Some of you know I'm a huge fan of Windows MultiPoint Server, and the next release is due out "soon". I've been testing it here and I'm really excited about the new features, especially the built in VDI support for both Win7 and Win8 clients. This will solve issues around power users in business environments where WMS has been limited by the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). With direct support for virtual desktops using VDI, that should be a non-issue.
To learn more about Windows MultiPoint Server 2012, check out the official blog post here. To join the public beta, go to the Connect directory at https://connect.microsoft.com/directory/ and click on the Join link for Windows MultiPoint Server 2012 Public Beta. (It's right at the top, at least for the moment. )
Microsoft has released an update rollup to WMS. This update rollup replaces UR1, which had an installation order problem when installed on an SBS Essentials network (or with Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials). The details of the update are covered in MS KnowledgeBase article 2626067. UR1.1 is cumulative, so you can install it over the top of UR1 if you already have that installed, or you can install it on a plain RTM system. It will supersede UR1 on WU/MU/WSUS.
(note: if you already have problems because of installing the existing UR1, you need to re-install the SBS Essentials to correct the issue -- just connect to http://sbseservername/connect and re-install.)
But what does that option actually do? And what IS RemoteFX anyway?
RemoteFX is technology that was included in Windows Server 2008 R2 that is designed to make virtual machines and remote sessions work better. When used with Windows 7 VDI sessions, and with the appropriate graphical hardware, it can leverage that hardware to create a virtual GPU for the VDI session. However, that isn’t something that WMS can take advantage of. However, another piece of the RemoteFX story is an improved codec for RDP sessions, and that is something that WMS can use. The RemoteFX codec is designed to handle video and mixed video and text better across RDP sessions than the native NScodec. When you enable RemoteFX under Server Settings, WMS switches from using the NScodec to using the RemoteFX codec for encoding content that is rendered on the server and sent over the wire via RDP.
To take advantage of it, however, your WMS station needs to be running RDP version 7.1, which means your client needs to be running Windows 7 SP1, Windows ThinPC, Windows 7 Embedded, or one of the third party RDP clients that are 7.1 compliant. I’ve enabled this on my WMS, and it definitely helps with streaming video to an RDP session. It won’t help to a zero USB client, unfortunately, but works well with my repurposed old laptop that is running Windows ThinPC.
Finally, if you have a lot of multimedia needs for WMS, and your physical layout allows it, I suggest using directly connected video for your client stations. This is the best video solution, and with a couple of modern video cards in your WMS server you can easily get 8-10 stations directly connected. If you need more stations than that, using RemoteFX and a client running an version 7.1 compliant RDP client will provide a quite acceptable experience.
(Thanks to Dean Paron at Microsoft for clarifying some key points around RemoteFX. Any errors are my mine, not his.)
There is a known issue with Windows Server 2008 R2 (and Windows 7) that causes the network interface to change “location” from a Domain network to a Public network under some conditions. This is described in MS KnowledgeBase article: 2524478. The situation that causes this is made more likely to happen on a WMS server because of the Loop Back Adapters. I’ve been running this particular hotfix here for more than a week, with no ill effects. And a whole lot fewer WMS disconnects from my RDP clients! If you are using WMS, and using RDP clients, I strongly recommend that you download a copy of this hot fix and apply it if you’re seeing any unexplained disconnects from these clients.
Update1: There’s a new blog post up on the Official SBS Blog that talks about this. If you’re running WMS, you really want to get this hotfix.
Update2: If you’re running through a Remote Desktop Gateway (RD Gateway) to connect to your WMS server, you should install this hotfix on the RDGateway box as well. For example, on my SBS 2011 Standard network, my laptops use applications on the WMS server using RemoteApps. But I have them set to go through the RD Gateway on my SBS server, even when I’m in the office. This allows my connections to stay the same regardless of whether I’m in the office or on the road. I was still getting some disconnects even after installing this hotfix on the WMS server. But when I added them to the SBS server (my RD Gateway, remember), the disconnects went away. I haven’t had one all day. WOOT!
