Microsoft has announced the availability of Power Pack 2 for Windows Home Server, a collection of important new features and bug fixes for the consumer-oriented server operating system the company first shipped in 2007.
The most notable improvements are related to Windows Media Center. Windows Media Center Extenders will now be able to access content stored in any of the home server’s shared folders (e.g., Music, Video, Photos, and Recorded Video). Previously, these devices had to rely on the home server’s Guest account. And once the Windows Home Server Connector software is installed or updated on a computer running a version of Windows that includes Windows Media Center (Windows XP Media Center Edition, Windows Vista Home Premium, and Windows Vista Ultimate), that computer will have the same access privileges. In both instances, a user with administrative access to the server can grant or deny access on an individual folder basis.
Windows Home Server also now supports streaming MP4 files via Windows Media Connect. The metadata for these files (title, artist, composer, album, and genre) will now appear in the appropriate library. Previously, the operating system supported only AVI, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, WMV files, and .dvr-ms files (that last one being Microsoft’s format for recorded TV shows).
The Windows Home Server team says they’ve also redesigned the Remote Access Settings page to make it easier to use. Remote Access provides the ability to access you home server from anywhere you have Internet access; it also allows you to access the server’s client computers over the Internet, provided those clients are running a version of Windows that supports Remote Desktop Connection (which oddly does not include Windows Vista Home Premium—the most widely used version of Windows Vista).
Power Pack 2 should be available now; if you’re running Windows Home Server with automatic updates enabled, it automatically download and update itself.
Microsoft is also seeking to increase third-party development activity around Windows Home Server. Touting the current availability of more than 100 add-in programs—everything from disk management to anti-virus software—Microsoft has decided to make the server OS available in the Microsoft Developer Network. Registered MSDN subscribers will be able to download the software as part of their subscription fee.