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

Right Click Tool Highlight: System Information – Collection Mode

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.

Yes, that’s right Right Click Tool inside a Right Click Tool! How handy is that?

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.

Posted on RecastSoftware.Com

Right Click Tool Highlight: System Information – Device Mode

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.

Interested in giving it a try? Download Right Click Tools and test drive the System Information Tool and over 80 others.

Posted on RecastSoftware.com

Right Click Tools Highlight: Advanced Collection Information

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.


Status Messages and a Nifty Right Click Tool

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.


Tools: Add and Remove Computers To/From Collection

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.

Posted on RecastSoftware.com