Aug 29, 2011

Problem loading and finding drivers for Windows Home Server (WHS) PC full system restore from backup

I'm a big fan of the Windows Home Server (WHS) product - specifically the earlier versions prior to WHS 2011 before they removed the Drive Extender feature. I've deployed several HP MediaSmart servers for small businesses and home offices.  The full PC restore feature has come in handy on several occasions. You just boot from a CD, connect to your WHS box and select the image that you want to restore and sit back and relax while it completely restores your PC.

The only real tricky part of this process is making sure that the WHS boot environment recognizes your hardware drivers - network cards, hard drives, disk controllers, etc.  If it can't talk to your network card, it won't be able to find your WHS server, if it can't talk to your disk drives, you won't see any drives available when you try to select the drive mapping during the restore process. 

Most of the time it seems to find all of my hardware without any issues. Sometimes it will be missing the Ethernet controller so you'll need to provide drivers for that.  Typically you can just go to another PC on your WHS network, open the WHS console, go to Computer & Backups, select the PC that you are trying to restore, right-click and select View Backups, select one of the recent backups and hit "Open"..., select a partition, and let it open the backup so you can see the files.

On each partition, you'll find a special folder that WHS has created called "Windows Home Server Drivers for Restore".  You copy all of these files to a USB flash drive and then put it into your PC that you are trying to restore.  Then boot into the WHS environment again.  When it gets to the screen were it detects your hardware, you'll need to hit the button to tell it to scan your drives for additional drivers.  It will then scan your USB drive and it SHOULD find all of the proper hardware drivers.

This method has worked for me 100% of the time until last week.  I was trying to restore a Dell Inspiron laptop that would no longer boot.  Even when I copied the drivers from the "Windows Home Server Drivers for Restore" folder, I was still missing Ethernet and storage controller drivers.  So what I did was look up the service tag on the Dell laptop, go out to the Dell.com support and drivers page and manually download the Ethernet and any storage-related drivers I could find.  These will be compressed .exe files.  Make sure you run them first, so they will extract all of the files into a folder tree.  Then grab these extracted files and put them on your USB drive.  The location on the USB drive doesn't seem to matter - it scans the whole drive.

Once I manually downloaded my drivers and put them on the USB stick, I rebooted into the WHS restore environment once again, told it to scan for additional drivers and thankfully it found them this time!  My Ethernet card was listed as well as the hard disk controllers.  Now I could browse and see my WHS box on the network, select my PC name, select my most recent backup and then it asks you to map the partitions that you want to restore C: to C:, D: to D:, etc.

Hopefully this will help if you run into this situation.

6 more free apps for your HP TouchPad | ZDNet

For those of you with brand new HP Touchpads, here is a link to get a few free apps. Typically these cost $$ but there are promo codes in the article that allow you to get them for free.
6 more free apps for your HP TouchPad | ZDNet:

'via Blog this'

Aug 27, 2011

Free Box.net account for HP Touchpad user - max file size limit of 100MB

As part of your HP Touchpad purchase (like the $99 version I just purchased), you are also entitled to a free 50GB of online storage from Box.net.  As far as I can tell, this seems to be pretty similar to Dropbox.  You get an online folder that you can sync and access from different devices - including the HP Touchpad obviously.

Just look for the Box.net app in the HP app store on your Touchpad. When you launch it the first time you'll be asked to create your free account and get your 50GB of space.

While the 50GB of free space sounds great, there is at least one "gotcha".  If you have a paid plan, even a smaller 25GB for $9.99/month, the max file size is 1GB.  That would be enough if you wanted to upload some lower res movie files to watch on your tablet.  BUT the free HP Touchpad accounts have a max file size of 100MB per file!!  Ouch!

I guess thats fine for some music or documents but don't plan on keeping an online movie archive on box.net and transferring them to your Touchpad.  You can always connect your Touchpad to the USB port on your PC and transfer files that way of course.


Aug 24, 2011

I was able to buy a $99 HP Touchpad tablet with WebOS - Quick Review

HP TouchPad Wi-Fi 16 GB 9.7-Inch Tablet Computer
The HP Touchpad Tablet


I'm a real sucker for a deal. I always say "Hell, I'd buy an elephant if I found one for 80% off!".  Well how about a $400 tablet for 75% off?  HP introduced the Touchpad tablet just a few months ago and they've already discontinued it due to dismal sales, dropping the price down to $99 (16GB) / $149 (32GB). The trick is finding them at the sale price before they are all gone.  I was able to score one from Bestbuy.com and pick it up at the store last weekend.  You may have luck for the next week or so just showing up at your local BB in the morning to see if they have anything.  It's possible that HP.com maybe be getting more in next week as well.

I've been planning to get an iPad at some point - maybe waiting until next year to get an iPad 3 but I certainly couldn't pass up a $99 tablet with a very similar feature set.  Even if you never use a single "app", the browser built into the Touchpad is excellent and it fully supports Adobe Flash.  This means that most of your favorite websites will be fully functional.  You don't need an app for every little thing - news, weather, sports scores, music streaming,  etc.  In fact, the most impressive thing was that I was able to run a Yahoo Fantasy Football mock draft on it, which is a major Flash-heavy site.

The app store is very limited.  Maybe 7,000 apps.  But it's got the biggies like Facebook, various Twitter clients, weather, CBS Sports, USA Today, Pandora (though it's designed for small screens like a Palm phone), etc.  No Netflix streaming app that I could find. Though maybe the site works via Flash?  I read reports that Hulu.com works in the browser.

Honestly, I haven't done much email on it but the email client seems just fine.  You can add multiple accounts and the OS has some cool features for sliding the windows around to let you determine what you want to see - email accounts list, inbox list, message body, etc.

