Tag Archives: ThinKiosk

Thinkiosk 2.2.1 is now available.

Just a quick update to address a few bugs found in ThinKiosk 2.2.

ThinKiosk Updates:

  • ThinKiosk will now better handle url’s typed incorrectly (i.e. two full stops) Thanks Geert.
  • ThinKiosk will now correctly supress script errors, Thanks Dane / Igor.
  • ThinKiosk will no longer allow you to specify a url on first launch, as it was close to impossible to correct due to policy settings.

Offline Configuration tool

  • The Offline Configuration tool will no longer allow non administrators run the application when UAC is turned off.
  • The Offline configuration tool has been updated to include an option to log off the desktop when a remote session ends.

Caffeine integration is still not quite finished, so expect it in 2.3.


ThinKiosk development has taken quite some time and it takes time to support you via email. If you use ThinKiosk in your environment or appreciate the savings its made for you, please consider making a donation to help me keep this project alive… I would really appreciate it! 

ThinKiosk, works well on Thin Clients too, apparently!

This was a bit of a revelation to me, but after thinking about it, it makes perfect sense and I feel a bit naive for overlooking this use case originally!

Before I launch into my little discovery, here’s something I want to share:

Since ThinKiosk was released in January, It’s been downloaded over 5,000 times and I have counted (only from those who have contacted me) that there are well over 10,000 instances running in customer environments to this day. Version 1 was released with just 700 lines of code and version 2.3 is just shy of 6,000. This is absolutely amazing to me, seeing an idea that I thought was a “Publish and Forget” blog post be embraced so passionately by the community. So for this, I just wanted to thank you guys for all your help, support and idea’s.

Anyway, back to it. While reviewing my emails recently, it struck me that there are many, many customers using ThinKiosk, not on old PC’s which I had written the program for, but on Thin Clients from top vendors… Now this doesn’t bother me one bit, as the more people using this tool the better, but why aren’t these people using Linux Thin Clients? I’m a large advocate of linux based thin clients in my day job, hell, they’re much cheaper, easier to manage and in most cases boot faster… Why choose Windows?

So confused and curious, I decided to perform a little poll on Twitter:

"Monday morning poll, why do you choose Windows based thin clients?"

And to my surprise, the feedback was great, below I’ve included the top reasons why community members choose Windows Thin Clients:

  • HDX Redirection (Aero, Flash, Printing, Scanning)
  • Better feature set on Windows / Future proof for upcoming features.
  • Central Management via Active Directory / Group Policy.
  • Driver support (proxy card’s, smart card’s)
  • Familiar User Interface.
  • Familiar support platform / Unified support platform / No in house linux knowledge.

So all this got me thinking, even with a list that long of why Windows based thin clients are preferred, why are these guys using ThinKiosk on out of box Thin Clients? Surely a paid for solution will be an end to end solution?

Well not really and why is this? Citrix receiver.

Citrix receiver for Windows (Previously the Program Neighbourhood agent) has been designed for published applications running inside of the users local desktop session, not for Thin Clients connecting to virtual desktops and this is very clear when you consider that Receiver will by default place your published desktop on the start menu or desktop of your session.

This approach will normally lead you to have to log the user into the Thin Client as themselves, which you would prefer to be locked down in the first place. This also leaves you with the challenge of how do you log them off after their desktop session has ended!

Sure Citrix have added some additional desktop related functionality along the way (Desktop Viewer) but even desktop viewer itself is designed for running inside a users session allowing the user to jump back to the local device via the home button.. which can’t subsequently be locked down sadly.

Citrix did also release the desktop lock tool, which is good for very small use cases, but lacks the functionality of multiple desktops, workspace control, user customisations etc… Hence why ThinKiosk came to be!

Thin Client vendor work around?

Most Thin Client vendors will allow you to present glorified shortcuts to ICA files on the desktop of the Thin Client device, or auto launch them on boot… But this approach eliminates the benefits of Workspace Control, XenApp preferencial load balancing and requires trickery to get pass through authentication to work… Not only this but managing these shortcuts in a multi desktop and multi language environment where users roam from country to country is a complete administrative nightmare!

But What about the web access products from Citrix?

