My Favorite Ignite 2017 Sessions

Just a heads-up: Not all of the sessions I attended or enjoyed most are posted yet.  And some sessions might not have been recorded (expo area mostly).  Also, some of the videos have flaky audio.  Enjoy!

[ PLACEHOLDER FOR ASK THE EXPERTS: WINDOWS 10 DEPLOYMENT AND SERVICING SESSION ]

[ PLACEHOLDER FOR BRANCH CACHE SESSION (when it becomes available) ]

[ PLACEHOLDER FOR EXPERT LEVEL WINDOWS DEPLOYMENT SESSION (when it becomes available) ]

Advertisements

I Finally Got a Nap after MS Ignite 2017

Microsoft Ignite 2017.  Orlando Florida.  September 2017

It’s been a week indeed.  This post might be humorous, and it might not be.  My brain is still re-assembling after a busy week and finally getting some much-needed sleep.  This is a rambling post, so I won’t blame you for skipping it (TL/DR), but if you’re ready, here goes…

20170925_125013_HDR

20170925_124650_HDR

20170927_113535_HDR

20170928_215445.jpg

20170928_140923

20170926_091919_HDR.jpg

The Travel

I flew into Orlando on Sunday.  As I left, my cat gave me the finger and my dog took a dump on the floor near my suitcase, which is how she lets me know she’ll miss me.  All good.  My air travel frequency had died down since July, but I was happily surprised that it was one of the first flights in a while without a single screw-up.  In fact, we arrived ten minutes ahead of schedule.  I stayed at the Renaissance Hotel, which was very very nice, and the staff couldn’t have been more nice.  The flight back home was uneventful as well, and I arrived at midnight to a tiny little airport with my wife waiting in the car outside.

The Techy Stuff

There was a lot to absorb this year at Ignite.  There were plenty of announcements, rumors, corrected rumors, re-corrected rumors, rumors about corrected rumors, and some incredible events that played out, which I had no idea would happen.

There was plenty of discussion about Configuration Manager, the new Intune/EMS capabilities, and co-management of devices.  There were also quite a few sessions and discussions around Windows AutoPilotWindows AutoPilot, and Automatic Redeployment, as well as Tenant-Locking.  There was plenty going on about Azure Cloud Shell (PowerShell), SQL Server 2017 for Linux, updates to Azure Automation, updates to Intune and EMS, Office 365, SharePoint, a new infrastructure platform for Skype for Business, and the big news about Teams moving into a central role.

OVERALL: The sessions I attended were all very well done.  Even with the occasional glitches, everyone recovered quickly and kept moving without a hiccup.  The audiences seemed to be on board with the topics, content and demos as well.

Some interactions that stuck in my mind:

