In Recast Enterprise Right Click Tools, if you’re familiar with 3.2, and you’re looking through 4.0, you will notice that Lab Manager is no longer there. Fear not, the feature sets you’ve come to rely on are still in 4.0, but separated out in to two feature subsets: Kiosk Manager & Unified Write Filter. We’ll focus on Kiosk Manager in this post.
Kiosk Manager is a way to apply several settings to a machine or group of machines to lock it down, or turn it into a single use machine… like a kiosk, for example. 🙂
First, create a Profile using “Manage Profile”
For this example, lets display all of the options.
Now that we have a Template, lets apply it to a machine and see what happens. Right click on the machine, and go to “Apply Profile”
So we apply the Library Profile, Deploy it Immediately, it will reboot the machines to apply, which is also a good reason to schedule it.
After the reboot, the machine performs the auto-logon with the account information provided, it then launches the replacement shell, in this case, Chrome.
So, it had some of the desired effects, but since we’re using the whitelist, it only shows the content of the items added to that list, apparently many of the graphics are hosted under a different domain name. Open “Developer Mode” in Chrome, and grab the other URLs that are needed, and an update to the WhiteList Tab in the Template.
After you make a change to the template, you have to RE-Apply it.
Now the machine will apply the updated template, reboot, and have your changes applied.
There we go, that looks better. Auto Logon to Chrome Browser with the Default Website set to RecastSoftware.com and the user is blocked from making modifications. If the Kiosk is left unattended for 30 minutes, it reboots to a fresh state.
To get the most out of Kiosk Manager, leverage GPO to set lock screen settings, power options, and other control features.
Recast Software recently released the new 4.0 version of the Right Click Tools. This is the first in a series of deep dives of updated features within the new version.
Let’s start with updates to a favorite automation platform: Builder. So what is builder exactly? Builder is a Framwork for creating your own Right Click Tools. It has all of the actions available at your finger tips, which you can merge with PowerShell scripts and create very powerful automation runbook type automations. Take a look:
On the left you have a list of the Custom Actions you’ve created. The Middle area is your “Work Board”. You start with a single “Starting Point”, where you can create parameters, and pick the output you want to display. The Right side contains the list of actions you can choose from. Find the one you’re looking for, drag it from the options pane to the work board, draw your arrow and apply the parameters. No code needed. If you’re familiar with the Right Click Tools, then you’re already part way there.
Here are a couple examples. While these are pretty simple, it does give you a glimpse of the possibilities. Example 1 is a tool that will Add a user to a local group or Remove a user from a local group. We’ve set the default local group as administrators. Scenario, you need to grant someone local admin rights on a workstation (or group of), for a manual software install. Then when they are done, you want to remove them again.
We created a new Builder Template, drag the “Add Local Group Member” Action onto the board, then drag an arrow from the Start Node to the Add Local Group Member action. When you click on the Arrow, it turns blue so you know it’s the active object, and shows you the required information that needs to be provided. This means this information will need to be created on the Start Node. Let’s create Parameters that the Right Click Tool Admin User will provide as input.
So we’ve added an Input Parameter, type string and called it Member Name, we’ll repeat this process for the other required fields. For the next two fields, I’ll also add default values, since most of the time, they will probably be what you want to input anyway.
Ok, now that we’ve made our input parameters, it’s time to map them.
Once you click on the Arrow, it will turn blue and show the list of Required Input Parameters. Click the Required Parameter (in this case Computer Name), and match it to the Available Parameters. Now that we have that done, lets finish connecting the Parameters.
Alright, at this point, we have our parameters all mapped and this tool Should work… so lets try it out!
On our test machine PC03, lets see who is in the Local Admin Group:
From the Console, Right Click -> RCT Runner
Then click Finish and see what happens… Looks like it worked!
And guess what, the Dialog didn’t lie, the Machine shows the account was added to the Administrators Group:
Ok, so now we confirm that part work, lets go back and add the “Remove” feature.
