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k6ccc

Running LOR on my server - Success!

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As of a few minutes ago I am able to run my LOR landscaping show on my server instead of a dedicated show computer - the goal being to reduce my electric bill by not running a second computer full time.  Getting here has been a little bit of a challenge and I wanted to tell the story.

First a little background.  I have run a year round landscape lighting show for six years in addition to a Christmas show for the last five years.  For the landscape show, I am using interactives and E1.31 which mandated running on a computer rather than a director.  Ever since the beginning, I have used a dedicated show computer, even though I had a server that runs 24 x 7 already.  About five years ago I had attempted to load the LOR software onto the server that I was using at the time, but found that the S3 software would not even load on Windows Server 2000.  That server finally died a couple years ago, and was replaced with an ancient Dell server that I loaded with Server 2012 R2.  That computer was not expected to be used long, but it had been given to me at a time when I really did not have the money to buy something better, so it was far better than nothing.  After I received my tax refunds in 2016, a newer server was purchased and put into service in June - also running Windows Server 2012 R2.  Although the server was used as a file server for all the LOR files, I had not made any attempt until early 2017 to actually run the show from it.  After Christmas was torn down a couple months ago, I started the project to see if I could run the landscape show from it.  So here's the story...

One of the limitations I had was that during the winter, the landscape show is already running by the time I get off work, so I could only work on this over the weekends.  With Server 2012 R2, I had no issues loading the LOR S4 software.  To make things a little easier, the server already had a network connection on the dedicated LAN for the E1.31, and the LOR Show computer and the server are both in my data cabinet and are all of six inches apart.  This would make it FAR easier for cabling the LOR networks.  The three USB cables for three LOR networks are nicely dressed in, so I had to come up with a way to get the three cable plugged into the server without having to cut a bunch of ty-raps in order to make the swap, and still have it look decent.  The solution was to add a four port USB hub that sits next to the show computer and is connected to a port on the server.  Issue number one.  There are only four USB ports on the server (two on the back and two on the front), and both back ones were already in use.  No problem, get a three foot USB extension cord, and use one of the front USB ports.  I go up to my local Staples for some other stuff anyway and sure enough, they had six foot USB extension cords, but wanted $20 for them.  Gotta be able to do better than that.  Across the parking lot was a Best Buy, so I tried there.  They also had six foot USB extension cords, and they wanted $25 for them.  First off, I really did not want a six foot extension, and I knew I could get a better price.  Monoprice.com had three foot cables for just over a buck.  Ordered a couple cables.  Next weekend.  Hooked up the three foot USB cable to my four port hub and plugged in the three USB cables from my RS-485 adapters into the hub.  The Windows Device Manager did not recognize any of the adapters.  Issue number two.  My first assumption was that the installation of the LOR software did not result in the USB driver software, so I downloaded the driver software from the LOR website and ran that.  Still could not recognize the RS-485 adapters.  I did test the USB hub by plugging in a thumb drive and the server immediately recognized the thumb drive and I was able to read files from it.  Next I assumed the issue was that I had violated one of my own policies in having a STRONG preference for powered vs un-powered USB hubs - and this was a un-powered hub.  Dug around my pile of stuff and found a four port and a seven port powered hub that I have used for years, but could not find the power supply for either of them.  OK fine, I'll just order a powered hub from Amazon.  I lucked out and found the power supply for the four port hub before I ordered a new one.  Swapped hubs and all of a sudden, all three USB to RS-485 adapters were found.  Did some testing with the Hardware Utility and was able to control lights, and the Input Pup was working.  Great!  Let's see if I can run my show.

Because of some timing issues, my landscape show is actually a musical show although the music is really four minutes of silence.  Therefore, I did not need to worry about audio cabling - or so I thought.  First tried to run a show and the LOR software could not start the show player because Windows Media Player was not installed.  Remember that this is a server OS, and there are quite a few thing that are normal on user computer Operating Systems, but are not included on a server OS because there normally is no real need for them on a server.  Issue number three.  A quick Google search revealed how to enable Windows Media Player on Server 2012 R2.  Tried to run the show and this time it complained that there was no sound device installed.  Again, this is a server and there was no sound card, nor a sound device installed on the motherboard.  Issue number four.  OK, I have a few old sound cards that I have pulled out of computers and one of those should work, but it's end of the weekend and the show is already running so have to wait until the the next weekend.  Yesterday, I shut down the server and open it up only to find that both of the old audio cards I have are a different bus type than the new server has.  Issue number five.  Went onto Amazon and found a five dollar USB sound device that I could have next day with my Amazon Prime.  Today the USB sound module arrived, and plugged it into one of the ports of the four port powered USB hub and Device Manager immediately recognized that it was there.  Great, moved the three cables to the RS-485 adapters over to the other three ports on the hub and the Device Manager was only seeing two of them - ARGH!  Issue number six.  Did a little testing and found that one of the ports on that four port USB hub was dead.  OK, moved the three cables to the RS-485 adapters to the three working ports on the hub and the USB audio module over to the last USB port on the computer.  Device Manager said that everything was there, and test with Hardware Utility showed it all working!  Last test was to run a show on demand, and it worked perfectly.  Even the Windows Command that sends me an E-Mail when the show starts worked.

