Tag Archives: features

Software Reviews | Computer Software Review

Bottom Line: Dokmee offers most of the features you would expect from a document management system, but struggles to compare positively against solutions such as Microsoft SharePoint Online, which offers additional innovative features, or Ascensio System OnlyOffice with its aggressive pricing structure.

Bottom Line: Dokmee offers most of the features you would expect from a document management system, but struggles to compare positively against solutions such as Microsoft SharePoint Online, which offers additional innovative features, or Ascensio System OnlyOffice with its aggressive pricing structure.

MSRP: $29.00



at

Salesforce Trailhead gets social boost for admins, developers

Salesforce recently released two new features for its training platform, Salesforce Trailhead: a publicly displayed skills graph and the option for admins, developers and other certified pros to create a vanity URL. While these two features may seem like small changes, they pave the road for Trailhead to become an alternative to the résumé or, maybe more significantly, a way to steal eyeballs from rival Microsoft’s LinkedIn professional network.

Trailhead provides hands-on training programs for all facets of Salesforce and a number of other skills that can be useful for people working with Salesforce implementations. It also allows users to develop and share their own training strategies.

Originally, Trailhead tracked users’ accomplishments, but didn’t provide any way for the users to display their accomplishments to each other or to potential employers. More recently, Salesforce Trailhead started giving users badges they could display on their profiles to represent every training program they’ve completed.

Because these training programs often include hands-on elements and actual coding projects, this gave users the ability to show off their skills. The skills graph takes this one step further, providing a pie chart for Trailhead users to prove their skills to prospective employers.

Salesforce Trailhead profile as personal brand

Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, said, “Salesforce wants to give you their Salesforce résumé. Over time, this should give people the ability to build up their personal brand.” The Salesforce résumé is built around the badges, and the public skills graph is, as Lepofsky said, just “taking it to the next level of publicity.”

“People are looking to differentiate at more than the product level,” Lepofsky added. Instead, they’re competing over extra and unexpected skills. Employers are looking for more granular information on the skills of their prospective employees than that they have Salesforce experience. Being able to point to quantifiable measurements of specific skills would be an asset on the job market, Lepofsky said.

Brent Leary, co-founder at partner at CRM Essentials, said the Salesforce Trailhead badges and skills graph would “make it easy for people looking for the right kind of résumé and experience … to know that these experiences are legitimate.”

Furthermore, according to Leary, because the skills graph and badges are standardized, this provides a useful way for employers to compare prospective hires from different geographical locations and with different backgrounds.

A profile in Salesforce Trailhead
Recent updates to Salesforce Trailhead include a revised skills graph and badges to display skills they’ve earned and knowledge they’ve gained.

Increasing diversity of Salesforce recruiting side benefit?

Sarah Franklin, executive vice president of development relations and general manager of Salesforce Trailhead, said she sees these new features as more than just a way for Salesforce to build its own version of LinkedIn.

Franklin said the skills graph “changes the résumé from ‘What you have done?’ to ‘What are your skills?'” A traditional résumé lists past job experience and educational history, but it doesn’t include any way to prove that the job applicants have gone through training and have new skills that they didn’t use at previous jobs. The purpose of the Trailhead skills graph, according to Franklin, is “if you learn [new skills] and you can show it on your skills graph, then you’re in.”

We have to make it affordable to have an easy on-ramp to a career.
Sarah Franklinexecutive vice president of development relations and general manager at Salesforce

She said she hopes that, with the inclusion of the skills graph, Salesforce Trailhead will be able to increase diversity in the company’s ecosystem. Franklin is a mother of daughters and a woman working in technology herself, so increasing, among other things, gender diversity in the technology space is important to her. “The problems we have with diversity, they’re systemic. It’s not job recruiting. To get recruited, you need a four-year degree. To get a four-year degree, you need lots of money, probably. It’s a systemic problem that we face, and we have to change the game,” she said.

The free training isn’t useful for only current Salesforce users. Franklin said college students with debt and no work experience, parents returning to the workforce after raising children and people looking for a brand-new career could be new users for Trailhead. People who come to the Salesforce ecosystem by nontraditional roads can also prove their qualifications to a potential employer via the skills graph.