We added the “Remove Local Group Member”, and added the “Arrow” to connect the Start Action to the Remove action. The setup is the same as the “Add Local Group Member”, it requires the same parameters. But now we need a way to let the Runner know which “Path” to take, Add or Remove. So we’ve added a Boolean (Check Box) to the form and named it accordingly. Then we just have to set the conditions on each action. Run “Add” if Checked, Run “Remove” if UnChecked.
Ok, now lets run it again… but this time we use it to remove the account
Oh good, it worked
Double checking the computer, yep, garytown is now removed from administrators:
And Confirmed it works on entire collection… at least if the machines are on:
Ok, Example 2, using a PowerShell Script as an Action
On the Start Action, Added a Parameter “Notes” For Example, which we will pass into the PowerShell Script.
You can see that there is a Parameter in the Script called “Notes” which will actually pull the Parameter set when you run the action into the script. Then click on “Show Progress Stream” and check the box:
Enable “Check Box” on Show Progress Stream When you run the Action you Created, you’ll see results, and anything you specified in the script as output will show up:
As we just demonstrated, RCT Builder has potential for you to automate tasks, or create new actions that might be unique to your environment.
In a previous post we talked about one of my favorite tools, System Information. We’ll guess what… it gets even better. You can run the tool on an entire collection!
This will give you a nice quick overview of the machines. This view allows customization and adding / removing columns.
I’d often run the WOL tool on the collection first and give it a couple minutes before running this tool, but then I’d run this to get a nice overview. As you can see in my image, a few issues stand out right away that I need to spend some time looking into, a couple of which I wasn’t actually expecting to see. So perhaps a future post in troubleshooting the CM Client is coming. 🙂
Ways I’d use this report.
Was the machine on?
Was someone logged on to machine?
Check Cache Size
Check Cache “levels”
Here’s a scenario, a new BIOS came out, I tested on my 1 test machine, (successfully), and wanted to test on another machine or two… well.. the old adage was true.. “I don’t always test, but when I do, I test in Production”. I used to have a collection for Each Model of Machine, and a collection that would list all machines of that model with a down-level version of the BIOS… see how I did it in this old Post HERE.
I’d right click on the collection, find a couple … “volunteers” (Computers On, No User logged On) and use the Rurun Deployment Right Click Tool to trigger the update. I’d use the Right Click Tools “Ping System” to watch it reboot and come back up, then I’d use the System Information Right Click Tool on the device to see if it now had the new version of the BIOS installed.
Using a combination of Right Click Tools, I could do several tests on “Pilot / Volunteer” computers with no user impact, all remotely.
I’d also like to see the overall “Cache Health” of a random sampling, I’d confirm that machines were getting the right Cache size via Policy, and look for any “odd” things… like an empty cache for example..
The System Information Tool, a great tool to give a collection overview and status of a large number of machines.
Over the past 7 years of being a ConfigMgr admin and having the Right Click Tools at my finger tips, one of them stands out as my most used tool: System Information. I’d consider this single Right Click Tool a Swiss Army Knife in your pocket.
You can run this tool on both individual Machines or on entire collections, as shown above it was run on my HP Laptop Device. This tool has made improvements overtime, and I’m quite sure will continue to have tweaks in the future. As you see, you get a nice overview of the machine, both OS & Hardware info in the General Tab. I’d often use this to confirm the BIOS Version right after I’d push a deployment to the test machine. Since this is data is pulling straight from the machine, you get instant results without having to wait for Hardware Inventory.
The Add/Remove Programs tab gives you a listing of the “Legacy” Applications installed. I’d often use this to remove rough / unapproved apps. The Rough app issue became much smaller once we setup AppLocker, but we still had some devs with local admin rights who liked to abuse things. This too is a nice spot check to make sure a machine updated Chrome / etc with the latest version you’re deploying. IT also provides the Uninstall String if available. I’d use this often to grab uninstall strings for scripting uninstalls to push out.
