Monthly Archives: June 2010

Install VMWare ESXi on a USB stick

Next I wanted to try to set up VMWare ESXi. I also read about how you can run ESXi off of a flash drive and I thought I would give this a try so I could dedicate the entire physical hard drive to running WHS.

I read that I could run through the installation normally and just tell it the installation destination is the USB stick, however this did not work for me as it said it was unable to find a location to install to. And after loading the installation files I was forced to restart and try again.

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Use Google Voice as your primary Voicemail

Google Voice has some great features available including the ability to use a single phone number by ringing multiple phones, call screening, recording, and more, but if you don’t want to switch to a GV number or port over your existing phone number, you can still reap the benefits that GV offers in the area of voicemail.

These benefits include the ability to access your voicemail from the internet, have your voicemails transcribed into text and emailed and/or sms’ed to you, and keep a record of your messages.

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Hyper-V, Physical hard disk access & CPU virtualization support

A way to avoid using the virtual hard disk files would be by using Hyper-V which has the ability to attach physical hard disks directly to virtual machines. That means I can set the physical hard drive as offline to the host operating system and dedicate it to the virtual machine os, giving the vm os direct and dedicated read/write access to the drive. Using the physical disk access you can avoid using the virtual hard drive “coffins” to store your files, and instead, the files are stored normally, directly on the physical hard drive that can be plugged in and read by any computer. This allows you to reap the full benefits from Windows Home Server’s Drive Extender technology that I have discussed in a previous post.

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Windows Home Server Drive Extender data storage technology

One of the greatest features of Windows Home Server is its dead simple data management and replication, or what they call Drive Extender. Aside from simplicity, Drive Extender has a few storage features that you cannot find with other solutions. In fact, many enthusiasts choose to run WHS instead of Linux or full blown Windows server upwards of 20Tb for this reason.

No drive letters

In WHS you can forget about worrying about filling up individual drives and having to move files to other drives because they are too big to fit. As far as Windows Home Server is concerned your disks are combined to form a single storage pool. This is like a JBOD “just a bunch of disks” array where you have a single namespace to access the data and the disks are spanned together and appear to the end user as one giant disk. This also greatly simplifies your file access as you will not have to navigate to different drive letters to find your files, they can all be accessed via a single shared folder.

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WHS on VMWare Server 2.0 with a Windows 7 host

After trying Virtual Server 2005R2 I decided to try VMWare Server 2.0, another free solution.  After a quick Windows 7 reformat (to completely wipe the Virtual Server modifications/workarounds), the installation of VMWare Server went without a hitch. I had a 100Gb partition for Windows 7 and then the rest of the 1Tb drive was broken into another partiotn where I stored the WHS virtual hard drive (not pre-allocated, equal to the remaining space). Later on a second 1Tb hard drive was put in the machine and I created a second virtual hard drive equal to the size of the drive.

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Virtual Server 2005R2 running on Windows 7 HTPC

The first thing I tried was Virtual Server 2005R2 running on top of Windows 7. This appears to be a very good solution because it allows a single machine to act as a PVR server, a HTPC front end, and a backup server.

I installed Windows 7 x64 on my secondary pc with my TV tuner installed. Since the plan was to attach this computer to the TV for everyone to use, I wanted to keep the host os locked down. I created a passworded user account to act as the administrator and an open account to be used soley for HTPC duties. You can follow this guide to learn how to set up a Windows 7 user account to auto-login upon boot.

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Virtualization, Windows Home Server, and HTPCs

Right now I’m focusing on virtualization, windows home server, and HTPCs. I will be exploring different configurations to find the optimal setup able to achieve my goals.

Goals:

  1. Computer backup
  2. Virtualization – testing/experimenting
  3. Media streaming server
  4. PVR
  5. HTPC front end – for playback of DVD rips and recorded TV
  6. BitTorrent machine
  7. Automate the process of media downloading, organizing, metadata/fanart

My primary desktop is used for gaming so I want to accomplish as much as possible on my secondary pc (complete specs). For virtualization I plan to experiment with VMWare ESXi, Hyper-V Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V, VMWare Server 2.0, and Virtual Server 2005.

I hope this blog can serve as a reference for others who are interested in a similar setup, because I know how difficult it was to find information on these topics.

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Remote Desktop Connection – Blank desktop

When trying to remote desktop to a networked computer I was encountering an issue where I was presented with the login screen, but after entering my credentials all I saw in my Remote Desktop Connection window was a blank desktop – no task bar or anything.

Attempting to open other connections and seeing the same result I figured I would try to remotely log out of the computer. By pressing Ctrl+Alt+End I was able to pull up the Task Manager, go the the Users tab, and disconnect any sessions.

After disconnecting the users, I was able to remote into the computer.

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