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

 

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.

 

28-07-14

VCAP-DTA Exam Experience

As most regular readers will know, I sat the VCAP-DTA exam last Friday. The short version is I failed. Only by a few points, but first is first and second is nowhere, as they say. I’d been studying for the exam on and off for seven months and I felt reasonably well prepared for it, but like all good exams, it found my weaker spots and probed them mercilessly.

As usual, I had to travel over the Pennines to Leeds to my nearest VCAP test centre. I don’t mind that so much, it’s an air conditioned train and I can get some quiet time to go back over my study notes and make sure I’ve got it all fresh in my mind. The exam itself is 23 questions (many with subtasks) over 3 hours. I say this all the time, but it’s really tight time wise and you just don’t have the slack in the three hours to get stuck on something or to go back and validate your responses. That’s not an excuse by the way, I’ve said that before on VCAP exams I’ve passed.

In terms of exam content, it was pretty close to the blueprint, so the usual advice of read it thoroughly before you go in still stands true. A special mention for VMware Education for getting my results back in a couple of hours. I know a lot of effort has gone into streamlining the marking process and it is better to get the results quickly, even if it wasn’t the score you wanted.

How did I feel? Annoyed with myself, but also a bit surprised. My gut feeling was that I’d done enough to get through the exam and pass, but I hadn’t. That being said, I know of other very competent View folks who haven’t got past it first time either. I suppose if anything, it illustrates the value of the certification as it’s so hard (for me) to get.

I will be back to have another crack at it, but I have to wait 14 days now. I’ll probably need that long to recompose myself (no pun intended) and also to cover over ThinApp and other items that kicked my ass a bit. Anyone who thinks that you only need to know your way around View Administrator is in for a pretty rude awakening.

So then, to close, here are some words of advice :-

  • Follow the blueprint and look at the wording of the skills and abilities section carefully
  • Keep moving. You have three hours and it will go in a snap. If you are doing a task that requires an installer running, kick it off and move on to the next thing. It will buy you valuable minutes and you can go back to it later
  • Steve Dunne’s advice on re-sizing your remote screens to 1024 x 768 is a good one if you don’t have a large monitor
  • If you get the 5 minute warning and you haven’t finished and then you can’t click inside your remote session anymore, click the question tab and then click the top tab to get back to your remote session to restore control. I worked this out with about 45 seconds to go!
  • Use the study guides available, they’ve usually been written by folks who’ve been through the pain of the exam!
  • Run through all the objectives in your lab. If you can’t afford a home lab, use the VMware Hands On Labs and just play around there, I’m sure they won’t mind if you don’t stick to the script

24-07-14

VCAP-DTA Section 7 – Configure and Optimize View Endpoints

Objective 7.1 – Perform View Client Installations

  • Perform manual installation for desktop clients – I don’t think I’m stretching it by saying that I don’t think you’ll be asked to install the client to an Android or iOS device during the exam (after all, how can the moderators check that?). That then takes us to Mac, Linux and Windows. Again, as the EULA says you can’t install a virtual Mac, seems unlikely that will appear. That leaves Linux and Windows and as there aren’t typically that many Linux users around, I’d expect to just have to deploy the client on Windows. To install the Windows client manually, you typically go to the Connection Server from a web browser from the device you want to install the client on, and the browser should detect if you have the client or not. As the download link redirects you to vmware.com, it’s likely the installation files will have been staged in advance to save time.

viewlcinert

  • Once the client has been downloaded, run the client executable and click next to continue.
    • Accept the EULA and click Next.
    • Choose which client features you want, by default both USB Redirection and Login as current User are checked (the exam may ask you to disable some of these features).
    • Optionally enter the DNS name or IP address of the View Connection Server you want to connect to. Click Next.
    • Select single sign on behaviour, such as Show in Connection Dialog and Set Default Option to Login as Current User.
    • Click Next, choose where to place shortcuts (if required).
    • Click Next and click Install to complete.

 

  • Configure silent installation options for desktop clients – To install the Windows client silently, execute the command line below, noting ADDLOCAL=CORE is mandatory!VMware-viewclient-y.y.yxxxxxx.exe /s /v”/qn REBOOT=ReallySuppress VDM_SERVER=cs1.companydomain.com ADDLOCAL=Core,TSSO,USB”
  •  Configure options for various clients – I’m not really sure what more can be added here. The View Client is generally a fairly simple beast, so really all I can think you may be asked to perform is to disable certificate checking (Options | Configure SSL). There is also a View Client ADM template you can import and use, and various settings can be configured here if you want to lock things down. There’s a good chance you’ll be asked to check something on the exam, so worth knowing what it’s capabilities are. The template settings guide is here, some example settings are shown below:-
    • Connect all USB devices to the desktop on launch (useful when the user has a couple of USB printers, scanners or smart card readers)
    • Server URL – Issues a default View Connection Server URL for the View Client
    • Certificate verification mode – Configures SSL certificate checking as noted above
    • Enable multi-media acceleration – Enables MMR on the client
  • There aren’t that many admin template options to configure, so hopefully any exam question on this topic won’t hold you back too long. Just remember that some settings are for RDP only, so again watch out for sly tricks from the exam people!