  • Leaving the first AutoPilot session to speak with the Lenovo folks at their expo booth, and the “device management guru” said “No. We’re not committed to AutoPilot, but we are evaluating the benefits and potential.” Then the next day, after session 2 I stopped back for a follow-up and he said “Oh, yeah, we’re in.”  Must have got a delayed memo.
  • One training services vendor rep at the expo kept repeating “we’re not the Toyota of training, we’re the gold-plated Lexus of training.” I immediately went into blank stare mode.
  • I had a great conversation with the SQL Server 2017 folks about the possibility of someday, somewhere, somehow, that we might see support for automating Maintenance Plans via PowerShell.  Not yet, it seems.  But there are ways around it with duct tape and chewing gum.
  • Nice discussion with the Fujitsu folks about their liquid-cooled (immersed) server rack.  The best part was the incredible language barrier.  Note to this vendor, smart as they may be, try to add some staff that speak the native language of the conference location, wherever that may be.  Example:
    • Me: “Have you calculated the return rate to break-even point between air-cooled and liquid cooled?
    • Them: “Yes, it is liquid.”
    • Me: “How much power does the coolant pump draw compared with fans?
    • Them: “Yes, it is liquid.
    • Takeaway:  Cleaner components due to no air-flow dust accumulation, and lower power consumption per time-unit compared with air-cooling fans.  The rack itself is smaller due to not having air-flow channels or fans.  The trade-offs include increased purchase cost and weight, as well as added space for the pump unit.
  • A rambling Twitter thread with David James about where the line between “big” and “small” customer device-management environments might exist, and the ramifications of how best to manage devices in each realm.  More on that another time/post.
  • The “deep dive” sessions on Windows Server 2016 network services changes, BranchCache/PeerCaching by Andreas Hammarskjold, and Windows Deployment and Servicing by Ami Casto, Johan ArwidmarkMikael Nystrom, and Michael Niehaus, were all indeed “deep”, and well-worth pushing the brain as hard as possible to keep up, let alone absorb the information fire hose.  If you watch nothing else from Ignite, at least check these sessions out.
  • I didn’t make it to any Mark Russinovich sessions, but I did catch a few by Don Jones and  Jeffrey Snover.
  • I missed a few sessions I really wanted to attend, due to conflicts with other sessions, nagging work-related phone calls, emails, and Teams chatting, etc.  Such as two PowerShell sessions by Stephen Owen.  But I was fortunate and honored to meet him in person as well as his wonderful wife, before the week was over.  So I can’t complain.
  • Other sessions I attended in Windows Servicing, Azure, Office 365 (Microsoft 365 now), SharePoint, Teams, PowerBI, Containers, and PowerShell were all very good.  I can’t wait for everything to get posted for viewing online.

The Semi-Techy Stuff

My daytime brain power was really really off this year.  After weeks of finally getting settled into a consistent exercise and sleep routine, even with work travel, I suffered a setback that week.  I was not an interesting person to converse with during the day.  At night I felt fairly normal, or abnormally normal.  Or normally abnormal.  Eh.

Until the closing Friday, I averaged maybe 3 hours of sleep each night.  The conference center was kept at a nice and cozy 48 degrees F.  And the combination of insufficient sleep, forgetting to pack long pants and long-sleeve shirts, an unbalanced diet, inconsistent caffeine and hydration intake, and random work-related emails, along with frequent offensive messages from insane coworkers and former coworkers, left me in a zombie state.  At least I didn’t do this.

Quite a few people approached me, all very friendly, and I tried my best to be friendly and talkative, but my brain kept saying inside, “Hey dumb-ass, you know how you didn’t go to bed until 3am and then got up at 6am?  Yeah, I’m not doing that shit anymore.  Let’s find a nice hard surface to make you do a face-plant.”

Sidebar

I watched the new Jerry Seinfeld show on Netflix.  At one point he commented on being able to speak to a group, but not an individual.  That’s exactly how I felt that week.  It was very surreal.

Some years ago, I used to do a fair amount of public-ish speaking. I say public-ish because it was mostly to captive audiences (corporatey stuff). I did speak at one CAD vendor mini-conference back in 1998, to a room of about 500, and it was a blast. If I have an agenda, I can ramble to a crowd, but ad lib not so much.  Anyhow, I got a case of decent wine, and a Chinese-made Swiss army knife as a token of appreciation.  Not sure what happened to the knife.

I have found, through quasi semi pseudo scientific research, that it’s not so much how MUCH sleep I get, but WHEN I get that sleep.  Even a shifting of sleep-wake periods by a half-hour can throw my entire pea-sized brain into a woodchipper.  My normal sleep cycle is 2 A.M. to 9 A.M. (my company and most of my customers are in the Pacific time zone, but I live in Eastern time zone, so it makes my neighbors really curious).  During the conference my sleep cycle shifted to 3 A.M. to 7:30 A.M., and yes, my math also suffered.

/Sidebar

After each day I would try to get a power nap in.  Usually, I’m great at power naps. My dad taught me the trick and it’s always worked.  However, it only works when people don’t call your phone just when you get your heart rate down.

