Category: Workspace Manager

RES Workspace 2015 SR2 – What’s new?

By Max Ranzau

 

Hello everyone, here is a technically digested overview of some of the features in the new Service Release 2 of RES Workspace 2015. Fair warning: These notes were mostly created from the releasenotes in the pre-release, so there may be some nuggets which did not make it into this recap. Second, this is not an exhaustive list, it’s the items which I found the most interesting and/or useful in my work.

warning, yellowOne important thing to keep in mind when doing the upgrade. If you have all agents connected via relay servers, you must reconfigure one of them to point directly to the datastore before doing the SR2 upgrade. I guess RES is probably reconfiguring the matrix changing the database schema. Then upgrade the relay servers and finally all the agents.

o016logoOffice 2016 Support. This is one of the most anticipated features in my opinion. Not only does SR2 include new User Settings templates for the 2016 suite, but it also supports Outlook 2016 for Email Template configuration. Nothing more to say about it other than it seems to work as advertised, when taken for a spin around the block in the RESguru Skunkworks.

win10logoWindows 10 Support. This one you need to pay close attention to: While Workspace seems to work swimmingly on Windows 10 in regards to User Settings, configuration and security – which in my optics usually are the most important bits – there are some things to be aware of. One such thing is creating new tiles do not take effect upon a session refresh: Users will need to log out and back in before these changes take effect. I personally view this as an issue, since we’ve been accustomed to shortcuts appearing at refresh since the early days of PowerMenu 2000. I know from my talks with the product teams they are hard at work to fix this. Workspace SR2 specifically supports the Win 10 build 10240 as of July 2015 and Win 10 v.1511 (OS Build 10586.29). Be sure to check your build/version first, by running the winver.exe command. RES tracks and support Win 10 updates as of May 10, 2016 — KB3156421 (OS Build 10586.318) for Win 10 1511, See update history here. Finally, it’s worth mentioning there is a page in the Workspace SR2 release notes, titled “Microsoft Windows 10 known limitations”. It’s two pages long so I won’t rehash it here, yet do make sure you read and understand this thing before you throw yourself into a Windows 10 project.

Aat-app-endctions: New timing option ‘At application end’ for Execute Command. This is one of those things that have been sitting on the backlog for what feels like half a century. And let’s be honest; it’s one of the features which the goonies in green have been knocking RES for not having. Long story short, this allows you to fire off Sync jobs, cleanups and whatnot upon termination of an application. It goes almost without saying to use common sense on this feature. Any app which places itself in the system tray never really terminates.

winauthAbility to specify account in console for SQL windows authentication. I’ve always hated dealing with the combination of WM and windows authentication with a vengeance. Mainly due to that it was cumbersome to make sure all the pieces line up. For example; before SR2 you had to make sure the account you were logged in with running the windows console had database access. This has been fixed, so now you can just configure the SQL windows credentials.

bypass-groupAdvanced Settings: Bypass composer setting now also supports groups. While it was useful to be able to exclude certain people from being hit by workspace manager, such as admins, it was previously a hardcoded list inside the Workspace console. By now enumerating AD groups, this allows us to control it externally. For example, we can now build a Service to request temporary admin permissions or similar elevations, one could also build a service around this for admins to request Workspace manager to lower it’s shields for a bit.

agent-csvCSV export of agents: Once you have searched for your agents, there’s now an icon in the Workspace toolbar to export a list of agents. I could see this being useful for several automated purposes. Now all we need is a command-line switch for pwrtech.exe to be able to unattend this export. If you are interested here are the headers for the export: Computer name,Run Workspace Composer,FQDN,Domain,Operating system version,Last console user,Agent version,AppGuard version,NetGuard version,RegGuard version,ImgGuard version,Laptop,XenApp version,Citrix Site,VDX Engine version,VDX Plugin version,Last contact,Synchronization status,Connection,Connects to,Relay Server discovery,Relay Server list,Relay Server name,WebGuard version.