 

Objective 7.2 – Upgrade View Clients

Again I’d expect that you’ll probably only be asked to play around with Windows View Clients, as other platforms in my experience make up the minority of users. Also, setting up non Windows platforms in a lab environment is probably a bit of a pain for VMware Education. As such, we’ll just focus on the Windows Client upgrades.

  • Upgrade clients to support View server component upgrades  – Typically the back end components are upgraded first, so Connection and Security Servers, vCenter/ESXi if appropriate and the View Agent in the virtual desktop. Once that has been done, the focus changes to the end user’s View Client. This process is very quick and is simply a case of downloading the new client (either from the View Portal or elsewhere, I’m guessing it will be pre-staged for you) and running the installer. As we’ve all done client installers before and there are no gotchas here, I’m not going to document it blow by blow.
  • Identify which clients are supported by VMware or OEMs – Again another pretty straight forward skill being tested. The rule of thumb here is that if the client is a “fat” device (so Windows, Linux or Mac desktop or iOS/Android mobile device) then the administrator can upgrade the client by using the appropriate installation mechanism (Windows Installer, RPM, iTunes etc.). If the client is a thin or zero client, updates to the client will generally come from the manufacturer in the form of firmware updates. I’m not entirely sure how this skill can be effectively tested in a practical environment, but there you go.
  • Identify which clients are administrator or user downloadable – The View Portal is the place for end users to get the View Client and these links will usually send the end user to vmware.com to download the latest and greatest. So again, “fat” clients are generally user upgradable with appropriate permissions (administrator on Windows, for example) and thin clients where updates are performed by firmware updates are something only an administrator would do.
  • Perform View Local Mode Client upgrade – Upgrading the View Client with Local Mode option is more or less the same as upgrading the regular View Client with a couple of exceptions. Firstly, you need to ensure the user has checked in their desktop before upgrading the client. If the end user has a View Client version 4.6.0 or earlier, they must check in their desktop first, remove the old client and then install the 5.2 client fresh once the back end desktop infrastructure has been upgraded.

 

23-07-14

VCAP-DTA Objective 6.3 – Analyze PCoIP Metrics for Performance Optimization

Skills and abilities being tested :-

  • Interpret PCoIP WMI counters – When you install the View Agent on a virtual desktop, additional WMI (Windows Management Interface) counters are added to the Windows virtual desktop. Amongst other things, it allows you to add in statistics for PCoIP performance which can come in very handy when troubleshooting performance issues. To do this, go to the virtual desktop and go Start | Run | perfmon.exe and once Performance Monitor starts, click on the green plus button and add in your required counters. You can choose from the following areas:-
    • PCoIP Session Audio Statistics
    • PCoIP Session General Statistics
    • PCoIP Session Imaging Statistics
    • PCoIP Session Network Statistics
    • PCoIP Session USB Statistics

   The key point here is not to add all the counters and get blinded by lines shooting around all over the place, and remember that the PCoIP server needs to be active in order to generate statistics. That means if you       connect to a virtual desktop via RDP, you will see counters all flatlined and wonder what all the fuss is about! The View Integration Guide has some really good guidance on how to interpret the metrics here and worth a read to help make sense of the perfmon statistics. This is worth a read to get the equations on how to calculate bandwidth used for audio and video etc. If you are having performance issues, it may be that you have set an aggressive group policy that throttles bandwidth too low and the connection is maxing out it’s assigned bandwidth. Remember you do have the View PDFs to hand in the exam, so you can open the Integration guide and go straight to this section to save you from having to remember how to compute bandwidth values.

  • Interpret PCoIP log files – PCoIP log files are stored under %PROGRAMDATA%\VMware\VDM\logs and Simon Long has an excellent blog post on how to interpret PCoIP log files, so take a look at that before the exam. It mainly discusses the PCoIP Log Viewer, which to the best of my knowledge you won’t have access to in the exam but all of the relevant metrics to look out for are there in the text. The Log Viewer just puts it in a more friendly format. That being said, if you have a look at Andre Leibovici’s guide, for the sake of the exam it’s worth remembering key words or phrases and then searching the log files for those key words. Remember, time in the exam is a luxury you don’t have! Look out for the following:-
    • Registry setting parameter pcoip.max_link_rate 
    • Loss= (signifies packet loss on the network)
    • Plateau (maximum bandwidth used by PCoIP)

    Andre has another article on key word searches in log files here, well worth a read.