The Personal Stuff

Some of the other interesting moments…

  • Getting to meet amazing people like Stephen Owen, Ami Casto, Johan Arwidmark, Mikael Nystrom, Andreas Hammarskjold, Maurice Daly, and Jordan Benzing
  • A conversation with a valet at the hotel.  Just a cool exchange of funny stuff and both of us went our separate ways in a great mood.
  • A two hour late-night conversation with George, a colleague who shares many of the same life experiences as I:  marriage, dysfunctional families, cancer, brain tumors, the effects of sleep and diet, religion, politics, work stuff, and so on.  I live in an exceptionally red area of a red state, so the opportunities to have a rather unbiased discussion are few.  Anyhow, it was fantastic.

The Random Stuff

  • Compared with Ignite 2016, I had nothing as unusual or random during the after-hours time this year.
  • I was also reminded of something a homeless guy said to me at a conference in Vegas, back in my Autodesk days:  He patted my arm when I was standing on a corner during a lunch break, and when I turned he said “you might be a nobody going nowhere, but it’s getting there that matters.  Don’t forget to pay attention to getting there.”  Then he tried to sell me a plastic water bottle for a dollar.  But it was the thought that counts.

Final Thoughts

  • I was very much caught off-guard by people wanting to meet me at the conference this year.  I wasn’t expecting that at all, which some found to be surprising.  While I appreciate the attention, I wasn’t ready for it either.  So, I hope that if you did run into me that you allow me to do better next time.  If there is a next time.
  • I heard quite often that people think I’m some sort of “weirdness-magnet”; that I somehow attract unusual events, but I don’t think that’s true.  I suspect that I just notice small things more often than most others do.  Human and social idiosyncrasies.  For example, standing in a grocery store checkout line, waiting in a doctor’s office, or riding a bus.  I typically stop to talk with people who are normally ignored in our society: The people who give directions at the conferences, store clerks, bus drivers, hotel staff, airline staff, TSA agents (well, sometimes), police officers, homeless people, random people, Uber and Lyft drivers; anyone who can’t run fast enough to escape my death ray of chatty-ness.  The stuff that most people don’t see while staring at their phones.  Basically: I’m really not that special.

And now I have to re-bond with my dog.  She’s mad at me again.

Cm_SiteConfig 1.3 – Importing Queries and Collections

Updated:  Added missing graphic of menu

This may be the only blog post I do before I head down to Microsoft Ignite this coming weekend. I’m also trying desperately to keep up with younger colleagues on exam studying, damn it. Getting old sucks. Anyhow. I wanted to discuss some things about cm_siteconfig 1.3 that I may have glossed over (or snored through). I need a break from labs right now anyway.

What is Cm_SiteConfig?

I’ve been working on a pair of PowerShell scripts to automate the building of a System Center Configuration Manager site server.  This could be a CAS or a Primary, but basically, each of the two (2) scripts uses a dedicated XML configuration file to control what it does.  Cm_Build.ps1 installs all of the prerequisite items to make a vanilla Windows Server machine into a Configuration Manager site server.  It does not configure the Configuration Manager site itself however.  So, things like Discovery Methods, Boundary Groups, Client Settings, Site Settings, Collections, Queries, OSD items, Applications, etc. need to be created.  This is where Cm_SiteConfig comes in.

Cm_SiteConfig.ps1 uses Cm_SiteConfig.xml to configure an existing Configuration Manager site server with things like Discovery Methods, Active Directory Forest Connection and Publishing, Boundary Groups, Site System Roles (multiple), Client Settings, Client Push settings, Distribution Point Groups, Operating System Images, Operating System Upgrade Installers, Collections, Queries, Applications, Maintenance Tasks, System Accounts, Enpoint Protection Policies and even Console Folders in which to organize these things.

