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Altaro VM Backup Review

logoWell you may be asking yourself what an EUC focused guy is doing reviewing a backup product, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure either but then something happened and I suddenly grew a strong appreciation for this product… but more on that later.

As one who still remembers (and has the scars) from those dreaded tape restore days to off site locations. I remember spending 72 hours + trying to restore machines to different hardware, struggle with different tape drive manufacturers and trying to find the right tape!  I jumped ship from sys admin long ago and moved to EUC, avoiding the backup market like the plague in later years so I really was a fresh set of eyes to this age old conundrum.

Recently I stumbled across Altaro VM backup as part of my usual day to day readings and my interest was piqued. Withstanding that as a home lab owner and a hypervisor snob I really only run vSphere and Hyper-V was normally not something I enjoyed working with… I got talking to a nice gentleman from Altaro and I was invited to join the closed beta for vSphere.

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Citrix Receiver for Mac and British keyboard tomfoolery.

receiver-iconTomfoolery? indeed! Here is a problem that drove me nuts on a daily basis and I’m delighted to report the great Simon Frost and Dustin Norman of Citrix heard my cries of frustration and kindly resolved my issue outright. Stand up gentlemen they are!

My issue was simple, as a developer and powershell zealot, I regularly used the pipe Symbol (|) in anger. Well in anger i mean, I was literally angry as despite pressing the frickin pipe key, an imposter appeared in the remote console…

pipewoes

  • Looked like a pipe? Yes!
  • Acted like a pipe? NO!

So anyway, being a Citrix CTP has it’s benefits, I reached out to the aforementioned blokes and sure enough a few emails were exchanged and poof! issue resolved.

To paraphrase Dustins email:

  1. Open ~/Library/Application Support/Citrix Receiver/Config in a text editor
  2. Find the KeyboardLayout setting in the [WFClient] section
  3. Change KeyboardLayout to: British
  4. Save the file
  5. Launch the session

Tada! Pipe back to normal. Thanks again Simon and Dustin.

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ThreadLocker 2.0 is live!

Threadlocker 128x128Back in 2012 I wrote a utility called “ThreadLocker” for dealing with CPU heavy processes or multi threaded processes that have a nasty tendency to cause sluggish performance or even hangs in shared computing environments.

You can read all about the original concept here. My good friend and fellow CTP Barry Schiffer also wrote a really good article about the need for a product like ThreadLocker here.

 

Some history:

In essence, ThreadLocker was a utility for both shared and 1:1 desktop environments. It allowed you to layer in rules for processes that had a history of high or discruptive CPU usage, to protect the other users (in a shared environment) or to protect other running processes and the users interface (explorer.exe) while a large compute job was occurring.

ThreadLocker exploded with popularity and has received well over 100,000 downloads in the last three years. Alike ThinKiosk, ThreadLocker is a tool I regularly come across in my customers environments while consulting and it always suprised me with it’s uptake and popularity. I have observed ThreadLocker in VDI, SBC and even on stand alone workstations with great levels of success.

 

Moving on:

One of the frustrations I had with ThreadLocker, was any .NET based language (c#, vb.net, etc.) was never quick enough to be able to add an intelligent aspect to the utility without actually making CPU usage worse by implementing. ThreadLocker 1.0 relied on static rules and any new processes would have to be observed and added.

Recently David Coombes and I undertook the side project of redesigning ThreadLocker to run in c++, adding the raw speed we needed to be able to make intelligent decisions based on CPU usage and react in a fraction of a second to a sudden CPU spike. ThreadLocker 2.0 was designed to specifically tackle two issues:

  • Processes comsuming a large % of CPU and is multithreaded.
  • Many buggy or heavy processes, each consuming a core each.

We didnt want to tackle this with the approach of many others, where they’ll pause and resume threads many times a second creating a “SawTooth” effect on the processes CPU usage. We wanted the processes to run as fast as they need up to a certain threshold and only be restricted when contention is likely.

Having experienced other vendors approaches where process priority is dropped, many times this simply does not cut it as a heavy process, even at idle priority, will cause the other users and processes to feel slow and sluggish.

Why is ThreadLocker different?

With ThreadLocker 2.0, you can elect a percentage of your CPU cores that ThreadLocker can use for isolating these processes. When a process violates the ThreadLocking criteria, they are locked into these subset of cores to contend with any other processes that are also ThreadLocked, leaving well behaved processes to be able to take advantage of all cores in system. Once they start to behave again and do so for a certain amount of time, the processes are dropped back into the “wild” unless they decide to misbehave again.

This approach is extremely fast (ThreadLocker consumes less CPU than Microsoft’s own Task Manager) from a processing point of view and also has the benefit of allowing users to multitask with other applications while, for example, Excel hammers the ThreadLocking cores during a calculation.

The end result has been fantastic. Threadlocker can be installed and up and running in seconds. There is no longer a requirement for static rules and out of box, all aspects of the logic can be tuned to suit your environment, but more than likely wont be needed.

 Demo Video:

 


Availability

We are proud to announce the general availability of ThreadLocker 2.0 and more information can be found on our website at http://www.thinscaletechnology.com/threadlocker.

 

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Dealing with multi numbered versions in powershell.

Windows_PowerShell_iconSo here’s a quick little blog about something i discovered in powershell while googling today.

Lots of vendors like to use version numbers including Major.Minor.Build.Revision.

An example of a vendor I was dealing with recently was Citrix themselves.

versionexample

The problem is, in powershell, it’s not that easy to take a string (text) representative of these, split it up then label it yourself. you’re splitting, taking objects in an array, assigning them values… nasty.

string

Did you know .Net has a native ability to do this?

Introducing system.version

Now with system.version, it’s very easy to do comparisons! Just cast your string into a [system.version] as below:

version

 

After that, just compare the major, minor, build or revision at will!

example2

 

Happy version comparing!

Creating an automated VMware Horizon RDS Pool with Horizon 6.2

 

horizonSo VMware Horizon 6.2 was announced at VMworld just a week ago and the one feature I sorely wanted to see was automated provisioning (golden image management) of a Microsoft Remote Desktop Services farm.

The provisioning process is fairly straight forward, so in this blog post I’ll walk you through the steps to avoid any issues.

Prerequisites:

  • Download the Agent, Connection Server and Composer software.
  • Upgrade your Connection Servers to 6.2.
  • Upgrade your Security Servers to 6.2 (remember you’ll need to repair with the connection servers).
  • Upgrade your Composer.
  • A Microsoft RDS server.

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