Windows Home Server vs. OpenDNS vs. Apple

My HP MediaSmart Server arrived the other day and I got around to hooking it up last night. It was a night of frustration and a lot of swearing at WHS and other computer devices. But then this morning the light bulb went off, there was an easy solution, and the problem was unrelated to Windows Home Server.

I’ll start with the solution and work back. The problem I was experiencing was that the installation of the Server Connector Software couldn’t find the HP MediaSmart Server. I use OpenDNS and that ended up being my problem. I could go to a command prompt, type a totally garbage name and it would resolve to an IP address, always, which is very close to the OpenDNS name servers so it’s probably related. I tried disabling OpenDNS’s typo correction but that didn’t have any effect (although I did confirm it stopped fixing typos).[Updated: See next paragraph] I also tried creating a LMHosts file but that didn’t work since DNS was still used to resolve the name. I considered putting a hosts file on each machine but considered it to much of a pain to manage.

Update: Turning off typo correction does work. My cable modem was rebooted and I also got a new IP address. There may have been some caching someplace. Also, as Mike from OpenDNS mentioned in the comment, adding the device name is also a possible solution but for now I’ve decided to leave typo correction completely off.

These are the symptoms that led me to look outside my network for the problem:

  • Running the diagnostics from the Microsoft Windows Home Server Toolkit returned a long list of errors, all pretty much saying the server or various components couldn’t be found.
  • The installation worked when I cut off my Internet connection.
  • After the successful installation, with the Internet restored, the server console wouldn’t connect. The desktop tool (for doing backups) could see the server.
  • Pinging garbage names still resolved to an IP (I took too long to try this one – try it first, even if you haven’t named the WHS yet).

These are the configurations I’ve gotten to work:

Router: Apple Airport Extreme Base Station (AEBS) – Both the WHS and Cable modem are connected via ethernet cable to this router. This does not support uPnP so port forwarding will need to be configured although this does not need to be done for the actual connector install.

Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate running under VMware Fusion 1.1 on Mac OS X 10.5.1. It was necessary for me to configure the network connection to “bridged” mode so the VM would get it’s own unique IP address. It was set to “share the hosts Internet connection (NAT)” which I believe was the default when I created the VM (at least I don’t remember changing it). This is on a MacBook which is connected via 802.11n wireless using the AEBS.

Microsoft Windows XP Pro SP2 running under Parallels Desktop 3 (Build 5582) on Mac OS X 10.5.1. Unlike VMware, Parallels gives the VM it’s own IP address so no config changes were needed. This is on my iMac connected via ethernet cable to the same AEBS as the WHS.

Microsoft Windows XP Home SP2 running on an old HP laptop. This usually connects via 802.11g wireless to a 802.11g wireless access point that’s bridged to the AEBS. This laptop could not see the WHS to do the installation over wireless. I had to connect it via ethernet cable to the AEBS. I haven’t tried testing it with wireless now that it’s installed. I pulled it out to eliminate the VMs as the problem and once I did that I packed it away again.


Port Forwarding for Remote/Web Access with the AEBS

uPnP routers handle all this on their own, some feel uPnP is a security risk and want it disabled. Personally, while it may not be a true security risk in itself, it’s designed to do things seamlessly for the user (meaning no need to tell the user). These things include opening up router ports. Apple doesn’t support uPnP, they support NAT-PNP instead, which provides similar functionality. I’d rather know what’s going on, opening the ports myself, so I turn off NAT-PNP on my AEBS and would turn off uPnP if my router supported it.

By default the HP MediaSmart Server (and probably most Windows Home Servers) use DHCP to get a IP address. This means the IP address of the WHS could change, even though it’s unlikely if it’s left on. Still, to be safe I reserved a DHCP address for the WHS in the AEBS config. This way I can forward ports to an IP that won’t change. You can get the Mac address and current IP address from the Windows Home Server console. It’s in the Remote Access section, click the details button under Router. I reserved the IP address it was already using.

The private IP address is your WHS. Add port 443 for the HTTPS protocol, port 80 for HTTP and port 4125 for remote access. You can leave out the remote access port if you won’t be using remote access.

The AEBS has an annoying habit of doing a reboot after any change, no matter how minor (like a DHCP reservation), so make all the changes at once and expect the reboot when you click the “Update” button.

Worlds Didn’t Explode

There wasn’t any great explosion when I hooked up this Microsoft device to my Mac heavy home network. I spent so much time troubleshooting, partly because I expected the problems to be related to the VMs or my AEBS that I haven’t had much time to give WHS a workout, but it’s encouraging so far. OS X can see and connect to the shares on the WHS. Differences in file naming conventions means there are limits with the OS X files I put on the server but for straight data it seems fine so far.

I was extremely surprised when I saw the HP MediaSmart Server show as a shared music source in iTunes on my Macs, although I haven’t loaded any music to actually try it yet.

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