Category: Microsoft

Seamless switch from Policies to WM

gpo-morpheusFrom the The-GPO-has-you Dept. As of recent, one of my clients was facing an interesting issue: They wanted to do a seamless switchover from a currently windows GPO managed environment to a RES Workspace Manager environment. Essentially the job was to devise a method to make one system let go and have the other one take over at the same time. This example was built on a 2012R2 AD with a Win7 front-end.

This method revolves around using a simple AD group that serves a dual purpose. 1) When a user is put in the group, specified policies are denied and 2) Workspace Manager takes effect. The nice part of this approach is that it is fully reversible, just by removing the user from the group.

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Workspace Life on Windows 10

By Max Ranzau

 

Update April 28th 2015: SR3 now has experimental support for Windows 10 and probably works alot better now than described below. While they haven’t tested it fully, according to a partner seminar held today, RES will accept support tickets now on Windows 10 based systems running Service Release 3.

From the Somebody-had-to-try-it Dept. So, the other day I decided to check out Windows 10 and see how it works with RES WM SR2. You may recall I did a similar piece on Windows 8 back in the day, where we looked at alternative ways to bring back the start menu. Bringing back the start menu via the RES classic shell may not be that important anymore, as the Windows start menu is (almost) back in business. See further down. The obvious question I wanted an answer to is, how well does the RES products work at this point with the Win10 tech preview. I deployed the usual complement of endpoint items onto the Windows 10 client:

  • RES Workspace Manager 2014 SR2
  • RES Automation Manager 2014 SR2
  • RES IT Store Client

Logging in: I gave the stack a quick whirl to see what works and not. No, I did not test every nut & bolt. Allegedly there’s people at the mothership that get paid to do that.. ;) After installation I set the WM Composer to Automatic and logged in as a regular user. First thing I noticed; I got what looked like the dreaded black screen of death. Okay, unfazed this gave me an opportunity to test the Automation Manager agent. I scheduled an AM module to reboot the computer and it came up again nicely. I decided to switch the workspace composer back to manual and launch the Composer binary pwrstart.exe by hand, to see if/when anything went pear-shaped. It seemed to launch okay. Deciding it might have been a fluke (tech preview and all), I set the composer back to automatic and logged in again. WM’s Composer seemed to come up fine again and again after that. So far so good.

win8focusgroupStart Menu management: As most of us know by now, Microsoft finally opted to send the poo-flinging primates who occupied their Windows 8 focus group room back to the zoo. As mentioned above the start menu is back. Well… sort of – I guess they had to compromise somewhere, so instead of the horrible fullscreen Metro/Modern tablet experience that blotted out your Windows 8 desktop, now the Start menu has been expanded with a “mini-metro” to the right. I for one can live with that. Thanks for listening Microsoft!

win10 with res wm

nowin9By the way, if you’re wondering why they skipped the Windows 9 version, one possible explanation is to avoid potential issues with software checking for or against oldschool Windows 95 or Windows 98. Think about it; chances are if you’re a developer and wrote a line of code to make sure your software does not attempt to run on old Win9x, you might just use a wildcard like Windows 9* – Q.E.D.

schmockeandapancakeAs for RES Workspace Manager 2014 on the Win 10 Tech preview, it’s hardly surprising the WM start menu management doesn’t work 100% yet. Ischn’t tish weird? I’m shure tere’sh shomewone working on tish (that’s how you write with a Dutch accent, kids. Don’t try this at home :) Seriously though, it’s clearly evident the Startmenu has undergone a large overhaul, thus it’s likely working differently than the current release of Workspace Manager thinks. For example Replace Mode does not blow away the start menu, instead it looks like Merge Mode for now. Also there is obviously no way as of yet to handle the tiles. If the next FR/Major release of WM does not support native tile management then if someone figures out the proper HKCU/%userprofile% hacks to wrangle them, let me know. Placing desktop icons on the desktop seems to work as well too. Besides that, Process Intercept seems to work just fine too.

ITS Client: One thing I noted, when you install the RES IT Store Client, it doesn’t launch when you have switched shortcut management to replace mode. This is not entirely unexpected as Win7 does the same thing. WM removes the Startup folder when in replacemode, i.e. the ITS client doesn’t launch as a result. It’s just a little bit weird when WM seems to leave the startmenu alone on Win10. Anyway this is not a hard snafu to overcome, if you’re currently testing the tech preview, just add an Execute Command item to launch “%programfiles%\RES Software\IT Store\Client for Windows\resocw.exe” at session start. Alternatively you could create an AM job that launches said binary in HKLM\…\Windows\Run.

mr-potato-headOther small potatoes: Putting up a wallpaper logo from WM, I noticed that Windows 10 apparently doesn’t care for if you select placement in one of the upper corners. The wallpaper will be placed centered on the screen. Other than that, for obvious reasons, neither WM or AM is currently able to natively determine it’s Windows 10 as there aren’t zone/team/condition rules for it yet. Again, if you’re hacking around the tech preview, you could consider create a zone that checks for a registry key identifying the OS, like I’ve previously described here for Win8 back in the pre-release days. You would instead be looking for the value ‘Windows Technical Preview’ and perhaps the number in the CurrentBuildNumber REG_SZ value.

conclusionIn summary: the WM/Win10 combo looks very promising. Already now with a few limitations it’s actually quite usable, if not just for starting to become familiar with Windows 10 in a workspace manager context. According to the twitterati Windows 10 will be available “late 2015”, possibly in July.

Until then, keep doing things you’re not supposed to do! ;)

 

Technote: Workspace life on Windows 8

From the Flux Capacitor Dept. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that once every now and then, time loops in on itself in this line of work. While you don’t need a Delorean to experience it, this is the story of how an almost antiquated piece of code within the RES Workspace Manager suddenly saw itself repurposed by some of our customers to deal with Windows 8’s Metro interface.

My good friends in product management would probably whack me over the head, but hey – there’s nothing preventing anyone from obtaining a trial Workspace Manager 2012, slapping it on a Win8 and writing about it. So, rather the devil you know I guess. Anyway, this is not a comprehensive wall-to-wall test to see what floats and sinks, as RES Workspace Manager 2012 at the time of writing DOES NOT officially support Win8, but that’s expected in January 2013. Note: Automation Manager actually does support Win8 with 2012 SR3 at this time. Update per March 2013: With the release of Workspace Manager 2012 SR2  Windows 8 is supported..somewhat. See this article for more info.

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