Accessing a Windows Home Server Guest Share in Ubuntu

I wanted to use the Transmission-Daemon bittorrent service on Ubuntu to download files directly to my new Windows Home Server. This was harder than I thought, but only because I didn’t understand all the nuances.

First, the WHS share. Simply called “Downloads”, I made it a non-duplicated share that allows the Guest account full access. There is no password on this account. That’s all that’s required on WHS.

Now to Ubuntu. I tried editing /etc/fstab to automatically mount //whs01/Downloads to /mnt/downloads. This worked using my userid and password hardcoded in the fstab file, but then only  root could write to the share. I tried using guest instead, but the same thing happened.

Turns out you can specify “dir_mode=0777,file_mode=0777” which sets up the mount to be updatable by everyone, including the transmission-daemon process. Too easy, once you know what the problem is, that is!

The final fstab entry looks like this:

//whs01/Downloads /mnt/downloads cifs noatime,rw,user=guest,dir_mode=0777,file_mode=0777 0 0

Windows Home Server, Part 2

I awoke to an error message saying that a WHS installation script had failed. The “solution” apparently was to delete some registry keys, then on reboots that message would go away. But WHS didn’t have any shares created and certainly didn’t seem complete, so I dismissed this advice. Instead I turned to the log file.

Things made sense when I saw that it was trying to find the path X:files (HAH HAH very funny guys!) Since I had to remove the installation USB key before reboot lest it stay in a neverending install loop, this caused problems because apparently the install needed to access files that were on there (the X: drive) after the first reboot to run the ill-fated script; normally Windows installs copy everything to the hard disk as the first step of their installs to avoid this sort of thing. In any case, I restarted the server and reinserted the USB drive once Windows had started to load in the hopes that it would be mounted and available when the script started, and indeed it was as installation resumed. Annoyingly, a few other reboots were required so I did this USB removal/insertion thing a few more times, but it seemed to work. Regardless, I did go out and get an external DVD drive for future use in cases like this, and netbooks, etc.

WHS still didn’t seem right though. Device Manager showed several devices were unknown or had no drivers. Since WHS is based on Windows Server 2003, I looked for the appropriate drivers at Asus but there were none to be found. It seems that I am not alone in this regard as others are pleading with Asus to release W2K3 Server drivers for the AT5NM10-I board.

I can live with a non-optimal VGA driver for a machine that will be headless, but it sort of needs a functional Ethernet controller to be of any use obviously! Fortunately, the XP driver on the Asus install CD worked. I also ran the system install which cleaned up at least one other unknown device. I tried some other drivers which left me with a very uncomfortable feeling due to their error messages, so I decided to use that new external DVD drive and reinstall one more time.

Of note is that the DVD install was a lot slower than the USB install due to the slower speed of the optical drive. This time it said it would take over 50 minutes, but it ran flawlessly and other then the W2K3 Server driver for the Promise card, it required no intervention whatsoever as it went about its reboots. I installed the Ethernet driver and ran the mainboard install but left it at that. Perhaps a Windows Update will eventually locate suitable drivers.

Now I have my pristine Windows Home Server. First order of business was copying over 10 years worth of photos, a little over 26GB in all. This took about 35 minutes, and after being complete, all drives still report 99.9% free. Yes, it’ll be nice having 12TB to play with…

Windows Home Server, Part 1

I built a 12GB storage server last night with the intent to consolidate my various NASes into a single unified machine. The old Dlink DNS-323 was good but at only 1.5TB mirrored, it’s limited in what it can hold. The OpenFiler server with RAID5 created from my old workstation works great, but I don’t really trust the drives since the RAID5 array failed when running as my workstation, plus the volume layout sort of sucks (I don’t really use iSCSI despite allocating 33% of its disk space as such)

The hardware is very simple. A tiny ASUS AT5NM10-I CPU/motherboard runs an embedded Intel Atom D510, a dual-core processor in a fanless package. It comes with 2 SATA ports, 8 USB ports, integrated video and sound, and gigabit ethernet. 2GB RAM should be more than enough. I also added a 4-port SATA controller from Promise and six 2TB Western Digital “Green” hard drives, which gives the 12TB capacity. I then threw that all into an Antec Nine Hundred case with a 500W power supply. Total price was around $1000, and I built it in about an hour.

I had originally intended to install OpenFiler again, but Windows Home Server nagged at me. A colleague told me about all the great things he’d heard about WHS, and since I have access to it via MAPS and TechNet, I thought it might be a good fit. Indeed, after reading up on it, it sounds fantastic, so I thought I’d give it a try.

The only problem with having 6 hard drives is that there’s no room to connect a DVD player. I spent a couple frustrating hours trying to install the WHS install disc to a USB key, even trying the normally-excellent UNetBootin. Yes, I could disconnect a SATA drive and temporarily hook up a DVD, but that seemed too much like giving up. In the end, the following simple instructions worked after starting Command Prompt as Administrator:

Next up was to copy the files from the ISO to the USB drive. Once complete, eject the disk, insert it into the new server, and after a reboot, the install begins!

  • diskpart
  • list disk
  • select disk n (where n is the USB drive)
  • clean
  • create partition primary
  • select partition 1
  • active
  • format fs=ntfs quick
  • assign
  • exit

The WHS setup didn’t recognize my Promise SATA card drivers so I downloaded them from the Promise web site and copied them to a USB drive, then restarted the install. Selecting Load Drivers and navigating to the driver file caused all the drives to show up. Things looked good, so I selected Disk 0 and began the install. It formatted the file system and rebooted.

But it was too good to be true: BSOD! Maybe an issue with the Promise controller? I disconnected all drives but the first and tried the install again with the same BSOD result. But I am tired and I have a lot to do on my “day off” tomorrow, so I’ll continue this later.

Stubborn is my middle name, so after a quick search for WHS install/reboot BSODs, it sounds like the install can’t handle the drives being set to AHCI in the BIOS. Indeed, after setting this to IDE and rebooting, the install continued. I noticed the motherboard install disc came had a AHCI driver, so I set it back to AHCI in the BIOS and restarted the install: uber-stubborn or what? This time I choose both the Promise and AHCI drivers. Would it work?

Of course not! The warning message when I selected the AHCI driver said that they would require a reboot, so I guess they never took effect. Later once it’s all working (if?) I’ll try setting this to AHCI in the BIOS after reloading the appropriate driver. In any case, setting back to IDE allowed setup to continue. Interesting that it says “Windows Server 2003 for Small Business Server Setup” after the first reboot. Needless to say, this seems very odd, but after another reboot it’s back to a nice Windows Home Server GUI setup. In the meantime, I learned that WHS is made by the same team that makes SBS, and indeed they have a lot in common.

OK that’s enough for tonight. Setup says it will complete in 39 minutes which will take me to almost 4am, and that’s not going to happen. 7:30am will hit soon enough as it is…