RDS 2012 and Remote Control. A workaround is found…

As most of you know, when Microsoft shipped its best RDS build to date (Windows Server 2012), it had to screw up something. It is part of the Microsoft culture. Deliver something good but make sure you screw up something.

I am ok with the screwing up part but I would appreciate people telling me in advance I am going to get screwed. The only person that can indeed screw me with such short notice is my wife AFAIK.

As Microsoft does not fall into the “My Wife” category they should have told us Remote Control was going to be removed from Windows Server 2012. Nope, they did not say anything even to us the RDS MVP Gods.

So after the Remote Control fiasco I decided to find a way to get at least some sort of half ass solution for the problem Microsoft created. Thanks to a great session this week here in Seattle during the MVP Summit delivered by the Multipoint Server guys, I realized we could come up with something.

Before you attempt to reproduce what was done I must clarify a couple things

  1. I am no licensing monkey. I know nothing about how the Ghetto Remote Control (as I coined it) is supposed to be licensed. Plus I do not care.
  2. It is almost certainly unsupported and if you call Microsoft and tell you are doing that, you are on your own. And you may get in shit as well. And if you tell Microsoft you read that here on my blog make sure you understand you are going to hell.
  3. I am not supposed to be liable for your actions. Again this is a Ghetto hack and unsupported. So you break it, you fix it. Not me.

All that said, here you have what I tested and know it works. Oh if you do not know what MultiPoint Server 2012 is, Google is your friend.

What do you need:
– MultiPoint Server 2012. If you have MSDN/TechNet, it is there. I have tested with Premium but given what we are doing I would assume the regular one will do the trick. I may be wrong though.

How to do it:

  1. Ideally create a VM somewhere and give it 2vCPUs and 2GB RAM (more if you want it to work faster). Boot off the ISO you downloaded from TechNet/MSDN. It is just a regular Windows install really.
  2. Once the server is installed, go to one of your RDS Session Hosts servers and browse to \\your_multipoint_server\C$. Under Program Files\Windows Multipoint Server you should see a Connector folder.
  3. Copy the whole folder locally anywhere on the RDS Session Host box and run the WmsConnector.exe file as Administrator.
  4. Just follow the wizard that is really simple. This will install the MultiPoint Server connector on your RDS Session Host. This has to be done to all RDS Servers.
  5. Once you are done, logon to your MultiPoint Server and launch the MultiPoint Manager. You should see the following screen.

    MultiPoint Manager 2012
    MultiPoint Manager 2012
  6. On the right hand side corner you have the “Add or remove personal computers”. Click on it. On the screen that will follow you should see all the RDS servers you have where the connector was installed. If you do not see them (i.e. they are on a different subnet) simply enter the IP address where it says “Personal Computer name”  and click “Manually Add”. If you see them, well then simply click on the “Add >>” button.

  7. Once you did that with all RDS servers they should show up under “Managed Personal Computers”  as you see on the screenshot above (where you can see my server named iqb-2k12rds and with a “Connected” status.

You are done.

So now, how do I remote control users? Still on the MultiPoint server, simply launch the MultiPoint Dashboard. The following window will show up:

MultiPoint Dashboard

Right there you will see all the users connected to the RDS Session Host servers (admins are NOT shown). Simply click one of the users (you can actually see a “live” view of the session) and on the ribbon at the top click on “Take Control” (or right-click the session and select it on the menu that will appear). The user should get a message and once he approves you are now remote controlling the user.

It is worth mentioning that a chat window shows up on the user session so you can actually chat with the user. Yes, a feature from the 90s delivered to you by Microsoft 22 years later. Well better late than never.

But wait, things get better. Another cool feature is delivered with the “Project” button. You can “send” your screen to all your users what is useful during April Fool’s day. Seriously this opens up a lot of cool scenarios, especially when thinking about training.

Want to limit which sites all your RDS users can visit with one click? Yep it is there under “Web Limiting” and its “Configure” button. Add the sites you want to allow/block and click “Start”. Simple eh?

