The Realm of the Verbal Processor

Jarvis's Ramblings

Windows 8.1–Initial Impressions

This is a follow on to my “No-Windows 8 Does Not Suck” post that I finally got around to posting.

Last week I loaded the RTM of Windows 8.1 on my production laptop…and yes I did it legally. Kind of a long story behind why that is the case. The short story is that the company I work for is a Microsoft Partner…they are both a Large Account Reseller (LAR) and a System Integrator (SI). I think there are only eleven companies in the world that are both. Net result of that is that for last year or so, the LAR+SI companies have had to do licensing for Windows a bit differently…essentially we were told to use MSDN keys for our production systems that were moving to Windows 8. Odd…but okay…MS told us to.

Now…on to the impressions of Windows 8.1…

I did the upgrade on my laptop last week without any issues. I didn’t time it (kicked it off and went to put my son to bed), but I think it finished in less than an hour. I did notice a few small things after it was done. Below is my list of observations…would love to hear of any new/cool things that you discover as well.

  1. All of the websites that I had told IE to remember my passwords for…no longer have the passwords saved. But…since the update included IE11 that kinda makes sense.
  2. I had to reinstall the Cisco AnyConnect VPN. I chose the “Repair” option and it seemed to work.
  3. My laptop monitor was seen as a “Generic PnP Monitor”, so the screen didn’t look very good initially. Had to go into advanced settings and update driver for the Monitor. See screenshots…SNAGHTMLa4e598a
  4. One observation that I still haven’t nailed down…everything on my laptop screen seems bigger now. I’ve checked the resolution and it is set correctly…but everything seems just slightly bigger. Outlook in particular seems like it is zoomed in. It actually makes it easier to read, but it is definitely different than before.
  5. Another odd one is on one specific web page…MSN.com. In the past there were navigation arrows that appeared on the picture on the page that rotated every five or so seconds. The nav arrows let you go forward or backwards. Now the arrows appear for a few seconds when the page first loads but then disappear and they don’t come back. It’s actually pretty annoying because if you see something that you are interested in you have to wait until it rotates back around in order to click on it. Update: This has since been fixed.
  6. Java had to be reinstalled.
  7. There are new start screen customization options that are pretty nice. Multiple size tiles (small, med, wide, large). More obvious way of naming application groups.
  8. There is a new “Help+Tips” app…very good for users who are new to Windows 8. Something that honestly should have been there from the beginning.
  9. A new “Reading List” app. Enables you to push a web page that you want to read later to a common area for delayed consumption. Haven’t used it yet, but it looks promising. Only works with the “modern” app version of IE though. Won’t use it on my non-touch laptop…but will on my Surface when the update becomes available.
  10. Photos app has new editing functions that look very promising.
  11. “Modern” apps have new size options. Can run up to four of them on one screen at a time. I haven’t used those apps much on my laptop…but could see doing that now that I can have multiple on a screen.
  12. Right clicking the new Start button gives the option to shut down or sign out.
  13. There is a start button (which takes you to the Start Screen), and the Start Screen can be customized by an enterprise to give a specific configuration for your users before you deploy it to them. I personally don’t care about the start button…but I see it being needed to block enterprise deployments because of training fears.
  14. I saw issues with both yahoo.com and when I tried to start a WebEx meeting. The WebEx meeting webpage gave a message that “Java is not working”. Yahoo.com had an issue where the rotating graphics of the “top” stories…the ones that load five at a time. The first five would load fine. When it went to 6-10, the stories would be simply blank white space instead of the pictures of the stories. The source code on the page indicates that it is all Javascript. The answer to both of these it to put both webex.com and yahoo.com in the “Compatibility View” settings in IE.

image

Overall…very nice and stable update to an already very good OS.

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September 26, 2013 Posted by | Windows 8 | 4 Comments

No–Windows 8 Does Not Suck

This is a post that has been in the back of my mind for a while that I’m finally getting around to writing. Portions of this come to mind when I hear people complain about certain aspects of Windows 8…or when I hear users of other platforms making fun of it (likely without actually using it themselves)…or when someone asks me for an honest opinion since they know that I use it…or when I find something in the OS that I think is excellent and wish others knew. So…in no particular order…here are some thoughts on Windows 8…

Yes it is different. So. What. Some people will tell you that MS doesn’t innovate. When they do, other people scream that it’s too much. Figure out what you want people. If it stayed the same we’d all be looking at an ugly Windows 3.1 box. Yuck.

It is easy to use. My four year old son has ZERO issues navigating my Surface. Neither do my daughters. Seriously…give it half a chance…it’s not hard people. Both my mother-in-law and sister-in-law breeze through it. For both of them I spent maybe fifteen minutes showing them the basics. With that said…Microsoft could have done more on initial release for introducing users to the basics. This has been resolved to a great degree with the new “Help+Tips” app in Windows 8.1.

