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For our Swedish audience we are happy to introduce a half-day session in how Service Manager 2012 and Orchestrator 2012 can ease your daily IT operation burden by automation. This session is arranged by our partner Expero and is in Swedish. For more information and to book your seat click here

If you want even more hands-on experience on how Service Manager 2012 and Orchestrator 2012 work together we would recommend you to book a seat in our 2 days Labshop were we will be working with these products and see the full potential of the integration. Book your seat here

 

ConfigMgr 2007 R3 includes the functionality to prestage both the WinPE boot image and OS install image on hard disk. This enables you to instruct your computer hardware provider to prestage these files on the disk when it ships, making your OS installation process both much faster (because image is already on disk). And there is no need for PXE or CD/DVD boot, because the boot image is loaded from the disk. This is a greatly anticipated feature and the lack of this feature before created a lot of custom solutions to be made.

But in some circumstances it would be great to have the ability to use only the prestaged WinPE and not be forced to use the prestaged OS Install Image. By setting the much undocumented new OSD task sequence variable OSDUseAlreadyDeployedImage to False before the Apply Operating System action enables this behavior and forces the action to use the network stored OS Install Image or any other OS Install Image than the prestaged. See screenshot below.

screen
This comes in handy if your image is changed and you don’t want to pay extra for the computer hardware provider to update computers already staged, or if your OS installation task sequence contains multiple images. In my case I wanted to create a custom OS refresh scenario by prestaging only WinPE Boot Image on disk, but that’s another story.

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In a perfect world this never happens. BUT as we pretty often experience packages doesn’t reach its destination distribution point and gets stuck on the Pending status, and triggering a refresh on the distribution point doesn’t help. Of course we could just update the Distribution Points for the package, but that would affect all distribution points and in large environments that isn’t good enough. Below is a T-Sql script that I’m using to resolve this scenario by resetting the package on the distribution point in SQL and then do a refresh of the DP.

DISCLAIMER: This solution is brought AS IS with no warranties, and remember editing the ConfigMgr database is NOT supported by Microsoft.

1. Paste the SQL query below into a SQL Management Studio query window

USE SMS_%SITECODE%
Update pkgstatus set [Status] = 2 where id = '%PACKAGEID%' and sitecode = '%TARGETSITECODE%' and type = 1
Update pkgstatus set SourceVersion = 0 where id = '%PACKAGEID%' and sitecode = '%TARGETSITECODE%' and type = 1

2. Replace the variables %SITECODE%, %PACKAGEID% and %TARGETSITECODE% with your primary sitecode, packageid for your pending package and finally the sitecode for you target distribution point

3. Execute query

4. Refresh the package on the target distribution

5. Finished

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I often get questions from customers with complex environments regarding how ConfigMgr could be implemented there. Often their Active Directory consist of multiple domains and in some cases even multiple forests. The answers for these questions are in the product documentation but isn’t always easy to find. I am happy to see that Carol Bailey an senior technical writer for Configuration Manager at Microsoft has compiled these question and answers in an FAQ that can be found here.

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May
25

ConfigMgr v.Next Beta 1 Released

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The highly anticipated ConfigMgr v.Next Beta 1 was released today and will be available on the connect site very soon. You can sign up for the beta here.

This next release of Configuration Manager is focused on 3 main pillars:

Empower. System Center Configuration Manager helps IT provide a powerful, flexible work experience for people who want to connect from anywhere; on any device they choose—automatically detecting network conditions and device configurations to determine the most appropriate services for each user identity.

  • New application management model
  • On-demand applications with a self-service software portal
  • State-based application delivery to provide people with reliable access

Unify. System Center Configuration Manager reduces IT’s operational costs by simplifying and consolidating the client environment through a lean, unified infrastructure for managing and securing multiple systems and devices per user—including personal devices and PCs.

  • Unified management across PCs and devices
  • Centralized management of desktop virtualization

Simplify. System Center Configuration Manager reduces complexity and improves visibility into the client environment by providing a single configuration interface for networks and devices, and by automatically detecting vulnerabilities and offering IT-definable remediation of non-compliant systems

  • Automated compliance remediation
  • Client health and auto remediation
  • Streamlined administrative console

Stay tuned by following System Center Nexus Team Blog and of course read our reviews and the highlights here at Litware as soon as we have evaluated Beta 1.

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Feb
15

Who is using the computer?

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With the upcoming ConfigMgr vNext beta approaching I want to give some reflections of the functionality that exist today in ConfigMgr 2007 that will be even more used in ConfigMgr vNext. Starting with the Asset Intelligence top user functionality.