The Override Feature

Normally, when each script is run, it processes the XML configuration data in sequential order by reading the “use” property of each item (if use=”1″ it’s processed, otherwise it’s ignored).  When using the -Override parameter, you are presented with a graphical menu, from which you can choose individual tasks to execute, while skipping over the others entirely.

For example, if you wanted to just import custom queries and collections, you can do the following:

  1. Edit the cm_siteconfig.xml file to suit your site configuration (within the [cmsite] tag: sitecode, forest, etc.)
  2. Edit the queries and collections entries (if needed)
  3. Open a PowerShell console on the Site Server using “Run as Administrator”
  4. Run the cm_siteconfig.ps1 script as follows (see example below also):
    cm_siteconfig.ps1 -XmlFile cm_siteconfig.xml -Detailed -Override
  5. Select the features you wish to process from the Gridview menu, and click OK (lower right of menu)
  6. Watch the output and refresh your console

You can do the same with other sections of the XML file.

Important Note!

Be sure to run the Folders section at least once, to insure the folders are created prior to other sections being processed which may rely on those folders to be present.

Where to Get it – Here

Feedback / Suggestions / Bug Reports – Here (please!!)

Back to studying.  I hope to run into some of you during Ignite!  I’m easy to spot:  I look like every other white guy roaming the expo floor with too much swag falling out of every pocket and trying to hold a drink and a cellphone at the same time.

Interview: Favorite Quotes

Question: “What is one of your favorite quotes?

peimei

 

Amy Casto @AdaptivaAmi

I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.

Johan Arwidmark @jarwidmark

Failure is not an option

Mike Terrill @miketerrill

Moving on, is a simple thing, what it leaves behind is hard.” – Dave Mustaine

Arnie Tomasovsky @arnietomasovsky

I have no particular one, but I quite like this one: “Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail.

Julie Andreacola @jandreacola

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together

Rod Trent  @rodtrent

The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of bigger ideas, never returns to its original size.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Nickolaj Andersen @nickolajA

I have some time, but I’m not really a quotes guy. The only one I can think of is when it was said that “64k of RAM is enough” (or something like that) 🙂

Jon Szewczak @VBJV

IT: “Everyonee writes terrible code. We can’t help it. The goal each year is to suck a little less.

Life: “Affirmation can change the course of someone’s life.

Nicke Kallen @znackattack

Well, odd one that sticked with me for years. About 17-18 years ago we had some workplace training (perhaps a bad translation..) (still in high school then) and the mentor that was assigned to me just gave me some pretty straight forward rules – including this: “You can wait for me, but I can’t wait for you

Obviously- this was that he wouldn’t wait 5 minutes for me, but i should value his time and if getting somewhere on time meant i had to stick around for 2 hours just waiting that was OK. Great mentor that really gave the lessons that i needed to hear at the time. Met him around the industry a few times – still share a laugh every time I meet him. Realize that as I wrote this that the quote was more valuable in the context than a general quote.

Rob Stack @londonnoise

Well, I’ve always loved “Insecure people try to make you feel smaller. Confident people like to see you walk taller.” – I’ve never known who that’s from.

The other is mildly more humorous and is “Do unto others as they would do unto you …. then run like hell before the police arrive.” 😦

Me @skatterbrainzz

Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson

You can’t reason anyone out of something they didn’t reason themselves into.” – The Great Henry Lapo

Interview – 5 Places You Could Get Lost Within and Not Mind at All

This time the question was: “Name (up to) 5 places you could easily get lost within for hours, and not mind at all.

Amy Casto @AdaptivaAmi

  1. Anywhere there are horses
  2. BÃ¥stad Sweden
  3. Antelope Island near Salt Lake City, UT
  4. Iceland
  5. Gulf of Mexico

Niall Brady @ncbrady

  1. Kitwe, Zambia. Because I grew up there as a child.
  2. Victoria Falls, Zambia. Because it is the most amazing place you will ever visit or see.
  3. Kariba dam and Kariba dam lake. Amazing place to be.
  4. Diarmuid and Grainne cave in Sligo, Ireland. Wow, what a view, both outside and inside (pot-holing).
  5. Ben-Bulben Sligo. A mountain with many different faces.

