A few weeks ago I posted an article on the then forthcoming HP MediaSmart Server 2.5 Update. Well the update was released last week for all HP MediaSmart Server EX485 and EX487 owners and so I thought it was time to do a more in-depth look at this new update.
Again, unfortunately this update is not available for owners of the HP MediaSmart Server EX470 or EX475 as HP state the hardware requirements for this update are greater than that of the those machines, even if you have updated the memory and processor yourself.
Before we getting into the in-depth look, let’s just have a quick reminder what this update actually includes:
The 2.5 Update brings remote video streaming and automatic video conversion to unprotected content. What this means is that your EX485 or EX487 will be able to automatically convert videos and unprotected DVDs into two different resolutions. These include a high resolution file that you can steam to PCs, Macs and even your Xbox 360 or PS3. The other resolution is aimed at mobile devices, such as the iPhone and iPod Touch. The supported video types are AVI (DivX, Xvid, MJPEG), MOV (MJEG), DVR-MS (MPEG2), MP4 (MPEG4), WMV and unprotected DVD VOB. Unprotected DVD VOB files are automatically stitched together resulting in a smooth stream.
There are also some updates to the mobile streaming user experience, updates to the HP Media Collector, improved configuration for Apple Time Machine and the ability to create public and private albums in the photo viewer.
DOWNLOAD AND INSTALLATION
By the time you read this article it’s a good chance that you have already got the update installed, but in case you haven’t, or you have only just got your EX485 or EX487, here is what you have to do.
First, launch the Windows Home Server Console, click on Settings and then click on HP MediaSmart Server. Then click the HP Update tab. Here you will see the version installed, in this case 220.127.116.1161 which means I don’t currently have the 2.5 update installed.
Click the Check for updates link and your Windows Home Server will go and check to see if there are any updates available.
If there is an update available, in this case the MediaSmart Server Update 2.5, ensure it is selected and click Next.
The update will the be downloaded – be patient though it is over 200MB in size, although if you have a fast connection it will be quicker 🙂
The installation process will also start automatically.
Click Next to continue.
Click Install to continue.
The installation will take place and won’t take very long, when prompted click Finish. It it also a good idea this point to reboot your Windows Home Server.
When your click on the MediaSmart tab, you will be presented with the new 2.5 screen, as shown below. We will look at the new features in a moment.
There is also an update Windows Home Server Connector, which you need to install. Unfortunately this process is not automatic like that of the Windows Home Server Power Pack 2 update, so you will have to perform this on every home computer you have.
Open up the Windows Home Server Software Shared Folder, and then open the Home Server Connector Software folder. Double-click on the Setup.exe file to launch the installation file.
If you already have a previous version of the Windows Home Server Connector software installed you will be warned that the setup process will uninstall the current version and then reinstall the new version – so click Yes to do start this.
You will see the installation Wizard appear – click Next to continue.
Read the licence agreement, click on the I accept…. radio button and then click Next to continue.
The installation will now take place as usual.
Remember to do this on each and every one of your client computers.
If you double-click on the HP MediaSmart Server icon on your desktop, you will also see an updated Control Console.
THE NEW FEATURES AND IMPROVEMENTS
There are a few new features and some improvements delivered with the 2.5 Update. So let’s take a look at them.
HP VIDEO CONVERTER
The video converter monitors selected shared folders and attempts to perform video conversion (also known as transcoding) on files with common video file formats. The video converter also supports DVD file system conversion, for DVD files that are commonly used in camcorders.
The results of the video converter tool are of a single file format: an MPEG-4 video file using an H.264 video codec and AAC stereo audio codec. Currently, devices supporting this format include
- Microsoft Xbox 360
- Sony PlayStation 3
- Sony PlayStation Portable
- Apple iPod (newer iPods with video support)
- Apple iPhone
- Microsoft Zune
The Video Converter will not transcode copy protected DVDs or electronic videos with Digital Rights Management Technology built into digital media, such as music and movies.
By default, the HP Video Convertor is switched off. To switch it on, just launch the Windows Home Server Console, click on Settings, then click on HP Video Convertor. Then all you have to do is check the box marked Enable Video Convertor.
Once you have enabled the HP Video Collector, you can easily select which of the Shared Folders you want to have video files converted from.
By default, only the Videos folder is selected and also both the Full and Mobile options are selected for you. You can of course easily change this by checking the relevant boxes.
When selecting a shared folder to perform video conversion on, there are two options for the output of the video converter: Full resolution and Mobile resolution.
Full resolution keeps the source video’s screen resolution, and basically just creates an output file with the new format for the provided input. Video and audio quality should be very similar to the source material for Full resolution videos. You may notice some differences between the original and Full resolution output, but these differences are minimal in most situations.
One benefit of using the Full resolution output settings is that older video formats like MPEG-2 videos are often much larger in size than the format used by the video converter. The output of a Full resolution video conversion can be approximately 25% the file size of an original DVD (MPEG-2). This significant reduction in size can make streaming via 802.11G less problematic (although many factors impact streaming videos wirelessly, results may vary widely).
The Mobile resolution creates a video that is suitable for mobile devices and remote video streaming (the video will be no larger than QVGA: 320w x 240h). This is to make support of mobile devices easier, and to provide videos suitable for remote media streaming.
