Category: Workspace Manager

Updated: DB Cleanup Tool 2.0

By Max Ranzau

 

From the Tools-R-Us Dept. You may recall a while back in February, I reported on a cool utility to address the issue with clearing individual log files in RES Workspace Manager. There’s now a new version 2.0 out from one of our community heroes (=someone who contributes and shares stuff), Patrick van Grinsven in the Netherlands (For the record, Morgan Freeman did not develop it ;). The SQL Database Logging Cleanup Tool has seen a few GUI changes and some other improvements:

  • It is now possible to directly Analyze / Query / Clear the configured logging database if the supplied connection details and logs are valid.
  • It is now possible to Analyze / Query / Clear the logging between dates, or to completely clear the selected log (1)
  • Logging analysis is being sorted descending.
  • Displayed record count added (2)

If you are a RES engineer or admin, this utility should most definitely be in your Bat-utility belt.

For further information and downloads, see the updated article here: doc-icon2

 

Fixing IE cookie trouble with RES WM

By Max Ranzau

 

delcookiesFrom the Worlds Greatest Browser (Right…) Dept: In Internet Explorer 10 and up, the WebCacheV01.dat file was introduced. This file lives in %LocalAppdata%\Microsoft\Windows\WebCache. The webcache folder is hidden. The issue at hand is that the webcache file is always in use, which makes for a rainy day if you try to roam/copy IE cookies, or otherwise store them with RES User-Settings. The issue was described back in April by Rob Beekmans on his blog here.

As of now, the problem is rumored to have been addressed by Microsoft on Server 2012, but is still very much alive and kicking on Server 2008, which at the time of writing still represents a large contingent of server deployments out there.

While Mr. Beekmans illustrated the issue, my partner-in-crime the good Mr. Aarts tackled the issue head on, providing a neat and shareable solution with the RES community in the shape of a Workspace Manager buildingblock. By running a couple of strategic Powershell scripts in the users session and including a couple of extra (freeware) utilities as custom resources, the buildingblock solves the problem described above. The Workspace Manager BB includes the following:

  • A PowerShell command to set the PS execution policy to unrestricted to make sure we don’t get any unnecessary prompts when running the following items unattended:
  • A PS script running at logoff, which backs up the current webcache to a location of your choice *1). The script will create two backup .zip files for the two folders WebCache and INetCookies as well. The script will also leave 5 rotated backup file sets.
  • A PS script running at logon to restore the latest backup of these two folders to their original location
  • Both logon/logoff scripts closes all open file handles before making the backup/restore operations.
  • 7zip and SysInternals Handle64.exe are included as RESWM custom resources.

As you may infer, the above essentially extends the WM User Settings with a basic Hybrid Profile – style copyout-copyin script system. This is necessary, as UserSetting would face the same issue as any other UEM; that the target files are locked. I’d say there’s a loud and clear feature request waiting to be implemented here that could solve a lot of potential headaches for customers.

script1Important: As you can see on the screenshot, there is a couple of places you may need to modify the logon/logoff scripts. The destination where the backup files are to be stored defaults to H:\ – you may need to change that. If you already are using a UNC path like \\server\share\%username% for your User Settings, you perhaps want to consider using that as well. Just remember to add a subfolder for this, like \\server\share\%username%\IEbackup or similar. We could of course have added an environment variable so you only had to change the storage destination once, however it’s two edits. Chances are you may survive it :)

Click the brick to download the buildingblock: legobrick-cropped

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! ;)

 

The beginning of the end – for PwrGate

By Max Ranzau

 

einFrom the NostraRanzau Dept. This article describes some very interesting developments which I came across in in the Service Release 4 for Workspace Manager 2012 back around end of 2013. We’ve been used for for eons that new managed applications would contain a reference to RES’s own launcher, pwrgate.exe. With this well hidden change, it’s actually possible to let shortcuts retain their original exe+path. There are some caveats as this is early code – nevertheless this is worthwhile knowing about

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

Workspace Manager 2012 SR4 Highlights

By Max Ranzau

 

From the Look-Somebody-Had-To-Write-About-This Dept. It’s been a couple of weeks and fairly unannounced the Service Release 4 was released on Nov 11th. I’ve been up to my eyeballs in training so blogging’s been kinda put on the backburner a while. Anyway, here is an overview of selected items I found interesting in the this SR. You can download the full releasenotes at the end of this article and have a closer look yourself.