As I said in my previous post on application compatibility in Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 (WMS), most applications run without any special configuration or changes. They see WMS as just another Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows 7 computer. Or, if they’re fairly smart applications, as a Remote Desktop Session Host (aka, Terminal Server). But every once in a while, some aspect of a particular application doesn’t play well with WMS. Sometimes, as in the previous post, it’s really that it doesn’t play well with any terminal server because it doesn’t understand about multiple users. But other times, it’s strictly a WMS problem, and that usually makes me want to look at what is going on with networking and the application.
Why networking? Because WMS uses a bunch of “loop back adapters”(LBAs) to do some of the magic it does. And when an application sees that many network cards on a computer, sometimes it gets confused about which one to use. One such application is Amazon’s Kindle for PC (K4PC). On a normal Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 computer, it starts up fairly quickly and loads your current library, and if you’re currently reading a book, it opens to the latest page read on any device you might happen to be reading it on. Cool. But that means it needs to “phone home” to find out if you’ve read past the current point it knows about locally, and while it’s at it, it checks for a new version. Apparently, this phone home can get confused about which adapter to use and ends up taking what seems like forever to load. (It’s actually only about 30-40 seconds, but that’s a long time when you’re waiting for it.)
So, what to do about it? Two changes can make all the difference, and both are disabling automatic proxy checking. First, in K4PC, open Options from the Tools menu, and select Network in the left pane, as shown here:
Select No Proxy, or set the specific proxy settings that your network requires. Either is better than Auto-Detect. Next, change the settings on Internet Explorer to disable autodetect. (Depending on your IE version, this will be in the LAN Configuration settings, as shown below: )
Again, disable Automatically Detect Settings.
Restart your WMS server to make sure there are no open IE windows and you should see a noticeable improvement in the speed of K4PC. And consider this a likely culprit for any application that has a very slow start in WMS.
Most applications install cleanly in Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 (WMS) without any special tricks. They’re smart enough to not attempt to write critical files that can’t be shared into locations where they shouldn’t be. But some applications simply aren’t Terminal Server aware, and those can be an issue. One we ran into recently is Audible Manager. If you’re using a Zune or Sansa or other non-Apple product to listen to your Audible books, you need Audible Manager to transfer your books to the device. Well, needless to say, as we’re moving users to WMS, one of their requirements is to be able to use Audible Manager.
The first problem was USB support so they can connect their device. That was easy, I just installed KernelPro for them. But that brought up a second issue. When two people try to run Audible Manager at the same time, the second person gets a “Can’t open Content.aud” error. Why? Because Audible Manager installs it into “C:\Program Files (x86)\Audible\bin”. That’s a really bad idea, and bad programming practice, to say the least. But I found a workaround, and it actually does what Audible should have already been doing.
- Close audible manager.
- Navigate to "C:\Program Files (x86)\Audible\Bin".
- Cut "content.aud" and paste someplace you can find it and get to it.
- For EACH USER (this is the part that’s a pain!):
- Navigate to %userprofile%\AppData\Roaming
- Create a new folder "Audible"
- Drop a copy of "Content.aud" into the folder
- Start Audible Manager.
- When Audible Manager can’t find content.aud, it will prompt you to either “Create A New, Empty File" or "Browse For An Existing File".
- Choose Browse, and then point to the file you just dropped in Roaming for the user.
- Repeat the sub-steps for each user. (or, if you’re doing this on a new server, do this and then copy to the default profile, and it will happen automatically when you add a new user.)
You’ll probably want to start with an empty content.aud file to do this. And, yes, it shouldn’t be necessary. I’ve already filed a report with Audible.com, but don’t expect any fixes any time soon.
While this is just one application, it also points to a way that can work with other ill-behaved applications. No guarantees, of course. But worth a try.