure backup is is broken (see http://blogs.technet.com/b/sbs/archive/2014/05/01/configuring-microsoft-azure-online-backup-on-windows-server-2012-r2-essentials.aspx) on datacenter sku’s – I will see if i can get it going on a physical install.

Server Backup

more later, parked until I have a nice disk array set up. However, it does seem that Azure backup is not working on Datacenter edition http://blogs.technet.com/b/sbs/archive/2014/05/01/configuring-microsoft-azure-online-backup-on-windows-server-2012-r2-essentials.aspx 


I have setup a ‘free’ Microsoft host.remotewebaccess.com domain address, as I haven’t looked at certificate issue. Remote access to the Essentials console is fine, but I cannot access VPN. A question for when more time is available. I tried the VPN yesterday and couldn’t get access, but having added a connected PC, checking the settings (SSTP), I could successfully connect from a remote (virtual) machine. All going well, next up…


The holy grail of easy remote access, an invisible link to your domain from public internet, so rdp and fileserver access is painless. Just what is needed. It’s a bit of a faff to set up on Windows Server, but Essentials promises to make it easy. Instructions available here http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj204618.aspx

A pleasant surprise, it just works too. All in all the Server Essentials test journey has been excellent (as smooth as the first Windows Home Server, its grandparent)

Next steps, to shut down and back up the test and reinstall on a live system, and see if that has any problems eg DirectAccess


Paperlite and Windows Phone – Scan to PDF

We’d all love to lose paper, and I am restarting a paper-lite quest, based on MacSparky’s Paperless and encouraged by recent Wired Geekdad Living with Less Clutter

Camera phones have revolutionised scanning, and I want to use my camera to capture receipts, text, scribbles and sync them to OneDrive, but it does look like Evernote and OneDrive may have better tools (another post)

With this in mind I have tried some winpho scanning apps, CamScanner, HandyScan, HD Scanner and MDScan. PerfectScan seems to have departed the windows store. For the record, HD Scanner is my product of choice, but I will likely use MDScan on my Surface.

CamScanner – 5/10 free (premium $4.99/mo)

Good scan, crop, and touch up features, but seems to be fixated on forcing you to use their own storage site, with no save to OneDrive, Dropbox or Evernote. The iPad app does save to Dropbox, so maybe an example of trying to force the windows user down a different route. The web site also seems excruciatingly slow. Includes OCR

HandyScan 4/10 £2.29

No save to pdf on trial – poor choice. ‘Scanning’ dialogue takes (unnecessary) time. Poor detection, defaults to rectangular, choice of filters. Can’t change OneDrive folder, annoying ad for ‘SkyManager’ bloatware. Also available on iPad. Poor

HD Scanner 7/10 £2.29

Nice to have a ‘try’ option on install (Watermark on trial), rather than a crippled app. Good crop/edge with guidelines, good OneDrive folder choice.  200k grayscale pdf

MD Scan 6/10 £0.79

Nice quick clean snap, edge detection good. No file location prompt on Skydrive. creates MDScan folder without prompt (defaults to zip not pdf). Default scan 1.12mb receipt file, grayscale.  Available on WinRT & Android




DAW Testing – Ableton & ProTools – Mackie d8b setup

mackied8bI have a friend who runs an excellent independent rural recording studio at The Gordon Arms based on a Mackie d8b/HDR setup who is considering a modern, computer based digital audio workstation (DAW) setup. The Mackie has 24 ADAT in/outs and a nice big desk.

hdsp9652A while ago I bought an RME HDSP9652 to interface to the Mackie, but have never really got it going. Over the weekend I set up my old Intel Q6600 machine with the RME installed and decided to try out some demo music tech.

Firstly, rather than mess around with an existing system, I set up a virtual hard disk boot with a clean copy of Windows7 (Ultimate). This is a great technique to boot native hardware (ie not a virtual machine, which would stink for music performance). I have an onboard soundcard on the Gigabyte EP45 UD3P board and an m-audio FastTrack USB interface (for guitar/vox)

See this MSDN blog at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/knom/archive/2009/04/07/windows-7-vhd-boot-setup-guideline.aspx for help on the setup. I created a 60Gb vhd, ok for Windows7 64 bit (I have 10gb of memory and want to use this for lots of sample space).

After a clean install and activation, I also copied the 60gb vhd and zipped it up (9gb) for a backup in case things all went badly wrong.

Whenever I install Windows there are a few great tools that I always install

  • Treesize Free
  • imgburn
  • MagicDisc
  • winrar
  • Adobe Acrobat (ok, not so great, but a necessary evil)

If you don’t know these, get them, all worth having

Making Noise – Sound Devices

The RME has up to date drivers at http://www.rme-audio.de/en_downloads.php?page=content/downloads/en_downloads_driver&subpage=content/downloads/en_downloads_driver_hdspe. This has ASIO drivers and presents the Hammerfall as a windows device. See http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jul03/articles/rmehammerfall.asp for a Sound On Sound review of the 9652.

The RME features 3 ADAT (8ch) ins and outs, for 24 channel IO, plus an SPDIF digital i/o. It also features a break out cable with 2 midi in/outs.

ImageThe FastTrack is a nice 2 in 2 out USB interface with mic (48V power) and an instrument input, with a monitor bypass.

Drivers at http://www.m-audio.com/index.php?do=support.drivers&f=1126

I’ll be using the FastTrack for testing the DAWs recording until I visit The Gordon Arms studio to test the ADAT i/o.

My monitors are Behringer MS40s, sound and simple, cost effective, which have a digital in and 2 analogue i/o’s (jack and phono). The digital in is nice, as I can use the quality digital out of the RME for a decent output.

For audio/midi sources, I have an m-audio Oxygen8 v2 and a Samson CO1 mic for vox. Some spare guitars are at The Gordon Arms, but key gtrs for recording are my Fender Mex ’72 Tele and Yamaha APX700 for acoustic.

The Apps

I am going to try out Pro Tools 10, Ableton Live 9, with some Komplete 7 instruments in each. If I can track down a demo copy of Cubase I may look at this later. In order to support the Hammerfall I am running on PC (now that PT supports non Digidesign hardware, hurray!) I won’t be testing Logic on my Macs.

That’s all for now, work to do, but I will next be writing some notes about the basics, how to get the apps to make some noise, not as easy as you think with multiple interfaces…

iTunes Sync Server to Mac

Holidays are a good day to catch up on things you’ve been meaning to do fopr ages. I have all of my music on my Home Server (WHS), but iTunes is dog slow if I try to access the 100Gb of files directly and update anything. So I keep a copy of my music on my MacBook locally (it’s nice to have a backup too, even though it’s mirrored on WHS).

I decided to try out a folder sync app, Sykron, which is cross platform. In summary, it works very nicely and I’d recommend it, my WHS and Mac folders are now in sync, and I’ll probably set it up to automatically sync too, so that any music added to the server gets added to the Mac too, and any artwork/genre etc updates will get sync’d back to WHS.

However, to automatically add music to iTunes when it gets sync’d? For this, go to Doug’s AppleScripts for iTunes and add the folder update

Next problem, how to deal with moves and renames so they don’t duplicate…

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