Deploy Win32 applications with Intune

from http://www.scconfigmgr.com/2018/09/24/deploy-win32-applications-with-microsoft-intune/

WIN32 APPLICATION DEPLOYMENTS

The ability to “package” applications for deployment in Microsoft Intune is something that has been highly requested by many organisations making the move to management of devices through Intune. Although there is a fundamental difference in deploying applications through Configuration Manager and Intune, Microsoft is developing tools to provide similar functionality across the management stack. Up until now it it has been possible to deploy applications through Intune, this relied on a single MSI installation file with no external dependencies. In some cases this meant that repackaging of applications was the only method of deploying those business applications, thus being a time consuming process.

Today it is now possible to deploy applications through Intune without those restrictions, this process creates a packaged container of the setup files along with command line installation and uninstall commands.

 

This is a significant feature towards bringing Intune from the realms of “good for mobile device management only” to “also good for desktop management”.

SCCM currently does (and probably will for quite a while) have additional functionality which larger enterprises require – however, this is a good step in allowing smaller organisations more flexibility in their deployment options.

 

Note: as of 25/9, this feature is available with an Intune tenant running a preview of the GA release.

Execution status received: 24 (Application download failed)

I came across an interesting issue today where I couldn’t get applications to install on a specific piece of hardware during a task sequence. All task sequence steps would run fine, other than ‘Application’ installs – and they would work fine on other hardware.

Looking in the smsts.log file, I could see the following error for each application:
Execution status received: 24 (Application download failed)

I checked the boundaries, everything was good. Google has many instances of the same issue, but none seemed to have relevant (or helpful) solutions. In the end, I realised this device has 4G LTE with a valid SIM in it, and it was connecting automatically during the task sequence. It seems this was confusing it and it couldn’t locate the content for applications!

The simplest solution I could find was to disable the NIC during the task sequence, then re-enable it at the end. The following are the powershell commands I put in the task sequence to get it working:

To Disable: powershell.exe -ExecutionPolicy Bypass -Command “Get-NetAdapter | ?{$_.MediaType -eq ‘Wireless WAN’} | Disable-NetAdapter -Confirm:$False

To Enable: powershell.exe -ExecutionPolicy Bypass -Command “Get-NetAdapter | ?{$_.MediaType -eq ‘Wireless WAN’} | Enable-NetAdapter -Confirm:$False

Avoiding a Microsoft Teams Nightmare

Have you ever had the experience of providing users a document management system or Sharepoint site only to find that everyone uses it differently, creates folders all over the place in different ways, stores documents differently and after six months time it’s so hard to find anything that it defeats the purpose for which it was implemented in the first place? What a nightmare! You’re not alone.

With Microsoft Teams quickly becoming a preferred collaboration tool, you’d be forgiven for having fears of this nightmare becoming a reality all over again. The primary reason for that is there’s no technical ‘silver-bullet’ to prevent this from happening, it’s more of a governance discussion. Notwithstanding, there are some things you can do on a technical level that can help.

There are basically four levels of administration to be considered:

  • Global Settings – There are a number of features and functionality for Teams that can be turned on or off at a global level and these should be risk assessed for each environment. Ideally this should be done before the first Team site is even created.
  • Team creation – Microsoft Teams, while based off Office 365 Groups, will also provision a Sharepoint site for each Team. Therefore the decision as to who should be creating Teams is the same as for who should be creating Groups and Sites. One approach that we’ve found works well is to have these functions centrally managed with Teams created on request. There is of course an admin overhead to be considered however. See below;
  • Team Owners – These are the users that really run the individual Teams and will have the best insight as to the value of the Team and how it should be used. Trying to run this centrally is likely to lead to frustration all round so once created, administration should really be handed over to the Team owners. They can then add Team members, assign roles, create Channels and enable Apps etc as they see fit.
  • Team Users – Obvious statement but these are the ones who should be seeing value in Teams collaboration. Paradoxically one way to dilute that is by being in too many Teams. Users shouldn’t be confused about what spaces they should be collaborating in or where to store documents etc. To prevent this, ideally Teams should have clearly defined functions, whether that be organisational, operational or project based collaboration. Confusion arises where these functions overlap between Teams so clear delineation is important. This is another reason centrally managing Team creation can work well. In larger environments implementing practices like naming standards for Teams will also be of value.