Julie Andreacola @jandreacola

  1. Any big research library
  2. a County Fair
  3. Reddit
  4. Forest Service roads in the mountains in my Jeep
  5. New York City. Hmm, that’s a pretty eclectic mix.

Jon Szewczack @VBJV

  1. Any hiking trail.
  2. A beach
  3. When I was younger: a Suncoast Video store.
  4. Detroit auto show – I have never been there but I can imagine that it would be just a sublimely blissful way to spend a day.
  5. In water boat show in Miami. The sheer extravagance on display is mind-numbingly weird in a very pleasant way.

Maurice Daly @modal_it

  1. Microsoft HQ
  2. Porsche Factory
  3. Lamborghini Factory
  4. Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory
  5. Corona Bottling Plant

Nicke Kallen @znackattack

  1. Diving any place with good visibility. Being under water and breathing while there is exhilarating.
  2. A good book. Kicking off a journey to an imaginary place or time is a way to checkout from reality.
  3. A rabbits hole. Like wikipedia, or that issue that spawns new findings all the time.

Me @skatterbrainzz

  1. Fry’s
  2. Twitter
  3. Nature and Hiking Trails
  4. New York City
  5. Abandoned structures

Random Notes from This Week

Warning: Skattered thoughts ensue.

Checking Memory

Calculating total system memory within a virtual machine session might seem like a rather mundane task.  But during a recent troubleshooting call with a customer, I ran across something I had forgotten: Physical machine properties are stored in WMI differently depending upon the context.  Note that running these on an actual physical machine, a virtual machine with static memory allocation, and a virtual machine with dynamic memory allocation, will often yield different results.

Win32_ComputerSystem (TotalPhysicalMemory)

[math]::Round(((Get-WmiObject -Class Win32_ComputerSystem | 
  Select-Object -ExpandProperty TotalPhysicalMemory) | 
    Measure-Object -Sum).Sum/1GB,0)

This returned 4 (GB) from 4,319,100,928

Win32_PhysicalMemory (Capacity)

Using Win32_PhysicalMemory / Capacity returns a different result.

[math]::Round(((Get-WmiObject -Class Win32_PhysicalMemory | 
  Select-Object -ExpandProperty Capacity) | 
    Measure-Object -Sum).Sum/1GB,0)

This returned 16 (GB) from the sum of 17,179,869,184 (13,019,119,616 + 4,160,749,568).

 

PowerShell, CSV and sparse Label Names

Some of the biggest headaches in IT, besides people, are caused by imposing human habits on technical processes.  For example, insisting on embedded spaces in LDAP names, CSV column headings and SQL table columns.  Just stop it!  Say no to spaces.  The only space we need is the one between our ears, and usually when driving.  However, we don’t always have the luxury of dictating “best practices”, instead, we have to adapt.  So, I had a colleague suffering with a CSV file that a customer provided with column names like “Last Name”, “Dept Number”, and so on.  Why they couldn’t use “LastName”, “LName”, or even “LN”, who knows, but it was “Last Name”.

$csvdata = Import-Csv "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio 14.0\DesignTools\SampleData\en\SampleStrings.csv"
PS C:\> $csvdata[0]
Name : Aaberg, Jesper
Phone Number : (111) 555-0100
Email Address : someone@example.com
Website URL : http://www.adatum.com/
Address : 4567 Main St., Buffalo, NY 98052
Company Name : A. Datum Corporation
Date : November 5, 2003
Time : 8:20:14 AM
Price : $100
Colors : #FF8DD3C7

PS C:\> $csvdata[0]."Email Address"
someone@example.com 

PS C:\> $csvdata | Where-Object {$_."Email Address" -like '*fabrikam*'} | 
  Select-Object -ExpandProperty "Email Address"

Thankfully, PowerShell is somewhat forgiving in this regard and allows you to adapt to such challenges easily.  A very small feature but very helpful as well.