“We have to make it affordable to have an easy on-ramp to a career,” Franklin said.

The vanity URL makes it easier for users to link prospective employers, LinkedIn pages and Twitter profiles to the Salesforce Trailhead profile. According to Lepofsky, Salesforce MVPs are already starting to jockey for position to be the first one to get their chosen Trailhead URL. “People aren’t sharing business cards anymore. They’re sharing URLs,” Franklin said. The vanity URL hopes to capitalize on that.

Hyper engine aims to give enterprise Tableau analytics a boost

Tableau is continuing its focus on enterprise functionality, rolling out several new features that the company hopes will make its data visualization and analytics software more attractive as an enterprise tool to help broaden its appeal beyond an existing base of line-of-business users.

In particular, the new Tableau 10.5 release, launched last week, includes the long-awaited Hyper in-memory compute engine. Company officials said Hyper will bring vastly improved speeds to the software and support new Tableau analytics use cases, like internet of things (IoT) analytics applications.

The faster speeds will be particularly noticeable, they said, when users refresh Tableau data extracts, which are in-memory snapshots of data from a source file. Extracts can reach large sizes, and refreshing larger files takes time with previous releases.

“We extract every piece of data that we work with going to production, so we’re really looking forward to [Hyper],” Jordan East, a BI data analyst at General Motors, said in a presentation at Tableau Conference 2017, held in Las Vegas last October.

East works in GM’s global telecom organization, which supports the company’s communications needs. His team builds BI reports on the overall health of the communications system. The amount of data coming in has grown substantially over the year, and keeping up with the increasing volume of data has been a challenge, he said.

Extracting the data, rather than connecting Tableau to live data, helped improve report performance. East said he hopes the extra speed of Hyper will enable dashboards to be used in more situations, like live meetings.

Faster extracts mean fresher analytics

The Tableau 10.5 update also includes support for running Tableau Server on Linux, new governance features and other additions. But Hyper is getting most of the attention. Potentially, faster extract refreshes mean customers will refresh extracts more frequently and be able to do their Tableau analytics on fresher data.

“If Hyper lives up to demonstrations and all that has been promised, it will be an incredible enhancement for customers that are struggling with large complex data,” said Rita Sallam, a Gartner analyst.

Sallam’s one caveat was that customers who are doing Tableau analytics on smaller data sets will see less of a performance upgrade, because their extracts likely already refresh and load quickly. She said she believes the addition of Hyper will make it easier to analyze data stored in a Hadoop data lake, which was typically too big to efficiently load into Tableau before Hyper. This will give analysts access to larger, more complex data sets and enable deeper analytics, Sallam said.

Focus on enterprise functionality risky

Looking at the bigger picture, though, Sallam said there is some risk for Tableau in pursuing an enterprise focus. She said moving beyond line-of-business deployments and doubling down on enterprise functionality was a necessary move to attract and retain customers. But, at the same time, the company risks falling behind on analytics functionality.

Sallam said the features in analytics software that will be most important in the years ahead will be things like automated machine learning and natural language querying and generation. By prioritizing the nuts and bolts of enterprise functionality, Tableau hasn’t invested as much in these types of features, Sallam said.

“If they don’t [focus on enterprise features], they’re not going to be able to respond to customers that want to deploy Tableau at scale,” Sallam said. “But that does come with a cost, because now they can’t fully invest in next-generation features, which are going to be the defining features of user experience two or three years from now.”

New Microsoft Pix features let you take bigger, wider pictures and turns your videos into comics – Microsoft Research

Microsoft has released two new features with today’s update to Microsoft Pix for iOS, an app powered by a suite of intelligent algorithms developed by Microsoft researchers to take the guesswork out of getting beautiful photos and videos.

The first of these features, Photosynth, helps create photos that take in more of the perspective or scene you are standing in front of, whether it is wide, tall, or both. It does this by allowing you to freely pan and capture from side to side, up and down, back and forth, and even go back to the start to include any parts of the scene you may have missed.