  • Several performance enhancements in both the console and the agent. Pretty much all the Composition items have received a noticeable performance overhaul and things load faster into the console in general. License processing, Drivemapping and many other things have received a tune-up. Of special notice is the Context | Directory Services, where there now is a new option to “Get group membership using tokens (faster)”. You’ll want to look into this option for multi-domain environments, especially if there’s cross-domain resolving going on.
  • The App-V integration has also seen several overhauls. When you do a Execute Command configuration|action on an App-V managed app, you now have a checkbox to run outside the virtual bubble. In application UserSettings, it’s now also possible to edit what’s being picked up in the Targeted items to capture. Previously WM would grab everything but the kitchen sink for a virtual app. User Restore of App-V items have also been improved however there’s no details as to the specific improvement.
  • A new Lockdown and Behavior option to hide log off in startmenu has been added. Let’s hope this feature isn’t on per default as hide shutdown on workstations is in SR3 (for further details, see Things WM does per default)
  • Registry modification under Composition now has the ability to ignore registry redirection on x64 platforms. This is quite useful if you want to make sure a given registry key goes where it’s supposed to without interference from the OS.
  • Special registry types like OutputReport, ReportStyle, REG_NONE are now supported. I have no idea what these do just yet, but I guess we’ll find out along the way.
  • User Settings now support a direct path for specifying the location of the Personal Settings folder. Check the releasenotes for further info. This is important.
  • Application Icons either pinned or in the startmenu have received yet another overhaul. Hopefully the old blocky icons are now a thing of the past.
  • New registry setting to control if the User Settings caching process is launched (if you’re not using laptops, use this reghack to turn it off). See the updated WM registry guide here. Note, there are several other registry items in this release under the fixes section. I’ll update the registry guide with these asap.
  • There is however one particular new setting which stands out. Look for InterceptManagedApps in the releasenotes. From SR3 Update 8, an interesting new feature has been added to preserve the original command line of managed applications. This is one to watch as it effectively will no more PwrGate.exe shortcuts. Expect a future article about this particular item once I’ve tested it.

In summary this service release is mostly performance enhancements, and the obligatory bugfixes – yet there are several interesting thing to dig into. For more information, go have a look at the releasenotes.

Click here to download:

 

 

What’s up with that other WM service?

By Max Ranzau

 

From the Inquisitive Minds Want to Know dept. Since the release of Workspace Manager 2012 SR3, you may have noticed an extra service has been added, besides the well known RES service (aka “Workspace Manager Agent”), which takes care of synchronizing the local DBcache with the SQL datastore. The other service, is seen in the Services.msc as “RES Workspace Manager PE”, shortnamed RESPESVC:

respesvc

I asked one of our software folks what the purpose of this service is. I was told that RESPESVC plays a role in environment variable injection into intercepted processes & injection of DLL’s in Windows processes for logoff scenario’s. If you are wondering about what the PE part is short for, RESPESVC is RES Privileged Execution Service. In SR4 it will also do Dynamic Privileges, moving that over from the RES service, making the technical architecture of that feature a lot simpler.

I know a few of you likeminded professional tinkerers are wondering; can one do anything interesting with this service? Does it’s credentials need to be reconfigured like with the RES service if you are running SQL authentication? In both cases the honest answer is no. There’s nothing to see here, move along :) This service just needs to be left alone, running with it’s default LocalSystem credentials and the world will be a better place, architecture wise. If this changes, I’ll be sure to let you know.