Now the obvious alternative to the Citrix Receiver is the Citrix’s web access platforms… The web interface or Cloud Gateway, unlike the desktop lock, or ica files offers multiple desktops, workspace control, load balancing policies etc. You can also leverage web interfaces built in password changing feature for the user with them having to be logged in to the local device and even allow them to reset their own password or unlock their account with Citrix Single Sign on!

And the best part is? the users will already be very familiar with this interface if you have an access gateway or Secure gateway for remote access.

Aha! now it makes sense!

I accidentally provided an easy to use, unified access approach across all windows devices…and I feel blind for not seeing it before!

What ThinKiosk also accidentally addressed, was allowing this web access platform to be leveraged with ease, security and minimal configuration… from any windows platform, Thin Client or old pc.

So in short, I think this was the success story for ThinKiosk I hadn’t considered… so much so that I’ve changed my own approach and mindset for Linux based Thin Clients too, locking down a local copy of  Firefox and presenting the Web Interface or Cloud Gateway.

So if you’re considering rolling in windows Thin Clients for your current or next VDI project… Consider using ThinKiosk, it’ll save you alot of pain, will work seamlessly with all your clients (thin or fat), and will save you time in management in the long run!

ThinKiosk 2.0 Beta Available:

It’s ready!

I’ve uploaded a copy of ThinKiosk 2.0 for you to start testing, Its available on the downloads page. A full list of new features can be found in my previous preview blog.

When you start testing, again use a new OU and Group Policy Object, I’ve changed it again (last time, Promise!)

A few quick Points:

  • Find a bug?
  • Want a new feature?
  • Want some help?

Drop me an email  on Andrew(at)andrewmorgan.ie or leave a comment below and we’ll have a quick chat.

Want to help translate ThinKiosk?

Drop me an email on  Andrew(at)andrewmorgan.ie to let me know you’re awesome and want to help, then download a copy of the language file from the downloads page. All translators will be forever immortalised on the Credits page.

Don’t worry if you’re language isn’t already in the worksheet, add an additional column and fire away.

Note: Please don’t reorder the tabs or sorting.

Want to help further development of ThinKiosk?

If you have access to any of the following environments, I’d be very interested in talking to you about doing some testing.

  • Web access portal to Windows Remote Desktop services.
  • a MEDV environment.
  • a web portal to a VMware View environment.

If you have another web based access to an SBC or VDI environment I’m also happy to test also.

And, of course, any such testing will also result in aforementioned immortality.

Want to give back?

I have a donate button over there —->

:)

ThinKiosk 2.0 Beta Preview

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for me, my mailbox has been flooded, the feedback and functionality idea’s for ThinKiosk’s next release have been flying in. While most of my Irish bretherin were out celebrating the ousting of snakes from our fair Isle this week, I stayed behind and broke the back of the next release.

Version 2.0 is a complete rework of the code as I adopted some standards, a big thank you again to Pierre Marmignon for taking the time to point me in the right direction!

With that out of the way, I’m delighted to announce the functionality to be included in version 2.0!

ThinKiosk 2.0 Layout:






Without further ado, lets get to the goodies:


Customisable title:



The title for ThinKiosk can now to updated to include your corporate slogan, company name or consulting company, whatever you like.

A simple registry key entry will allow you to change this title to deliver a once off, professional solution to your customer or users.


Random: Current CCIA’s will probably shudder at that title, I still do.

Site Selection:



If you wish to present a list of websites to which the user can login to, ThinKiosk will now cater for this with a simple selection box at the bottom of the screen. You can optionally populate this list (or not, its up to you) with up to five websites.

The label’s and url’s are configurable via registry or group policy putting you in full control of the appearance.

Home Button:



A quick and easy home button has been added to allow access gateway users to log in after timeout without having to reload their browser. Simple but effective.

Custom Tools:



A frequent request I received was to allow the users access to certain commands from the Kiosk, these requests ranged from TeamViewer, to Remote Desktop, to printers, to EWF access to Installing windows updates and I was beginning to worry things might get out of control if I attempted to integrate them all… So I didn’t!

With the custom tools menu, you can populate up to five commands you wish to allow your users access to. The command line and label’s for each command are fully customisable so you can do what you wish with them.

Local Printer Management:



So one of the coolest, yet understated features in the Citrix receiver is the printing channel right?  Single driver for all, compressed and quick printing popping out on your local machine? Awesome Right?