aburnerOverall performance enhancements. SR2 has seen a boost on the performance side. Areas such as the DBcache, FileSync, Direct datastore connections, Relay Servers, authorized files / filehash imports and XenApp environments with more than 1000 published apps. Logging has been enhanced to truncate excessive repeating log entries. Essentially if something goes bump in the night more than once per minute for an hour, truncation happens. See the releasenotes for more info. Another item worth mentioning is that SR2 includes new kernel filter drivers, thus a reboot on all affected computers is necessary when installing SR2

New product packaging: Besides the above technical enhancements, there are also some major changes on the product packaging and pricing side. I’ve covered these in a separate article.

fhtNew File Hash Monitor tool: Okay so I cheated a bit and gave the official corp blog a once-over after writing this article. I noticed something that wasn’t in the original, uhm prerelease-release notes: The File Hash Monitor tool. Allow me to fill in a few blanks. Essentially this is a separate download from the RES portal here, which allows you to pick up filehashes ahead of time. When you install it, you specify a scan interval, a target CSV file and some target folders where your executables are, for example C:\Program Files\. Much like the Relay Server, a configuration tool is installed alongside a service called RESFHM. The service will start generating the CSV file within a few moments after initial configuration. The resulting CSV file looks like this:

scan

Once you have your CSV file cooked and done, you can import it into Workspace by running the console executable like this: PWRTECH.EXE /IMPORTHASHES=<your_csv_file> [/CREATEIFNOTEXISTS]. See page 386 in the admin guide.

One rather cool thing which I think should be emphasized, is the ROFHMT (please tell me we’re not going to call it that ;) has the ability to scan executables inside container files such as MSI, CAB, RAR, ZIP, etc. (see screenshot above to the right). You can add your own extensions as well and customize what tool is used to decompress them. Per default it’s set up to use the freeware 7Zip to handle these.

Commandline export of the Security log: Now it’s possible to pull out XML exports for some of the security logs. Use the console binary to run the export as: PWRTECH.EXE /EXPORTLOG /TYPE=<Logtype> /OUTPUT=<log filepath> /START=<startdate> /END=<enddate>. Currently for ‘logtype’ the following logs are supported:

Logtype value Description
APPLICATION Managed app security log
REMDISK Removable disk security log
NETWORK Network security log

Start and end dates are optional yet must be be in YYYYMMDD or YYYYMMDDhhmmss if specified. Also, make sure that the user you run the pwrtech.exe command line with, has at least read permission in the administrative roles for the security subsystem who’s log you want to export.

While it’s cool to be able to do these exports, there’s still an item left on my xmas wishlist: Will we ever be able to clear the logfiles from within the console? Doing the Workspace baseline security on a new installation, this is paramount and yet still the only way to do it is by either hacking the datastore directly or using Patrick’s excellent, yet unsupported Log Management Tool. Oh well, there’s always the next FR/SR to look forward to.

In conclusion: Overall SR2 is a solid update, well worth the subscription advantage. Besides the above enhancements and performance boosts, this update fixes 50+ issues and bugs. Good work! Read the final releasenotes here: pdffile

 

New RES product packaging, part 1 of 2

By Max Ranzau

 

packFrom the Packaging&Shipping dept. Today some major changes were announced on the product packaging side. While it doesn’t affect the technical operations of the products (sorry, the unified license server is not there yet), it does have conceptual impact, which we all would do well to wrap our collective gray goo around. This is the first part of a two-phase announcement, the second one is coming out on May 24th next week during Synergy. Let’s run through the most important bits of the first announcement to understand what’s going on here. The headlines are as follows:

