17-10-14

VMware Flings are a curious concept. Not quite production code, yet not quite hobby code either. However, it’s a veritable goldmine of useful tools and applications to complement, manage and augment your VMware estate. For example, Auto Deploy is a very useful feature of vSphere, but I don’t see a lot of it in the wild as most folks think it’s a little too “command line” to be worth the effort. Having to do most of the work in PowerShell puts a lot of people off (and I have to say, I don’t blame them. I winced when it came up on my VCAP-DCA exam). So what has someone done? Written a GUI tool for it. A solution that fixed a problem, not a solution looking for a problem.

I’m not here to discuss that one, however. I’m primarily an EUC boy and there are several useful (did I say free?) tools on VMware Flings that can bail out your average Horizon View Joe. One of which is ViewDbChk. Yes, I know it doesn’t have a fancy name, but it’s a true bacon saver in the sense that I found myself saying “Wow, ViewDbChk really saved my bacon there”. As View folks will know, data is splattered across various different repositories, including a database for View Events, a database for View Composer, a database for vCenter and the ADAM/LDS database, replicated between the Connection Servers.

This is where ViewDBChk comes into play. On occasion, what is seen in vCenter and what is shown in View Administrator can get a little out of whack, and this can slow you down or cause you unforeseen issues. For example, if you’re plain impatient like me, you may find that a pool deletion has apparently hung, so you help it along by manually torching some VMs and replica VMs from vCenter (in the lab, obviously. Never in the real world!). At this point the delete task can get stalled because there are now no objects for View to refer to, or things could be the other way around where View has left orphaned VMs behind in vCenter and you just need to perform a little housekeeping. ViewDbChk is really useful in performing this clean sweep and keeping your vCenter and View installations in perfect sync.

To use the tool, first download it from the Flings website, unzip and copy the files over to any Connection Server in your View installation you want to tidy up. Then you need to start a command prompt as ViewDBChk is a command line tool, ensuring you right click and use the “Run As Administrator” option, otherwise you’ll get some fairly cryptic errors and this caught me out at first. From your Administrator command prompt, run ViewDbChk –scanMachines. This will run through and check your View estate for issues, as shown below (desktop/pool names redacted!) :-

 

scan1

 

From this point on it’s really just a case of following the bouncing ball. One word to note is that for me, just typing “y” or “n” for the questions did not seem to work properly, so I just typed in “yes” and “no”. Obviously for the tool to work it’s magic, you kind of have to let it do it’s thing ;-)

Once some duff VMs have been found, you are asked to disable the pool affected. Then as shown below, the affected VMs are listed with the reason for the ongoing issue, in this case the master VM or snapshot couldn’t be found in vCenter (ooops!). At this point the tool will ask you if you want it to tidy that up. Say yes and the tool will do the rest. Once all affected VMs have been cleaned up, you are then prompted to re-enable the pool, as per the screen shot below.

scan2

This is all well and good for a couple of VMs, but what if your View environment is in a stinky old state? Well you can add switches to the tool to force through a tidy up without having to constantly say “yes”. Also worth bearing in mind is the in built limit of 5 VMs before you have to run the tool again. To circumvent this, use the command ViewDBChk –scanMachines –force –limit 100 to set an upper limit of 100 VMs (or whatever you deem appropriate).

Props to Griff James for this cool tool, and happy flinging!!

 

15-08-14

VCAP-DTA Consolidated Study Guide 1.5 Released

Now that I have finally passed, I’ve been back over the Consolidated VCAP-DTA Study Guide and updated it. I’ve done some small formatting changes so it’s a little easier to read, as well as correcting a few typos I found and adding in the two quick reference tables for PCoIP and Windows image tuning that I blogged about previously. I’ve also added in a few exam tips for those thinking of sitting soon. As this road has now come to a bit of an end, I won’t be maintaining this guide from here on in until the VCAP6-DTA is released, which I expect to be a little way off just yet.

I’ll also update the sample questions guide, but that may follow in a week or so.

Enjoy!

 

14-08-14

VCAP-DTA Exam Experience (Redux)

So I got back about an hour ago from my second sitting of the VCAP-DTA exam in Leeds. As regular readers will know, I sat it a couple of weeks ago and failed. The score report I got back gave me some suggestions on the areas I wasn’t quite so hot on, so I spent some extra time going back over those and making sure I understood them (two factor authentication and group policy settings to name but two). I had the mindset that if I didn’t pass it today, it would be a would be a while before I’d be back as my employer wants me to get up to speed with the latest MCSE track and quickly, meaning I wouldn’t have the bandwidth (or the mental capacity!) to take on both at the same time.

Nor did it help that I was running a little late, I’d had a coffee and an early lunch because as usual, my appointment spanned over lunch time and I didn’t want to get hungry. By the time I set off for the test centre, it was getting close to my appointment time start so I had to run the last couple of hundred yards to make it on time. With that and a coffee swilling around inside me, my eyes were on stalks when the exam started!

I’m not sure how large the pool of questions is, but I did get a few I’d had previously, including some I came a little unstuck on. I tried to move on if I felt I was getting bogged down, with the intention of picking up as many points as possible elsewhere. Somewhat surprisingly, by the time I’d completed question 23, I still had 30 minutes left. So I went back, quickly checking my answers and referring to the admin guide on the ones I was stuck on.