Yeah, feedback dictated that thought too so I set about integrating the local windows printing control panel items into ThinKiosk. But, alas I hit a fairly big stumbling block, calling the printers display window was also calling explorer.exe… which pretty much circumvents all of ThinKiosk’s advantages.

Undeterred, I decided to write my own Printer control menu!




From this menu, you can:

  • Add a printer (this can be restricted)
  • Open a printers queue to dispatch stuck jobs
  • Open and configure printers properties
  • set your default printer
It’s still an unpolished diamond visually, but it works well. I’ll pretty it up once the testing has been completed.


Power Management:


With ThinKiosk 2.0 I really wanted to add more benefits and this feature is one I’m really proud of. ThinKiosk now has power saving options as follows to power off your Kiosk Pc’s when they are not in use, saving you money!


Power Down at a certain time:


If you would like to power your machines off at night, but not disturb active users. I have you covered!
You can instruct ThinKiosk to power down at a certain time each evening and when that time is reached the user is notified:
This shutdown can be suppressed by the user within five minutes of it triggering, and once suppressed the user will not be notified again for that day.


Power down when not in use:


If you would like to power down your pc’s after a period of inactivity, I’ve also got you covered!
You can configure an idle time via registry or policy and if the pc / kiosk is idle for longer than this It will warn the user of the inpending shutdown. This can also be cancelled and suppressed as above.


Offline Configuration tool:


When configuring ThinKiosk outside of a domain or setting up ThinKiosk for a test, it was a bit cumbersome to configure the registry keys each time. For this reason I’ve put together an offline configuration tool to speed up the process in an offline situation or in a quick proof of concept:


One last thing?

ThinKiosk will, always, remain free to use!

I will also be introducing a support & maintenance option for companies who would like SLA based support, customisations and notified software updates. But this will never affect the happy free users.


How can i get a copy of the beta?


I’ll be releasing the beta later this week so follow me on twitter (@andyjmorgan) for updates.  If you would prefer me to send you a copy when its ready, Drop me an email on Andrew (at) andrewmorgan.ie.

Thinkiosk: Turn your current PC’s into Citrix ready thin clients, with minimum hassle.

Note:

this post is a reference to the 1.0 release, please go to http://www.andrewmorgan.ie/thinkiosk for the latest information or use the menu’s above.

With alot of uncertainty in the Citrix Thin Client market (Citrix SoC), the increasing demands for client offloading (HDX redirection) and the abundance of suitable hardware in your current infrastructure, there has never been a greater need for hardware recycling.

Using current defunct hardware to provide a better experience to the user can slash the cost of new customer roll outs and also provide a stop gap solution as we all patiently wait to see what Citrix will deliver with their System on Chip design.

With this in mind I recently set about evaluating products in this market. I tested both Linux based distro’s and the Citrix Desktop appliance lock.

  • The linux devices had driver related issues and didnt support the full feature list of Citrix’s HDX technologies.
  • The Citrix Desktop Appliance lock (although great) lacked control and flexibility.

Ultimately, not satisfied with my options I decided to develop my own solution to this Problem

ThinKiosk:

The product I have developed, ThinKiosk, is a lightweight .Net framework application designed to replace the shell of the pc it runs on. ThinKiosk is free to use and the source code will also be available for further development.

ThinKiosk is a secure browser window that is designed to leverage the configuration and flexibility provided by the Citrix Web interface. Thin Kiosk allows the users to use multiple desktops, applications etc and adds additional configuration options to empower the user. Allowing users to configure screen resolution, keyboard, audio etc without allowing too much access to the pc.

With ThinKiosk you can present multiple desktops or individual applications to whoever logs into the kiosk.

ThinKiosk allows companies to leverage all of the Citrix HDX components, along with the Branch repeater plugin on top of hardware capable of client side rendering, at no additional cost.

As ThinKiosk will run on Windows devices, you can use your current antivirus and Windows Update products to manage these devices. No extra configuration, no messing.

Licensing:

ThinKiosk is free to use for any individual or business. So feel free to use it!

That being said, I don’t consent to ThinKiosk being used as follows:

  • Included as part of a bundle package.
  • Integrated into a “paid for” service
  • Sold as a service.

Deployment:

ThinKiosk can be deployed using an MSI and a very simple Group Policy ADM file.