Windows Update, you guessed it, shows a list of installed updates, then allows you to link to the KB. Once again, I’d use this to confirm my ADRs were pushing updates to my Test group and that it was getting installed without having to wait for reporting to catch up. Also if you get a report from your security team of a machine missing patches, you can confirm / deny pretty quickly.
Services Tab gives a list of all Services, with options to Stop (If Running), Start (if Stopped) and set the Startup Type. This is handy when troubleshooting client issues, and you need to stop a service while you do some remote troubleshooting. This was also helpful if I was looking at a known-issue machine I received a ticket on, I could look for rouge services, perhaps malware, or look for services that should be running and aren’t, and vise-versa.
Drivers tab.. yep, as you can see the tab names are pretty self explanatory. I found this handy to confirm that a machine would get the drivers applied that I had in my driver packages for OSD / IPU.
User Profiles Tab shows a list of all profiles. I’ve seen machines with hundreds of profiles (Computer Lab Machines / Shared PCs). Now you can use GPO to have profiles auto clean up after X days, and I’d recommend doing that for several situations. I found this tool handy when I was trying to manually clean up a machine with low disk space. Your Service Desk will probably find this helpful too, they can remove their own profile from machines after they remoted to machines to assist users, or resolve issues.
Quickly check which users are in which groups, and remove someone if needed. Once again, handy on machines as a quick confirmation no funny business is going on with the admin group.
Lastly, the Battery Page. Ever think about kicking off a large deployment on a laptop and was like… sure hope it’s plugged in or has a lot of battery, take a quick glance here to make sure you’re not causing a bigger problem by kicking off that deployment (Rerun Deployment Right Click Tool).
Bonus Tips… COPY & PASTE.. EVERYTHING. Pastes really nicely into Excel as well.
Personal Pros: It gets information real-time by connecting to the machine and pulling back the info, so it’s not limited to waiting on hardware inventory.
Personal Cons: It’s Real-time, meaning if the machine is off, no data. Typically this wasn’t a huge deal, WOL (using another Right Click Tool) would wake the machines up and I could get the info.
Overall, I love this tool and use it a ton as a CM admin (often being 3rd tier support for Service Desk) and back when I was on the Service desk. This one tool pretty much gives you a complete picture of the machine in question with the ability to do some basic tasks all in one spot.
Another one of my Top 10 Right Click Tools is Advanced Collection Information. Right now you’re thinking, ha, that tool is obsolete, in 1906, ConfigMgr now gives a list of collections a machine is in the lower pane. At first glance, you’d be right, however, once you launch the tool and take a closer look, you’ll see some additional useful information.
Collections: List of all Collections the machine is in, along with the folder location of said collection and the collection ID.
Collection Variables: List of Variables applied to the machine from the collection it is in. Useful to confirm / troubleshoot when these variables are used in a Task Sequence, like enabling Debug Mode in 1906.
Maintenance Windows: List of Maintenance Windows that are applied to this machine. Ever wonder why or why not a deployment didn’t run when expected, could be a Maintenance Window. Execmgr and status messages will help point to this, as they will say the deployment is ready, but waiting for an available maintenance window.
Power Plans: I didn’t grab a screen capture, I’ve actually never used CM to create Power Plans, but if I did, I’d find this tab useful. 🙂
So hopefully you can see, while ConfigMgr continues to add features and enhance the UI, Right Click Tools add value to the ConfigMgr Console and make the ConfigMgr admin’s life easier.
This week, I wanted to highlight another nifty little tool, which is great for troubleshooting and reporting. Before I tell you which one it is, I’m going to talk about something instrumental in ConfigMgr, but not something we often think about, Status Messages.
What are Status Messages: In System Center Configuration Manager, status messages are the universal means for components to communicate information about their health to the System Center Configuration Manager administrator. Status messages are similar to Windows NT Events; they have a severity, ID, description, and so on. – Microsoft Docs
If you want to go info deeper details about the messages themselves, Microsoft Docs has you pretty well covered. So what do I use them for? Personally, I live in a world of Task Sequences and Deployments, and while Status messages can tell you so much more, I find them primarily useful to keep me notified about a deployment for a machine is doing.
