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Mailbag: May 31, 2011

In this edition of the mailbag: Windows Home Server 2011 availability, when Audible will support Windows Phone 7, whether WP7 "Mango" will really support multiple calendars, why I wear the same shirt every week on Windows Weekly, whether WHS 2011 requires anti-virus, why Dell was missing from the list of WP7 "Mango" hardware partners, remote access on Windows Home Server, and why I use the term "software giant" all the time.

Windows Home Server 2011 availability

A number of readers have asked:

When will the OEM version of Windows Home Server 2011 be available?

The OEM version of WHS 2011 is available now, from both ($118 ATM, normally $150) and ($120), and presumably from other places.

In case you're not familiar with the term, OEM stands for "Original Equipment Manufacturer," which in this context refers to a PC (or server) maker that would purchase this software for installation on new hardware, which would then in turn be sold to a consumer. OEM versions of Windows aren't technically supposed to be offered for sale to the general public for their own use, but e-retailers are able to sell them via a loophole that I can't claim to understand.

In any event, if you want to buy and install WHS 2011 on your own hardware (it should work on virtually any modern PC or server with a 64-bit CPU), you are looking for the OEM version of WHS 2011 (because there is no normal retail version).

If, however, you wish to buy a new home server hardware with WHS 2011 preinstalled, that's a different question:

When will new home server hardware with WHS 2011 preinstalled begin appearing?

At TechEd 2011 last month, Microsoft said that new WHS 2011 hardware would begin appearing in late May, early June, with the emphasis on June. So I think we'll see at least a few new designs by the end of June and then probably more throughout 2011. (Likewise, you'll see a number of hardware makers offer similar solutions based on Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials, a sister product of WHS 2011.)

Audible on Windows Phone 7, again

This is really just a rehash of an older question, but since there's no solid answer yet, let's just say that a number of readers routinely ask:

When will Audible become available on Windows Phone 7?

Sadly, I continue to hear conflicting reports on this, with Audible occasional blaming Microsoft (because Windows Phone 7 "doesn't support the Audible audio format," which seems ridiculous to me), and Microsoft blaming Audible, because it's Audible that would need to port its software to Windows Phone.

Here, I have to agree with Microsoft, but with a caveat.

First, Audible has recently taken to creating new mobile apps for its service rather than relying on the older (and old-fashioned) "side loading" method by which you could copy over audiobooks to a compatible using the Audible Windows application. So for Audible to happen on Windows Phone, Audible would need to create a native Windows Phone app.

Why haven't they done so? I don't know, but I will at least offer up that caveat: Until Microsoft ships the "Mango" update to Windows Phone later this year, a theoretical native Audible app wouldn't be able to play audio in the background; that capability only works with the built-in Zune software player now. But Microsoft is providing this capability to third party apps in Mango.

Long story short: The absence of an Audible app on Windows Phone is Audible's fault, I think. But I guess I understand why they'd wait for Mango. (Though I'm not actually aware of Audible ever using that as an excuse.)

Windows Phone "Mango" and multiple calendars

With Microsoft slowing leaking out the feature set for "Mango," the major Windows Phone update it will ship in late 2011, tech enthusiasts and Windows Phone users are scrambling to find out which features, exactly, will be in the release. One of the more frequent requests goes something like this:

Is Mango finally getting support for multiple calendars from a single source? I read on [insert random tech blog name here] that this was happening.

I don't believe so. But there will be exceptions.

I think. (Remember, until Microsoft actually confirms how this works or we get our hands on an actual Mango build, we can't actually say for sure.)

In the original shipping version of Windows Phone 7 (WP7 v1, let's call it), Microsoft supports multiple calendars, yes, but not multiple calendars from the same source. That is, you can configure your Windows Phone handset to pull calendar data from Windows Live, Exchange, and/or Google Calendar, and can mix and match from those sources in the Calendar app with color coding and so forth. But Windows Phone only works with the primary calendar in each source. So if you have multiple calendars inside of Google, or Windows Live, or Exchange, only the primary calendar will be accessible on the phone. The others simply don't appear.

