Microsoft

Add streaming media capability to your Windows NT server

Don't spend big bucks upgrading to Windows 2000 just to get streaming media capability. If you still run Windows NT Server, you can still have media services at your fingertips--for free! In this Daily Drill Down, John Sheesley shows you how.


Windows 2000 has plenty of cool new built-in features, including the ability to stream media files to end users. But what do you do if you’re a Windows NT administrator who isn’t ready to move to Windows 2000? Whether for budgetary or technological reasons, maybe sticking with Windows NT makes more sense right now than moving to Windows 2000 Server or the upcoming Windows .NET Server.

Sticking to Windows NT doesn’t mean you have to miss out on some of Windows 2000’s features. This fact is especially true when it comes to the benefits that streaming media can offer. Microsoft offers a free upgrade to Windows NT that you can install to add streaming media capabilities to your old NT server. In this Daily Drill Down, I’ll show you how to obtain and install Windows Media Services (WMS) for Windows NT.

Streaming media? On my old NT server?
Streaming media can offer many benefits to your users. It gives them a tool they can use for video conferencing, marketing, or training. When they know they can create audio or video files for distribution to customers or other users, they’ll start coming up with all sorts of ways to use it.

Windows NT was created back before anyone gave streaming media much thought. As such, Windows NT didn’t include any facility for the distribution of this new media type. When the Internet boom occurred at the turn of the millennium, Microsoft noticed the success RealMedia was having marketing its RealServer platform. To get on the bandwagon, Microsoft created WMS, including it in its newest operating system at the time, Windows 2000. Not wanting to leave the vast majority of its installed base out in the cold, Microsoft also produced a version of WMS for Windows NT as well.

The version of WMS for Windows NT provides all of the same benefits of the version that ships with Windows 2000. As a matter of fact, except for a slightly different build number, the version of WMS that runs on Windows 2000 is identical to WMS 4.1, which is the one you run on your Windows NT server. You can set up WMS for live unicast, live multicast, on-demand unicast, and on-demand multicasts. Plus, you can administer it either directly on your server or from an administrative workstation using the workstation’s Web browser.

Getting NT ready
Before you can gain the benefits of WMS on Windows NT, you must first make sure both your network and your NT server can handle the added stress that streaming media can create. For a complete discussion of WMS, along with what you need to do to get your network ready to support WMS, see the Daily Drill Down “Prepare your network to support Windows Media Services.”

Unless you have a very old Windows NT server, chances are, your server already meets WMS’s minimum system requirements. To run WMS, your server should be running at least a Pentium II CPU, running at 266 MHz. Additionally, the server should have at least 128 MB of RAM. WMS will only take a total of 21 MB of hard drive space on your server for its system and installation files, but you’ll also need additional space to store the files you intend to stream. The actual amount of storage space you’ll need will vary depending on the size and numbers of files you want to stream, but Microsoft suggests you have at least 500 MB of additional free space on your server’s hard drives.

From a software perspective, make sure you’ve installed Service Pack 4 or later on your Windows NT server. If you want to run the Windows Media Administrator on your server, you must be running Internet Explorer 4.0 or later on your server.

Obtaining WMS
One of the nicest things about WMS is its price—$0. You can obtain WMS 4.1 for Windows NT for free directly from Microsoft’s Windows Media Technologies Download Center. When you go to the Download Center, you can find the proper download by selecting Windows Media Services from the Select Download drop-down list box. When you do, you’ll see the Windows Media Services 4.1 for NT link appear at the bottom of the page.

Click the Download Now button and save the Wmserver.exe file to a temporary directory on your server. The file is only 11 MB, so it will take about a half an hour to download over a dial-up connection. After you’ve downloaded the file, you’re ready to begin installing it.

Installing WMS
To install WMS, you must be at your NT server. Log in as Administrator or as a user with administrator rights. At the server, find the directory where you stored the Wmserver.exe file you just downloaded and run it. This will start the Windows Media Services Install Wizard.

The first few screens you’ll see are primarily informational and you can quickly bypass them. Click Yes to begin the installation after starting Wmserver.exe. The next screen you’ll see is the License Screen. Read the license to make sure you can abide by it. Click Yes to accept the license and continue. Next, you’ll see the traditional wizard welcome screen. Click Next to bypass it. After that, the System Requirement screen appears. You’ve already ensured your server meets the minimum requirements, so click Next to bypass it as well.

