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© Rakhesh Sasidharan

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[Aside] XenApp beta testing with Application Groups

Application Groups is a new feature introduced in XenApp and XenDesktop 7.9 (speaking of which: XenApp and XenDesktop are the same thing just that different functionality is exposed based on the license. I kind of knew this, but thanks to proper testing by James Rankin as shown in his YouTube video I can now say this with confidence). I’d thought of writing a blog post on this but (a) I am lazy and (b) this blog post from Citrix explains it much better. Take note of the example they give with beta testers – that’s just what I do in my environment too.

Machine Catalogs contain your machines. Delivery Groups target a subset (or entirety) of the machines in a Machine Catalog. Delivery Groups can contain machines from multiple Machine Catalogs but a single machine can only be a member of one Delivery Group.

Typically you’d create Machine Catalogs and assign machines from these to a Delivery Group. Then you’d define applications in the Delivery Group and assign users who can access them. When you use Application Groups, however, you continue to assign users in Delivery Groups but now you associate the Application Group with one or more Delivery Groups and define applications in the Application Group. You can set priorities for the Delivery Groups within an Application Group, and if an application is present in more than one Delivery Group (and the user launching the application has permissions to these Delivery Groups) then it is launched from the Delivery Group with the higher priority (a lower number has higher priority).

Once we start using Application Groups there’s no need to define applications in Delivery Groups.

Application Groups also help in targeting specific machines in a Delivery Group. As I mentioned above a Delivery Group can contain machines from multiple Catalogs. Using Application Groups its possible that some users are “pinned” to applications from machines in specific Machine Catalogs.

Here are more links on how Application Groups can be used along with tags:

Endless Night

Just finished listening to Agatha Christie’s “Endless Night”. It was an amazing listen. Very unlike in tone and story to Dame Christie’s usual detective stories (but with a plot twist she has used in the past but which nevertheless came as a surprise to me here too). This was a dark story and I enjoyed it!

Came across the following from William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence” via this book and I liked it a lot:

Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Through the world we safely go.

Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.

Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born,
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.

Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.

Adding Registry keys to NTUSER.DAT for multiple users

A while ago I had pointed to a blog post I found wherein the author wrote a script to push registry keys to the NTUSER.DAT profile file of a large number of users. I wanted to try something similar in my own environment and while I didn’t go with the script I found I made up something quick and dirty of my own. I know it isn’t as thorough as the one from that blog post (so I’ll link to it again) but it serves my need. :)

So here’s the deal. I have a bunch of profiles located at “\\path\to\profiles\ctxprofiles$“. It has both v4 and v6 profiles. I’d only like to target the v4 profiles, and that too a specific user for testing. This user’s name contains the word “CtxTest” so I match against it. (Post testing I can remove the pipeline and target everyone).

All I do is get the list of folders, and for each of them load the NTUSER.DAT file from the correct location (it’s under a folder called UPM_Profile as I am using Citrix UPM). I just use the REG commands to load the registry hive, import a registry file, and unload the hive. Easy peasy. No error checking etc. so like I said it’s not as great a script as it can be.

[Aside] How to roam AppData\Local too

Came across this video from James Rankin. Apart from being an excellent video, it has one important thing which I felt I must note down here as a reference to myself. I always thought AppData\Local and AppData\LocalLow were not synced as part of your roaming profile because they were special in some way. Today I realized that there’s nothing special about them. They are not synced because of a key called ExcludeProfileDirs in HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon. Any folder mentioned there is not synced as part of your roaming profile. Nice!

So to make AppData\Local roam, simply remove it from that registry key. Then selectively add any sub-folders you might want to exclude.

XenApp and Run/ RunOnce keys

Reminder to myself: the Run and RunOnce entries in HKLM and HKCU are not processed if an application is launched via XenApp. That’s because these keys are processed by explorer.exe and that doesn’t run when you launch single applications (as opposed to the desktop).

Adding multiple languages via Registry

I wanted to have multiple languages/ keyboard layouts in my XenApp environment. Thought I’d push it out via a registry key change. I forget the blog post I had found the details from but this one has similar info. Basically HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Keyboard Layout has the registry keys you need to modify. Easiest thing to do is add the languages and keyboards you want via GUI (control panel) and then just export the registry keys. My example below has English UK, English US, and Arabic.

This is a good blog post that explains the keys above and also gives a way of deploying this via GPO (i.e. using admin templates).