I've ran into a few articles talking about ways to boost the performance and make it run a little quicker, via overclocking and disabling some of the excessive system logging.  Check out this article from ZDNet for details.  I haven't tried it yet myself.

I also like the fact that I can print directly from the Touchpad to my HP Color LaserJet CM1415 wirelessly.

You'll probably want a few accessories.  Here is the official HP case.














And there is also an official HP wireless bluetooth keyboard which could be pretty handy.

Aug 17, 2011

You have not been added to the Blackberry Enterprise Server error - no enterprise data plan

I was trying to add a new Blackberry Curve to a Blackberry Professional Server (predecessor to the Blackberry Express Server) but it would not connect to the server. I entered the email address and wireless activation key but it just sat on "Contacting Server..." for several minutes.  Then I would get an error message that read "You have not yet been added to the Blackberry Enterprise Server. Please either cancel this request and contact your support team or continue and wait for a response".

The issue in my case was that the user was using his personal Blackberry and he did NOT have an enterprise data plan (Blackberry Enterprise Plan, Blackberry Corporate Plan, BES Plan, etc. Not sure what each carrier calls it.).  He just had a regular consumer data plan called Blackberry Internet Service plan I believe.  Another clue was that the Enterprise Activation option was missing from his phone.  Even when looking in Options -> Advanced Options there was no mention of Enterprise Activation.  I found one post that recommended going into Options -> Advanced Options -> Host Routing Table and click "Register".  Once I did this, I COULD see the option for Enterprise Activation.  But that's when I ran into my error message above.

He's going to contact Verizon and upgrade his plan to a corporate plan and then I should be able to add him to the Blackberry server.

Aug 16, 2011

My favorite Bluetooth headset for iPhones (and other phones) - The Jawbone ICON

I've tried out several different Bluetooth headsets for my iPhone but so far the best I've found is the Jawbone ICON.  The Icon comes in several different styles - The Thinker, The Hero, The Rogue, etc. but they all have the same guts - the style just changes the appearance slightly.
Jawbone ICON-Series Thinker Bluetooth Headset (Black)
This is "The Thinker" style that I have.
If you connect it to your PC with the included USB cable, you can update the firmware to provide A2DP support.  This allows you to wirelessly listen to music and podcasts on your iPhone, in addition to simply using it for making calls.  I use it for listening to podcasts quite a bit.  You can also hold in the single button on the Icon and it will trigger the iPhone's voice dialing feature so you can say "Call Jason Mobile" to dial the number. This is really handy when you get in the car and you've forgotten to take your phone out of your pocket or laptop bag.  However, I wish there was some way for the Caller ID feature to pronouce the names on your Contacts list.  Instead, it simply announces the number of the incoming call ("Call from 555-7689").

There is a customizable voice in the phone that announces the incoming calls, the battery life remaining ("About 1 hour of talk time remaining..."), etc.

The sound quality is excellent though I would strongly recommending adding these Jabra eargels which are made specifically for the Icon to really give it a custom fit and increase the volume a noticeable amount.
Jabra Eargels for Aliph Jawbone Icon The Thinker
These eargels give the Icon a great custom fit.




Microsoft Onenote template for wedding planning

I've been a big fan of Microsoft OneNote since day one.  It's a great place to store un-structured and semi-structured information - as opposed to very structured information like a proposal or business plan which you would create in Word.   I have a OneNote section for each of my clients were I keep info like server names, IP addresses, steps to perform certain tasks, locations of software installation folders on the network, contacts for other vendors (phone, internet, etc.), screenshots of error messages, checklists for various upgrades, etc.

But now I've just found a new use for OneNote.  Microsoft has published an excellent Wedding Template for OneNote. It has a wide variety of pages to track things like guest lists, food selections, vendor contacts (florist, catering, photographer, etc.), music list for the DJ, things to pack on the wedding day, etc.   Very well thought out.

You can download the template right here.

Here is a nice blog post that describes it in a little more detail with a few screenshots.

And since I'm running the OneNote for iPhone app, I can access this information anytime I need to.

Aug 11, 2011

How to share your 3G or 4G USB mobile broadband connection

Many of my clients are using mobile broadband devices (air cards, USB modems, data modems, etc.) such as the Pantech UML290 from Verizon. This is a USB device that plugs into your laptop and gives you internet access via the wireless phone network. Recently I needed to find a way to share that single connection with a few different laptops.  I had originally looked into buying a regular wifi router and turning it into an access point but then I stumbled onto a piece of hardware built for this exact purpose.

I found the Cradlepoint PHS300 Personal Hotspot .

CradlePoint PHS300 Personal Hotspot - Wireless access point - 802.11b/g (Version 2.0/2.5.3)

This little device is about the size of an iPhone and it's a wifi router that uses your USB modem to connect to the internet.  It's currently about $55 on Amazon.com.  So rather than plugging your USB modem into your laptop, you plug it directly into the Cradlepoint Hotspot.  Once it establishes a connection to your wireless carriers mobile network, it then broadcasts a local wifi signal that you can connect multiple devices to (laptops, iPhones, iPads, etc.)

I setup one of these guys last week and so far it's been working great!  It was a little tricky to configure at first.  I would make sure you download the firmware and drivers ahead of time from the Cradlepoint website. You'll probably be able to connect your laptop to the default wifi network out of the box but the cellular connection may not work until you update the firmware to support the latest USB mobile devices. So if you already have the firmware downloaded, you'll be able to install it in the device.  Their website has a list of all of the currently supported devices.  It DOES support some of the newer 4G devices such as the Pantech UML290 that I mentioned earlier.