Before you bitch about this solution, let me remind you again:

  1. I am fully aware this is half-ass and it may have a cost associated with it. As I said the licensing monkeys may know what that means in dollars. I do not.
  2. I told you before this is Ghetto style IT solution a.k.a. typical half-ass IT delivered stuff.
  3. And unsupported.

Even with all the above I still think GRC (Ghetto Remote Control) is better than what Microsoft delivered with Windows Server 2012 RDS.

I will keep digging deeper to see what else I find on MultiPoint Server that we can use to make RDS 2012 better… So back to work.



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Perfect IT Storm.

I guess it is the perfect day for such topic. Most of you may not be aware that I live in Ottawa, Canada and to celebrate the upcoming winter, today we got blessed with a nice, 12″ (30 cm) snow storm. As I will have plenty of time until I get back home and clean up the driveway, I decided to put in words something I have been thinking for a long time, since this wave of craziness started with people like Brian Madden, Michael Keen and Harry Labana. Yes, I am talking about User Installed applications and I will explain why this may be the worst idea to ever be considered in IT land.

First of all I do understand that users do have needs and I am cool with that. And that sometimes they may need a tool that is not readily available for them. But to stretch that and say that user installed apps is the solution is asking for HUGE problems down the road and here is the reason: legal issues.

As you all know, there are several companies that on their EULA will explicitly mention their application must NOT run on Terminal Services. If you do it, you are violating the EULA. Now, between you and me, how many of you IT people actually read the freaking EULA for an application before deploying it on your TSs AND (note the word AND here) consulted your legal department to clarify the EULA (do not try to tell me you, an IT person, understood 100% all the legal bullshit written in an EULA and the legal implications/ramifications – that is why lawyers exist)? Answer: none I am almost certain.

So if you leave the decision on what to run on his desktop to the user, are you guys thinking they will read and understand the EULA? For God’s sake these people do not even read the user guides that come with their brand new HDTVs. Do you think all of the sudden they will start reading EULAs? For sure you can get a lawyer to help the user do that what will drive that Winzip license from $20 to $20,000 as soon as the lawyer finishes his work and gives you a report if there are any legal issues on running WinZip on a hosted VM under XenDesktop 4 running under vSphere 4 running under HP C-class blades in a datacenter in Oregon. Yes, the lawyer will consider all this.

The real issue here goes deeper than that and is really tied into how IT is seen or works in most companies. IT is seen as a team of firefighters, always fighting some fire inside the company. Logon times that are way too slow, applications that refuse to work, machines that crash, printers that do not print and so on. And that is exactly where the problem is.

If your IT team spends 80%, 90% of their time doing what I described above, there is something wrong with your IT infrastructure and/or planning/directions. Sorry to rain on your parade but that is the truth. IT should be way more than that. A group of people that understand the business needs, the user needs and comes up with the right tools to deliver these requirements. If users do have all the tools they need (note that ‘need’ does not mean ‘want’) why do they need to install anything else on their machines to do their work? They do not need it. Please do not tell me that fucking iTunes is a requirement. It is not and we both know that.

That brings us to the fact that IT and Technical Support are seen as synonymous. They are not. Another group must exist and this is the one that will find the real needs and come up with the real tools. Some could say this is the CIO/CTO and that could be the case but putting all this weight in one shoulder is not smart. A single person, you and me included, will make mistakes. Guaranteed. A CTO/CIO title does not mean “Technical/Business God/Jesus Christ”. Actually in several large companies I worked with, that was exactly the opposite. This person had really no deep understanding of the business and/or the technologies. Another recipe for a disaster. That is why I think these decisions should be handled by a group, something like ‘IT Architects’ and these guys would be of course connected to the ‘Technical Support’ so they understand what is coming and prepare themselves to support the users and the expected issues. Yes, there are issues, no matter how well you plan/deliver your dream environment.