Some of the central administration technical considerations are outlined here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoftteams/enable-features-office-365

Melissa Hubbard also provides some useful considerations in her blog post on the topic and while it’s a little while ago now, it’s still a great starter for some of the governance considerations:  https://melihubb.com/2017/07/25/microsoft-teams-governance-planning-guide

If Microsoft Teams is on your agenda for implementation, be sure to reach out to the Adexis team who can assist with design and implementation and help you to provide this wonderful platform to your users to enable communication and efficient collaboration, without the admin headaches.

Update 1806 for Configuration Manager current branch is now available

ConfigMgr 1806 was released yesterday morning https://cloudblogs.microsoft.com/enterprisemobility/2018/07/31/update-1806-for-configuration-manager-current-branch-is-now-available/

Couple of nice usability features:

CMPivot, building off our real-time script capability.  CMPivot is a new in-console utility that provides access to real-time state of devices in your environment.

With CMPivot, you can get instant insights into your environment.  Need to know your current compliance state in real-time?  CMPivot can get you those insights in minutes.

Third-party software updates – You can subscribe to partner catalogs in the Configuration Manager console and publish the updates to WSUS using the new third-party software updates feature. You can then deploy these updates using the existing software update management process.

Uninstall application on approval revocation – After enabling the optional feature Approve application requests for users per device, when you deny the request for the application, the client uninstalls the application from the user’s device.

Configure a remote content library for the site server – You can now relocate the content library to another storage location to free up hard drive space on your central administration or primary site servers or to configure site server high availability.

View the currently signed on user for a device – You can see a column for the currently logged on user now displayed by default in the Devices node of the Assets and Compliance workspace.

 

Note: As the update is rolled out globally in the coming weeks, it will be automatically downloaded, and you will be notified when it is ready to install from the “Updates and Servicing” node in your Configuration Manager console. If you can’t wait to try these new features, this PowerShell script can be used to ensure that you are in the first wave of customers getting the update. By running this script, you will see the update available in your console right away.

Storing credentials for Powershell scripts – Encrypted Strings or Credential Manager

If you’ve been reading through some of our other blog posts, you’ll have noticed that we generally like to automate things using Powershell – which quite often requires storing credentials somehow. Preferably not in plain text.

In our existing scripts on this blog, the process has generally involved generating an encryption key, using that key to convert a password to an encrypted string, then storing both in individual files. While that method works fine and has some nice benefits, there’s another alternative that’s worth knowing about: storing credentials in Windows Credential Manager.

I’ll put the code for both methods further down, but first I’d like to list the main differences between the two methods:

Encrypted string in file

  • Portable between users and computers
  • Can be used in WinPE or wherever Powershell is available
  • Only as secure as the NTFS permissions on the files storing the key and encrypted password (someone with read access can use powershell to reveal the password if they know what the files are for)
  • Utilises a bit of ‘security by obfuscation’ – depending on how you name the files, no one is going to know what they’re for, and malware/viruses definitely aren’t going to realise the files are encrypted credentials that could be easily reverse-engineered.
  • When used with Task Scheduler, the scheduled task can be run as any user/local system

Windows Credential Manager

  • Only portable between computers if using roaming profiles; isn’t portable between users
  • Can only be used in a full-windows environment that has Windows Credential Manager (ie: not in WinPE)
  • Is as secure as the Windows account attached to the credential store (assuming a complex password, pretty secure)
  • If the Windows account becomes compromised somehow (you leave the PC unlocked, malware/virus, etc), it’s a relatively simple process to pull any account details you’ve stored in Windows Credential Manager via Powershell.
  • When used with Task Scheduler, the scheduled task has to be running as the Windows account attached to the credentials store

So, how do you do each of these?

