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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Thoughts on how to treat a tablet device with Windows 8 (not RT)…

In this blog I try to reflect my thoughts on how to treat a tablet device which is equipped with Windows 8 (preferably Enterprise) in a corporate environment.

I assume the following things are in place:

  • The tablet is a domain member, activation is done using Key Management Service (KMS)
  • Machines are deployed using a centralized and standardized method using tools such as Configuration Manager 2012 SP1 and/or MDT 2012 U1
  • Company policy requires Bitlocker to be enabled if the tablet device has a TPM chip, the recovery key is stored in Active Directory
  • DirectAccess is used to have the device connected to the corporate network, no matter where the user is located as long as an internet connection is available (don’t bother VPN or other stuff that might frustrate a user)

Devices such as Windows Phones, Windows RT based tablets or Apple iPads are ones that will mostly reside outside the corporate network. For these devices it is recommended that management is facilitated for outside use, for example Windows Intune or a similar product.

A Windows 8 tablet, however, is something that can be fully managed by Group Policy and tools such as Configuration Manager 2012 SP1. Keeping this ability in perspective, I would consider a Windows 8 tablet a fat client. A user should still be allowed to connect his or her account with a Microsoft account to allow to use the Windows Store.

This may sound shocking that I would treat a Windows 8 similarly as a desktop or laptop. For me, they all have the same Operating System. The only difference is that a Windows 8 tablet is a little bit smaller in size and easier to carry than a laptop (or even a desktop for the die-hards).

Using DirectAccess allows administrators to manage these devices the same way as internal devices, even if a tablet user is doing is of her job at the beach in a hangmat having a nice cocktail…

 

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Posted by on 29/07/2013 in Opinion, Windows Client

 

ConfigMgr 2012 SP1: Deploying Windows 8 Enterprise on a tablet device, first impressions…

At one of my current projects, I have the privilege of creating a Task Sequence to deploy Windows 8 on a tablet device. The customer uses a DELL Latitude 10 tablet. Fortunately, they purchased docking stations for these devices as well.

Having a docking station available greatly simplifies the deployment process, especially if the docking station is equipped with a NIC that supports PXE.

I used DELL’s comprehensive guide as a reference for deploying an OS using ConfigMgr 2012 SP1, which is available here: http://www.google.nl/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&sqi=2&ved=0CEQQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fen.community.dell.com%2Ftechcenter%2Fextras%2Fm%2Fwhite_papers%2F20305418%2Fdownload.aspx&ei=jjP2Ufj4M4KGswaqyoG4Aw&usg=AFQjCNHGV-XwqUIh14zKLrYeFVVfVZ6EQA&sig2=A88LVY73rlSnEEUawxfcbQ

I noticed a few things after reading the document:

  • DELL assumes that MDT 2012 U1 is not integrated in ConfigMgr 2012 SP1. It forces an administrator to do some manual tasks which are available in MDT 2012 U1, especially regarding the partitioning stuff for UEFI devices. A standard client Task Sequence includes a step for partitioning a disk on a UEFI device
  • DELL assumes an image is built with the drivers included. While this may greatly increase the deployment speed for this tablet, an administrator is forced to manage more images because of the added customization

Readers who visit my blog regularly should know me by now and I try to keep the amount of customization as little as possible, always…

After intensive testing I concluded the following: – To keep customization to a minimum, I create an MDT Task Sequence which will apply an image from an OS Install Package. Yes, it will result into an unattended install of Windows 8 Enterprise (with domain join etc.) – To follow the guide, I added an Apply Driver Package Task which will install all necessary drivers for the device, including the drivers for the docking station – If any applications are required, they will be installed

The only challenge I have is updates, I need to decide on how to process updates as easily as possible. I’m considering to use the Install Updates Offline Package, need to investigate though.

Hope this helps defining your strategy on these tablet devices…

 

ConfigMgr 2012: making sure an SQL instance is not ‘occupied’

As a Consultant, I’m doing quite a lot of deployments of ConfigMgr 2012. Looking constantly for improvements and trying out different scenarios I need to deploy ConfigMgr a lot. Especially in lab environments, I destroy machines quickly and build new ones to allow myself to deploy ConfigMgr 2012 again.

Recently, I was testing a deployment using a dedicated SQL 2012 Server to host the site database. What I wanted to achieve is not relevant but I decided to start over.

So I destroyed the site server VM, I deleted the database file in SQL and started again by creating a new VM.