Since this looks like it will work, I shut down the LOR Show computer.  This will be nice in reducing my already high enough electric consumption.  Not only the power for the computer, but also the extra load on the air conditioner for the data cabinet.  On the server I set the LOR Control Panel to launch at startup and enabled the schedule.  Status display looks right, so hopefully in about four hours my lights will come on from the server!

So there is my six week story.  I hope you enjoyed reading it...

 

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Jim- you know I always get a good read from your work. Sounds great glad you got it all worked out.

JR

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Cool!  Never thought of using the server!  Will have to look into that.  Glad to know you can use a powered USB hub and have the adapters work.  

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21 minutes ago, bdwillie said:

Cool!  Never thought of using the server!  Will have to look into that.

You're welcome.  That is why I take the time to write up some of my long dissertations...  Gives other people ideas of what CAN be done and some of the issues that may be encountered.

 

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I'm happy to report that both the evening and overnight shows worked properly including the interactive groups, and the event logging and E-Mail notifications.
100% success. I'm delighted!


Sent from my Droid Turbo via Tapatalk, so blame any typos or spelling errors on Android

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The Server 2000 problems sound about right.  If I remember my history correctly, that was during the NT transition and a lot of software just failed to work.  You might have got an early S2 to run on it - S2 had a LOT of 'transition' code that allowed it to run on 95/98 (more correctly, PRE NT) as well as NT.  I can't tell you how happy the rest of the dev team was when Visualizer was finished for S3 and it was going to be XP and above ONLY (again more correctly NT).  That finally pushed Dan into allowing us to drop all that nasty code.

The speaker issue started (again, If I remember my history correctly) around Windows 7/8.  I remember I spent several hours on a remote with a customer trying to figure out what the heck was wrong with that 'no audio device detected' nonsense.  Previous Windows versions never cared if you hooked up a set of speakers or not.  If the card was there, the driver was loaded and active.  Somewhere along the line Windows added a feature where it could notify the sound card if you plugged in something to one of the audio jacks.

I could see the sound card in device manager but that error kept popping up.  I was finally reduced to adding debug code into SE, uploading it to the custs computer, and running it to pin down exactly where the issue was.  Finally I found it was the initial call to the WMP API.  So I start up WMP and.....  No error.  At that point I'm stuck in the worst programmer nightmare imaginable - on one side I have a proper call.  On the other side I have a properly working media player, putting the issue somewhere in the middle - a place I don't control.  I have to blame it on Windows, but if WMP is working then it can't be.

I don't remember if I finally got WMP to throw the error or not.  I do know that at some point I asked the person if they could hear the MP3 I was playing and they said 'I don't have speakers connected'.  As soon as they did I watched windows finish installing the drivers and things worked.  I was embarrassed to say the least.  I've seen that issue once or twice since then.

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Thanks for the history lesson Mike.  The first version of LOR software I downloaded and played with was 2.9.4.  Something like a week or two later, S3 came out.  My show computer was XP, so the XP and above requirement for S3 was not an issue (although I remember some people beefing about it on the forum).  When I tried to install S3 onto Server 2000, I was not really expecting it to work.  I really liked both user and server versions of 2000, but after a few years, there were just too many things that didn't work right or at all on Windows 2000, so the desktop went to Windows 7 soon after it was introduced.  I had a Windows Vista laptop and several desktops for work and HATED it.  The server running 2000 just kept going.  Ran Server 2000 until December 2014 when the hardware died.

As far as the audio issue, there really was no sound device until I installed the USB sound device yesterday.  I don't have anything plugged into it - and don't currently plan on ever having anything plugged in.  I am still planning on using the dedicated show computer for Halloween and Christmas when I do use sound.

 

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Just one more followup to this.  I have the server set to re-boot every Friday afternoon.  On Friday St. Patrick's Day, the server re-booted just like it was supposed to and when it got dark the St. Patricks Day show started.  My St. Patrick's Day show is completely static, and none of the interactives are included, so I did not notice anything wrong.  However on Saturday, I noticed that the normal landscape show was stuck in the condition that it should be at the end of the startup sequence, but the two normal sequences were not running, nor were the interactives running. Logged into the server and found that the show could not run due to an audio problem.  A little troubleshooting later and I found that the Windows Audio Endpoint Builder service was not running.  Started that service and the show started working.  I assumed that it had not started after the re-boot on Friday.  Changed the Startup Type from Manual to Automatic so hopefully it would start up correctly after the next re-boot.

The following Friday was my wedding anniversary, so I was a little tied up with my wife of 27 years so I was not able to check on it after the re-boot.  However I was happy to note when we got home from dinner that the show was working correctly - yea!

 

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This is all great stuff Jim. Thanks a bunch for taking the time to provide details and success. Awesome stuff!!!!

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17 hours ago, k6ccc said:

However I was happy to note when we got home from dinner that the show was working correctly - yea!

Now if I could only figure out what service is hanging on my neighbors 2008R2 server (not an LOR thing) when it shuts down we could really celebrate. :P 

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