22-07-14

VCAP-DTA Objective 6.2 – Configure Group Policies for PCoIP and RDP

  • Identify and resolve group policy conflicts – One of the great things about group policies is that there are so many settings you can configure and lock down that sooner or later you’ll end up doing something that means different group policies treading on each other’s toes. There are a couple of ways to check group policy inheritance:-
    • gpresult.exe – a command line tool that can be used to generate a RSoP report (Resultant Set of Policies). This is a quick way of looking at what’s been applied, what has been filtered and which AD groups a user is a member of, which can help troubleshooting. The command syntax for a RSoP style report is gpresult.exe /r and you’ll get something similar to below:-

Microsoft (R) Windows (R) Operating System Group Policy Result tool v2.0
Copyright (C) Microsoft Corp. 1981-2001

Created On 22/07/2014 at 20:34:43
RSOP data for BECKETT\Administrator on DC01 : Logging Mode
———————————————————–

OS Configuration: Primary Domain Controller
OS Version: 6.1.7600
Site Name: Default-First-Site-Name
Roaming Profile: N/A
Local Profile: C:\Users\Administrator
Connected over a slow link?: No
COMPUTER SETTINGS
——————
CN=DC01,OU=Domain Controllers,DC=beckett,DC=local
Last time Group Policy was applied: 22/07/2014 at 20:34:10
Group Policy was applied from: DC01.beckett.local
Group Policy slow link threshold: 500 kbps
Domain Name: BECKETT
Domain Type: Windows 2000

Applied Group Policy Objects
—————————–
Default Domain Controllers Policy
Default Domain Policy
ThinPrint

The following GPOs were not applied because they were filtered out
——————————————————————-
Local Group Policy
Filtering: Not Applied (Empty)

The computer is a part of the following security groups
——————————————————-
BUILTIN\Administrators
Everyone
BUILTIN\Pre-Windows 2000 Compatible Access
BUILTIN\Users
Windows Authorization Access Group
NT AUTHORITY\NETWORK
NT AUTHORITY\Authenticated Users
This Organization
DC01$
Domain Controllers
NT AUTHORITY\ENTERPRISE DOMAIN CONTROLLERS
Denied RODC Password Replication Group
System Mandatory Level

USER SETTINGS
————–
CN=Administrator,CN=Users,DC=beckett,DC=local
Last time Group Policy was applied: 22/07/2014 at 20:33:40
Group Policy was applied from: DC01.beckett.local
Group Policy slow link threshold: 500 kbps
Domain Name: BECKETT
Domain Type: Windows 2000

Applied Group Policy Objects
—————————–
N/A

The following GPOs were not applied because they were filtered out
——————————————————————-
Default Domain Policy
Filtering: Not Applied (Empty)

ThinPrint
Filtering: Not Applied (Empty)

Local Group Policy
Filtering: Not Applied (Empty)

The user is a part of the following security groups
—————————————————
Domain Users
Everyone
BUILTIN\Administrators
BUILTIN\Users
BUILTIN\Pre-Windows 2000 Compatible Access
NT AUTHORITY\INTERACTIVE
CONSOLE LOGON
NT AUTHORITY\Authenticated Users
This Organization
LOCAL
Group Policy Creator Owners
Domain Admins
Schema Admins
Enterprise Admins
Denied RODC Password Replication Group
High Mandatory Level

  • RSoP (Resultant Set of Policies) is basically a graphical representation of what you see above, which is actually quite helpful when you have a specific issue you want to troubleshoot. To run the report, go to Start | Run | rsop.msc and after the report has been generated, you kind of get a read only group policy view with details of policy settings.

rsop

 

  • Group Policy Management – One other thing to check is the Group Policy Management MMC tool. This can be accessed by going to Administrative Tools | Group Policy Management. Once within this tool, select a particular OU that you want to troubleshoot and click the Group Policy Inheritence tab. This displays which GPOs are in place and what their priorities are.

gpo

 

  • Implement PCoIP and RDP Group Policy templates – As discussed in a previous article, PCoIP can be managed by importing the pcoip.adm policy template from the C:\Program Files\VMware\VMware View\Server\extras\GroupPolicyFiles folder into the Group Policy Management  MMC view.
    • RDP can be managed via Group Policy from Group Policy Management under  Computer Configuration\Policies\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Remote Desktop Services. From here, configure which settings you want to enable or disable etc, as shown below:-

RDP-GPO

 

 

03-04-14

vExpert 2014 Announcement

 

VMware-vExpert-2014-400x57

 

So Tuesday saw the announcement of the 2014 list of vExperts and I’m delighted to say that I made the cut this year (after checking of course it wasn’t an April Fool!). Actually, it’s the first time I’ve applied and looking down the list, it’s a “who’s who” of vRockstars from around the globe, including around a dozen or so of my ex-colleagues at Xtravirt  who continue to add a lot of value to the community.

A big thanks of course go to the team who make vExpert possible, getting through 700+ applications in a month can’t have been all that easy! Thanks too to Jason Gaudreau, our TAM at VMware, who suggested I should go for it in the first place. When I look back at the last year, I’ve done a lot – 3 VCAPs, a load of blog content, study guides, plus the work I’ve done with VMware PSO and the account management team since I’ve been at MMC.

You’d think that I might sit back now and rest on my laurels, but if anything, it’s actually making me want to do more. I’ve already offered to present at our local VMUG, I’m blogging as often as I can and there will be more VCAPs this year I’m sure, as I start on the vCloud path once I’ve got NetApp, VCAP-DTA and Hyper-V out of the way!

Looking forward now to getting started and continuing to spread the gospel of virtualisation. Congratulations to all 2014 vExperts both new and returning and thanks for making the community awesome!