Wednesday, November 08, 2006

New Job

I recently moved jobs. After a good time at Guidance, it was time for a change and I now joined Login Consultants.

Login Consultants is famous in the server-base computing world, but does a lot more. I'll post info about tools and services delivered by Login as I encounter them in practice and as time goes by...

Monday, May 29, 2006

Registry Population

Deploying applications is usually done by means of MSIs. In some cases, application installation procedures configure the environment such that the user who installs the application can use it as well. This is fine in a single-user model where the user is in charge of his/her own PC. When deploying applications in a multi-user environment, it can occur that the user needs to have this configuration before actually launching the application for the first time. This is a situation like chicken-or-egg.

We looked for a solution to populate the user-registry before he/she starts a certain application. The solution we found to work uses AD policies in combination with a custom logon-script which does two things: 1) checking whether the required (user- / HKLM) registry keys are present and if they are not 2) configure those registry keys. In combination with Flex Profiles, this populates the flex profile at first logoff as well.

We called our scenario: OpsPopulate (on Citrix, in combination with Flex Profiles) and RegPopulate (on XP). The mechanism is the same. In order to improve logon performance on the Citrix environment, we made sure that the Flex Profile configuration file for the specific application is only parsed for users that actually require the application.

We are currently investigating whether this scenario enables us to configure ODBC settings for users in an automated and centralized way.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Turning a Laptop into a Thin Client

I have recently been involved in a project that aimed to provide a thin client interface on a laptop. The only two 'applications' that should be available are:

  • A connection to a Full Desktop running on a Citrix Platform
  • The Printer dialog, in order to set printer preferences and clear the print queue
Quite some possibilities have been tested, but only one came out strong: RES PowerFuse.

As a first attempt, we tested the RES Subscriber, which basically proved a small menu with a customizable list of possibilities of applications to launch. This worked quite well, apart from the fact that 1) you don't get to see the warning screens of the locally running virus scanner and 2) policies are still required to avoid that users use task manager to start whatever they like.

Due to these issues, we then moved to PowerFuse. PowerFuse has a very nice solution for managing laptops. You centrally configure and secure the laptop environment, and changes are synchronized whenever the laptop is connected to the LAN. Also application-usage statistics are recorded and sent back to the server.

We have tested several possibilities in configuration. From these, we recorded the following important guidelines:
  • Always use a domain account to run the PowerFuse service. Otherwize synchronisation does not occur.
  • A local account can be used as a PowerFuse user (be carefull in configuring PowerFuse, though), although automatic synchronisation is only possible with a domain user.
  • Some policies may still be required, but those can easily be applied using PowerFuse, so no additional GPO settings are required. A very handy way is to import the administrative template (.adm file) into PowerFuse and simply select the suitable options, just as you would when configuring a GPO.
  • When you use an imaging tool to clone laptops, make sure to disjoin the laptop before making the image and to join it again after restoring the image. Also, the PowerFuse database synchronisation should be applied after the joining of the domain.
All in all, everything seems to work well. If a change is required in the future, user connect to the LAN and a few minutes later they have the new configuration that is tailored for them.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

New Year for Desktop Management

Happy New Year !

Earlier this week, we organized a seminar at Brussels concerning 'Desktop Management'. During this seminar, I discussed 3 tools/technologies that can help you a lot in dealing with the front-end experience of business users. Business users are those people that have to get their job done without having to care about what is behind. The 3 tools are:

  • Terminal Server / Citrix
  • Softricity
  • PowerFuse
In order to explain what these tools can do for the business, I developed 3 'prototype' cases in which they can be applied. Using imaginary cases has the benefit that you can create a solution that is clearly suited for the case. Real-life situations are not like this, those are always 'grey' and have to be analyzed carefully based on business and IT requirements and total cost of ownership.

Interested in the topics? Leave a comment!

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