One of the largest issues when implementing an asset management system or helpdesk system is to fetch the information of the computer-to-user mapping. The most common way is to set this manually, but this is hard to maintain correctly in the long run because this kind of information is dynamic. Computers could be borrowed between co-workers or moved between departments without IT is notified. There were an last-logged-on-user inventory entry before (and it’s still present…) but that inventory are based on what specific user was logged on to the computer during the actual inventory execution on the client, and if nobody was logged on at that time the entry was empty. So it wasn’t a trustworthy source getting this information. But with the introduction of Asset Intelligence in ConfigMgr a possible solution for this issue was released that not everyone is aware of exists. In this post I will try to describe this functionality in more detail and how this is enabled.

By evaluating logon and logoff events Asset Intelligence calculates the number of times a user has been logged on to the computer as well as the total amount of time in minutes that the user has been logged on to the computer. All this information gathered with time limit of data within the last 90 days, this is then sent as a part of hardware inventory and made available in reports and for use by external products like asset/helpdesk systems. Below is a short description how you enabled this in your environment:

Enable to audit successfully account logon events on computers

  1. Applying the settings below manually or using an group policy

Enable Asset Intelligence in ConfigMgr console

  1. Open ConfigMgr Console
  2. Expand Site Database – Computer Management
  3. Right-Click Asset Intelligence and Select Enable
  4. Select Enable only…. And check reporting classes SMS_SystemConsoleUsage and SMS_SystemConsoleUser then click OK
  5. Click YES in the warning dialog (The extra resources this takes has not caused any problems from my experience even for very large customers)
  6. Finished

At the next hardware inventory the inventory will be populated with this information. If you haven’t had the policy to audit successfully account logon events enabled for an long time it can take different amount of times dependant on the hardware inventory frequency getting in the information into the inventory. This information is then used by ConfigMgr to populate a row for each computer with the TopUser for the computer based on the total logon count and total time where total time has precedence. This information can also be fetched in reports or queries by accessing the SQL view v_GS_SYSTEM_CONSOLE_USAGE.

The SQL view v_GS_SYSTEM_CONSOLE_USER makes it possible to see all users that has logged on to a specific computer to make a top list of the users based on your own criteria. It’s also possible to get a list of all computers a users has been logged on to the last 90 days.

Some of the ConfigMgr 2007 built-in reports are:

  • Hardware 03A – Primary computer users
  • Hardware 03B – Computers for a specific primary console user
  • Hardware 04A – Shared (multi-user) computers
  • Hardware 05A – Console users on a specific computer

As you can imagine the potential are huge making dynamic solutions based on this.

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As you probably already know a new version of ConfigMgr are scheduled to be released next year. Microsoft is calling it ConfigMgr vNext but my guess is that the RTM name will be ConfigMgr 2011. In this post I want to share information and my views on some of the new functionality and changes in ConfigMgr vNext that has been revealed by Microsoft. ConfigMgr vNext TAP nomination is open and you can find the nomination survey here. Rumors say that beta program should start in the end of March. I’m really excited that a new version is coming; it’s a special event for a system management techie that only occurs every five years and experience say that it only gets better if you look at the history of SMS/ConfigMgr products.

Hierarchy

Microsoft is aiming for ConfigMgr vNext hierarchy designs to be less complex and easier to maintain, and their solution is to introduce a new site server Central Administration Server (or CAS), it will be the central point of administration and will not be able to manage any clients. Additionally changes of the site server’s relations will be huge. Primary site servers will no longer have the ability to have Parent/Child relation to each other, instead secondary site servers will. This is the exact opposite to how it’s working today. Role based delegation is introduced that enables easier and more granular delegation of tasks.

Replication

Today’s Inbox replication will be replaced by native SQL replication. As it is today all replicated information is processed on every site server it passes causing excessive unnecessary workload on the site servers. By changing to SQL replication hopefully the site servers will have more resources for more important operations. Another new feature is the ability to bandwidth throttle distribution points, today if data transfer between the site server and distribution point is unmanaged. This feature will really enable you to use non-dedicated servers on branch offices as distribution points without setting up them as secondary servers.

Software Management

Here you have been working the last six years convincing customers to move from user to computer based distribution because of licensing, and now Microsoft is starting to talk about User Centric distribution. Don’t be alarmed it’s not as drastic as you think, it’s almost genius. A new object will be introduced “Application”. The Application object will be advertised to the user and can contain rules how to react when the user moves between platforms and clients. For example a rule could say that the application should only be installed on clients where the user is inventoried by ConfigMgr as the TopUser of the computer. If then the user temporary is logging on to a colleagues computer the application will not be installed there. Rules could also be defined for different software installation when moving between different platforms like mobile and Desktop Services. I will describe this new object in much more detail´s in later posts.