There is no start button or start menu. So. What. In Windows 7 I look for a tiny thing in the bottom left corner to click that brings up a menu, then I look in that menu for another small section to click, then in that menu for another small thing to click, etc. And God forbid that I accidentally move my mouse outside of the menu when I’m looking for that tiny thing to click…then I have to start over again. Now in Windows 8…I look for the big freaking tile on my Start Screen and click it. Oh and I can customize the screen to have what I want on it. Oh and the tiles are more than just an icon…they update with live info. And seriously…how many of you have used the Desktop as a place to shove shortcuts to every app that you want to open so you can double click them? You’ve given yourself a “Start Screen” already…it’s just not very pretty and has very few customization options. Now you can have all of those shortcuts on your Start Screen…and you can actually see the pretty picture of your kids that you use as your desktop background…instead of little Suzie having an icon shoved up her nose!

Now…although my opinion is that the Start button is not truly needed…I do understand the opposition that Enterprises have had up til now with the fear of training thousands of users. I think those issues have been addressed fairly well in 8.1…there is a start button (which takes you to the Start Screen), and the Start Screen can be customized by an enterprise to give a specific configuration for your users before you deploy it to them.

Hyper-V in Windows 8! Prior to Win8 I was dual booting Win7 and Server 2008 R2 in order to run VMs in Hyper-V for my lab environment. After loading Windows 8, I never booted the server partition on my laptop again…and the VMs I had in 2008 R2 pulled right over with no issues.

Speed in general is better. Boot time is awesome. Love UEFI.

Sync between devices rocks! My Windows 8 laptop (non-touchscreen btw) and my Surface RT are both tied to my Live ID. When I initially set up the Surface, it took me a few seconds to realize what happened. My wallpaper was the same automatically. My home network (with security) had synced up already. My home PRINTER was already set up!

Some of the “Modern” apps. I don’t use a ton of them on my non-touchscreen laptop. I use more on my Surface. The Kindle app is excellent…and it syncs the last read place in a book, so if I read on both my laptop and the Surface…it knows where I left off.

Overall…I have been very happy with Windows 8. I know of a few people that I generally have respect for their opinions on IT matters who were vocal about hating it and switched back. Wonder if they are the same ones who cursed Windows XP when it came out? I think a lot of folks have forgotten the complaints when XP was released. :)

September 26, 2013 Posted by | Windows 8 | 3 Comments

Image Build–Manual or Build & Capture?

WHY Series #2


Late last week I got the following email via my contact form. It seemed like the ideal topic for the next post in the series. (Thanks Matt for the message!)

I have a question for your WHY series. I was debating with a co-worker yesterday why you would use the "Build and Capture" task sequence for OSD instead of capturing a system that you already have or have built with another method. I have a few ideas on advantages and disadvantages, but I would like to hear your opinion.

I am going to make a couple of assumptions based on what I read in the question. I interpret “a system that you already have” to mean an existing physical machine that would be captured to create an image. This might not be what the reader intended, but it should be addressed in this post regardless. Best practice is to create a hardware independent image on a virtual machine. (Need to address reasons why for that one in a future post.) I also see the phrase “built with another method”…which I interpret to be essentially a manually built image (as opposed to one using a B&C task sequence).

At the core, those are your options for image creation…automated with a Build & Capture task sequence or build it manually. A slight variation is to use the “Pause task sequence” step in an MDT task sequence to perform a step that can’t be automated…essentially automate all of it except for this one step.

Factors Impacting the Image Creation Process

When looking at the question of whether to manually build the image or use a Build and Capture task sequence, there are several key components that should be considered:

  • Image updates. Don’t consider an image to be “golden”…think of it as “current”. This can be a key distinction. Gold implies that it will never change. Current deals with the reality that an image is going to need to be updated. (Let’s not even get into the Thick/Thin/Hybrid image scenario…that’s a discussion for another day…perhaps another “WHY” post.) With that said, unless you are the most hardcore of “thin image” proponents, your image will at least have the OS and updates. Which means that within a month of image creation (Patch Tuesday), the image will be missing necessary updates. How often do you update it? Remember, anything that isn’t in your image has to be installed after the image is laid down…which adds time. I know of a very major company (if you live in the US, you have their products in your home) that had not updated their XP image in several years. The post image update process took a couple of hours to deploy somewhere around 200 updates that were not included in the image. Application updates/upgrades are also part of this equation. Basic gist is that images MUST be updated…ideally on a regular basis.
  • If applications are included in the image, are the applications packaged and able to be installed silently? If so, then that process can be automated. If not, then it has to be a manual step. Same goes for image tweaks.
  • Ideally you would like to use the same processes for managing apps and updates that go in your image that you use for managing the existing systems in your environment. You already have a “Patch Tuesday” process. Use the same process when building the image. You already have a process for pushing out application upgrades/updates. Use the same process in your image build.
  • In the end, you MUST have consistent repeatable results. You need a process that produces a reliable image every single time.
  • Lastly, you are busy. I’ve never met an IT person who had too much time on their hands. You need this process to take as little time out of your day/week as possible.