Set 7-Zip as the default for zip files

Had to do this for my XenApp install (7-Zip on a Server 2012R2). Thanks to this post which is in turn based on this post. Trick is to put the following into a registry file and double click/ import it on the machine:

After this go to Control Panel > Default Programs and 7-Zip will appear there. You can set it as the default for all extensions/ choose the ones you want.

Update: Frustratingly, I learnt that the Control Panel way doesn’t do the trick for Citrix. Later I learnt that maybe HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts\ might be where FTAs (file type associations) are stored, so spent some time exporting the keys from there and pushing out via GPO. Turns out that didn’t do the trick either as it includes a hash tying the file type association to the user & machine where it was set to (bummer eh!). Thanks to these two posts [1][2] I learnt that the official approach is to use DISM to export the FTAs for a user and then deploy it via GPO. The FTAs are deployed to machines, so you can’t have per user customizations this way (but the two posts above have some workarounds).

The DISM command is: dism /online /Export-DefaultAppAssociations:c:\ftas.xml.

Update2: Here’s a blog post containing a tool that lets you bypass this hash issue.

Update3: This is a blog post about the OEMDefaultAssociations.xml. This is the file where the default customizations are stored, which you can over-ride via GPO. Or you could edit this file itself per machine. I learnt via trial and error – this file is very sensitive. If there are missing entries (the default ones) or even out of order entries it seems to be ignored altogether.

The entries in this are configured on new user profiles (existing ones are left untouched) and users can modify the associations if they want. The entries in the GPO cannot be changed by users.

[Aside] ADFS and Windows Proxy

Quick shout out to this blog post on where to set the Internet Proxy for ADFS. Basically, you gotta set it via netsh winhttp proxy.

A good quote from “Murder is Easy”

Just finished listening to Agatha Christie’s “Murder is Easy” and came across this quote towards the end. Loved it.

Bridget: Liking is more important than loving. It lasts. I want what is between us to last, Luke. I don’t want us just to love each other and marry and get tired of each other and then want to marry some one else.

Luke: Oh! my dear Love, I know. You want reality. So do I. What’s between us will last for ever because it’s founded on reality.

The Citrix Desktop Service failed to obtain a list of delivery controllers with which to register.

Funny little problem.

So I installed VDA 7.13 on a brand new Server 2016. Did the usual to create a catalog etc. But the VM doesn’t register with the Delivery Controller. Application event logs are filled with messages like these:

I am not looking to AD etc. for the list of Delivery Controllers, so why this error? Open up regedit and HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Citrix\VirtualDesktopAgent\ListOfDDCs has the correct names too. So what gives?!

Turns out when I put in the Delivery Controllers name here I had set them as “DC1.fqdn. DC2.fqdn.“. I could ping either of these and connect to the ports etc from the VM, but just on a hunch I removed the “.” in the “fqdn.” and tada! it began working. :)

Moral of the story: Citrix Desktop Service expects Delivery Controllers to be of format “DC1.fqdn DC2.fqdn“. If it sees a dot it ignores the ListOfDDCs key and looks towards AD. It doesn’t tell you that it’s ignoring the registry key, so you are stuck wondering why it’s looking towards AD. :)

partedUtil and installing ESXi on a USB disk and using it as a datastore

Recently I wanted to install ESXi 6.5 on a USB disk and also use that disk as a datastore to store VM on. I couldn’t get any VMs to run off the USB disk but I spent some time getting the USB disk presented as a datastore so wanted to post that here.

Installing ESXi 6.5 to a USB is straight-forward.

And this blog post is a good reference on what to do so that a USB disk is visible as a datastore. This blog post is about presenting a USB disk without ESXi installed on it – i.e. you use the USB disk entirely as a datastore. In my case the disk already had partitions on it so I had to make some changes to the instructions in that blog post. This meant a bit of mucking about with partedUtil, which is the ESXi command line way of fiddling with partition tables. (fdisk while present is no longer supported as it doesn’t do GPT).

1. First, connect to the ESXi host via SSH.

2. Shutdown the USB arbitrator service (this is used to present a USB disk to a VM): /etc/init.d/usbarbitrator stop

3. Permanently disable this service too: chkconfig usbarbitrator off

4. Now find the USB disk device from /dev/disks. This can be done via an ls -al. In my case the device was called /dev/disks/t10.SanDisk00Cruzer_Switch0000004C531001441121115514.

So far so good?

