Windows Home Server 'Vail': A web based media center?

Windows Home Server 'Vail': A web based media center?

Summary: Windows Home Server 'Vail' looks at the moment like a potential web based version of Windows Media Center. Could it be?


Mary Jo and I were talking last night about Windows Home Server "Vail", the upcoming operating system to take over previous home server editions. After a half-hour download and an additional fifteen minutes installation time, I had it installed on my home computer.

I have a long history with Windows Home Server. Back in 2006 when I was blogging with a group of friends, I personally infuriated Bill Gates after I announced basically what he was going to speak about in his keynote speech at CES that year - the initial launch of Windows Home Server.

Gallery To view the full screenshot gallery of Windows Home Server 'Vail', including the remote web interface and server options and configuration, click here.

After playing with this edition for no more than a day, it's clearly no where near finished and stands in at the fourth community technical preview at this stage. But the potential is huge, and I genuinely see this as a fantastic solution for house-sharing students.

It only comes in 64-bit as it is based on Windows Server 2008 R2, the server system designed to support Windows 7. It requires at least 120GB to install and the download/installation package comes in at just over 3GB.

Read more: Early version of Windows Home Server 'Vail' leaks to the Web

The most fun I had was through the the remote web interface; allowing you to remotely view your files, documents, music and videos from anywhere else in the world with an Internet connection.

The web interface looks and feels like Windows Live Home (wave 4), and when playing music or video acts between Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center. While this build is an early one, they have this functionality in place already and can only expect bigger and better things.

What do you think? Could this be a media center killer?

Topics: Browser, Hardware, Mobility, Operating Systems, Servers, Software, Windows

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  • Weren't you in the WHS beta originally?

    I honestly can't remember. I know you were a
    "Grasshopper", but I can't remember if you were
    in this one too. Of course it may have been one
    of those "US only" betas back then.

    Luckily for me, I'm running WHS on a 64-bit
    computer. So, I can make the switch--if it's

    Have a great day:)
    • Nah - I was R2 first :)

      R2 was my first beta - going back to 2004/2005, I was only a young lad then at the age of 15/16 or so. WHS came later on, I think that was a US-only beta, but can't remember.

      Good to hear from you, lad. Your comments always cheer me up :)
  • I like to turn Windows Home Server Vali into Windows Web Server 2008.

    Besides, I'd rather not have all the features of WHS and have just the basic web server; thereby turning off Windows services that I don't need. I've done this with the trail version of Windows Home Server (based off of Windows Server 2003) and I managed to get down to 192MB of RAM with no performance sluggishness. This is in a virtual machine. :)

    [i]Typo fixed.[/i]
    Grayson Peddie
  • Why?

    Freenas works great, and it is secure and solid.
    • Two Reasons for me

      1) Drive extender. I like all my storage in one big pool to which I can add drives of any size on the fly. Redundancy is provided by copying files (which the system does automatically) to multiple drives. Each drive stands alone, you can attach it to another system (anything that reads NTFS) and recover your files. I like that better than RAID. Nothing to set up; it just happens.

      2) Backup. Automatically does image backups of all computers on my home network. The images are mountable over the network so you can recover or rollback single files. Handles versioning automatically as well. Nothing available on Linux this sophisticated and painless (zero configuration, no other software to install,it just happens).

      Everything else is gravy. A plugin lets me share files via WebDav (franly the biggest problem is getting Windows 7 to see the WebDAV shares) remotely. The web server stuff sucks, but I can manage the server via the internet as easily as I could my Linux servers via WebMin and I have another Linux box I use for a web server (wouldn't want them to be on the same box anyway).
    • Because WHS does a few tricks FreeNAS doesn't

      I like FreeNAS, if all you're looking for is a storage server. WHS does a few other nifty features like automatic machine backup (and PXE-based recovery if you need it), media streaming and sharing, it automatically checks for file redundancy to minimize storage use, and some centralized windows LAN specific management.

      FreeNAS is a really solid piece of software, but it is a different tool for a different use and targets a different audience.

    • I would go with Amahi

      built on Fedora. More features and even more customizable than WHS. And best of all no vendor lock in like WHS. But even integrates with many MS products.

      Freenas is a good product too, but I think Amahi gives users a few more options.
  • It's more like a web based media player

    The last thing MS should do, is do much innovation in the (HTML) standard browser. MS' Windows application ecosystem is not in good shape, and MS needs to restore it ASAP. In fact I think MS should do things like define a broad Open Office XML / Silverlight publishing standard; extend IE to support the standard; re-publish its web sites to the standard in lieu of HTML; provide plugins for other browsers to support the standard, and leave HTML in the dust, similar to the way it left Java. HTML / the browser is Windows' greatest competitor, and it makes little sense to me why MS should support it to the detriment of if its flagship product.

    If MS does the above, it would be able to do a lot interesting things like e.g. have people more and more use desktop Office to publish blogs, rich comments to blogs, rich emails, etc. Someone using Visual Studio could download portions of MSDN, mark up the material and include them in the notes he created from mark ups of portions of Visual Studio Help. He could make his Visual Studio notes available a variety of places using Live Mesh, or he could publish them to the Internet for many people to see, or to do collaboration around.

    I believe one way or another, MS needs to abandon HTML as much as possible, because it is offering way too much support to the greatest competitor of its flag ship product. I therefore don't think and hope the browser product is a Windows Media Center competitor, because it would do more harm than good to MS.
    P. Douglas
    • They tried this before

      They tried abandoning HTML before... after shipping IE6 they abandoned IE and switched everyone to Avalon (WPF). Didn't work then, and I doubt it would work again, despite the fact that WPF/.NET is much better than anything HTML5/CSS/JavaScript can offer.
      • I don't think MS ever tried to abandon HTML, ...

        ... and WPF did not work out for a number of reasons. For one, it seems as if MS was trying to be hip to trends by increasingly embracing HTML. But you don't embrace your competitor to the detriment of yourself - even when your customers ask you to do so. You find alternate ways to accommodate your customers that benefit you. Else you leave it to third party developers to accommodate your customers.

        Also Vista's launch didn't go well. MS can however learn a lesson from Apple by promoting a new platform like crazy, and creating an app store that feeds the excitement and platform until it reaches a threshold momentum and takes a life of its own. Ironically, the iPad may be what brings new life to client software in the (sort of) PC market.
        P. Douglas
  • WOW

    That looks pretty dang cool! I have been paying close attention to these home servers and so far it looks like they are doing the right thing in making media available over the internet.
  • RE: Windows Home Server 'Vail': A web based media center?

    Have anyone tried Opera browser? I have used it..downloaded some files from 1 pc to another. There are other stuff which I will leave for you to investigate.
    • Opera is a sorry attempt at making your

      web browser a server, and runs on your primary machine, never a good idea.

      Better off running WHS, FreeNAS, or Amahi.
  • RE: Windows Home Server 'Vail': A web based media center?

    I haven?t been paying much attention since I found that I couldn?t buy a copy and install it on any box I wanted. Is that changed? If so why isn?t MS shouting this from the rooftops? However, if I can?t ?build it myself? then it is a non-starter and I?ll continue with BSD.
    • WHS OEM PowerPack 1

      You haven't been looking hard enough. You can easily find it here:

      You're welcome!
      M.R. Kennedy
  • RE: Windows Home Server 'Vail': A web based media center?

    I'm still disappointed that there aren't more Media
    Center Extenders out there!

    It would be great to have a central Media Server in the
    house, that could SERVE ripped dvd's (xvid, divix, mp4,
    avi, mkv), dvd folders or ISO's, to a desktop, laptop, or
    TV in another part of the house.