Process “Hibernation” Utility

September 25, 2009

Guy Leech, a contributor on this AppSense Blog has developed a utility to pause processes, minimize the process/application window, free up the Memory while paused, and provide the option to resume process at later date.

Here is the article intro along with link to the original post (containing the download):

“Ever have the need to pause a process so that you can come back to it later – maybe something that is resource hungry, difficult to get back to the same point in if you quit it or possibly doesn’t work when away from the corporate network? Then this is the utility for you – via a simple user interface it allows you to pause and resume any of your running applications/processes.”

Read more about this cool utility with option to download it here


Some Citrix XenDesktop Troubleshooting Tips

September 23, 2009

I have recently had to build a new Citrix XenDesktop environment for some testing which included Citrix Provisioning Server and Citrix XenServer. Along the way, I had various issues and struggled to find a single, comprehensive, troubleshooting article so I am going to have a stab at it here since I had to go through various tests in order to sort my issues. Having said this, there are some very good technotes on the Citrix web site here – http://support.citrix.com/product/xd/v3.0/technote/

  1. Enable logging for the Workstation Agent and ensure that access to the C$ share of the master XenDesktop image is enabled, including a firewall exception for file sharing. This is so that you can get at the log file without having to log on interactively to the image. See this article for how to enable the logging by a simple edit to the WorkstationAgent.exe.config file:  http://support.citrix.com/article/CTX117452 

    Obviously ensure that the Workstation Agent (Citrix Desktop Service) is successfully starting, as are other Citrix services, and the log shows it registering with the DDC.

  2. The event logs are also obviously another place to look when things fail although this can be tricky if your VM has been connected enough to want to reboot when the connection attempt has failed.
  3. You can also enable logging for the Desktop Delivery Controller service which is detailed in the link above. Ensure that the DDC service and other Citrix ones start successfully.
  4. PortICA logging can be enabled – http://support.citrix.com/article/CTX118837 – which could show potential ICA problems. It didn’t for me but will stay enabled in my base image whilst I am still testing.
  5. Citrix tracing tool (CDF – Citrix Diagnostic Facility) – this didn’t help me as it only currently supports a small number of client side features such as USB. It can also be run on the machine running the Workstation Agent but I didn’t do this.  http://support.citrix.com/article/CTX120269
  6. I did have some errors when using the XenDesktop Setup Wizard so I followed the steps to get a log file for this. I couldn’t get the log produced via the command line so ended up modifying the .config file as described here: http://support.citrix.com/article/CTX118278 

    My issues actually turned out, I think, to do with the fact that the template I was specifying in the wizard had an 8GB disk attached (it was my Gold Build VM that was booting off the PvS disk but still had the original hard drive in case I needed to rebuild the PvS disk) so each new VM created by the wizard was creating a new 8GB disk and I simply didn’t have the storage for it (not that I got an error suggesting this). I therefore created a new VM in XenServer that had the memory, NIC and CPUs I wanted but had no hard disk so actually didn’t have an OS installed (it never even got booted). This doesn’t matter since the OS comes from the vdisk/vhd you specify, separately, in the wizard.

  7. Check that you can logon with the required accounts to the VMs in your XenCenter/XenServer console. This should show any domain joining or account issues, e.g. expiry or permissions. Also check network connectivity to/from them.
  8. Fire up your gold image VM, since it should be on a standard image disk so the changes will be lost when it shuts down, add it to a new desktop group without a hosting infrastructure so that you just use the name of the VM in the group. This should tell you if the problem was something funny about the desktop group or the VMs that comprised it.
  9. My issue was that I was launching the connection from Web Interface but I wasn’t getting a session, just a failure popup – “Unable to connect to the desktop. This may be a temporary problem. Click OK and then try starting the desktop again. If the problem persists, contact your system administrator”. Before acknowledging the failure popup, look in your %temp% folder for the ICA file that it dynamically created. It won’t be a .ica file but instead will most likely be a .tmp file although will probably start “ica*”– easily spotted by modification time, particularly if you sort on modification time. It is actually the argument to cdsbar.exe if you look in Task Manger on Vista or with SysInternals/Microsoft Process Explorer. Open the ica file in notepad and check that it makes sense – e.g. is connecting to the right thing (“Address=”) and that the entity can be resolved/contacted. Note that the ica file, in best Mission Impossible style, will self destruct, i.e. be deleted, when you ok the failure popup thanks to the “RemoveICAFile=On” line. Note also that there is little point in saving the ica file for later use since it has a logon ticket in there which most likely will have expired.
  10. This leads on to checking that port 1494 is accessible in the virtual desktop by telnetting to it. However, port 1494 is only alive for a brief while after the connection is initiated so wait a few seconds after you have clicked on the icon to launch the session in Web Interface, or Program Neighborhood, before trying the telnet. When accessing a pool, look at the temporary ICA file to figure out which machine to check or reduce the pool to a single machine. We are not really looking for anything here other than the connection succeeds although you will probably see the characters “ICA” displayed.
  11. As by this stage all logs were looking fine and port 1494 was working, I put on a network monitor, in this case SysInternals/Microsoft Process Monitor, on my client machine (the one accessing Web Interface) and filtered on wfica32.exe. This is when I found that some traffic was going through my proxy that I hadn’t allowed for – bingo, problem solved when the proxy was disabled. In my defence, I had tried accessing from a different client (this should probably be a separate line item in this troubleshooting “guide”) but that had also failed, albeit probably for different reasons as it wasn’t using a proxy.
  12. Watch for proxies! Obviously configure them as necessary or disable them.
  13. I did have some “funnies” with my XP VMs created by the XenDesktop Setup Wizard and running off PvS. I think they were because after creation I had switched the master disk away from Standard Image mode. My excuse is that you have to manually hit F5 to do a refresh after changing vDisk properties and I didn’t! I was actually getting the error described here: http://forums.citrix.com/message.jspa?messageID=1393521 