 

How to roll Workspace Security into a production env

Animated, Gears, boxprod-envFrom the Industrial Might & Logic Dept: Once in a while you may come across the scenario where you need to take control over an existing production environment. While new VDI implementations are sprouting up all over the place, it’s not within everyones budget to put in new plumbing and start building from scratch. Over the years I’ve dealt with several customers who had a beat-up production environment where they were spending their workdays putting out fires (and fighting off Ogres) instead of being anywhere near a proactive state. Proactive is a much abused word, but in my context it simply means being ahead of the curve instead of trying to catch up and never emptying out an ever-growing inbox of trouble. While this may sound like a happy story of rainbows and robot-unicorns to some, I assure you a proactive state of secure workspace management is a reality within your grasp, when you consider using the RES Workspace Manager. Let me share a story on how I did it and give you some useful tips on how you can do it too:

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

Things Workspace Manager does per default

defaultAnimated, Gears, boxFrom the I-Wonder-What-Happens-When-I-Press-This-Button Dept. An existing article has been moved to the Technote Library. This one covers some interesting behavior of the RES Workspace Manager, which you as an integrator need to be aware of. Out of the box the Workspace Manager does not change anything on the target environment, when you roll the software out. However, when you enable the Workspace Composer, several changes are in fact applied to the target computer, which you would do well to familiarize yourself with.

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

 

Appsense vs. RES round II – Shortcuts!

By Paul Newton

 

h2hThis is the second article in a series (read #1 here), which highlights important differences between how AppSense DesktopNow and RES Workspace Manager 2012 works in practice. This time we will have an in-depth look at how simple or hard it is to create shortcuts for the users in the respective products. While it was suggested in the commentary on the previous article that I had to search for a topic where RES Workspace Manager had the biggest difference to AppSense DesktopNow, I assure you that this was not the case: There are plenty of other examples waiting to be written and we’re just getting started… Click below to read article #2 in this series.

doc-icon2 <<< Click here to read RG058

Appsense vs RES article series

TheEditorEditor’s introduction: I have the pleasure today of welcoming Paul Newton as a guest writer here at RESguru.com! Paul has been in IT for 20 years, with the last 15 years spent in the systems management area. Paul is experienced with AppSense, SCCM, AdminStudio, App-V, Citrix and of course RES Software. He has worked in several large and medium sized enterprises in healthcare, energy, and broadcasting.

In the following article, Paul touches on an interesting subject which is sure to get the attention of the usual suspects ;) Over the years, there’s been a couple of more or less useful comparisons between what the merry folks respectively at AppSense and RES Software do, when it comes to managing the user’s persona/profile/environment/workspace (take your pick). The problem with most comparisons is that they basically end up just being a longwinded list of check boxes of who can do what.

The inherent problem with said approach is this: Whoever “dares” to create such a checkbox comparison sheet between any two or more competing vendors, is likely to have at least two vendors breathing down their neck, as the vendors all essentially want to look their best and have every last darn checkbox filled. For a long time, I’ve been advocating another approach: Presuming Vendor X and Vendor Y’s product can do the same things overall – logically the focus must shift from what CAN be done to HOW IT IS DONE.

As for vendor marketeers, this approach is obviously a lot tougher to deal with, especially if your product interface generally speaking is weak, unstructured or down right complicated to use. For the record, I am not referring to any particular vendor indirectly here – these are plain and objective terms to meter by. Of course it is any vendors prerogative to protest that things aren’t being done right, if there is an easier way that has been overlooked. Either way, this cuts the non-technical muglers out of the discussion, so us folks on the factory floor, the engineers can better figure out what product we want to use and recommend.

This is exactly the approach Paul Newton has taken in this article series, which has been moved to the Techlibrary. Let us hand it over to Paul from here: Click below to read the articles:

doc-icon2<<< Part 1: Drivemappings

doc-icon2<<< Part 2: Desktop shortcuts