Enterprise Customers Upgrading Recast Server 3.2 to 4.0

Upgrading from 3.2 to 4.0 has some special steps to get you upgraded. Due to the large infrastructure changes, and new features in 4.0, a simple upgrade, migrating settings just isn’t possible.

Items that don’t migrate: permissions/roles, lab manager profile (now renamed Kiosk manager), and Builder actions.  In order to help recreate them in 4.0, we recommend you document the permissions and export the lab/kiosk and Builder items before the upgrade. Then load them into a 3.2 standalone enterprise install afterwards, so you can reference them when you recreate them on 4.0.

Good news, future releases will be the simple upgrade. Before going much further, the official docs for the Installation of 4.0 are here, along with detailed info.

Lets do a quick reminder of the backend differences:

Recast Enterprise Server 3.2 Control Panel
Enterprise Server 4.0 Admin Center (Browser Based)

Starting the Upgrade, if running on the same server, you’ll notice right off the bat additional Pre-Reqs are needed to support 4.0.
Recast Server requires a domain joined Windows Server 2008 R2 or later server for installation with IIS enabled, the .NET Core Hosting Bundle needs to be installed, and a SQL Server Express (or better) server needs to be available. If the .NET Core Hosting Bundle was installed before IIS was installed, you will need to repair the .NET Core Hosting Bundle installation.

On my Recast 3.2 Server, before starting the upgrade, I already installed SQL Server 2017 Express LocalDB and SQL Server Management Studio [OPTIONAL] to manage the Database. I also installed the IIS Feature. [which was already installed because this server doubles as a ConfigMgr Management Point]

Now I’ll install the other Pre-Reqs, clicking the Link brings up the website, launching the installer, then checking the box and clicking “Install”

Now that .Net Core is installed, re-launch the Installer, and follow the Prompts

I choose to re-use the Cert from when 3.2 was installed.
Reminder, I’m using SQL Express on local machine, if you use Remote SQL, you’ll need to change this. Make sure you read the words on the dialog boxes.

Make sure the “Test SQL Connection” returns “Success”

After installing, you can see 3.2 is no longer installed. The 4.0 Installer removed 3.2.

After the Install is finished, it will prompt for Reboot, which is highly recommend. If you don’t and you launch the web console, you’ll find yourself quite annoyed at the behavior of being prompted over and over again for creds. Just reboot and save yourself a little frustration.
Once rebooted, go ahead and launch the Browser Based Console (From any machine that can connect to port 444 on the Recast Management Server)

Things to Note:

Community Tool: ConfigMgr Prerequisites Tool

If you have any questions, or want to discuss your upgrade or install before you make the jump, please contact support and schedule a time to cover them.

Right Click Tools 4.0 – Kiosk Manager

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”

A list of options, if you check the box, additional dialog boxes will be presented

For this example, lets display all of the options.

Choose the account that will automatically Logon to the Machine.
Here you can Replace the Shell, with any application you’d like, perhaps a Testing Application, or Browser.
Lets set the Computer to reboot automatically after 30 minutes of inactivity.
Choose which folders you’d like to delete on restart, from a pre-selected list or custom.
Here enable a Whitelist feature, and choose which sites you’d like to allow. It already has some presets you can add [Pearson], or create your own.
Here you can disable keys on the keyboard.
Setting the volume to a specific level, or even mute.

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”

You can deploy the profile now, or schedule it for later, like after classes are done today, but before they come in for testing tomorrow.

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.

When you apply a Template, the machine will reboot to apply the Template. So, keep that in the back of your mind.

After the reboot, the machine performs the auto-logon with the account information provided, it then launches the replacement shell, in this case, Chrome.

Auto Logon & Launches Chrome in FULL Screen Mode. No Start Menu.

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.

So we’re going to add a few more entries from the RecastSoftware Site that we see in Developer Mode.

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.

Announcing Right Click Tools 4.0 – What’s New Overview

Recast Software recently released Right Click Tools 4.0. Updates include minor enhancements to the Community edition and an entire infrastructure overhaul to the Enterprise edition. Here’s a quick overview on what’s new:

  • Architecture Improvements:
    • Recast Proxy, adds Multi-Domain / Workgroup Support
  • Kiosk: Manage Kiosk devices quickly via custom templates you can create inside the tool. [Blog Post]
  • Unified Write Filters: Lock down a machine, controlling which areas of the drive are write-able, and which ones revert each reboot.
  • Builder: Used for automate repetitious console actions. [Blog Post]
  • Action Tools
    • System Information Update
      • Adds Windows 10 Build info
      • Adds Battery Info Tab
  • Dashboards: Quick view of your environment’s status for Software Updates, LAPS & Bitlocker.
    • Export to CSV, allows you to easily capture the data for further manipulation and reporting.

Deep dive blog posts will be coming for each of those new features soon, so stay tuned!

What does this mean for Community edition users? It means that the powerful tool set continues to evolve with each release. As for the Enterprise customers, there was a lot of movement under the hood in this release. Nearly a complete re-write of the code base to help align future development with an agile work flow, allowing a more rapid release cadence. Along with architecture improvements, you’ll see drastic changes in Builder. If you used it before, you’ll really appreciate the update to this automation engine.

Expect upcoming blog posts to cover these updates in further detail and examples of how to leverage them.

In the meantime, download Right Click Tools 4.0 today and test drive the new features (receive 30 days of Enterprise free when you download the tools).


Announcing Right Click Tools 4.0 – Whats New in Builder

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.

Choose Parameter Mapping
Choose the Node that has the Parameters Available (Start Node)

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

Lets you choose Now or Schedule

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

View : Tabbed Results.

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.

Give it a try by downloading the latest 4.0 release from Recastsoftware.com.

Posted on RecastSoftware.com