 

Creating large stand-alone media from SCCM – issues when the HP SPP 2018.03 is a package in the TS

We often create one task sequence for all workstation builds and another for all server builds, utilising task sequence variables to perform the decision making within the task sequence.

One of the downsides of this is that the task sequence binaries can get quite large, especially for server builds where we have current and legacy versions of the HP SPP, the Dell SUU and (at a minimum) server 2012 R2 and server 2016.

This isn’t an issue for network based builds, as non-required content is simply skipped, however, for media builds, it can lead to 40GB+ requirements, which the SCCM console doesnt handle well.

This is where Rufus comes in.

Rufus can help out by allowing use of larger hard drives (just tick the “list USB hard drives” option) and can apply bootable iso’s generated by SCCM (utilising the “unlimited size” option) to a USB hard drive.

This has been incredibly useful for us in the past, utilising large hard drives as USMT stores at slow link sites for client deployment.

In this instance, ive been using Rufus to apply a 50GB server build iso to a hard drive, but keep getting presented with a warning

“This ISO image seems to use an obsolete version of ‘vesamenu.c32’. Boot menus may not display properly because of this.”

Irrevelant of how you proceed (allow Rufus to download an update or not), the drive is not bootable.

Upon investigation of the rusfus logs and the resultant media, i found that syslinux.cfg was actually pointing to my HP SPP package.

This forum post then confirmed that Rufus is finding a syslinux.cfg, assuming that it is “real” bootable media and hence the ‘vesamenu.c32’ prompt.

After a few hours of troubleshooting and trying to get around it, i simply removed the “usb” and “system” folders from my HP SPP packages (as we wont be booting to it ever, its only for use in SCCM), re-created my standalone media iso – then used Rufus to write the bootable iso to the USB HDD, this time with no issues.

I realise this is a fairly obscure issue , but hopefully it helps someone.

 

 

Speed up offline servicing

Currently i am creating some server builds for a place which will be deploying large numbers of servers over the coming months.

One of things that is/was taking up a great deal of time was offline servicing for the base OS, primarily because the SCCM server is currently sitting on a virtual environment with disk that is struggling. With 2016, this isn’t so bad, as due to cumulative updates, there are only a few updates to be installed. With 2012 R2 however, there is a large number of updates – and the process continually fails due to the poor performance of the server.

One of things you can do to speed this process up is to remove unused images from your wim.

Both Server 2012 R2 and 2016 come with 4 images (with an index of 1 to 4) within the install.wim. These generally correlate with:

  • Index1 – Server 2012R2/2016 standard core
  • Index2 – Server 2012R2/2016 standard desktop experience
  • Index3 – Server 2012R2/2016 datacentre core
  • Index4 – Server 2012R2/2016 datacentre desktop experience

If you view Logs\OfflineServicingMgr.log during an offline servicing operation, you will notice lines that state things such as:

Applying update with ID xxxxxx on image at index 1

Then the same update will apply to image 2,3 and 4. In this enviornment, we are not deploying server core, so we only need indexes 2 and 4 (standard and datacentre with desktop).

We can view the indexes available within the wim by typing:

dism /get-imageinfo /imagefile:E:\<path to wim>\Install.wim

Then, if you dont need indexes 1 and 3 (as we dont in this scenario)

dism /delete-image /imagefile:E:\<path to wim>\Install.wim /index:1
dism /delete-image /imagefile:E:\<path to wim>\Install.wim /index:3

Now when you use offline servicing, each update will only be compared against 2 images, instead of 4, significantly reducing the processing time/disk usage, especially for 2012 R2 (where there are a large number of updates to apply)

This can also be used for client OS’s, such as Windows 10.

One important note – this will not reduce the size of the WIM. It will simply remove the index and save you time for offline servicing.

If your image is already in SCCM, then you must

  1. Go to Software Library | Operating systems | Operating system images
  2. Right click on the appropriate image | properties | Images tab
  3. Click on “reload”, then notice the dropdown has been reduce from 4 index’s, then hit “ok” to exit.
  4. Go into your task sequence
  5. Update the image index as required.