In Mango, it appears that Microsoft is support multiple Windows Live calendars, but it's unclear if it's all calendars, or just your primary calendar plus subscribed calendars and the special birthday calendar. (And not secondary calendars.) I've not yet seen that Mango will support multiple calendars from Exchange or Google, and my guess is that it will not, at least for Google Calendar.

We'll find out soon enough. But for right now, it's a stretch to say that Mango supports multiple calendars from the same source generally. There is no evidence of that.

Paul's shirt on Windows Weekly

Alan B. is only the latest to ask:

I just realized you wear the same shirt for Windows Weekly every week. What is up with that?

As a typical male, I'm not really into clothes shopping. But I don't wear the same shirt every week. Instead, I have 12 (or more) similar (often identical) navy blue t-shirts, which I rotate through.

I enjoy deep diving into the truly important topics, btw. :)

Anti-virus on Windows Home Server?

Matthew S. asks:

Is it necessary to use anti-virus on WHS 2011? If so, what would you recommend?

I don't use anti-virus on my home server and doubt I ever will. My feeling here is that everything on the server goes through the PCs first and is thus "clean," and is later accessed by PCs with running AV after the fact. It just seems like it's unnecessary.

Why was Dell missing from the list of Windows Phone "Mango" hardware partners?

Leon Z. asks:

I think Dell was missing from the list of Windows Phone Mango manufacturers. Weird.

If you're not up on what this means, Microsoft held a press conference last week describing some of the new features coming in Windows Phone "Mango." As I note in my overview of this announcement, Microsoft noted that existing Windows Phone hardware partners--HTC, LG, and Samsung, but not Dell--would be shipping new, Mango-based devices this fall, as would new partners such as Acer, Fujitsu, ZTE, and, of course, Nokia.

So does the absence of Dell from that list mean anything? I don't know, of course, but given how the Windows Phone communicates, I wouldn't read anything into that just yet.

Remote access to Windows Home Server

Ben S. asks:

I have recently decided to move all my data to WHS 2011 and would like to access that data from all my computers.  In last week's Windows Weekly podcast, you mentioned how easy it has become to work from your WHS, sometimes over VPN, without having to resync your data when you get home.  Can you go into a little more detail on your approach?  Are you simply using folder shares and mapped drives or does WHS have a more elegant way to handle sharing data?

I use Hamachi VPN (which is free for personal use) to remotely access my home network. This provides with me with perfect Remote Desktop and networking share access to the home server.

Many WHS 2011 users, however, won't "need" to use Hamachi, because WHS comes with excellent remote access software. But I use Hamachi because my Internet provider's router refuses to work with WHS. Basically, it lets me work with the home server while I'm on the road, in exactly the same way I do when I'm home (though sometimes at slower speeds). This includes network share file copies and Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) for those rare times I need to interact with the home server desktop.

"Software giant"? Why "software giant"?

Rob B. asks:

In your writing you use the term "software giant" in place of Microsoft a lot. Sometimes with annoying frequency. Is this a conscious SEO decision? An attempt to influence readers' sub-conscious? Or just a pronoun sort of thing to avoid writing "Microsoft" too many times? More of an SEO question than a criticism.

I'm just trying not to write Microsoft so often. I use "online giant" for Google oftentimes as well, for example.

Basically, I try to rotate between "Microsoft," "the company," and "software giant," usually in that order, before heading back to "Microsoft." The problem with "Microsoft" is that, over a 17 year career, I've written it a lot. In fact, it's rolls off the keyboard a little too automatically, and I'll accidentally type "Microsoft" when I start a similar word (like "Mainsoft" perhaps, or "microprocessor"). This reminds me of those times were you're driving the car and you're kind of zoning out and then you realize you've gone the wrong way because you weren't paying attention and this is, in fact, the way you drive to work, not the way to where you're going at the time.

We all do this, right? :)

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