With those factors in mind…lets run them through the grid of our methods for image creation and see how things shake out.

Build and Capture Image Creation Process:

If your core applications that will go in the image can be installed silently…and if you are using either WSUS or SCCM for deploying updates, then this is the ideal situation. Your B&C task sequence could be as simple as “Click Next” and come back later to see your shiny new WIM file. Once you’ve got it working (which I won’t deny could be challenging) it couldn’t be any easier. Once it is going, you will never look back. I know of at least one company that has a recurring Task Sequence deployment to a virtual machine…to create a new image the day after Patch Tuesday each month. Completely automated. Score!

Because the task sequence is automated, there is very little time involved. Just click next and check on it later. Because all of the tasks are automated, there isn’t any room for admin error. Because it is automated, you are more likely to update your image on a regular basis. The process IS standardized and repeatable. Oh…and if a step does have to be performed manually, use an MDT task sequence with the “Pause” step to automate as much as possible…and only do the non-automatable tasks manually.

Manual Image Creation:

Manual is…well…manual. You install the OS from DVD/ISO. You install each app. You apply all the updates. You run Sysprep. You capture the image. All manually. Hopefully you are following a checklist. Hopefully you don’t forget a step. Good luck with that.

The manual image creation process is characterized by the following:

  • Slow. All those manual steps take time.
  • Time consuming. Because it is slow, realistically, you will not update the image as often as you should.
  • Open for admin error (i.e. forgetting a step or installing a component slightly differently upon image rebuild)
  • Not standardized/repeatable

Overall…friends don’t let friends use a manual image creation process. You might wish it on your enemies though! ;-) However…see my conclusion below for one instance where you might use an existing image.

Conclusion:

If you’ve followed my blog for long or have seen my presentations at MMS or TechEd, then you should have known I was going to land on the side of using the Build and Capture Task Sequence before you even started this article. In my opinion (that I think I’ve adequately backed up with solid logic), using a B&C task sequence to create your image is the only way to go. It just makes sense from a time/automation/repeatability/manageability standpoint.

The ONLY exception that I see to this is if you are migrating from an old technology (i.e. Ghost) to SCCM, AND you are migrating from XP to Windows 7 / Windows 8. In that instance…would I recommend going through the process of recreating all of your Windows XP images…that you are going to be getting rid of soon anyway? No. In that instance I would say go ahead and capture that existing image (or if it is already a WIM file…see if you can deploy it as-is). Don’t spend the time recreating the image that you are going to be dumping (since XP EOL is coming up very soon!).

Would love your comments and feedback. Keep the ideas for future posts coming!

Until next time…keep asking the right questions.


April 29, 2013 Posted by | ConfigMgr, ConfigMgr 2012, MDT 2012, WHY Series, Windows 7, Windows 8 | 4 Comments

Computer Group Membership Change Without Rebooting

I was working with a client this week where we had a need to create a special Group Policy Object for a pilot scenario. This GPO needed to be filtered to only apply if the computer was a member of an AD Security Group. We could add the machines into the group, but we needed to not be forced to reboot all of the machines in order for the group membership to be effective. After doing a bit of searching I found out how to do this…use the “klist” command. This is native to Windows 7 and Windows 8…and to Server 2008 and later. It is not included in Vista…and I’m not sure about Windows XP (but you should be looking at getting off of XP anyway!). The command to trigger this is:

klist –li 0x3e7 purge

Klist with the purge switch forces the computer to refresh the Kerberos tokens…which also effectively recognizes the group membership changes. The “0x3e7” is the part of the logon id that identifies the computer account (Local System).

April 18, 2013 Posted by | Active Directory, Group Policy, Windows 7, Windows 8 | Leave a comment

Windows 8 and Cisco VPN Client

I have run across this issue when installing both the Cisco AnyConnect VPN client and the “regular” Cisco VPN client. Once the client is installed and you attempt to establish the VPN connection you might get one of the following messages: “Unable to establish VPN” or “The VPN client driver encountered an error.”

SNAGHTML10ce074  SNAGHTML10d0fed

The fix is really simple…you simply need to change the Display Name in the registry. Open the following registry key and take out the INF garbage at the front of the Display Name. Note that only one of these may exist depending on which VPN client you have installed…for that matter…I can’t remember the exact key for the regular VPN client…but I’m 99% that it is one of the second two…if the DisplayName has INF garbage in the value…that is the one.

HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\vpnva\DisplayName

HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\CVirtA\DisplayName

HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\CVPND\DisplayName

September 17, 2012 Posted by | Windows 8 | 2 Comments