  1. WM and AM are merging into one product. This means that the current stand-alone product Automation is going to be part of Workspace. Again the consoles aren’t merging, this is just a licensing and naming change:
  2. Free RES Core for Workspace. This is essentially just the consoles plus basic functionality, like we’ve seen in the earlier Express versions of Workspace Manager and PowerFuse. For example Core has UserSettings, however only at the global level. If you want the per-app user settings, you will need the new Composition module. See item 4 below.
  3. No more metal versions. The old Bronze, Silver and Gold names have gone the way of the Dodo. This is a good thing, because it means you can now mix and match the editions without having to start out with the mandatory Bronze (configuration and user settings).
  4. Workspace will now have 4 modules:
    • Composition – Same as always (application based user settings, console configuration, app/shortcut management). This is what used to be in the old Bronze more or less.
    • Security – This includes the well-known managed app security, dynamic privileges/process elevation , network security, etc. One thing I didn’t see on the list was Read-only blanketing, however we’ll have to see if it’s still in there.
    • Governance – New name for the module formerly known as Advanced Administration. Contains administrative roles, usage tracking, auditing performance components and license management of managed apps.
    • Automation – This is essentially Automation manager lobbed into the mix as a WM module, where desktop is licensing is inferred, however these are still licensed separately per desktop and I’ll have to presume that any needed servers in the mix are still being licensed differently than desktop. Acording to RES, Automation also comes with some (as of yet undefined) predefined building blocks.
  5. Pricing. The MSRP still holds at $€30 per named user for all modules, with the exception of the free Core. However, it still remains to be seen if RES will be offering a bundling discount if you purchase the whole Workspace product.

According to RES Marketing, these changes are scheduled to go into effect early July 2016. Finally as indicated above, this is the first of a two-part announcement, the second going official next week during Synergy in Las Vegas. However it goes without saying that Service Store was not mentioned above. I will also be investigating what the new Suite with everything will look like. Stay tuned!

 

Setting up a WM console on a jumpbox

By Max Ranzau

 

From the Multiple Hoops dept. The other day I was tasked with setting up a Workspace Manager console on a jumpbox. You know, the typical setup for a client where you VPN into a non-domainmember computer, from where you RDS to the different servers you need to access. The wish is to have the RES WM console running on this box so you don’t have to do Inception-RDS to make a few changes in WM, thus preserving screen real estate. Note: this will of course only work if your jumpbox is allowed to hit the database directly  If the jumpbox is firewalled to the hilt and only allows outbound RDS connections, stop reading right here.

Presuming you’re still with us, you might already have installed the WM console on your jumpbox and connected it to the relay server. When you launch it, you’ll get kicked right back out as the console looks for your local computername\username in the datastore and obviously it’s not there yet, so let’s add it:

The above sounds simple enough, but it appears there’s a few steps to go through, which incidentally left me wondering if there was an easier way to do it. I mean, under applications you can add users manually, but no such luck on Admin roles… (hint hint, nudge nudge dear product management ;)

  1. Assuming you already have WM running on one or more domain-enabled computers, go to one of these. Presuming it’s a Server 2012[R2], launch the Server Manager, goto the Tools menu and Computer Management.
  2. Go to System Tools | Local Users | Users and add a local user. The User name and password must be the same as for the jumpbox local user. This account is temporary and can be nuked at the end of the story.
  3. Now launch the WM console and go to User Context | Directory Services and chose New from the toolbar
  4. In the dialog, chose Local Computer from the Type dropdown and hit Ok. No further changes are necessary. WM now understands that local computer accounts can be used for access control, which also applies to Administrative Roles.
  5. Go to Administration | Administrative Roles | <your security role> | Access Control tab | Add button | Users/group
  6. From the directory services dropdown, chose local computer from the Directory Service dropdown, then search and select your username, which you added in step 2. Be sure the “Limit to this computer only (COMPUTERNAME)”-checkbox is NOT checked.
  7. If you did the above right, your account will be listed as .\username when you return to the previous dialog
  8. Now it’s time to return to your jumpbox and launch the WM console there. Since your username is now in the WM database it will let you. In practice you could stop here, however this would leave the jumpbox username able to launch the WM console from every computer. Let’s just add an ounce more of prevention by locking in the computername too:
  9. On the jumpbox’s WM console, go to Administration | Administrative Roles | <your security role> | Access Control tab
  10. Select your “.\username” and edit it. Repeat step 6, except make sure this to check the “Limit to this computer only (COMPUTERNAME)”-checkbox. When you return to the previous dialog, you’ll note that your account is listed correctly as your jumpboxcomputername\username
  11. As the last loose end to tie up, go back to the domain member computer where you created the temporary local user account and delete it.