Importing updates into WSUS on Server 2016 fails

I ran into a situation recentlly where i needed to import a specific update from the Windows update catalog into WSUS (and in turn into SCCM)

I opened WSUS, clicked on “import updates”, seletced my update and was presented with

“This update cannot be imported into Windows Server Update Services, because it is not compatible with your version of WSUS”

Strange…. WSUS on 2016 is extremely similar to WSUS on 2012 R2… so whats going on here ?

Long story short… there seems to be issue with the url passed by the WSUS console when you click “import updates” to the browser.

When you first click on “Import updates”, IE will open (or you will use IE because it makes importing updates into WSUS easier) to

http://catalog.update.microsoft.com/v7/site/Home.aspx?SKU=WSUS&Version=10.0.14393.2248&ServerName=<servername>&PortNumber=8530&Ssl=False&Protocol=1.20

Simply change the last part “1.20” to “1.80” – and importing updates will now work

i.e

http://catalog.update.microsoft.com/v7/site/Home.aspx?SKU=WSUS&Version=10.0.14393.2248&ServerName=<servername>&PortNumber=8530&Ssl=False&Protocol=1.80

The importance of cleaning up WSUS – even if your are only using it for SCCM

In the distant past, we would generally say to clients “Leave WSUS admin alone – the SCCM settings will take precedence, so there is no point in using it”

As the years have passed, and the number of updates available has grown considerably, this is no longer the case. The SCCM settings still take precedence, however the pure number of updates has gotten so large that it can cause performance issues for the SCCM server – and even the IIS timeout to expire when SCCM is syncing updates. This generally results in and endless loop and 100% CPU for w3wp.exe.

Unfortunately, trying to list the updates in the WSUS console will often lead to the console crashing and the dreaded prompt to “reset server node”.

The best way to address this, isn’t really one of the many articles you will find by googling “sccm high CPU w3wp.exe” (or similar). Generally these will suggest modifying a number of entries in your IIS config to increase time outs, etc – these can assist, but they don’t really address the root cause of the issue – which is simply the huge number of updates.

The best way to resolve this is to simply reduce the number of updates shown in WSUS. This will reduce your memory usage, reduce the number of updates that SCCM has to scan each time, and generally put less load on your server.

There are two ways you can go about this:

 

The manual method

If you have the resources available, I’ve found increasing the RAM and CPU count on the SCCM server temporarily can help allevate the issue of the “reset node” issue.

Once you get in (it may take a few attempts), go to ‘updates’ > ‘all updates’, set the search criteria to “Any except declined” and “any” and hit refresh. Once loaded, add the “supersedence” column to the view and sort by that.

Decline all updates that are superseded. If you don’t clean up regularly, this number could be very high.

After this, you can create views to decline updates for products you no longer use (e.g. Windows 7 and Office 2010) or search for things including “beta”, “preview” and “itanium” and decline those updates as well.

After all that is done, run the server cleanup wizard. You will likely need to do this a number of times, as if your server is struggling already, this also will struggle to complete (and it seems to be quite poorly coded to handle large numbers of updates on low end servers)

 

The scripted method

A guy called “AdamJ” has written a very useful script which you can get at https://community.spiceworks.com/scripts/show/2998-wsus-automated-maintenance-formerly-adamj-clean-wsus . I know, I can see some of you recoiling at the suggestion of using a user submitted spiceworks script… they do have a whole bunch of people (just like the MS forums) suggesting to use “sfc /scannow” for anything and everything – which is a sign of a non-enterprise tech that has NFI… however, this script is really very good – and something I’ve been using for approx 2 years, with nothing but good things to say about it.

You can run it with the “-firstrun” parameter and it will, by default, clean out superseded updates – which is the main cause of huge update numbers, but it will also grab the ever annoying itanium, preview and expired updates. At approx line 629 of the script, you can also configure it to remove IE7,8,9,10 updates, Beta updates etc (or if you are one of the few people in the world with itanium, keep itanium updates!).