It turned out to be a pretty effective strategy, although I did go back to delete and restart one “answer” I’d started and then ran out of time, as the desktop refresh was a little laggier than last time, and I couldn’t quite complete the task in time.

I came out feeling tense as I thought I’d passed last time and didn’t,  and I was mindful that I hadn’t completed all tasks with the loss of points that entails. Anyway, I got the score report back quickly again (thanks Joshua!) and this time thankfully I’ve passed! So now I have four VCAPs and I can afford to dream of the far off pot of gold that is the VCDX. I’m not going to think about that yet, as I’ve a box full of Microsoft exams to get done before I can get to that. Still, in the words of Peter Venkman, “we came, we saw, we kicked it’s ASS!”

 

G-1136 - We came, we saw, we kicked its ass

 

07-08-14

VCAP-DTA PCoIP Tuning Quick  Reference

Following on from my previous post regarding tuning your Windows 7 image for the purposes of the VCAP-DTA exam, I lifted the following table from the View 5.2 Best Practices guide. In the exam you don’t have a lot of time and you’re probably going to have to tackle a question at some stage about PCoIP performance or be asked to tune it for certain restrictive network conditions. The table below has a handful of settings which should help you go a decent way to getting good marks for this question:-

SETTING

DEFAULT RECOMMENDATION

DESCRIPTION

Build to lossless

On

Turn Off

Enables the ability to enable or disable build to lossless
Session Audio BWlimit

500Kbps

50 – 100Kbps

Reduces bandwidth usage of audio with usable quality
Maximum frame rate

30

Change to 10-15 based on network settings

In WAN conditions, this will be helpful for video playback and fast graphics operations
Maximum sessionbandwidth

n/a

Set per network conditions

Good for better bandwidth estimation
Client side cache size

250MB

Set per client-side memory available

This allows you to configure the client side image cache size

05-08-14

Windows 7 Desktop Tuning Quick Reference

Another item that kicked me a bit in the VCAP-DTA exam (as per the RADIUS post below) was tuning the Windows 7 desktop image for VDI. I mean, that could be a million settings, couldn’t it? Where do you start? You could take the whole of the three hours of the exam tweaking and changing! While going through a View best practices white paper for another piece of work that I’m doing, I came across a handy chart for a handful of basic items you should tune on your Windows 7 desktop, which is a damn sight easier than remembering hundreds of registry keys and group policy settings!

 

PARAMETER CONFIGURATION
vCPU 1 for WinXP and Win7 and Win8

2 for multimedia intensive apps

Memory 512-768 MB for WinXP

1GB for 32-bit Win7 and Win82GB for 64-bit Win7 and Win8

3GB for Win7 and Win8 64-bit for memory-intensive apps

Network adapter VMXnet3, flexible
Storage adapter PVSCSI or LSI Logic SAS
VMware Tools Latest installed
Visual settings “Adjust to best performance”

Disable Animations for Windows Maximize and Minimize operations

Use default cursor for busy and working cursor

Disable services Windows Update, Super-fetch, Windows Index
Group policy settings Disable Hibernation

Screensaver to None

Other settings Turn off clear-type

Disable fading effectsDisable auto-play and external drive caching for quick release

Disable last access timestamps (1)

 

1) Set the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SYSTEM/CurrentControlSet/Control/Filesystem/
NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate to 1

31-07-14

Configuring RADIUS Two Factor Authentication with Horizon View

One of the things I fell short on in the VCAP-DTA exam was RADIUS and two factor authentication. I hadn’t really done much with it for the thick end of 10 years and when it came to the exam, I just hadn’t worked through it enough to remember what all the moving parts were and how they worked. Once I failed the exam, I wanted to go back and re-review what all the moving parts were, how they hung together and basically how to set it all up from start to finish.

Like most people with home labs, I have a couple of Windows Servers performing multiple roles, including Domain Controller, Certificate Authority etc. One thing you can do to practice configuring RADIUS authentication for Horizon View is to install the Network Policy Server role on one of your Windows boxes and configure RADIUS. When Googling how to do this, I found a really good (and up to date) white paper on VMware’s website with clear and concise instructions about how to configure the Windows Server end and also the Connection Server end to make two factor authentication happen.

Literally from start to finish, the process took no longer than around 10-15 minutes. Well worth a run through before the VCAP-DTA exam to make sure you really understand RADIUS components and how Horizon View hooks into it. The guide also covers RSA Authentication Manager if you want to practice that, but I wouldn’t expect to see that option on the exam. Worth knowing though, just in case.

The white paper (PDF) is available here.

 

30-07-14

VCAP-DTA Consolidated Study Guide 1.4 Available

 

download

 

I did promise on Twitter last week that once I’d got the exam out of the way, I’d take the study notes I’d written so far and put them into one document for easier (and offline) reading. Well I’ve done that. Turns out it was a lot more effort than I thought, but it’s now available from the link in the top menu bar on the VF homepage. There may be errors or typos in there, I checked it the best I could. If you spot anything, let me know via Twitter and I will try and correct it once I’ve validated it.

I’m also writing some exam questions that follow the exam blueprint. Nothing special, but it will hopefully just jog your memory enough to make sure you understand the things you’re being tested on. That’s coming along nicely and should be available by the week’s end.

Hopefully you will find the study guide of use for the exam, all feedback is welcome as I improve it.