FreakoutITGeek's Blog

Random IT postings from Freakz

Tag Archives: XP

Altiris (intro)

Note: Despite Altiris Deployment Server version 6 being quite dated, I feel that the information provided in this section of my blog is useful, even for IT support staff that are using other deployment methods (most of the Altiris jobs I have created could be adapted to use Batch scripting and work equally as well – something I have had to do in the past when our Altiris server has not been available over several days)

Quite a few years ago the company I presently work for purchased Altiris Deployment Solution and Altiris Notification Server.

At that point Altiris Inc. we’re still running the show and we were introduced to version 6. Since then Symantec purchased Altiris and have brought a new version to market with some new features, additions, improvements and merged some of the functions of Notification Server and Deployment server into a new version 7 product.

Unfortunately I have not been able to use version 7, so I can’t advise on the merits or otherwise of Version 7, so these postings will focus on version 6.

There are rumours that Version 7 is currently running on one of our servers in some testing and Inventory control capacity, unfortunately this is currently out with my current role and remit, so the information and access is ‘cloak and dagger’. The only reason I’m aware of it’s existence is because of my interest in the product and colleagues appreciation of my ongoing investigation and development of skills in relation to version 6.

So what is this blog posting about?

We’ll I thought I’d share some insights into the past few years using Altiris, with a view to helping others to develop their skills and hopefully benefit others (and possibly myself via feedback to these postings).

Looking back at the early Altiris deployment jobs I created, most appear to be a case of push out the installer and hope for the best (something it appears my colleagues still do !!?). So some of my future posts will cover concepts that I consider support staff have to consider when creating an Altiris deployment job?

We currently, as most organisations do, run on a mixed platform of OSX, Windows XP and Windows 7 and as such I’ve learnt how to utilise Altiris to standardise and make supporting the computer estate easier within the sites that I cover.

At present the organisation do not support Apple OSX, much to my personal dismay, however there are Altiris V6 and V7 clients available and with a bit of knowledge of Unix, OSX command line [see Mac OS X Server Command-Line Administration on Apple.com] and access to a NetBoot facility [OSX server or shareware DHCP/NetBoot utilities for Windows / OSX]) Altiris is capable of doing as much with Apple OSX as you can with Windows (or Unix / Linux for that matter). (If there is interest in this topic I may dig out my old documentation / notes and create a post)

So I hope you don’t find the intro too boring and I hope that the follow up posts are of benefit.

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Just when you think they’re dead

At work we get our new PCs imaged before they are delivered to the organisation. This is pretty common practice in modern companies, especially ones that realise that their IT support staff are busy enough installing apps and diagnosing/repairing faults.

My issue comes from the recent batches of PCs that came into my work recently. This is the first batch of Windows 7 machines and has been a massive learning curve for most of us, especially when there has been little obvious testing before the machines were sent to the sites.

As much as I could rant on about the lack of planning and how myself and my colleagues have been firefighting instead of providing a great service to our customers, that is not what this is about.

The reason for this blog posting is that I received a system that was imaged and configured for another organisation. The logical thing would be to send it back for our supplier to resolve but I have been asked to re-image the machine. Simple enough request you’d think, until you realise that the machine in question has had a BIOS password set, and you’ve probably guessed that it’s not our password and the settings are not correct for our defined security policy.

One of the issues with the BIOS is that the boot from Network (PXE Boot) has been switched off, so I can’t even image the machine with our defined image until we find out what the password is.

So I investigated how to reset the password and after trying ‘backdoor’ passwords and removing all power and internal backup power to no avail, I found a utility from the Hardware manufacturer that could record the settings from a machine that had the correct settings, store them to replay them on the faulty machine.

Now here comes the zombie bit…

The program will only work on DOS.. I thought in the age of USB pen drives, Windows PE, Windows 7 and Windows 8 just round the corner that DOS was dead and buried years ago..

Luckily I dug up my stash of old floppy disks and was able to hunt down an external (USB) floppy Drive that the new PC detects. I still have some old decaying Win 98 install floppies In my stash so I copied one and amended it to work with the program. So I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll be able to beat the security and I can get back to what I’m paid to do.

Why are PC hardware manufacturers not providing utilities that work under Windows? I would suggest that they should provide a CD image, but how would a user be able to save the settings file to restore on the other system? I guess a network interface would be required?

I’m sure that Apple don’t turn round and ask you to create system 7 images to update their hardware.. when will hardware vendors realise that it’s time to move past DOS. Most people don’t even know what it is/was, or maybe that’s the reason.. To prevent novice users from using what is after all an administrative tool designed for deployment and configuration of PCs?

Anyway it’s been a blast from the past with floppy disks, even an LS120 SuperDisk drive (Immation) which didn’t work. I guess this is the reason that DOS disks are still available for Microsoft’s TechNet downloads (which I don’t presently have a subscription to) , and it has kept me in touch with my past.. even though I prefer to be looking to the future.

Safe and secure on Windows & OS X

For a few years now I have had to use a secure USB device for storing files ( drivers, installs, etc) as it’s company policy and the PCs have security software to prevent anyone (even us in IT) from using non secure devices.

My main issue with this has been that we support both Windows and Apple systems so have had to use Integral Crypto devices for the PCs and non secure devices for the Apple OS X machines.