During the installation, the prerequisite checker was giving me an error. The error message stated that the SQL instance chosen already has a site database.

I decided to look into the ConfigMgrPrereq.log file and I found the line displayed below:

6-19-2013 14:47:33> SQL01.domain1.local;    Dedicated SQL Server instance;    Error;    Configuration Manager requires a dedicated SQL Server instance to host its site database.  You selected a SQL Server instance that hosts the site database for another Configuration Manager site.  Select a different SQL Server instance for this new site to use, or resolve the conflict by uninstalling the other site or moving its database to a different SQL Server instance.

That’s odd, I deleted the file itself so the error message doesn’t make any sense to me…

So I thought that information regarding a site database must be stored somewhere else.

I decided to have a look in the registry and I found the key which tells me that something with ConfigMgr was placed there.

The key that I was looking for is:

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\SMS]

Deleting the key completely and restarting the SQL Server made the error message go away and I could install a new ConfigMgr site again.

Keep in mind though that this is certainly not the way to go to remove a ConfigMgr site, always try to use the setup to remove a site. Trying this with a production environment is something that should be avoided unless no other options are available anymore.

 
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Posted by on 05/07/2013 in Uncategorized

 

ConfigMgr 2012 R2 Preview: first impressions regarding deployment…

Last week Microsoft released a whole bunch of Preview versions of software. The relevant ones for me were (in order of relevance):

  • System Center 2012 R2
  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2013
  • Windows ADK 8.1 Preview
  • Windows 8.1

I noticed that many people started blogging like crazy about these releases, so I decided to do nothing last weekend and do something a few days later. As my colleague Robin Verbeek stated in one his blogs (available at http://focusonsystemcenter.nl), I sat on my hands a little bit longer and think things over…

However, some spare time arode this week so I decided to give it a try.

I started building a small LAN from scratch on my laptop computer with one domain controller, a single ConfigMgr 2012 R2 site server and a client machine. Both machines have Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview installed.

To make this Preview attempt as much Preview as possible, I decided to use SQL 2014 CTP1 for the site database and reporting.

Installing a small domain controller with nothing fancy is something barely worth mentioning, too easy…

The first step on my site server was checking if I could still use my own Powershell cmdlet:

Import-Module ServerManager;Add-WindowsFeature NET-Framework-Features,BITS,RDC,Web-Common-Http,Web-Http-Redirect,Web-Asp-Net,Web-ASP,Web-Health,Web-Log-Libraries,Web-Http-Tracing,Web-Basic-Auth,Web-Windows-Auth,Web-Url-Auth,Web-IP-Security,Web-Stat-Compression,Web-Dyn-Compression,Web-Mgmt-Compat,Web-Mgmt-Console,Web-Scripting-Tools,Web-Mgmt-Service -IncludeAllSubFeature

I decided to keep the installatie of WSUS out of this cmdlet and install that one manually. I haven’t figured out yet why installing WSUS by Powershell is problematic, mostly due to time constraints…

Yes, it still works, this was rather uneventfull.

The second step is installing SQL 2014 CTP1.

Again, simple and straigthforward, I used a default instance running on the account SYSTEM. The instance consists of the database services and reporting services using the default values. After all, it’s just a lab environment…

The third step was installing Windows ADK 8.1 Preview. I used the required features of Windows ADK 8.1, again no strange behaviour either…

So far so good…

OK, all the prerequisites are present, let’s install ConfigMgr 2012 R2 Preview. I’ve done a lot of ConfigMgr 2012 RTM and SP1 deployments in the past. Everything went smoothly, just as expected…

Installing MDT 2013 and configuring it for ConfigMgr 2012 R2 integration is, again, very straightforward.

The thing that interested me the most was to check if a wellknown issue that occured with ConfigMgr 2012 RTM using SQL 2012 (unsupported and Reporting didn’t work) happened again with ConfigMgr 2012 R2 and SQL 2014 CTP1.

I installed the Reporting Services Point. After closing the wizard I immediately opened srsrp.log to see if all the reports were created. Well, finally a little surprise: they were created nicely.

When the log was not generating more lines anymore I checked if I could see the reports and run one, that worked too…

Wow, this actually works like a charm…

So yes, deploying ConfigMgr 2012 R2 was a rather uneventfull affair, so you should be able to try it yourself. I guess I really need to look for flaws and bugs.

Note to self: God, after writing down all this I really need to develop how to automate the deployment…

 
 
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