“The idea came after some frustrations I had when trying to take a picture of Snoqualmie Falls. I didn’t want to have to choose which part of the scene to capture, and I wanted it all with detail. Photosynth means you no longer have to choose. I can now capture the whole scene in a way that feels natural. As with all Pix features, we have also worked to give the best image quality by introducing more intelligent ways to compute exposure and stitching,” said Josh Weisberg, principal program manager within Microsoft’s AI & Research organization in Redmond, Washington.

Photosynth, originally a popular platform for turning digital pictures into 3D panoramas, was launched by Microsoft in 2008 and decommissioned in 2017. Photosynth in Pix shares similarities with the original, leveraging some of the underlying technology, with more features inspired by the original to come. Photosynth in Pix allows for faster and smoother capture, while also making use of Pix’s auto-enhancement capabilities which improve white balance, tone correction and sharpness.

The second feature, Pix Comix, was developed during Microsoft’s OneWeek hackathon and makes use of the core Pix feature Moment Capture in an innovative new way: identifying the most interesting frames in a video to generate a comic strip. Pix uses its deep learning model to score and select three high-quality frames, searching specifically for non-blurry photos, faces with eyes open and interesting scenes.

Pix Comix performs this AI processing on device, selecting the best frames and formatting them into a comic strip. From there, you can add and edit speech bubbles that can be moved, rotated and resized to tell your own story.

Listening and responding to customer feedback on Pix remains a top priority as the app continues to improve and its AI capabilities are further developed. Today’s release marks another step forward in Pix’s commitment to turning that user feedback into new ways to make your pictures even better.

Related:

Skype in 2017—a year of highlights and milestones | Skype Blogs

This year has been full of exciting changes at Skype—with many new features and designs released in 2017. However, what has been most important for us is the feedback and input from our valued customers all over the world that helps us shape Skype. As we look forward to bringing you more features in 2018, here are some highlights of our 2017 milestones.

A brand new Skype on mobile and desktop

One of the biggest feature updates in 2017 was the release of the next generation of Skype for mobile in July. This release introduced a customizable, colorful design, a camera at your fingertips, and new ways to express yourself with reactions, and frames. We also added intelligence into your chats by integrating Cortana—the Microsoft virtual personal assistant—directly into the chat window. You can also now transfer funds via Money—a new Skype feature for friends and family using PayPal—right from within your Skype conversations.

These changes were brought first to Skype mobile and desktop clients and are now available in the new Skype for Windows 10. We are in the process of rolling out these updates to Skype for Mac, Windows 10 November Update (2016) and lower, Windows 8, Windows 7, and Linux.

All of these updates were inspired by a simple goal: to make Skype the center of your important conversations with your personal networks and, hopefully, empower you to turn your everyday conversations into experiences. To access these new Skype features, please ensure you are using the latest version of Skype by updating your mobile and desktop applications.

[embedded content]

Innovations to help you get more done

This year has been a year of innovation at Skype, with new features, bots, and devices designed to enhance your day-to-day experiences.

Skype Bots—In 2017, we introduced several new bots with expanded capabilities to help you do everything from cook the perfect meal, race to the finish line with some of the world’s most accomplished athletes, or join Doctor Who on a quest to save the universe! In the coming year, look for more productive and enriching experiences directly via Skype.

Skype Professional Account Preview—This year also marked a milestone for self-employed working professionals who already utilize Skype to communicate with their customers. The Skype Professional Account desktop client (currently in preview in the U.S.) brings powerful new features to Skype—making managing your online business a whole lot easier. In addition to meeting with your clients on Skype, you can now book meetings, accept payments, and keep notes—all in one place.

Skype Translator—Skype Translator is now available for real-time voice and video calls in Japanese—bringing the number of real-time spoken languages to 10. Other spoken languages available on Skype Translator include: English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese (Mandarin), Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Arabic, and Russian. In addition, there are also over 60 IM languages available for Skype Translator.

Ambient devices—This year, Skype officially expanded to ambient devices—giving you a new, uniquely intelligent platform for Skype calling that extends beyond PC and mobile devices. The Harman Kardon Invoke speaker, with Cortana by Microsoft, is the first of these devices embedded with easy, voice-activated Skype calling to your Skype contacts, phone contacts, and local businesses.