Self-Service

ConfigMgr vNext will deliver a Self-Service Portal. The user will be able to enter a portal and install available applications instantly. The application object mentioned earlier will contain the application details that will be shown in the portal as well have multi-language support for the application details. It will also be basic approver functionality for application that has a high cost. But in reality this should be connected to Service Manager and I hope that Patrik will show how this could be done in a later post as soon as the first ConfigMgr vNext beta is released.

This was a sum up of what’s coming on the ConfigMgr horizon. As soon as I get my hands on the beta I promise to give you some more reflections.

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When upgrading ConfigMgr 2007 clients to SP2 there could be a problem upgrading the clients using one program. This because if you use the ccmsetup switch SMSSITECODE=AUTO users travelling between different locations can be accidentally reassigned to the primary site at the location where the client was located during the actual upgrade, that could cause advertisements to run again on the client. Why using one program you think, well using one program will ease you administration effort doing the upgrade because you can use one collection for all clients. Finally to the solution, I made a script that queries the client’s assigned site code and then uses this for the ccmsetup parameter SMSSITECODE, if there are no assigned site code AUTO is used. Put this script in the source folder of your ConfigMgr 2007 SP2 client and run the script as the installation command. Please remember that the script is delivered AS IS without any warranties.

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Option Explicit
On Error Resume Next
 
Dim cmclient,WshShell,wshFSO,strSiteCode,strExitCode,strCmdLine
 
Set cmclient = CreateObject("Microsoft.SMS.Client")
Set WshShell = CreateObject("WScript.Shell")
Set wshFSO = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")
 
strSiteCode  = cmclient.GetAssignedSite
 
If strSiteCode <> "" then
	strCmdLine = SourceDir & "\Ccmsetup.exe /noservice SMSSITECODE=" & strSiteCode
	strExitCode = WshShell.Run(strCmdLine, 0, True)
	WshShell.LogEvent 0, "ConfigMgr 2007 SP2 client upgrade executed command: """ & strCmdLine & """" & CHR(10) & "Exitcode: " & CSTR(strExitCode)
Else
	strCmdLine = SourceDir & "\Ccmsetup.exe /noservice SMSSITECODE=AUTO"
	strExitCode = WshShell.Run(strCmdLine, 0, True)
	WshShell.LogEvent 0, "ConfigMgr 2007 SP2 client upgrade executed command: """ & strCmdLine & """" & CHR(10) & "Exitcode: " & CSTR(strExitCode)
End if
 
Function SourceDir
	SourceDir = Left(WScript.ScriptFullName,Len(WScript.ScriptFullName) - Len(WScript.ScriptName) -1)
End Function
 
wscript.quit(strExitCode)
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After upgrading to ConfigMgr 2007 SP2 I’ve experienced that the database size was rapidly increasing. Microsoft has recently published a KB article KB978021 that will correct this, but there is nothing in the symptom description for the KB article that describes that the really big issue is that it can fill up your database disks. This is caused by the excessive logging from Distribution Manager of the message id’s 2300,2301 and 2342 caused by the bug.

So if you have upgraded to SP2 or are planning for an SP2 upgrade, make sure to install KB978021 hotfix as soon as possible on all site systems. A bonus is that it also corrects a memory leak that causes SMS Executive to crash periodically (see KB978022). If you have been running the ConfigMgr 2007 SP2 for a while without this hotfix and the database size has been growing a little too much. After applying the hotfix and made sure you have a working backup you can decrease the database file size and free up disk space by truncating the tables StatusMessageinsstrs, StatusMessages and StatusMessageAttributes and issue a shrink command on the ConfigMgr database.

IMPORTANT: By truncating these tables all status message history will be deleted, so be sure to have a valid backup before proceeding with this.

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A couple of months ago I bought a ConfigMgr book, I didn’t have high expectation about this book because a lot of the technical books you buy these days doesn’t contains so much new information that you couldn’t find on TechNet and other Internet forums. But to my surprise it’s a fantastic book with a lot of deep technical drilldown in for example SQL stored procedures etc, but it also contains easy to understand description of the features as well as Microsoft System Management history. It’s really speaks for its title Unleashed. I can really recommend this book for the hardcore ConfigMgr veterans as well as newbie’s. All companies that are using ConfigMgr should have it on the bookshelf as a reference. The full title is System Center Configuration Manager 2007 Unleashed and has the ISBN 0672330237. You can find it on Amazon both printed and electronically for your Kindle. For you scandinavians out there I can also recommend Adlibris.

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