Several canned CM reports rely on status message data to surface data about Deployments. This is very helpful when trying to do near-real-time reporting. You can Monitor deployments, like see which step of a Tasks Sequence a machine is on, how many machines have started a Deployment, or worse, how many have failed a deployment.
Downside of Status Messages, requires network connectivity. This is fine most of the time, but lets say you have deployments running while a machine is offline (Powered On, but not connected to the network). Guess what, you aren’t getting those status messages, but that deployment is going, or not going, and you have no idea. You won’t really know until it comes back online, and you get updates via Hardware Inventory.
So, yeah, the reports are great, and when monitoring large deployments of machines, you’ll want to use the reports, but when you’re troubleshooting, and are focusing on one machine, I just want to stay in the console, where all my tools are. That’s when this nifty Recast Right Click Tool comes in, All Status Messages / Device Status Messages.
From a Deployment
This will show all Status Messages from ALL computers for that deployment, which can get busy, but also help in tracking down patterns.
From a Device
You can see here that it’s pulling back all the Status Messages for this specific machine. I also noticed that the upgrade task sequence has been failing on this machine, which I honestly wasn’t expecting. It’s nice that there is so much info in the Status Messages.
To be clear, the Config Manager Status Message Viewer is built into ConfigMgr, you can pull up this same data without the Recast Right Click Tools. What Recast Right Click Tools provide is a shortcut to this Viewer, that pre-populates the Viewer with the deployment info or Computer name, saving you a step and making it easily accessible. Much of what the Right Click Tools do is surface information, and shorten processes to get to data, enabling the admins to be more effective in their roles. This is another great example of a tool that reduces the “mount of clicks required to access this data, and also putting it front and center as a reminder when I right click on a machine, that this data is available.
Good hook of a title right? Here’s why I say that, LAPS (Local Admin Password Solution) has been around for several years, and I’d be willing to bet, a lot of orgs haven’t implemented it yet (total guess here, no actual data, other than my twitter survey shown below). Good news, many have, as I had at a previous employer. It’s simple to setup, and greatly reduces a previously easily exploitable attach vector. LAPS … mitigates the risk of lateral escalation that results when customers use the same administrative local account and password combination on their computers . -Microsoft
So there you have it, you have it setup, if not, see previous post, now you move on with your operational duties and focus on what fire your manager throws at you today. Why is that? Who seriously did client health for LAPS once it was setup? Who confirmed it was working on all end points? I certainly didn’t, I had “bigger fish to fry”. But as with any implementation, you need to check up on it from time to time. This shouldn’t be a surprise, you do this with the ConfigMgr Client, you monitor Client health, perhaps even implemented auto remediation scripts. You probably monitor your AV / Anti-Malware system, IDS, Disk Encryption, etc. So why not LAPS?
So the team at Recast Software created a nifty dashboard for you to monitor your LAPS “health”. This is included in the Enterprise version of the Right Click Tools. Here is an image from their Documentation, has a bit more date than my little lab:
Why I like this is because I’m already in the CM Console every day, to have a dashboard for LAPS, to keep it visible and at the front of our minds, I find this highly useful. It only takes a few seconds, pull it up, check my stats, and move on. If I find an anomaly, I can start looking into it.
What else do I like? Glad you asked, I like that I can look up the passwords here. No need to make a special package for my Service Desk Techs to be able to lookup passwords, they already have the CM Console, now I just grant them permissions to this feature and they now have a powerful tool for when they need to look up these passwords for their support needs.
Is that all? Nope, I like that I can export this list to CSV file, and provide it to the Security Team / Audit Folks, who want to confirm compliance.
Currently in version 4.0, this dashboard is querying AD to see which computers have a LAPS password. In 4.1, additional features are planned to be incorporated into this dashboard, which will require additional permissions, but I’ll cover that once it’s released.