In addition to Skype-to-Skype calling, which is always free, Invoke also features unlimited free outbound calling from the U.S. to mobiles and landlines based in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, and U.S. Virgin Islands. Restrictions apply—please read the Terms and Conditions of the full offer.

[embedded content]

Skype Lite and SMS Insights—For our Skype Android customers in India, we introduced Skype Lite—a new lightweight version of the Skype app, optimized for 2G and unstable network connections. And based on your feedback, we added SMS Insights to Skype Lite—making life even easier for people on the go. SMS Insights goes far beyond simply organizing your messages—it aggregates the information you need and presents it at a glance, sorting it into categories like Finance, Shopping, Travel, Reminders, and Promotions. Easily interact with the messages you want while Insights offers relevant action links that allow you to pay bills, check in to flights, and even call customer support numbers.

Personal expressions—We had fun teaming up with Rogue Octopus, Steve Aoki, Hammer Films, Lucasfilm, and more to create original Skype Mojis and emoticons. Check out our new holiday-themed emoticons, frames, stickers, reactions, and Mojis to help you spread holiday cheer this December.

Momentum and awards—In 2017, Skype crossed a major milestone—surpassing one billion downloads from the Google Play Store. Additionally, after years of pushing the boundary of broadcast television with studio-quality Skype call integration, our Skype TX team was a recipient of a Technology & Engineering Emmy® Award in 2017. We are humbled by both honors and further motivated to continue providing reporters, entertainers, and consumers the next level of broadcast and communication innovations.

[embedded content]

Amazing ways you have used Skype

Finally, here are some of the amazing ways you’ve been using Skype this year—from traveling all over the world, to developing brand new technologies, or even running unique businesses. We are continuously inspired by the different ways you use Skype every day.

Browse our blog for more inspirational ways that Skype is used—and if you have a Skype experience you’d like to share, just tag us @Skype on social media and we might feature you.

We look forward to continuing to expand the ways Skype can make your life easier, more productive, and fun in 2018. We are committed to always continuing to innovate, listening to customer feedback, and pushing the boundaries of technology. Thank you for joining us on this exciting journey.

From our Skype family to yours, we wish you happy holidays and a wonderful New Year!

Device Naming for Network Adapters in Hyper-V 2016

Not all of the features introduced with Hyper-V 2016 made a splash. One of the less-published improvements allows you to determine a virtual network adapter’s name from within the guest operating system. I don’t even see it in any official documentation, so I don’t know what to officially call it. The related settings use the term “device naming”, so we’ll call it that. Let’s see how to put it to use.

Requirements for Device Naming for Network Adapters in Hyper-V 2016

For this feature to work, you need:

  • 2016-level hypervisor: Hyper-V Server, Windows Server, Windows 10
  • Generation 2 virtual machine
  • Virtual machine with a configuration version of at least 6.2
  • Windows Server 2016 or Windows 10 guest

What is Device Naming for Hyper-V Virtual Network Adapters?

You may already be familiar with a technology called “Consistent Device Naming”. If you were hoping to use that with your virtual machines, sorry! The device naming feature utilized by Hyper-V is not the same thing. I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing that the Hyper-V Integration Services enable this feature.

Basically, if you were expecting to see something different in the Network and Sharing Center, it won’t happen:

harn_nscenterNor in Get-NetAdapter:

harn_getnetadapter

In contrast, a physical system employing Consistent Device Naming would have automatically named the network adapters in some fashion that reflected their physical installation. For example, “SLOT 4 Port 1” would be the name of the first port of a multi-port adapter installed in the fourth PCIe slot. It may not always be easy to determine how the manufacturers numbered their slots and ports, but it helps more than “Ethernet 5”.

Anyway, you don’t get that out of Hyper-V’s device naming feature. Instead, it shows up as an advanced feature. You can see that in several ways. First, I’ll show you how to set the value.

Setting Hyper-V’s Network Device Name in PowerShell

From the management operating system or a remote PowerShell session opened to the management operating system, use Set-VMNetworkAdapter:

This enables device naming for all of the virtual adapters connected to the virtual machine named sv16g2.