Once you have chosen your folders, if you click on the HP Video Converter button on the MediaSmart Server tab, you will be able to see the status of the conversion process.
As you can see from the screenshot below, I have one active, one cancelled and a number of videos pending. Note that each video you want converted will have an MQ (Mobile Quality version) and a HQ (High Quality version) assuming you selected both versions.
It is important to note that depending on how many videos you want converted, the quality of those videos selected, and the length of the videos, this conversion process can take some time. My advice would be if you are planning on converting a lot of videos, have them running overnight.
You can also see when they are all complete.
You will also notice a new folder called Converted Videos, this is where all the converted videos are stored – obvious really!
One last thing on this subject, in order for the streaming to work, and this goes equally for the Photos and Music, as well as the Videos, you must ensure that you have enabled Media Sharing from the Settings area of your Windows Home Server Console.
HP PHOTO PUBLISHER
The big addition here is the ability to now have both public and private photos albums, meaning that you now have photo albums that only those who you deem worthy can see.
Whilst this is certainly a useful feature, I am a firm believer in not publishing anything to the Internet that you don’t want people to see in the first place. If you have private photos that you only want a selected few to see, why not give them access to a shared photo folder on your Windows Home Server itself instead of publishing them for all to “possibly” see?
FEATURES FOR MAC
There are a number of improvements to the Mac Backup feature, including the ability to resize the backup disk.
You need to update the Windows Home Server software on your Mac. To do this, perform the following steps (this assumes you have already got a previous version of the software running – if you don’t just skip the Uninstall step):
Click on your WHS as listed within the Shared area.
Open the Software folder.
Then open the Mac folder and launch the HP MSS Client.dwg file.
As mentioned earlier, if you already have the software installed, you need to uninstall it first, so click on Uninstall HP MediaSmart Server Software.
Follow the prompts to remove the software until you see the Uninstall Succeeded message and then click Close.
Now you have to reinstall the software so click on Install HP MediaSmart Server Software.pkg and follow the prompts to perform the installation.
At the end of the installation the Preferences screen will open and you will need to type in the Server Name and Server Password to reconnection to your Windows Home Server.
And that is it, the software is now up to date.
You will also notice a new Control Center which enables you to perform certain functions.
You can also launch this Control Center by clicking on the MediaSmart icon.
The main new Mac feature as mentioned is the ability to change the size of the Backup Disk.
To do this, click on Preferences in the Control Center, then click on the Backup tab.
You will need to click Stop in order to Stop the Backup Disk before you change the size, depending on what is happening at the time, this make take a few moments.
Type in the new Backup Disk Size, in GB and then click the resize button and then click Resize to continue.
You will be warned that you cannot cancel or undo the resizing operation, and so remember that all previously stored backup data will be lost. If you are happy, just click Continue.
And that is it – the Backup Disk size will be changed and then restarted for you.
REMOTE MEDIA STREAMING
When you want to access your media content remotely, you will be presented with a number of options. It is important to note here that you need to have Adobe Flash installed to see the options, but don’t worry if you don’t have it installed, you are given the option to install it.
If you select the Media Streamer icon you will be taken to the Music area where you can stream your music and search for songs by album, artist, etc. You will also see any cover art and information displayed here as well.
The Photos button will take you to all of your shared photos, and again you can search for whatever you are looking for by date or in folders.
Lastly you have Videos. You will be presented with a list of available videos.
You can look in folders and even choose to only display Converted Mobile videos.
If you click the Status button you can see what is currently being converted, or in my case as I am not converting anything at the time of writing, what has been converted. You can even click on a specific file to find out about the conversion.
One of the other new features is called iStream and it is an application that works on your iPhone or iPod Touch in order to stream your digital content to those devices. It is not part of the 2.5 Update, but it does require the 2.5 Update to work. For more information on iStream, including a walk-through, click here.
The following defect fixes and enhancements are included in this update:
Fixed a number of TwonkyMedia server issues, including the case where songs would not play all the way through.
Improved the HP Media Streamer interface, including adding support for streaming video files, column sort functionality, and new album art views.
Improved Media Collector by displaying progress details, status information, and client connectivity to shared folders.
Improved the HP MediaSmart Server dashboard functionality.
The User’s Guide was updated to match HP MediaSmart Server software changes.
This was a very long article on the new update, so if you are still reading, thank you and well done!
Is the update worth having? Yes, very much so, and considering it is free and gives you a lot of additional functionality you really cannot go wrong. Its very simple to set-up, just a few clicks to choose what you want to use and then it just works. In terms of streaming, as long as you have the available bandwidth it works great and it’s certainly nice to see that HP have put a lot of effort into make digital media content even more accessible.
It is very unfortunate that owners of the first generate HP MediaSmart Servers cannot take advantage of this update, but as HP have stated, this is because of the hardware requirements on the update, even though there are a lot of owners who have upgraded both the ram and the processors themselves. Bottom line guys I don’t think that HP will release the software no matter how loud we shout and I think we have to accept that if we want this functionality on our EX470s and EX475s then we will have to look to third parties to release add-ins that could do something similar.