 

Authorizing in WM – How it SHOULD work

By Max Ranzau

 

chockFrom the My-Two-Cents Dept. Working with RES Workspace Manager for about 1½ decade, I’ve been witness to many improvements. While the products gets better with each release, regardless of vendor it’s not always flowers and chocolate. By now, most seasoned Workspace Engineers familiar with the product, know the difference between learning mode and blocking mode on the security subsystems. Dialing in the security for a new client/customer always takes a bit of time, as you’ll have to deal with the security baseline – and then authorizing the things that are unique for said customer environment. The work I always seem to find myself spending time on is hopping back and forth between Authorized Files and either the Managed Application node or the Read-Only Blanketing node.

The issue at hand is this; every time that one has dealt with a log entry by right-clicking on it, said log entries will still be in the log. It makes it a challenge to maintain an overview of what’s been dealt with and what hasn’t – especially if you are using wildcard rules to kill multiple log entries with one stone. It would be wonderful if this process could be managed better. I’ve gone through the necessary steps in a previous article here. To optimize this work, below are a few of ideas off the top of my head how this ideally should work:

  • The security logs should be reworked to show a “Processed” or “Authorized” flag. Think of it like the little red flag you can set on your emails and tasks in Outlook.
  • When authorizing a specific log entry, there should be check boxes in the authorization dialog box to “Mark affected log entries as authorized” and/or a “Delete affected entries in log file”. Workspace Manager can already can filter views with the Attention flag etc. in Workspace Analysis, so it should be familiar territory, development wise.
  • In the Authorized file node there should be similar options to process all current log files through active authorizations so it becomes evident which things you haven’t dealt with yet.
  • Finally, it would be stellar to incorporate Patrick Grinsven’s excellent work on the DBlogCleaner tool (which is out in a new version, stay tuned)

Now, before some well-meaning person asks why I don’t put these ideas into UserVoice for voting etc, I will offer my thanks for the consideration, yet I am perfectly happy passing that baton with the associated credit to someone else. In other words, feel free to co-opt these ideas and make them your own.

 

Keeping Virtual Sandboxes under control

By Rob Aarts and Max Ranzau

Rob: After using VMware Thinapp in several projects I wanted to share some best practices The first one is about a common mistake I see made on a regular basis. Applications with several entry points for executables, are presented using Workspace Manager, using multiple managed applications. So far so good.

The problem arises when all entry points (from the same Thinapp capture) have their own Zero Profile setting pointing to the same Sandbox location. Are you still with me here? Let’s have a look at the example below:

p1

Here’s a working example:

  • When a user launches Application 1, Zero Profile settings are loaded and written to the sandbox.
  • The user then launches Application 2 and Zero Profile settings are loaded and writes to the same sandbox location.

What is likely to happen, is that settings for Application 1 become corrupted, due to it’s settings are being changed by another process while it’s running. I personally have seen some strange behavior from apps, which absolutely don’t like this messing are around with their appdata behind the scenes. It doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to imagine what may happen when Application 3 is launched. It will just increase the likelyhood of corruption.

The solution to avoid this mess is simple and was covered previously, although for natively installed applications only: Have a look at Max’s article RG056 in the tech library. Setting up a placeholder application as described in the article will allow you to configure  individual apps app to save the sandbox and direct The Zero Profile from Application 1, 2 and 3 to this placeholder App:

p2

Max: Once you have this set-up, the next challenge is to make sure your User-Settings capture configurations are not overlapping. As of WM SR3 there is a setting for global User settings to grab a setting exclusively. This means that if say 3 different global user settings grab the same registry value you can check one of them as exclusive and only that UserSetting will store it. Unfortunately this approach doesn’t work well for Managed Application based user-settings, as the capture-exclusive feature isn’t available there (yet?). Anyhow, there is a workaround for this. Let’s say you start with creating a suite-settings placeholder app, like described above for Office:

  1. You create a new managed app
  2. Under user settings, you add all the capture templates for Word, Excel, Powerpoint etc. and you have a nice list like shown below
  3. Then everything is cool and ready to rumble, right?