So how do you set this up? I’ve got the Right Click Tools Enterprise license and setup the Recast Management Server, what are the permissions I need to allow my Service Desk to view this dashboard? What permissions are required to allow my Service Desk the ability to view the passwords? I’m going to go over that, building off of my last post where I setup LAPS and created AD Groups with different permissions for LAPS. Assumptions before continuing: You have Specific AD Groups you want to grant permissions to.
First, in my Lab, I have my Service Desk Tier 1 -3 Support positions have different access to the CM Console. I want all of them to have the ability to see the Dashboards and pull up the passwords. In CM:
Before I add any permissions, this is what the Dashboard would look like without the proper permissions: (Using Service Desk Tier 1 User)
So now we know what it looks like when you don’t have rights, lets add some permissions. In Recast Management Server, I’ve created a ReLAPS role with just permissions for the ReLAPS console. Testing with 3 “Rights” from the options.. getting close…
Ok, this looks better: (Still using a Service Desk Tier 1 User)
So what does this look like in the Recast Management Server Console?
Created a ReLAPS Role with minimum requirements for ReLAPS console.
Then added the LAPS Read Only Group, and assigned it to the ReLAPS Role:
Ok, now you can rest easy knowing your Service Desk has the ability to do the only tasks you want them to do, and no more. Sure, you probably already granted them far more rights to use other tools already, but hey, if you find you have a need to only allow users to view that Dashboard, you will now know how.
In a future post, once Right Click Tools 4.1 is released, I’ll be creating an updated post with the additional permissions required. I’m also thinking about going into scoping LAPS, ie allowing Server Admins to only see Server LAPS passwords and Service Desk to only see Workstation LAPS passwords. Let me know if this is something of interest.
Ever wonder why a machine doesn’t show up in a collection? You added it, either manually, <Start Plug for great product> or via an awesome tool like the Recast Right Click Tools “Add Computer to Collection(s)” <End Plug> and when you show the members of the collection, it just never shows up? I have, and it nearly drove me crazy, or perhaps a deeper level of crazy than I already am. So, why does it do that anyway? That’s what I’m intending to explain in this post.
What this Post is NOT. Collection Evaluation Troubleshooting, there are already plenty of great posts out there that give guidance in that area.
There are several things that affect, or is it effect… whichever.. the resulting collection membership, or the evaluated results.
Direct Membership Rules
Collection Queries: The process of dynamically adding machines to a collection based on criteria or properties of computers. Common queries are based on:
Hardware Type (Make / Model)
Operating System Information
For some pre-created Community Queries, check out Ander’s Post Example of a Query for 1709 Computers
Direct Membership Rules: Simple 1 to 1 mapping of Computers. This is when you manually add Computers into a Collection, either individually or via Batch, like I blogged about recently.
In this example, you can see the Direct Members that have been added to this Collection. If your collection ONLY has direct members, there is no point in checking the boxes for updating the collection.
Include Collections: When you “Nest” Collections. Collection A includes Collection B & C. This is when things become a bit more complex, but still straight forward. Why? Say you already have several collections based on Queries, Marketing & Sales or Windows 1607 and Windows 1709. Lets say you want to deploy a Task Sequence to Both Marketing & Sales, why make two deployments? Why Create a new Collection with 2 Queries, you already have those machines in collections, create a new Collection that Includes both and deploy to that. Example below of Include Collection, contains two other collections. 1607 (4 devices) & 1709 (7 Devices) = Total of 11 Devices in New Collection. 10 VMs and 1 Dell, this will be useful to know in the next example.
Exclude Collection: When you Nest a Collection of machines you want Excluded from your collection results. This is where it can be really tricky and make you scratch your head a bit. In this example, we’ll build off our last, we left the collection with 11 devices, but I want to exclude Dell’s from the upgrade, because they are not compatible with 1809 (just hypothetical). You can see in this example, I have 1 Dell machine, now that it’s been excluded, the total of machines goes down to 10. Simple right?