This script, unlike the console, will keep plugging away… and if it should happen to get stopped for whatever reason, will resume where it left off.

When removing obsolete updates, I have seen some clients (with lower spec servers) where this process can take a long time, so long that you may have to leave it overnight (or over the weekend), and sometimes restart the process.

This process will get you a fair chunk of the way, and allow you to then open the WSUS console and decline further updates, such as products you no longer use (Windows 7 and office 2010 are reasonably common ones these days), x86 updates if you have an all x64 environment, and in the case of Win 10, updates that no longer apply to you (e.g. if your entire fleet is on Win 10 1609 and 1703, you don’t need the 1511 updates)

After all this is complete, you do need to run the server cleanup wizard again – which does frequently crash and end up with the “reset server node” error. So you can re-run the WSUS cleanup script, or simply run the server cleanup wizard multiple times.

 

My experiences using these methods

I’ve found that in environments that were previously at 100% CPU, they start working again, and environments that were massively over-specc’d that didn’t have the high CPU issue went from using 6gb of RAM for the w3wp.exe process down to 500mb. This will obviously vary from environment to environment.

After this process is completed, you should be able to get into the WSUS console and run the server cleanup wiazrd, without crashes.

If you’re interested, you can also sync SCCM software updates and look at the wsyncmgr.log and see the far smaller list of updates it will sync against now.

Longer term, the AdamJ script does have monthly options that you can schedule in, or for our clients that are uncomfortable with that, simply get in and clean up once every 3 months or so, so you list of updates doesn’t get out hand.

The first cleanup is the biggest, after that, performing the same operations once every 3 months is plenty, and if you forget about and it happens to be once every 6 months instead, you’ll still be fine.

 

Taking it a step further – shrinking the SUSDB

One of the things which the AdamJ cleanup script does is truncate the SQL table “tbEventInstance” which uses up the majority of space in most WSUS databases that have been in use for a while.

If you are not comfortable with a script doing this, you can connect to the database and execute the following query against the “SUSDB” database – “truncate table tbEventInstance”.

If the DB is on a full version of SQL (which, if your running SCCM, i would argue the SUSDB should be on the same SQL instance, rather than installing an additional windows internal database), you can then create a maintenance plan to reindex, shrink etc the database.

If you are using Windows internal database, you can still install SQL management studio, then connect to “\\.\pipe\MICROSOFT##WID\tsql\query”, from there you can execute the truncate, shrink the database etc. Keep in mind that you cannot use maintenance plans with Windows internal databases.

 

What about large enviornments where you do require a wide range of updates ?

In large environments, you may not be able to decline entire product sets for extended periods (e.g. its relatively easy to move everyone onto Windows 10 (and get rid of all Win 7) for 2,000 PC’s, but not so easy for 50,000 PC’s), however, many of the points in this article still hold true.

  • The largest reduction in updates will still come from superceded updates
  • Language packs are another area where there’s lot’s of opportunity for reduction (e.g. if you require english and french – there are many other languages that can declined)
  • Ensure your SUSDB is on your full SQL instance…. that way you are running one less database instance (and therefore utilising less resources) and also have maintenance plans at your disposal
  • Use a maintenance plan to keep your SUSDB database optimal

 

SCCM Update Cleanup

It’s also worth noting that once the SUSDB has been cleaned up, SCCM will execute its own cleanup after the next sync. This cleanup removes obsolete Update CIs (Configuration Items) that corresponded to the items removed from the SUSDB. In most environments, this isn’t usually something noticeable, however in severely under resourced SCCM servers it can cause its own set of problems (though there’s not a huge amount you can do about it other than wait). This will generally present as the SCCM console locking up while it’s doing back-end SQL processes – and if you look at the SQL threads, you’ll see a WSUS related one blocking all other threads. Realistically your best option to resolve this is to increase the resources available to the server – and if that isn’t a possibility, settle in for a long wait!