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.
In any case, the contents of the box were quite simple. A couple of installation CD's, a setup poster, a network and power cable, and that was pretty much it. Simple and elegant, and it did not appear to be cheap or flimsy in any way. Definitely a surprise when opening the box for a PC product, as over the years, the quest to save money has driven the packaging of most PC products to a pretty cheesy level.
I decided that regardless of how smart I thought I was, I should follow the instructions to the letter, lest I make silly mistake and end up in the weeds somewhere. The diagram was simple enough - just plug the box into the wall and connect the networking cable. Once I did this, I turned it on, and watched the blue lights blink while the system booted up.
Now it was time to install the client software. This was certainly no surprise to me since I figured that a headless Windows box would need something more installed on another computer in my environment so that it could be effectively managed. But, I would have been much happier to hear that it could have been entirely managed from a browser like Firefox or Chrome. I can dream, can't I?
This seemingly important detail is the first thing that likely would have screwed me up if I had not read the directions. On the setup sheet, under "Install the software on your first computer" were these words:
The first installation must be on a Windows computer. Subsequent installations can be on a Windows or Mac computer.
It is not written in red on the sheet, but I think it should be. I had just setup the server in my basement office and was looking forward to heading upstairs to the kitchen to do the rest of the setup on my MacBook Pro laptop. No such luck, I would need to stay downstairs awhile longer and use one of our Windows XP PC's. I consider this to be a potentially important issue, though. What if I'd had no Windows PC's in my environment? I suppose it is safe to assume that most people who would purchase a Windows server for their home would likely have PC's and would be less likely to have Mac products, however the way the product is marketed, and designed to be used, makes it seem like expecting another Windows product to exist somewhere else might be a little presumptuous. Just saying.
Anyway, the client installation was very straightforward and once it was completed, the client software on the PC updated itself automatically.
I was led through a short number of setup questions that I would have expected, including selection of a very secure password for accessing the system at a later time. Once this was completed the server needed to update it's core software - this took quite a bit of time. How long? I'm not sure, when it appeared that it would take more than just a few minutes I left for awhile, but at the pace it was going at, I'd say it was at least 30 minutes, so plan on some waiting there.
Honestly, this is where I ran into a little trouble. Well, not really trouble, but confusion, nonetheless.
After I was certain that I'd gone through and completed all of the necessary updates, and since the next line of my setup poster clearly read,
"CONGRATULATIONS! You are ready to Start Using Your Server"
I was more than ready to get started. I accessed the server using the client software's Home Server Console and was greeted with a very pretty splash screen. Unfortunately, my eyes were immediately drawn to a large, red, NETWORK CRITICAL badge and it was clear that I would have a little more work to do before having some fun.
If you take a look in the gallery associated with this post, you'll see the server console's home screen, as well as the network critical message. There is also a shot of the details that are an important part of making it go away; the culprit was the related to the media connector software on the client. Here are the words they use, and why they might be potentially confusing to you:
HP Media Collector - Please update the client software
The version of software on "NAME_OF_YOUR_PC" is not compatible with the server.
Please uninstall the client software an reinstall it from the server.
I found this to be a little bit cryptic and was unsure of what they were asking or how to actually do it. The manual was of key importance, as each of the procedures were relatively well-documented and the manual is accessible from the help menus in the console window.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with the concept of installing the client software from the server before you uninstall the client software (or you will no longer have access to the online documentation unless you go and find it on HP's web site. The crux of the issue is that you have to access your MediaSmart server as a shared storage device, find the client software and then completely reinstall it on your PC.
And, a little known fact (found only after googling a bit and finding others with the same exact problem) is that you will need to reboot your server after reinstalling the client software.
After dealing with the problem on my PC (the first computer I installed the client software on) I went ahead and installed the client software on my MacBook Pro. I ran into the same NETWORK CRITICAL message when I connected to the console. Once again, I uninstalled the client software, re-installed the software by connecting to the device in the more traditional way, and once I did so, I rebooted the server.
Once all of this was complete, 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 have not quite figured out how to activate, and the second related to not having web services enabled).
In part two of "Setting up my MediaSmart EX495" I will attempt to document my experience with the included McAfee Total Protection Software and provide some helpful tips along the way.