Searching for Apps: Slow vs. Fast

Searching for installed software is usually pretty simple.  However, using WMI to query the class Win32_Product often becomes much slower due to overhead incurred by the Windows background refresh.  If you run a query for “SQL Server Management Studio” on a Windows server or client, regardless of the amount of memory, processor power, or disk performance, if these are all equal, WMI will be much slower than searching the registry or file system.  Case in point (using PowerShell for example purposes only):

Get-WmiObject -Class Win32_Product | 
  Where-Object {$_.Name -eq 'SQL Server Management Studio'}

When you run this, if you watch Task Manager at the same time, you may notice WmiPrvSE.exe and dwm.exe spin up more memory until the query is completed.  However, if you search the registry, which may not always be possible for every situation, the performance is typically much better (faster):

Get-ChildItem -Path HKLM:\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall\ -Recurse | 
  Where-Object {$_.GetValue('DisplayName') -eq 'SQL Server Management Studio'}

Another option is to query the file system, which in this example is looking for a specific file and specific version:

$file = "C:\program files\Microsoft SQL Server\140\Tools\Binn\ManagementStudio\Microsoft.SqlServer.Configuration.SString.dll"
if (Test-Path $file) { 
  (Get-Item -Path $file).VersionInfo.FileVersion 
}

Running these three statements on my HP Elitebook 9470m with 16 GB memory and a Samsung 500 GB 850 EVO SSD the results end up with the following average execution times:

  • WMI: 20 seconds
  • Registry: 0.98 seconds
  • File System: 0.13 seconds

The point here isn’t that you should avoid WMI, or anything like that.  It’s just that we should always consider other options to insure we’re choosing the right approach for each situation.  For example, if you really need to invoke the .Uninstall() method, then your options may narrow somewhat.

For a handful of targeted queries it may not matter to you which of these (or others) makes the most sense.  But when querying 5,000, 10,000 or 100,000 machines across a WAN, without the aid of a dedicated inventory product, the choice may have a significant impact.

cm_siteconfig 1.2

I’ve been busy this Labor Day weekend. Besides vacuuming up water from a broken water heater at 4am, mowing a ridiculously big lawn with a ridiculously small lawnmower, and avoiding the oceanfront tourist freakshow (or almost), I spent a fair amount of time on cm_build and cm_siteconfig.  Needless to say, I’m not feeling very funny right now, but I assure you that I will return to my usual tasteless, dry, ill-timed humor after a word from these sponsors.  Even though I don’t have any yet.  Actually, if you blink, you might miss some hidden jestering below.

I’ve already discussed these two PowerShell scripts in a previous blog post, but to update things: cm_build is still at 1.2.02 from 9/2/2017, and cm_siteconfig is now at 1.2.22 from 9/2/2017.  That’s a lot of 2’s.  Anyhow, here’s what each does as of the latest versions:

Note: The version numbers are in parenthesis to indicate lab configuration.  The XML allows *YOU* to configure the installation ANY WAY YOU DESIRE, and to reference ANY VERSION you desire.  The versions below are just what I used to test this thing (so far) about 84 times.

LAB TEST NOTE: Prior to running this script, build the server, assign a name, static IP address, and join to an Active Directory domain.  Then take a snapshot (VMware) or checkpoint (Hyper-V) to roll back if anything spews chunks along the way.