Now, it’s not just that simple, this example ONLY works because the Dell machine is actually running 1709, which means it was in the 1709 Collection that was included. So while it’s still in the 1709 Collection which is included, the exclude rule overrides the include rule and the Dell Machine is removed from the 1809 Deployment Collection.
Exclude Collections are great for keeping yourself safe… say you have a group of high risk machines, you create a “High Risk” Collection, and exclude it from all of your normal deployments, just make sure you’re still dealing with those high risk machines. While Exclude collections are great to keep you safe, what’s even better, using a Limiting Collection which we’ll be taking about next.
Alright, so we’ve covered the ways you add machines and exclude them from collections, but one other way to limit the machines that can be in the collection is by a limiting collection.
Limiting Collection: The collection by which you limit another collection. Say you have a collection of all Machines for a line of business “Marketing”, and they are the only group that you know has approved upgrading to 1809 from 1607 and 1709. At this point, you’d have one confusing query.. All Machines that are 1607 and 1709, but not Dell, and only in Marketing… argh. However, with Includes, Excludes, and Limiting Collections, it makes it very simple. For the example, lets take a look at our Marketing Collection:
So now that we know the Pool we want to pull from, we can Limit our Deployment Collection to only Machines in Marketing.
So the final tally? 6 Machines will receive the deployment. Break down of the Deployment Collection:
Include 1607 Machines +4
Include 1709 Machines +7
Exclude Dell -1
Total = 10 Machines of All Workstations fit the above criteria
Limit by Machines in Marketing that fit the above criteria = 6
So while there are 10 Machines in the Marketing Collection, 4 of them do not fit within the criteria and have been excluded (the HP, and the Machines not on 1607 or 1709).
Now lets say, you get a request to add someone to get the 1809 deployment, so you think “Hey, I’ll just quick add a computer to the collection via direct membership so the user gets the deployment on their computer.” So you go ahead and add the 1709 computer to the collection, but they never get the deployment… you look at the Collection to see the members, and you don’t see the machine you added, but you check the direct membership and you see it there, what is going on?? aaaahhhhhh!
Then you finally remember, LIMITING COLLECTION! “PC08” isn’t in Marketing, the computer will not be evaluated to be in the collection due to limiting the collection membership to only machines in the Marketing Collection!
So now I hope you understand how collection memberships work, how Direct Membership on a Collection doesn’t always equal what the evaluated membership is. There are a lot of moving parts to Collections, of which any can drastically change the collection membership.
Hey Recast Right Click Tools users. This is a nifty tip that I often forget about, but is pretty powerful when adding or removing machines to and from collections. Bonus.. learn about Direct Membership vs Evaluated Membership.
Blog Summary: Wild Cards!
Lets say I want to add all machines that start with “town” into a collections… wild cards make this simple.
In this Demo, I highlighted 2 collections at the same time, and launch the tool “Add Computers to Collection(s)”
I’ve added my wildcard name, %town%, lets see what happens:
You can see here, it has added the machines with the string ‘town’ in the name into the collections.
Something also to note, in my demo I have one collection limited to “All System” (FYI not a good practice) and one collection limited to 1607 machines collection. After I’ve added the devices, you can see the collection counts are different, as only 1 machine in the batch is in the 1607 collection (the limiting collection). If I show the evaluated results of that collection, there would only be 1 device, as opposed to the direct membership there would be 14, the same as the collection without a limiting collection.
Now, lets say you want to remove machines that have the word “pc” or “hp” in the name, and leave the rest…
Pretty simple. After the removals, there are only 3 devices in each collection (Direct Membership), and the one with a limiting collection now evaluates to 0 machines, because none of the machines in that collection are part of the 1607 Collection.
I hope this demo shows the power of the Add / Remove Computers Right Click Tools, along with the difference between Direct Collection Membership and Evaluated Collection Membership.