Silverlight revolutionizes beta of next Windows Home Server

Make your connection to Microsoft Windows Home Server "Vail" Public Beta through Fileforum now.

Actual Beta News feature bannerOne of Silverlight video's biggest advantages to date has been the server's ability to tweak the bitrate of video playback as it's being played back, and as the bandwidth of the connection varies. It's the smooth streaming feature that premiered last June with Silverlight 3. Now, with Silverlight 4 already well under way, Microsoft today premiered a public beta of a forthcoming release of Windows Home Server, which will be capable of smooth-streaming video to any Silverlight-enhanced client via the Web.

With the new server software, code-named "Vail" (as in Colorado, not "veil" as in fabric cover), the new generation of DLNA home video and audio components -- including Blu-ray players and notebook PCs -- will be able to receive "pushed" setup information through the home's wireless router, enabling those components to connect to the wireless network. It will be the new Windows Home Server that does the pushing, via the "Play To" functionality that already premiered in Windows 7 but has yet to be tested in a full server setting.


"DLNA enables your home server to participate in a 'Play To' environment as a Digital Media Server (DMS)," reads the reviewer's guide to the "Vail" server, published today. Other DLNA-compatible devices -- TVs, stereos, your Xbox 360 (in Windows Media Center Mode) and more -- can automatically find your home server from within your home network and then stream videos, music, and pictures on demand from it."

"Vail" will also be the first Home Server rendition that plays the role the system should have been born to play: captain of the Homegroup. For the first time in Microsoft's history, the Homegroup feature has made network connectivity actually easy. With "Vail," libraries enrolled in the Homegroup become pushed to users' computers throughout the home, and shared by user name rather than system ID.

The completely reworked Dashboard application for Windows Home Server "Vail," made with Silverlight.

The Console app to which users have grown accustomed for managing backup file locations and media libraries, has been replaced in "Vail" with a completely redone Silverlight app. While the built-in version of the new Dashboard looks simple enough, it's actually the browser-based version that looks more dynamic. If it reminds you of apps you've seen recently on Windows Live, it's not by accident. It gives "Vail" a kind of media server home page, from which the user can set up shop, literally becoming her own broadcaster.

When you stream your music libraries anywhere in the world using Windows Home Server "Vail," the Silverlight app makes it into a real experience.

Streaming audio from your Home Server to a client that runs Silverlight, also enables this animated album cover showcase. What will be interesting to see is whether mobile platforms on which Silverlight may run, will also be capable of presenting this same showcase. That could change the entire ballgame for many handset or netbook users who are currently stuck with substandard MP3 player apps. Imagine a media world where playback capabilities and experience are determined by your server, not by your device's manufacturer.

(And yes, the question will inevitably come up: When a home broadcaster streams content online, including to herself, will she owe royalties? No, that is not meant in sarcasm or as a joke.)

Microsoft advises that "Vail" beta testers use clean installs only -- very clean, in fact. The company would rather you not install "Vail" on a hard drive that has anything on it, including another operating system -- wipe the partition clean first. Keeping true to its promise made in 2008, this server kernel is 64-bit only. A minimum 160 GB hard drive is required, which is fair enough if you stick to building a test system using parts made within the last three years.

14 Responses to Silverlight revolutionizes beta of next Windows Home Server

  1. OneToOne says:

    About 64-bit - any news on 64-bit Silverlight, perhaps in the not-so-distant future?

  2. jfplopes says:

    As expected yet another pillar to Microsoft media convergence strategy. Things are starting to roll out and will see a lot more news before Windows Phone 7 comes out. The upcoming Windows Live Wave 4 is going to push things a lot. A good picture where they're heading is portrayed on this ad (
    The thing is and this is for me a great selling point, you'll be able to stream any of your video files to any device at the best possible quality. There is simply no competing product capable of achieving this right now. And with this type of media capabilities tied to upcoming Microsoft products things are getting interesting.

  3. NULLedge says:

    So why can't they get the xbox 360 to hook up to external storage correctly?

  4. smist08 says:

    Now that many new TV's are starting to receive WiFi directly and run a Linux Kernel without Silverlight, I don't really see the point (or you can get a simple box to hook up to your TV). You don't need a device like an XBox or Laptop connected to the TV. You don't need a server, you just need your laptop on Wifi and can stream to your TV directly without requiring an extra server. Seems to me like a newer version of a hardware/software category that is no longer needed.

    • PC_Tool says:

      If all WHS did was stream, you might have a point.

      But it does do lot more than you don't. :p

    • preinterpost says:

      Not really...

      Dynamic adaptive streaming is one of silverlight's killer features for multi media (which delivered the live coverage of the last olympics by the way..).

      It costs more to pay the premium for a wifi TV than making use of this option.

      • wodez says:

        Does Dynamic adaptive streaming mean I cant download a videoclip in high quailty but is forced to watch it streamed with low bitrate when using a low bandwidth connection?

      • preinterpost says:

        WHS is primarily a file server so you can download anything you want from a share on the LAN or the web UI as long as you have access granted.

        Streaming is an option and adapts to the bandwidth when using SL. I usually play files directly from the shares on the LAN via Wifi onto a projector using any media player I like (typically Media Center with the brilliant My Movies plugin). Nothing comes close to it (assuming a heterogeneous data and hardware environment). The new v2 SL streaming demo videos look very similar but since v1 works flawless for me I'll wait until it is released. Of course that way you have everything nicely integrated including Hulu and Netflix.

        There is some optional software to install TV tuners in WHS and publish them as network tuners to Media Center - sounds cool but unfortunately I cannot bear US TV programming :-)

        All this works very nice without setup and maintenance hassle - thus I regard Tim's previous BN article using proprietary limited vendor locked in hardware as outdated and irrelevant.

  5. bigsexy022870 says:

    Very interesting. I am planning to build me a server very soon. I have a ton of media now that is on my network. I guess i will look forward to playing with this when it comes out.

    • PC_Tool says:

      Might have to give WHS another go....

      • preinterpost says:

        PC - What's your prob with it? These are not revolutionary but simply improved existing and already well working features. It's doing a great job here as file, backup and media server. Plus (non-standard) our general web proxy filtering with ad-muncher. Plus (it's a powerful home brew) a couple of VMs.

      • PC_Tool says:

        The problem was me. I kept fiddling with this and that, eventualy (and consitantly) breaking things by doing constant end-runs around the management interface to the console.

        I'll probably end up doing the same thing if I go at it again, but at least I'll get a look at the neat new stuff since I last used it (and it isn't costing me a thing...even if I do eventually migrate my existing solution to it for keeps). Gotta love TechNet. :p

  6. Raton says:

    "shared by user name
    rather than system ID"

    And how many ~years~ has it taken for Microsoft to make this amazing and unthinkable innovation ?


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