Prep Work

cm_build.ps1 / cm_build.xml

  • Install Windows Server roles and features (except for WSUS)
  • Install Windows 10 ADK (1703)
  • Install Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) (8443)
  • Install SQL Server (2016)
  • Install SQL Server Management Studio (2017)
  • Configure SQL Server maximum memory allocation
  • Configure SQL Server ReportServer DB recovery model
  • Install WSUS server role
  • Run the WSUS post-install configuration
  • Install System Center Configuration Manager 1702
  • Install ConfigMgr Toolkit 2012 R2
  • Install Recast Right-Click Tools

GENERAL NOTES:  The cm_build.xml structure starts with the “packages” section, which dictates what gets executed and in what order.  The “name” element establishes the package code link used by all of the other sections, such as payloads, detections, files, and features. Note that the files section only requires the pkg key value for SQLSERVER and CONFIGMGR.  Other files can be created without using a matching pkg key if desired.

LAB TEST NOTE: I strongly recommend taking another snapshot (VMware) or checkpoint (Hyper-V) at this point, prior to running cm_siteconfig.ps1.  This will help avoid angst and loss of temper while making iterative changes to cm_siteconfig.xml and retesting.

cm_siteconfig.ps1 / cm_siteconfig.xml

  • Create SCCM accounts
  • Configure the AD Forest connection
  • Configure Server Settings
    • Software Deployment Network Access Account
  • Configure Discovery Methods
    • The template AD User Discovery Method adds AD attributes: department, division, title.
    • The template AD User and System Discovery Methods add filtering for password set and login periods of 90 days each
  • Configure Boundary Groups
    • The template creates 4 sample boundary groups
    • You can enable creating Site Boundaries as well, but the default is to allow the AD Discovery to create subnet/IP range boundaries
  • Configure Site Roles
    • Management Point
    • Service Connection Point
    • Distribution Point (with PXE)
    • Cloud Management Gateway (still in development)
    • Software Update Point
    • Reporting Services Point
    • Application Catalog Web Service Point
    • Application Catalog Website Point
    • Asset Intelligence Synchronization Point
    • (more to come)
  • Client Settings
    • Still in development, but…
    • The template creates two (2) sample device policies: Servers and Workstations
  • Client Push Installation Settings
    • Still in development
  • Create DP groups
    • The template creates 4 sample DP groups
  • Create console Folders
    • The template creates sample folders beneath: Applications, Device Collections, User Collections, Boot Images, Task Sequences, and Driver Packages
  • Create Custom Queries
    • The template creates two (2) sample device queries
  • Create Custom Device Collections
    • The template creates three (3) sample user query-rule collections, and 15 sample device query-rule collections
  • Create Custom User Collections
  • Import OS Images
    • The template imports two (2) OS images: Windows 10 1703 and Windows Server 2016
    • Source media is not included.  Batteries not included.  Just add hot water and stir.
  • Import OS Upgrade Installers
    • The template imports two (2) OS upgrade packages
  • Configure Site Maintenance Tasks
    • Excludes Site Backup, and Database Reindex tasks for now.  I plan to have these enabled soon.
  • Create Application Categories
    • The template includes (5) sample categories: IT, Developer, Engineering, Finance, General and Sales
    • For now, the detection rules are implemented using a chunk of freshly-cut, carefully seasoned, and slow-roasted PowerShell code, because it’s easier to shoe-horn into this process and provide flexibility and adaptability.  And besides, all those syllables sound kind of impressive after a few mixed drinks.
  • Create Applications
    • The template includes examples for 7-Zip, Notepad++, VLC Player, and Microsoft RDC Manager

What’s Next?

  • I’m still working on this, so more changes/improvements will be coming.

