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The HP MediaSmart EX495 Experience with Lou Jacob RSS Feed

A TechLore Blog By Lou Jacob

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Follow along as a newcomer experiences the HP MediaSmart EX495 and Windows Home Server for the very first time, documenting his experience setting up and integrating it into his life.

Installing the Squeezebox Server on the MediaSmart Server

I recently decided to give the Squeezebox Server on my MediaSmart EX495.  If you are not familiar with any of the Squeezebox products, they are worth looking at if you'd like to have a device that can connect to your stereo and your network, and play your audio files from a centralized file repository.  Squeeze products were originally developed and marketed by a company named Slim Devices, however Slim Devices was purchased by Logitech in 2006.

A few years ago, I got an early release unit of a Squeezebox Duet, which essentially Logitech's answer to the high-end (and high-priced) SONOS music system.  Admittedly, it is not as flashy, but it does the trick.  It comes in two pieces:  a small box that plugs into an amplifier as well as your network, and a handheld remote with a color screen, and WiFi connectivity, so that you can control the Squeezebox.

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Adding Storage for Capacity and Redundancy

So, today I decided it was time to add a few drives to my EX495, just to see how it easy it was, expand the capacity, and more importantly, ensure that I had some redundancy in the case of a drive failure.  

After doing a bit or reading, I came to the realization that the MediaSmart Server does not use RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) for reliability, but instead uses "File Duplication" to ensure that if one drive fails, another contains the data so that nothing important is lost.  Of course, the operating system manages the information, so the end-result of a hard drive failure does not require much on the users' part, other than the replacement of the defective drive.  In my opinion, RAID is more efficient than "File Duplication" but it is also more expensive to implement, and does have some stricter guidelines when it comes to the configuration of multiple disks in a system.

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Remote Access to My MediaSmart Server

As I mentioned in my 2nd article (Part 2 of Setting IUp my MediaSmart EX495), one other aspect of getting rid of the "network critical" warning on my Home Server Console dashboard was to enable remote access.  As I said before,

Enabling the Web Services was easy enough.  It was a bit of a magical experience, though.  Apparently, it connected to my router, using uPnP, and automatically configured it so that the appropriate ports were forwarded to my HP box.  The end result is that I can now access my MediaSmart server by using my EXTERNAL IP address, which is conveniently mapped to my private domain name.  The only problem with this is that I happened to already have a couple of web servers set up on another box in my environment, and the ports appear to have been hijacked and forwarded over to the MediaSmart server.  It is not obvious where the configuration changes were made on my router though (my explicit port forwards are still intact) so that issue will require some more research.

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Setting Up My MediaSmart EX495 (part 2 of 2)

To recap my experience from Part 1, I had some difficulties getting rid of the NETWORK CRITICAL message once I'd gotten my MediaSmart booted up and on the network.  Turned out to be relatively easy to deal with once I'd figured out the correct order to do things in, but it was not intuitive.  Hopefully, the previous article was helpful.

Picking up where I left off...

Once my red, NETWORK CRITICAL messages finally went away, I still received a couple of warnings (the first related to the lack of antivirus software, which I immediately installed, but had not quite figured out how to activate, and the second related to not having web services enabled).

Enabling the Web Services was easy enough.  It was a bit of a magical experience, though.  Apparently, it connected to my router, using uPnP, and automatically configured it so that the appropriate ports were forwarded to my HP box.

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Setting Up My MediaSmart EX495 (part 1 of 2)

I was nervous about setting up my EX495.  I've built a lot of computers and even deployed some servers without keyboards and monitors, but I've never actually worked with a Windows box designed to function without a monitor and keyboard.  I was certain it would all work, and I'm no stranger to accessing systems over a network, but it still wasn't clear to me how it would all work.  I guess it was time to simply suspend disbelief and follow the instructions.

I unpacked my MediaSmart EX495 carefully and just took it all in.  My first realization was that the system was much smaller than I thought it would be.  From the photos, it just looks like a standard tower PC, and it is... but it is a mini-tower and quite small.  At about 5 1/2 inches wide, 9 inches high, and 8 inches deep, I knew it would fit comfortably on a shelf in my office, and would look great, too.

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Why is There an HP MediaSmart Server In My House?

If, a few months ago, anyone told me I'd eventually have an HP MediaSmart Server in my house, I would have laughed them right out of the room. 

"Me?  Why would I EVER want something like that?  I build my own Windows PCs, Linux file servers, and I even already have a network storage array, sitting happily in my basement, loaded with MP3s, videos, photos, and random documents we do not store locally on any of the desktops in our home.  And speaking of desktops, we have multiple laptops, Windows and Mac PCs, so I'm fully capable of supporting a complex, heterogeneous and sophisticated environment, right?  Why would I NEED a server dedicated to my media and backup when I already have these things already, right?"

Well, I guess that is why I have one now.  The opportunity presented itself, and here I am to talk about exactly how it fits in, why it makes sense for me, and why it might make sense for you, too!

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