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  • So I must admit, Window Home Server is not my only obsession, I’m also a reef geek (salt water fish tank nerd). Anyways, I thought why not marry my two obsessions into one glorious hobby and put a web server in my reef tank! That way I could monitor the reef remotely and put my nerves to rest while I’m away (after all, I have a lot of money in that tank). Before you say I’m crazy, putting a reef tank on your network has been done many times before, however I have yet to find someone that has embedded the reef tank webserver into Windows Home Server. This is the first blog post on joining together my two favorite hobbies.


    So this is my reef tank…




    It’s not much, a 20 gallon reef with a 10 gallon sump (the filter component). I have had it up and running for about two years now and it has been moved twice. Now that I have bought a house and the tank has a permanent home, I decided that it was time to lay down some roots and hook it up to my network (and my home server). Un-fortunately I am still learning how to be a reef-keeper, and I’m afraid I’ll never stop learning, but that is what I like about the hobby, it is very challenging (and very expensive). Anyways, onto what everyone wants to see, the tech.


    So I mentioned that I would be putting a webserver into the tank, well here it is…




    It is about the size of a deck of cards and interfaces with the other modules in my controller system. Think of a controller as the brains behind the reef. It tells the lights when they should turn on, when the pumps should run, it maintains a constant water temperature by controlling fans and heaters, ect… You can pretty much get as complicated as you want with controllers and the system I use (which is manufactured by Digital Aquatics) is no exception. I like to “get my nerd on” and installing the webserver (net module) is how I think I can take it to the next level.


    Before hooking up the webserver to my system, I need to upgrade the firmware in my controller’s components. I have 4 components to upgrade and it is as easy as plugging my laptop into each component via a USB cable connected to a SID module (System Interface Device) and connecting the SID to each component with a cable that looks strangely similar to an old school telephone cable…




    Here is a look at all of the current components in my system… SL2 (System Lab 2 which measures PH, Salinity, and water temperature), NET (the web server), PC4 (the big black surge protector on the bottom which is basically a computer controlled relay box), and the RKL (Reef Keeper Lite head unit which is how I can interact with the system when not using my laptop).




    Ok, now that I have all the current firmware flashed onto the components, I can hook it all back up and plug it into the network. Here is a look at my windows home server (on the wall) and my tank in the background with a network cable connecting the two via my router…




    So I get it hooked up and immediately my wife is asking why I have a cable strung out across the ground. Bummer, I’ll have to do something about that. Since my house is built on a slab foundation there is really no easy way to run a cable, so I bought and installed a Power Line Adapter Kit from NetGear. I think this will work since the webserver is not really a bandwidth hog and if it loses its connection every once in a while it is no big problem.


    Now that the webserver is on the network it’s time to hook it up to Window Home Server. I plan on putting links into the remote access website of Window Home Server to allow me to connect to the net module. To do this I logged into the WHS dashboard and clicked on Server Settings then on Remote Web Access , then on Customize and finally on the Home Page Links tab. Then all that needs to be done is add the links. In my case I have two, one for the Webserver’s home page and one for an RSS feed that gets generated by the webserver. (Currently I have the RSS Feed set to update every minute) Basically, I can broadcast up to 16 tank parameters at an interval as frequent as 1 minute. Currently I am broadcasting 6…the water temperature, the status of the daylights, the status of the actinic lights, the status of the moonlights, the status of the water cooling fan, and the number of amps of electricity being consumed by the system.




    But before I get too excited, the links above will only work when I am inside my home network. Originally I thought once I logged into the remote access page, I would be visible remotely thru the magic of Windows Home Server, but bummer, it’s not. Then after thinking about it for a while, I thought Windows Home Server updates my current IP address as part of the remote access website enabling process and then translates this into a website https://yourURLnameHere.homeserver.com. What if I put my reef tanks webserver’s port number that I assigned it after the Home Server URL, that should work right? Wrong, it appears that Windows Home Server does not like to play nice with other web sites out of the box. I got this nasty little runtime error…


    Description: An application error occurred on the server. The current custom error settings for this application prevent the details of the application error from being viewed remotely (for security reasons). It could, however, be viewed by browsers running on the local server machine.

    Details: To enable the details of this specific error message to be viewable on remote machines, please create a <customErrors> tag within a "web.config" configuration file located in the root directory of the current web application. This <customErrors> tag should then have its "mode" attribute set to "Off".




    The error message is generated by WHS, I know this because when I powered down the WHS box, the error message disappeared. I could probably do a little snooping around my WHS, and possibly create a new website on the box, but then I thought it will probably just break something else and what would happen when Microsoft rolls out an update?  The other option would be to use an external Domain Name Forwarding Service and create a second domain that is pointed at my current IP address, pass that thru the router and forward it to my Reef’s webserver. Sounds complicated huh, actually it’s was pretty simple thanks to some outstanding support forums on the Digital Aquatics website. One post in particular was really helpful, Port Forwarding and DDNS for Dummies. Ok now that we have the ports forwarded using a second domain and after placing the new links into WHS Remote access webpage, my remote access site looks like this…




    Clicking on the Reef Tank Home Page link that I set up opens up the tank’s Net Webserver 2.0 Homepage and it works outside the network, Sweet!!!!!!!!




    Here is a look at the dashboard…




    Here is another look at the RSS feed setup page…






    And here is a look at one of the flash graphs that is built into the homepage…




    So that is where the project stands right now. Ok, I know that I’m really not using the remote access website for anything other than staging the links, but I think it’s cool. So where do I go from here? Well I have an XML data feed from my tank that is visible to the internet, a background in database and dashboard development; why not make a real-time dashboard for my tank on my personal website? While we’re at it, why not put a live video feed below the dashboard? Am I setting the bar too high or will I be able to pull it off? Like I said, I like a great challenge and only time will tell, stay tuned….





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    Very nice. However, you lost me with the WHS on the wall... No longer am I thinking about fish tanks I'm thinking about that build! When does the article about it come out?
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    you need some more color in that tank ;) maybe some frogspawn, trumpets, or an RBTA or something along those lines ;) If you can't tell I am also a reef tank nerd and also am big into Media Center and WHS. Great Writeup. -Josh
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    This is excellent, nice project. We also have a small reef tank and a WHS. Off to look up digital aquatics right now. Thank you for sharing.
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