p6

Unfortunately that’s not quite the case, as the templates are likely to overlap. This is not the fault of the template designers, but a function of that they need each to be able to stand alone. This means we have a bit of cleaning up to do, but it’s quite easy. When you are on the User Settings|Capturing tab of the SuiteSettings app as shown above, do the following

  1. Click the Show details checkbox at the bottom of the dialog box
  2. Now click on the data column header to sort on files and registry entries being captured
  3. Look for identical rows (highlight)

p5

Note the line for the ‘Microsoft InfoPath Designer 2010’, which I have highlighted and disabled. I disabled it because that particular User Setting was already captured by the template called ‘Microsoft Infopath Filler 2010’ and as you may recall from our discusion above, we do not have the option to capture exclusively on Managed apps.

You disable an item by doubleclicking on it. Don’t fall for the temptation of removing the checkbox you immediately see, as that will disable the entire template, in which you are only interested in disabeling a certain file/reg grab. Instead  go to the Capturing tab, then select the offending/duplicate entry, double click again and THEN remove the Enabled checkbox you see. Sequence shown below:

p7

You can of course also delete the duplicate entries to tidy things up. In this case I kept them around for illustrative purposes. One thing I’d like to make you aware of: First, go to the global User Settings node, and at the bottom check both ‘Show details’ and ‘Show all User Settings’:

p4

dpNotice that once you link up multiple applications to the same suite app, you will see multiple entries of the same user-setting. This is not a bug or an indication that something unnecessary is being captured. For example, look at the example above where about half way down you see about 7 references to %APPDATA\Microsoft\Access and both Word, Excel etc are pointing to it. This does NOT mean the and Word and Excel templates had duplicate entries. It’s simply because the combination of the two checkmarks shows the canonical list of all combinations of apps and user settings, thus the repeats. In short: They’re mostly harmless. Don’t panic!

We hope with this little away-mission into advanced WM User Settings management to have given you some new thoughts on how to both wrangle virtual applications as well as suite settings for multiple apps.

Rob & Max

 

Migrating from a broken UEM product, part 1

doesnot2From the REScue 911 Dept. Recently I was involved in a client project where they had a problem. And it was a big problem:  Effectively they were using another profile management product which was malfunctioning. I’d prefer not to give the game away by naming the vendor. Not that I have any problem with verbally beating vendors over the head when they deserve it – this is out of courtesy to the client.

Suffice to say, the product in question employed by my client was practically holding the user’s profile settings hostage. Allow me to clarify: If your current UEM tool redirects a write to a proprietary format, you are putting all the user’s profile data into a basket you have no or little control over. Meaning: If you switch said UEM tool off, then all your user’s settings are stuck in said basket. The following article puts you on a path out of this situation.

doc-icon2<<< Click here to read the article

 

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.

doc-icon2<<< Click here to read the article

Managing VMware AppVolumes with RES

appvolumesFrom the Skunkworks Dept. This is an article I’ve been looking forward to writing for a while. I had the opportunity to look at AppVolumes when it was still pre-VMware Cloudvolumes, but as you know – timing is everything, so I decided to hang back until VMware released AppVolumes today! In this article I will share some thoughts on how the AppVolumes product can be augmented by RES technology to offer some very interesting options for integrators.

doc-icon2<<< Click here to read the article

Inside Workspace Manager 2014 SR2

res-wm2014-00From the Nuts&Bolts Dept. November 2014 saw the release of Workspace Manager 2014 Service Release 2. You may have read the initial post over at RES, but as always here at RESguru.com we like to kick the tires and take it for a spin around the block. There’s several items in this release that are important to know about and I’m going to highlight some and give you my view on them.

doc-icon2<<< Click here to read the article

Updated WM Registry Guide

iabtFrom the About-Damn-Time Dept. One of the most popular articles on RG is the Registry reference for RES Workspace Manager. Unfortunately it’s been sitting on the backburner for a while, but no more! As of this weeks release of Workspace Manager 2014 FR2, the guide has been updated with all published registry settings available from the base 2014 release notes and up to. If you come across missing or any other spooky settings, feel free to contribute in the comments section on the article.

doc-icon2<<< Click to view the WM Registry Guide.