I helped my brother set up his HP MediaSmart Server tonight. It runs on Windows Home Server, and allegedly the initial install has to be done from another machine running Windows. Since he didn’t have Windows installed anywhere, I used a Windows XP virtual machine that I had running on VMWare Fusion on my MacBook Pro. It provided the traditional painful Windows experience of installing many, many updates just to get to a functional point, but I was pleased that I had to reboot Windows only once. Still a terrible experience compared to a server software install on Linux, but better than the misery I had expected.
First, simplify your network setup as much as possible before the install. My laptop was initially on a wireless LAN with the server on an Airport Express that had been setup to join that network. No luck. I ended up hooking up my laptop and the server directly to a switch.
The next key step if you are using a VM is to configure networking as bridged rather than NAT’d. In VMWare Fusion, choose Virtual Machine -> Settings. Then click on Network. In the radio buttons, make sure “Connect directly to the physical network (Bridged)” is selected. I think then you have to restart the VM. Once it restarts, the VM will get an IP address on the same LAN as the server, assuming you are using a simple network config like I described above.
After playing around with the server for a while, I can’t really recommend it for a Mac only user. You get access only to a basic set of features that you can find on a less expensive NAS, although the hardware is pretty nice. It’s certainly not a bad choice.