Q & A

  • Is it really “open source”?
    • Yes! Go ahead and pinch yourself.
  • Did you write all this code yourself?
    • Yes, sort of.  Some of the pieces were adapted from, or inspired by, the outstanding work done by other amazing people like Niall Brady, Nickolaj Andersen, Johan Arwidmark, Mikael Nystrom, Maurice Daly, Stephen Owen, Anders Rodland, Raphael Perez, Chrissie LeMaire, Jason Sandys, Sherry Kissinger, and many others I can’t think of right now.  Thanks to Kevin B. and Chris D. for helping me find better ways to solve key areas of the overall project.  The XML constructs and process model are my own hallucinatory work.
  • Can I Make Suggestions / Request Changes?
    • ABSOLUTELY!
    • Please use the “Issues” feature in Github to submit bugs, feature changes and enhancements, etc.  I will make every effort to review, assess, feebly attempt, fail to satisfy, cry over insecurities of self-doubt, angrily assign blame, throw objects across room while swearing like a drunk sailor, solemnly accept defeat, and ultimately: try to make it work as requested.
    • Note that creating a Github account is required for submitting Issues.  Github accounts are free and they make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
  • Does cm_build also download required installation media?
    • No.  I’m too lazy.
    • 99.999999% of my customer engagements involve a ‘kick-off’ call in which we discuss prerequisite action-items prior to beginning work. This typically includes requesting the customer to have all installation media and licensing information ready to go.  Which they typically do, so I didn’t feel the need to bother with that aspect (not to mention, try to keep up with version changes and new URL’s over time)
  • Can cm_build be used to install a Central Administration Site?
    • Yes.
  • Can cm_build be used to install a Secondary Site?
    • Yes.
  • Can cm_build be used to destroy alien civilizations?
    • Probably not.
  • How was this thing Tested?
    • In a small dungeon beneath a floating castle in a lake atop a tall mountain.  Okay, in my home lab, next to the dog’s sofa.
    • It’s been tested about 84 times as of 9/4/2017.  That’s about 55 times for cm_build and 29 times for cm_siteconfig.  But by the time you’ve read this, it’ll have increased again.
  • What was/is your Test Environment like?
    • Windows Server 2016 (Dell R710) server with Hyper-V
    • 3 virtual machines: DC1 (domain controller), FS1 (file server) and CM01 (configuration manager server)
    • CM01:
      • 16 GB memory, 4 disks (C: for OS, E: for apps, F: for content, G: for logs, etc.), 2 vCPUs
      • Windows Server 2016 Standard
    • Me:
      • Coffee cups falling off the desk, on ever flat surface, in the trash can, on top of one of my dogs, and a few more in the kitchen sink
      • Empty snack bar wrappers strewn across the room
      • A tattered doggie toy-squirrel hanging on a door knob for some strange reason.
  • What’s the point?
    • It’s been challenging, and fun, to work on.  It saves me time and headache at work and in my home lab.
    • It opens up potential secondary capabilities, like automating installation documentation and building an extract/build process to close the circle of life, open a wormhole, fill it with black holes and jump in for a ride.  I really need to stop listening to so many podcasts.
  • Why should I care?
    • You shouldn’t.  You can go do something fun now instead.
  • Why XML?
    • Because I &^%$ing hate JSON, and INI is too limited.  I thought about YAML, which looks a little bit like JSON, but not like it was punched in the face with a meat tenderizer mallet, but then I had to mow the lawn, and completely forgot why.
  • What have been (or continued to be) the biggest Challenges?
    • Time
    • Sleep
    • Deciding where to draw logical boundaries between automating and leaving out for manual work later
    • Refactoring, refactoring, re-refactoring, and re-re-refactoring before refactoring some more
    • More refactoring
    • Incomplete Microsoft ConfigMgr PowerShell cmdlet reference documentation*
    • Incomplete/inconsistent Microsoft ConfigMgr PowerShell cmdlet features*
    • Incomplete/inconsistent mental capacity (mine)
    • Occasional power and Internet service outages and lack of a power backup system (budget, weather, drunk drivers)
  • Does humor belong in IT?
    • Yeah.  It has to. Over 35 years in this field of work, I’ve seen what happens to people who forget that. It doesn’t end well.

*  I’m not going to beat them up on this, since they are already making Herculean efforts towards modernizing and cleaning up ConfigMgr, so the gravy should have a few lumps.