Finally, you’ll get to the Installation Options screen. On this screen, you have two options: Complete Installation or Administration Components Only. To stream media from your NT server, you must select Complete Installation. If you want to administer WMS from a workstation, you can run Wmserver.exe at the workstation and select Administration Components Only. Ensure that Complete Installation is selected and click Next to continue.

Next, the Installation Directory screen appears. By default, WMS installs to the C:\Program Files\Windows Media Components directory on your server. You can either click Next to accept the default and continue or enter a new directory path in the Directory field. If the directory you enter doesn’t exist, the wizard will create it for you.

This directory will only contain the WMS system files. After you click Next, you’ll see the Windows Media Content Directory screen. On this screen, you’ll specify where you’ll store the media files you want to stream. By default, WMS looks for files stored in the C:\ASFROOT directory. Again, either enter a new directory in the appropriate field or accept the default by clicking Next. The wizard will create the directory for you if needed. If you want to change the data directory location after installation, you can do so using Windows Media Administrator.

Next, you’ll see the Enable HTTP Streaming And Distribution screen, as shown in Figure A. Windows Media streams normally use the MMS protocol and stream using port 1755. If you have this port blocked on your server, you can use HTTP streaming. HTTP streaming uses the same port as your IIS server, port 80. Therefore, if you plan to use HTTP streaming, you should first stop the IIS service. You also need to decide whether you want to configure WMS to use unicast HTTP streaming or multicast HTTP streaming. To find out the difference between unicast and multicast streams, see the Daily Drill Down “Prepare your network to support Windows Media Services.” Most of the time, you’ll use unicast streaming because it gives more control to end users.

Figure A
Setup asks how you want to stream media from your server.


The next screen you’ll see is the Windows Media Services Account screen, as shown in Figure B. On this screen, you’ll specify the account that will control access to WMS on your server. By default, Setup creates an account called NetShowServices, which has full administrator privileges.

Figure B
WMS requires an administrator-level account to run.


You can accept this default account; however, you may prefer to create an alternate administrator-level account for WMS. The main reason you’d want to create a custom account is security. Because NetShowServices is a commonly known administrator account, it can be the point of attack by hackers. If you’ve changed the account's name, a hacker won’t know which account to play “Guess The Password” with. To use a different account, select the Use Specified Account radio button and fill in the appropriate fields. Setup should create this account for you, but if you have problems, you can create an administrator-level account in User Manager and try again. Click Next to continue.

Setup will then begin copying WMS to your server. Setup also configures the service based on the choices you made during the wizard process. If IIS is running on your server, Setup will display a dialog box informing you that it must temporarily stop IIS in order to add Windows Media ISAPI extensions to IIS. After Setup adds the extensions, it will restart the IIS service.

After Setup copies all of the WMS files to your server, you’ll see the Setup Complete screen. If you want to launch the Windows Media Administrator immediately after Setup completes, select the Launch check box. Otherwise, you can exit Setup by clicking OK.

Post-installation routines
After you finish installing WMS, you can test it to make sure everything’s working correctly. From your administration workstation, start Internet Explorer and type mms://servername/welcome2.asf, where servername is the name of the server on which you installed WMS. When you do, Windows Media Player will start, connect to your server, and play a brief WMS demo.

You’ll administer WMS on your Windows NT server using the Windows Media Administrator. To start the Windows Media Administrator, click Start | Programs | Windows Media | Windows Media Administrator. Remember, if Windows Media Administrator is installed on your workstation, you can also administer WMS from an administrative workstation by running Wmserver.exe on the workstation and selecting Administration Components Only. Windows Media Administrator for Windows Media Services or Windows NT works identically to the Windows Media Administrator for Windows 2000. For more information about Windows Media Administrator, see the Daily Drill Down “Secure your media services with Windows Media Administrator.”

Finally, Windows Media Services Setup creates a nice performance monitor you can use to view WMS’s impact on your server. To start it, click Start | Programs | Windows Media | Windows Media Performance Counters. When you do, you’ll see Performance Monitor appear, as shown in Figure C, complete with a set of predefined counters especially for WMS. By using the Performance Monitor, you can see how your old NT server is holding up with its new duties.

Figure C
Windows Media Services comes with a predefined set of counters to help you monitor system performance.


Who says you can’t teach old dogs new tricks?
Even though it may be tempting to upgrade or replace your old Windows NT server to gain some of Windows 2000’s new features like streaming media, that’s not the only way to gain access to these features. You can run the exact same version of WMS on your old NT server that you can run on a brand-new Windows 2000 server. All it will cost you beyond the amount of configuration time you’ll have to spend is the amount of time it takes to download WMS for Windows NT.

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