ThinKiosk has been designed to replace the windows shell option using the Group Policy Custom User Interface option. This allows you, as the administrator to replace the shell based on computer or user policies, Allowing quick fall back to the native desktop during testing.

Tested Configurations:

The below operating systems have been tested with HDX  and Flash redirection:

  • Windows XP.
  • Windows Thin PC.
The below software components have been tested and are recommended:
  • Windows Media Player 11
  • Internet Explorer 8 & above
  • Adobe Flash Player 11
  • Citrix Receiver Enterprise 3.1
  • Microsoft .net framework 2 to 3.5 sp1.

.net framework 4.0 has mixed results

Setup:

ThinKiosk can bedeployed to an auto login account, domain or local. Thin Kiosk can also be configured to run as the end user. The setup options are flexible to how you wish to deploy it.

A recommended configuration for ThinKiosk would be to configure an auto login account on the PC’s, so when the PC boots it auto logs in presenting the web interface for the user to log in as themselves.

This allows for quick boot times, removes any complications provided by the users group policies and allows users to fall back to their own profile in the event of missing functionality during initial testing.

Group Policy Configuration options:

Below are the configuration options available in the ADM file:

URL – The Web Interface URL.

E.G. http://citrix/Citrix/XenApp

ShowAdminMenu – Displays an admin menu in thinkiosk.

This admin menu contains cmd, explorer, a custom url and resizing options. These tools are handy for troubleshooting

ShowLogOff – Displays the LogOff button to the users.

Allowing a user to log off.

WindowMode – Displays ThinKiosk in a window instead of fullscreen.

Window mode allows users to stack open applications at the bottom of the screen, handy for users who need multiple applications.

WindowModePercent – The percentage of the primary monitor to be used by ThinKiosk.

e.g. 90%

Auto Login Options:

As part of the Group Policy template, I’ve configured options to make configuring the default login as part of the policy. These options aren’t currently available in Microsoft Group Policies and have been provided for extra value. These settings Dont need to be used.

Registry control:

All configuration of ThinKiosk is via the ADM file, but the corresponding registry keys will be published for non domain use below:

ThinKiosk checks both machine and user keys on load in that preference.

Machine keys take preference over user keys.

  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREThinKiosk
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USERSOFTWAREThinKiosk
Under these keys, the following registry items can be configured:
URL – REG_SZ – e.g. http://citrix/Citrix/XenApp
SHOWADMINMENU – REG_DWORD e.g. 1
SHOWLOGOFF – REG_DWORD e.g. 1
WINDOWMODE – REG_DWORD e.g. 1
WINDOWMODEPERCENT – REG_SZ e.g. 95

Recommended Group Policy:

Below you will find a quick screenshot of the recommended group policies to configure with ThinKiosk:
These policies aren’t a bible, just a recommendation of what I’ve found to work well.

Citrix Web Interface Considerations:

Below are some quick fire recommendations to make the web interface configuration faster and easier.

Dedicated web interface site for ThinKiosk:

As a number of the configuration options needed for ThinKiosk will not suit a standard web interface site, I suggest you configure a dedicated site for ThinKiosk.

Session time out:

As users will be authenticating on this web interface then most likely launching a desktop, I suggest a session time out as low as 5 minutes.

Default ICA file options:

Below are a few Default ICA options that are useful for ThinKiosk:

Forcing the use of the desktop viewer:

[ApplicationName]
....
connectionbar=1
TWIMode=Off

Force the Citrix receiver to use full screen:

[Application]
...
DesktopViewer-ForceFullScreenStartup=true

Download:

head over to the downloads page for more information.


Known issues:

  1. The first login after installing the receiver causes ThinKiosk to hang on client detection.

Update: this issue only happens with < Web interface 5.3, Web interface 5.4 works fine. If this does happen, just restart the endpoint.

Future Improvements:

  1. Multi User language packs for Spanish, Greek and French are being developed.
  2. Central management for Shutdown and Boot options.
  3. Keystroke to enter admin mode. This is in progress and expected soon.
  4. Auto add the Web interface to Trusted Sites.

Feedback:

I’m really interested in feedback and your use case for ThinKiosk, drop me an email on andrew [at] andrewmorgan [dot] ie and let me know what you like and more importantly, what you need.

Credits:

A big thank you to@shanekleinert for initial testing and feedback.

Translations:

A big thank you to the following people for providing translation help: