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Podcast 96, Are you using Light's Out ?


diehard
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Hi,

 

On Podcast 96, we discussed power outages and surges. We also discussed putting the server to sleep.

 

I have a MediaSmart Server that comes with a simple built in option to sleep. You set the beginning and ending time of the sleep cycle and can enable the server to sleep now. That's about it.

 

There is a more advanced sleep option available to us in the form of Light's Out. This addin will work on all version 1 Windows Home Server. I'll be giving it a try because I want to see if it puts my server to sleep during a streaming session that extends into the sleep window.

 

Please let me know what your experience with Light's Out is.

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I tried it on both production servers and will sum it up by saying, thanks but no thanks. For starters, nothing works unless you have video drivers loaded (which seems like a waste), secondly the repeatability was about 30% on a good day. Meaning it would work sometimes and sometimes it would wake. Most of the time it did not sleep properly nor wake properly. In terms of concept, I also do not like the idea of sleeping a server with 12 drives in as I do not "feel" like this is a great idea. No real reason other than it made me nervous every time if went off, when it when off. In addition, my backups are scheduled between 3 - 6am, and I many times use it till very late so the only time I could sleep it would be during about 8 hours during the day. For me, that savings versus the agrevation factor I experienced with this software will put it in the "pass" category. Just my two cents.

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I've been using Lights Out (v 0.8.2.235) on my home built WHS box for about 8 months now and it has served its purpose admirably. That purpose is admittedly quite limited. All it does is wake up and sleep my WHS box each night so that it can perform its one and only task - back up the 3 other systems in my home. I could use a Wake-On-Lan utility (e.g. Wolcmd.exe) to handle this job, but Lights Out is specifically designed for the task, was free (the community edition still is), and has some other potentially useful features (e.g. the uptime chart).

 

Because my WHS box is dedicated to doing back ups, I don't need the system to be on all the time. It takes only 10 minutes or so for a given machine backup to complete each night so the default two hour backup window (from midnight to 2AM) is plenty of up time to get all backups done. There is no need for my WHS server to be aware of when the other machines in my home are awake or asleep, hence, I don't use the Lights Out client machine software (and it's not installed on any of my systems).

 

WHS itself has been working (almost) flawlessly since inception, but there was one fly-in-the-ointment issue that I had to work through during the first week or so. When I first set up WHS, I configured it to wake up the client computers to run the backups each night. I quickly discovered that backups were not occuring on all machines each night. In fact, WHS missed the two hour back up window for most machines most nights. I checked the WHS logs but found them to be impenetrable and unhelpful. I looked on WHS forums for other users having this problem and sure enough others were. The recommended solution, the one I adopted was to turn the "Wake up client computer" feature off and run the executable BackupEngine.exe, which performs a "manual" backup as a scheduled nightly task, on each client as a scheduled task. Hence, each of my 3 client computers has a scheduled task that executes BackupEngine.exe during the 2 hour window my WHS box is awake. This solution has been working great for almost 8 months but there is one minor nuisance issue that I'm wondering if anybody else has run into and can explain. Every now and then - usually on nights when either my client machines get busy doing some other task (e.g. a defrag or a Microsoft update), or the WHS box gets busy doing a cleanup of backups (Sunday night), an extra (i.e. duplicate) backup of one or more of my clients happens. It's easy to see this in the WHS View Backups dialog because all my scheduled task backups have the description "Nightly Backup" (because the command line I use to invoke these backups is "C:\Program Files\Windows Home Server\BackupEngine.exe" -a -d "Nightly Backup"), while the infrequent duplicate backups all have the description "Automatic". I've been able to minimize the frequency of these duplicate backups by adjusting the trigger times for the scheduled tasks on my client machines, but I haven't been able to get them to completely stop.

 

I'm curious about a couple of things: First, why didn't the WHS "Wake this Computer for Backup" feature work as expected when I first set up my WHS box? Second, why does WHS occasionally generate the duplicate "Automatic" backups as I've described above? Finally, just exactly how does WHS schedule backups when there are multiple clients to back up? I've looked around on the forums and there isn't any thorough discussion of this, and nobody seems to know (or is willing to reveal) how this aspect of WHS really works. As with most things in tech (and life in general) a thorough understanding of the mechanism here could be very helpful. Looking forward to feedback.

 

WHS specs:

Intel D945GCLF2 Atom 330 Mini ITX motherboard/CPU combo

Apex MI-008 Mini ITX computer case

Scythe SY124010L Fan (to replace loud Intel chipset fan)

2GB Kingston DDR2 SDRAM

Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EADS 1TB 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive

 

 

Many Thanks,

Clay

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