To find the partitions on this device use the partedUtil getptbl command. Example output from my case:

The “gpt” indicates this is a GPT partition table. The four numbers after that give the number of cylinders (7625), heads (255), sectors per track (63), as well as the total number of sectors (122508544). Multiplying the cylinders x heads x sectors per head should give a similar figure too (122495625).

An entry such as 9 1843200 7086079 9D27538040AD11DBBF97000C2911D1B8 vmkDiagnostic 0 means the following:

  • partition number 9
  • starting at sector 1843200
  • ending at sector 7086079
  • of GUID 7086079 9D27538040AD11DBBF97000C2911D1B8, type vmkDiagnostic (you can get a list of all known GUIDs and type via the partedUtil showGuids command)
  • attribute 0

In my case since the total number of sectors is 122495625 (am taking the product of the CHS figures) and the last partition ends at sector 7086079 I have free space where I can create a new partition. This is what I’d like to expose to the ESX host.

There seems to be gap of 33 sectors between partitions (at least between 8 and 7, and 7 and 6 – I didn’t check them all :)). So my new partition should start at sector 7086112 (7086079 + 33) and end at 122495624 (122495625 -1) (we leave one sector in the end). The VMFS partition GUID is AA31E02A400F11DB9590000C2911D1B8, thus my entry would look something like this: 10 7086112 122495624 AA31E02A400F11DB9590000C2911D1B8 0.

But we can’t do that at the moment as the disk is read-only. If I try making any changes to the disk it will throw an error like this:

From a VMware forum post I learnt that this is because the disk has a coredump partition (the vmkDiagnostic partitions we saw above). We need to disable that first.

5. Disable the coredump partition: esxcli system coredump partition set --enable false

6. Delete the coredump partitions:

7. Output the partition table again:

So what I want to add above is partition 9. An entry such as 9 1843232 122495624 AA31E02A400F11DB9590000C2911D1B8 0.

8. Set the partition table. Take note to include the existing partitions as well as the command replaces everything.

That’s it. Now partition 9 will be created.

All the partitions also have direct entries under /dev/disks. Here’s the entries in my case after the above changes:

Not sure what the “vml” entries are.

9. Next step is to create the datastore.

That’s it! Now ESXi will see a datastore called “USB-Datastore” formatted with VMFS6. :)

Firefox Offline Installers

For my own info –

Good to have these in case you are not connected to the Interwebs and wan’t to install Firefox.

Also, this link on how to set a proxy in Firefox for all users.

[Aside] Always offline mode for cached files

I wasn’t aware of this until a few weeks ago. Starting with Windows 8/ Server 2012 there’s an always offline mode for cached files and folders. That’s useful!

FC with Synergy 3820C 10/20Gb CNA and VMware ESXi

(This post is intentionally brief because I don’t want to sidetrack by talking more on the things I link to. I am trying to clear my browser tabs by making blog posts on what’s open, so I want to focus on just getting stuff posted. :)

At work we are moving HPE Synergy now. We have two Synergy 12000 frames with each frame containing a Virtual Connect SE 40Gb F8 Module for Synergy. The two frames are linked via Synergy 20Gb Interconnect Link Module(s). (Synergy has a master/ satellite module for the Virtual Connect modules so you don’t need a Virtual Connect module per frame (or enclosure as it used to be in the past)). The frames have SY 480 Gen 10 compute modules, running ESXi 6.5, and the mezzanine slot of each compute module has a Synergy 3820C 10/20Gb CNA module. The OS in the compute modules should see up to 4 FlexNIC or FlexHBA adapters per Virtual Connect module.

The FlexHBA adapters are actually FCoE adapters (they provide FCoE and/ or iSCSI actually). By default these FlexHBA adapters are not listed as storage adapters in ESXi so one has to follow the instructions in this link. Basically:

1) Determine the vmnic IDs of the FCoE adapters:

2) Then do a discovery to activate FCoE:

As a reference to my future self, here’s a blog post on how to do this automatically for stateless installs.

Totally unrelated to the above, but something I had found while Googling on this issue: Implementing Multi-Chassis Link Aggregation Groups (MC-LAG) with HPE Synergy Virtual Connect SE 40Gb F8 Module and Arista 7050 Series Switches. A good read.

Also, two good blog posts on Synergy:

[Aside] ESXCLI storage commands

Had to spend some time recently identifying the attached storage devices and adapters to an ESXi box and the above links were handy. Thought I should put them in here as a reference to myself.