Archive for July, 2011

This post is about a somewhat hidden option of WDS, which allows you to modify the default behavior the WDS PXE provider/listener.

While this isn’t per se entirely new to everyone, I do find it worth elaborating the uses of this option.

There might be multiple scenario’s where you might find the need to be able to select from which server you actually want to PXE boot from, without specifying with the wdsutil a server that a device should boot to (specify /ReferralServer:<server name>).

The best example I can give you, is that you’re wanting to try to implement System Center Configuration Manager. So lets say you want to try to get to know the product, you’d run it in your lab or test environment which also already has a regular WDS(+MDT; fully optional though) server and it’s used to build your reference images on. Now you could stop the WDS service on that server or shut the server down entirely, but another option would be to allow you to select from which server you want to boot the client pc when it’s doing a PXE boot. There’s one small “requirement” for this setup though,

The “regular” WDS server, which uses the WDS PXE listener, needs to be the server that responds to clients first. So the response delay needs to be lower then the response time of the PXE listener of the SCCM PXE service point. This will ensure that the WDS PXE listener is used to “catch” the clients that are sending out PXE boot requests. Now to enable the usage of the server selection screen, you will need to edit a value in the registry.

You can paste the code below into a text file and save it as .reg to update the value for you, or browse to it manually and edit the value from 0 to 1. After this change the WDS service needs to be restarted.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\WDSServer\Providers\WDSPXE\Providers\BINLSVC]
"AllowServerSelection"=dword:00000001

 

Once this change has been made, the next time a client will boot from PXE, the screen will be slightly different. In the first screenshot below, I’ve already pressed F11 to start the discovery of PXE servers. Once it has found all servers, it will bring you to the second screen, notice how it lists the second server as [UNKOWN] ? the reason behind this is because it actually uses a different PXE provider (SMSPXE instead of BINLSVC). And SMSPXE cannot be configured from the registry like BINLSVC can, SMSPXE can only be configured from the SCCM console, and has less options available for configuration. That’s the reason behind leaving the “regular” WDS server as the primary PXE boot server.

 

I hope you found this informative, if you have any questions feel free to email me or leave a comment.

 

Kind regards,

Stephan Schwarz

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Andrew Barnes recently posted on his blog how to make use of BGinfo with the LiteTouch WindowsPE environment to show some very usefull local information (or simply change the background during certain steps in the task sequence if you wanted, since that works too). The main downside of BGinfo, or WindowsPE (depends which you want to blame) is that BGinfo will only work in the 32-bit/x86 WindowsPE environment. This is due to the fact that BGinfo is a 32-bit application and WindowsPE x64 does not have the Windows on Windows subsystem to provide compatibility with applications that are 32-bit.

This actually reminded me of a new feature which will be added to MDT2012, it’s cross-platform installation support. While this actually isn’t entirely “new” as this has been supported with the Windows Setup client from Windows Vista. There’s a catch though, from an 32-bit WinPE you can install both x86 and x64 images. On the other hand, with a 64-bit WinPE you can only install x64 images, x86 images will simply be filtered out. Since WDS uses pretty much the same Windows Setup, the same was supported for WDS as it was for normal media installations although in the latter one you would have to create your custom install.wim that would contain all the different windows editions.

I personally am a minimalist regarding pretty much everything, the fewer things my technicians are able to choose from the less support I have to provide. While I’m still testing out MDT2012 in my dev. environment to make sure all my custom scripts are still working as intended, eventually I plan to switch to this cross-platform installation method from a 32-bit WinPE with MDT2012 instead of having both an x64 and x86 boot image (it’s just the scripts of MDT2010 that didn’t contain the logic for this). There are a few pro’s and only one con I can think of with this new “feature”.

Pros:

  • Both x86 and x64 architecture task sequences are available from 1 WinPE boot image.
  • It’s possible to use BGinfo along with x64 installations (since you’re running from a x86 environment)
  • Since Trace64.exe isn’t available via an official download, you can use Trace32.exe for local logfile reading without needing to download Trace64.exe from a possible unsafe source.

Cons:

  • Since both x86 and x64 task sequences are available in the task sequence list, and depending on how many task sequences you have, you might be presented with a huge list of task sequences to choose from. Now for this part I’m actually writing this post.

You might have noticed that task sequences and applications when placed in folders, these folders will (for most users) open by default in expanded mode. At first I didn’t know where to look for a feature or function to leave the folders collapsed by default. There’s no option for that, at least not a “clickable” one. One method would be to change the MDT scripts, which I personally rather leave as they are, but the method I’ll describe here is far easier.

The default behaviour of MDT is to show task sequences/applications in the root (obviously) and if you create one folder and place either ts’s or apps in there, this folder will be expanded to show the contents of it. However, if you create another folder inside these tier 1 folders, then these tier 2 folders will stay collapsed when the wizard prompts you to select a task sequence or application. To visualize this a bit more I’ll place a screenshot below; this is actually a screenshot of the MDT2012 Beta to show you that within a 32-bit Windows PE, now both my x86 and x64 task sequences are shown. Note: On the screenshot, I have not manually expanded any folder, the way it’s shown is how MDT will expand/collapse folders by default.

MDT 2012 Beta TS selection

Knowing this, should help you prevent enormously large lists of task sequences and applications you need to scroll through. But what now if you actually would want to sort these? Keith Garner from XtremeDeployments created two tools to help you manually sort task sequences and applications using a simple UI. I encourage you to read his post at http://deployment.xtremeconsulting.com/2009/12/09/mdt-2010-application-ordering-new-tool/ for the working of the applications and their limitations. I noticed that the task sequence sorting tool link does not work anymore, however you can get both of the tools from his skydrive. While these tools have been written for mdt 2010, they work without problems on the mdt 2012 beta, my hopes are that they will not break with the final release :).

Note: Another usefull thing to know is when you change the order that Applications are listed, that’ll be the order that the applications will be installed. Normally you can only arrange the installation order of Applications by creating an application bundle.

I hope you enjoyed the read, if you have any comments about my writing style just drop a line; afterall I’m new to all this :).

Kind regards,

Stephan-

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Last week I’ve received an unexpected email from an @microsoft email account, which for some reason found it’s way into my spam mailbox (really, why??).

 

MCC2011 Award

Dear Stephan,

Congratulations! We’re pleased to inform you that your contributions to Microsoft online technical communities have been recognized with the Microsoft Community Contributor Award.

The Microsoft Community Contributor Award is reserved for participants who have made notable contributions in Microsoft online community forums such as TechNet, MSDN and Answers.
The value of these resources is greatly enhanced by participants like you, who voluntarily contribute your time and energy to improve the online community experience for others.

<cut>login information :)</cut>

Thank you for your commitment to Microsoft online technical communities and congratulations again!

Nestor Portillo
Director
Community & Online Support, Microsoft

Receiving such an award means alot to me, and I do feel honoured to be considered as someone who improves the online community experience. It certainly encourages me to keep on helping others
and sharing information whenever I can.

Kind regards and a big thank you,

Stephan Schwarz

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