I always thought it was a poor situation and I’m sure I ranted about it at the time.

I have just found that Integral now not only now produce a Mac version of the Crypto but have recently launched a Crypto Dual device, which works on both Windows and OS X!!

The device also has some handy extra features, including a unique code etched into the device for easy identification (something that was really needed in the original versions), The ability to have all the devices in your organisation to have a company hardware ID set on the devices ( allows security software to identify the devices that the company have purchased and which ones users have purchased and brought in ) and lastly, it allows for an administrator account password to be set in addition to a user password, allowing IT departments to recover data when the user has forgotten their password, so long as they have not exceeded the 5 allowed attempts which I believe still results in the data being deleted.

I have done a bit of checking and the devices are all available in the UK from Insight prices are roughly (Inc VAT) for the 32 GB versions..
PC basic version: £127
Mac 140 version: £147
Dual version: £132

Alternatively for PC users I have seen the PC only version as PC World in the past. For Mac users the Apple store sells the Mac only versions (well the on-line store does at time of writing this)

The Security level may vary slightly between these versions so I would suggest checking the prices on Insight and the specifications on Integral.

If anyone from Integral is reading this feel free to contact me with full details or to give me a review model so I can give the Dual version a try!! Hey if you don’t ask you don’t get!! 😉

Update:

For those unfortunate enough to have a Windows PC at work and an Apple at home and have been given one of the Windows only versions (ie you are in a Windows only workplace but have a Mac at home), I have tested a solution to your Issue.

On my Apple iMac ( Intel Duo circa 2006) at home I have installed the free VirtualBox software from Oracle (was Sun) and installed Microsoft Windows 7 onto the virtual PC created by the software. By installing the VirtualBox add-on pack into Windows 7 you can set it to allow access to the Secure pen drive. This works like a dream and I can copy files off and onto the device without any issues.

I assume that Bootcamp, Parallels etc will do a similar job, but I can not test this as my iMac uses an external
monitor due to a damaged LCD panel / controller so I can’t use it for bootcamp and I don’t have parallels or it’s competitors.

I assume that this will only work with Intel Macs (ie I suspect that older PPC apple devices won’t be able to get it to work as they don’t have the Intel chipset)

Of anyone wants to know more feel free to contact me.

Safe and secure on Windows & OS X

For a few years now I have had to use a secure USB device for storing files ( drivers, installs, etc) as it’s company policy and the PCs have security software to prevent anyone (even us in IT) from using non secure devices.

My main issue with this has been that we support both Windows and Apple systems so have had to use Integral Crypto devices for the PCs and non secure devices for the Apple OS X machines.

I always thought it was a poor situation and I’m sure I ranted about it at the time.

I have just found that Integral now not only now produce a Mac version of the Crypto but have recently launched a Crypto Dual device, which works on both Windows and OS X!!

The device also has some handy extra features, including a unique code etched into the device for easy identification (something that was really needed in the original versions), The ability to have all the devices in your organisation to have a company hardware ID set on the devices ( allows security software to identify the devices that the company have purchased and which ones users have purchased and brought in ) and lastly, it allows for an administrator account password to be set in addition to a user password, allowing IT departments to recover data when the user has forgotten their password, so long as they have not exceeded the 5 allowed attempts which I believe still results in the data being deleted.

I have done a bit of checking and the devices are all available in the UK from Insight prices are roughly (Inc VAT) for the 32 GB versions..
PC basic version: £127
Mac 140 version: £147
Dual version: £132

The Security level may vary slightly between these versions so I would suggest checking the prices on Insight and the specifications on Integral.

If anyone from Integral is reading this feel free to contact me with full details or to give me a review model so I can give the Dual version a try!! Hey if you don’t ask you don’t get!! 🙂

Serial killer

A few days ago, I was using my work Secure USB storage device ( stick / pen drive, whatever you want to call it) and I accidentally put it into a Window PC with a faulty USB port.

The PC in question was under a users desk and the user appears to have been kicking the front of the box, causing the plastic structure of the inside of the USB port to become broken, exposing the connectors and bending them out of shape.

When I connected the USB device to the PC it corrupted the device, I assume that the connectors passed incorrect voltages over pins that are not designed to accept such voltages.

After realising this, I tried the device on another Windows PC and received an error advising of a power surge on the USB port interface and that the device had been deactivated (at least there is some sort of integrity checking).

Interestingly I was asked a few days later to investigate a fault on an Intel iMac which was experiencing faults with an interactive whiteboard connected to it. A colleague had already looked at the issue and upgraded the firmware on the machine and I upgraded the drivers and the software for the interactive whiteboard but the iMac was showing an error on login “USB Over Current Notice: A USB device is currently drawing too much power. The hub it is attached to will be deactivated” .

Because of my earlier experience with the PC I checked the USB ports on the iMac and found a broken port where the connectors were touching the shielding surrounding the port. It appears that the power sent through the pins were being transferred to the other pins, and presumably the earth, causing the error. As the site did not have the funds to have the machine sent for repair, I carefully moved the pins using a watchmakers screwdriver so that they weren’t touching the shielding or each other and then taped off the faulty port.

The iMac is now running quicker ( which makes sense as it’s not having to deal with a hardware fault) and the users are now aware that they have to be more careful when connecting USB devices so as not to damage another port.

I hope this information helps someone else in a similar situation.