    Sometimes the streaming console (StreamConsole.exe) on the PvS box can help diagnose these kinds of issue. Unfortunately it didn’t in this case.

  14. I also got caught by my base image having miniscule event log sizes (64KB) so even though they weren’t up for long, it was enough for them to fill up and not to overwrite so it was back to the base image to set larger sizes and set them to overwrite as needed.


How To Guide: Streaming Microsoft Office with Citrix XenApp 5 – Best Practice Guide & Licensing Overview

August 27, 2009

Citrix Technology Professional (CTP) Alexander Ervik Johnsen has written a very useful piece on how to Profile and Stream Microsoft Office 2007 using Citrix XenApp 5.0

This is a great guide and covers how to stream Office to a desktop, or, into a Citrix XenDesktop session.  His article and guide can be found on his website here.

Further to the actual process of profiling and streaming the Office application, I also want to ensure everyone is aware of the Microsoft Per Device Licensing Model for Server Hosted Applications.

Many Microsoft applications, including Microsoft Office™, Project™ and Visio™, are licensed on a per-device basis. This means a desktop application license is required for each and every device that is able to potentially access the application or server where the application is installed, regardless of whether a user executes and runs the application of not.  This makes licensing Microsoft applications in virtual environments a tricky, potentially very costly, and misunderstood subject. 

One misconception is that by ‘publishing’ or ’streaming’ applications to a limited “user” group, that group is compliant with the Microsoft license agreement – in other words, Microsoft licenses their applications per user.  This is in fact in breach of the Microsoft licensing model, and can lead to legal action.

I have written a blog, which also includes official Microsoft approved whitepapers on how to control and enforce application access and license compliance on a per device basis  in such virtual environments,  that blog can be found here

In addition to helping ensure compliance, effective license control and management can also reduce Microsoft License requirements and associated costs – more information on this can be found here.

If anyone has any questions or comments, as always, please do let me know.

Thanks
Gareth


VDI Personalization and Configuration: Profile Management & Logon Scripts – not enough for multiple delivery mechanisms & OS platforms?

July 24, 2009

As a leading user environment management vendor, AppSense are in a unique position in that we have been involved many VDI projects and rollouts, of which the majority vary in architecture, technology and requirements.  One thing that does however remain the same between such projects is that of the requirement for user personalization management.

For many years the roaming profile provided user personalization in SBC environments, however as VDI deployments become more and more complex, with varying methods of desktop and applications delivery, along with multiple desktop operating systems and subsequently, profile versions, the roaming profile is no longer able to provide the user with their required settings in such (complex?) scenarios.

Furthermore, these desktops must now be constructed and configured based on the context of the user and/or connecting device.  i.e. mapping specific printers local to the user and device dependent on the location of the user logging on, or applying security policies to hide or remove access to network drives, folders, data and functionality such as copy and paste or print, again, based on the location of the user.  Whereby the desktop delivered to a user when connected locally inside the corporate LAN is different to that of the desktop delivered to the same user when connecting remotely from outside of the LAN.

One more point to consider is that of enabling the user to freely roam between the server hosted or provisioned virtual desktop, and the users local desktop device such as their PC or roaming laptop.  How do you as IT enable user settings to automically follow the user between different platforms?

AppSense Environment Manager was designed from the ground-up with functionality to accommodate the above requirements, making it, or, other user environment management solutions essential to the mass adoption of VDI on an enterprise scale.  In essence, AppSense provides the ability to encompass multiple delivery technologies and OS platforms by allowing the user to roam between the paradigms without any noticeable change to their desktop or user experience, enabling IT and the organization to benefit from flexibility, agility and lower TCO.  I do at this point want to highlight that this is different to the personalization management provided by the leading VDI vendors (Citrix, Microsoft, VMware etc), as their in-built functionality is typically designed for their delivery platform, not each other’s.   In essence, further to the advanced personalization and simplification of desktop management, AppSense also enables an organization to use combinations of both existing technologies, and (potentially) more importantly, any future VDI delivery technologies and vendors.
 
I have just found a very nice blog covering the functionality of not only AppSense Environment Manager, but also the base technology inherent within the leading VDI service providers – Citrix, VMware and Microsoft.  Hopefully from this blog post, and the information over at GenerationV, you will see how AppSense bridges the gap between the roaming user and a dynamic, flexible VDI model..

For more information on this, the GenerationV Profile Management blog can be found here