Another thing that came to my mind this week is the whole BYOPC idea that is closely tied to the whole user installed crap idea. I like it and I can see the benefits. But again, I am sure there are legal issues with that approach. Legally I would love to hear what a lawyer has to say. For example if a user brings in his own machine to the office (company property) and somehow that machine that is not owned by the corporation happens to do something like burning down the office, having a bomb inside, steal files, whatever where there is financial damage that an insurance company has to step up and pay the bill, will they actually do it or will they say in court that as that machine was not part of the corporation and the whole damage was caused by a third party (the user with his own PC), would they have legal grounds to give the corporation the finger? Or even sue the user and make him pay for all the crap in damages? Has anyone consulted their legal department/lawyer/insurance company to clarify this? Again, almost certain no one did it.

The legal issues such approach brings are huge, especially considering that you can interpret the law in several different ways. Plus, as all I wrote above, I think this hides under the rug a bigger issue that is not having an IT group that is actually working as they should: looking for ways to make the business more efficient, by clearly understanding user AND business needs. If this is all working as it should, user installed apps are not required. Sorry.

Users/companies should be able to work efficiently with a common toolset as per my post here.

If you cannot deliver that, look under your rug. I am sure you will find a load of crap there.

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User needs and the impact on TS/VDI.

After reading Daniel Feller’s post today on ‘VDI or TS’ I started thinking about one of the main arguments people have to justify VDI:  flexibility to deliver a unique desktop/environment to the user.

The more I think about this, the less sense it makes to me. When we start to think about tools, procedures, regulations and a bunch more things that surround us every single day and that are part of our lives, we can find a common thing/trend there: everything has a set of rules that we all, as a society, accept and follow. Several without questioning.

Before we go ahead let’s take a look at certain examples. When driving, if you see a red light you stop. You never questioned why the light is red and not bright pink. Plus the traffic authorities will not really change the red/yellow/green traffic light at the corner of your house just because you prefer Purple/Bibbidy Bobbidy Blue/Crushed Mellon. Nope. Once you get your license you accept the fact these are the colors and that they have a certain meaning that you will follow.

Same for your bank. You know they are usually opened from 9:30am to 4:30pm and that you cannot withdrawn $100,000 in cash on that ATM close to your place. Again, the bank is not really going to acommodate your needs to be able to withdrawn $1,000 in one dollar bills just because you think it is more efficient for you if you could do that. Or open at 2:00am because your wife prefers that.

Once you go through all the scenarions/things that are around us it is easy to understand the reason why we have regulations in place like SoX, HIPAA, etc. To have a common set of rules/procedures that guarantee certain things will always be there, done in a certain way and so on.

Why IT services these days are seen in a different way I have no clue. What I mean here is simple. IT is always being pushed by users to deliver something extra because every freaking user these days has a different, unique requirement!

Why does someone need his icons shown using Hattenschleisse fonts instead of Arial? Why does he need a picture of his three year old single testicule three legged albino camel as a background instead of the corporate logo? You get the picture.

Why users cannot live with a common, standard set of tools? I do understand Engineering needs different tools than Accounting and I am fine with that. But why do we need to support twenty five different Accounting departments in a company that has 25 users in the Accounting department? Is there really a need, in a business environment, to give every single person a unique set of tools so they can work? Cannot they work with something called a ‘common toolset’?

TS can deliver that extremely well, assuming a common toolset is there and is enforced. At several places we deployed SBC the users had to adapt to the working environment and not the other way around.

I can definitely see the value on VDI and several reasons to use it. But the simple reason ‘TS cannot address all the user requirements we have at our company’ is giant, MEGA BS to me. Why all the sudden users do not need to follow rules on their working environment the same way they do for everything else in life?

If that was not the case we would have traffic lights with pink, purple and brown lights just because your grandma likes and wants it.

As proven over the years, IT goes through cycles, always coming back to something that was done years ago. I am sure that will be the case here.

Once this generation of architects/admins/consultants creating these ‘do-whatever-you-want’ business enviroments are gone, I am certain someone down the road will realize how much of a PITA these are to manage and we will get back to the old days where you would get the right tool for the job and nothing else.

Before you ask, no, I do not hate users. But I cannot understand why you need a pink keyboard matching a yellow mouse.

At the end, are these valid user needs or simply user ‘whinning/bitching’? Ask that yourself the next time you are asked to deploy XenDesktop.



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