If you try to enable it for a generation 1 virtual machine, you get a clear error (although sometimes it inexplicably complains about the DVD drive, but eventually it gets where it’s going):

The cmdlet doesn’t know if the guest operating system supports this feature (or even if the virtual machine has an installed operating system).

If you don’t want the default “Virtual Network Adapter” name, then you can set the name at the same time that you enable the feature:

These cmdlets all accept pipeline information as well as a number of other parameters. You can review the TechNet article that I linked in the beginning of this section. I also have some other usage examples on our omnibus networking article.

Reminder: PowerShell is the only way to set the name of a Hyper-V virtual network adapter.

Note: You must reboot the guest operating system for it to reflect the change.

Setting Hyper-V’s Network Device Name in the GUI

You can use Hyper-V Manager or Failover Cluster Manager to enable this feature. Just look at the bottom of the Advanced Features sub-tab of the network adapter’s tab. Check the Enable device naming box. If that box does not appear, you are viewing a generation 1 virtual machine.

ndn_gui

Reminder: PowerShell is the only way to set the name of a Hyper-V virtual network adapter. See the preceding section for instructions.

Note: You must reboot the guest operating system for it to reflect the change.

Viewing Hyper-V’s Network Device Name in the Guest GUI

This will only work in Windows 10/Windows Server 2016 (GUI) guests. The screenshots in this section were taken from a system that still had the default name of Network Adapter.

  1. Start in the Network Connections window. Right-click on the adapter and choose Properties:
    ndn_netadvprops
  2. When the Ethernet # Properties dialog appears, click Configure:
    ndn_netpropsconfbutton
  3. On the Microsoft Hyper-V Network Adapter Properties dialog, switch to the Advanced tab. You’re looking for the Hyper-V Network Adapter Name property. The Value holds the name that Hyper-V holds for the adapter:
    ndn_display

If the Value field is empty, then the feature is not enabled for that adapter or you have not rebooted since enabling it. If the Hyper-V Network Adapter Name property does not exist, then you are using a down-level guest operating system or a generation 1 VM.

Viewing Hyper-V’s Network Device Name in the Guest with PowerShell

As you saw in the preceding section, this field appears with the adapter’s advanced settings. Therefore, you can view it with the Get-NetAdapterAdvancedProperty cmdlet. To see all of the settings for all adapters, use that cmdlet by itself.

ndn_psall

Tab completion doesn’t work for the names, so drilling down just to that item can be a bit of a chore. The long way:

Slightly shorter way:

One of many not future-proofed-but-works-today way:

For automation purposes, you need to query the DisplayValue or the RegistryValue property. I prefer the DisplayValue. It is represented as a standard System.String. The RegistryValue is represented as a System.Array of System.String (or, String[]). It will never contain more than one entry, so dealing with the array is just an extra annoyance.

To pull that field, you could use select (an alias for Select-Object), but I wouldn’t:

ndn_psselectobject

I don’t like select in automation because it creates a custom object. Once you have that object, you then need to take an extra step to extract the value of that custom object. The reason that you used select in the first place was to extract the value. select basically causes you to do double work.

So, instead, I recommend the more .Net way of using a dot selector:

You can store the output of that line directly into a variable that will be created as a System.String type that you can immediately use anywhere that will accept a String:

Notice that I injected the Name property with a value of Ethernet. I didn’t need to do that. I did it to ensure that I only get a single response. Of course, it would fail if the VM didn’t have an adapter named Ethernet. I’m just trying to give you some ideas for your own automation tasks.

Viewing Hyper-V’s Network Device Name in the Guest with Regedit

All of the network adapters’ configurations live in the registry. It’s not exactly easy to find, though. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlClass{4d36e972-e325-11ce-bfc1-08002be10318}. Not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I can identify that key on sight now. Expand that out, and you’ll find several subkeys with four-digit names. They’ll start at 0000 and count upward. One of them corresponds to the virtual network adapter. The one that you’re looking for will have a KVP named HyperVNetworkAdapterName. Its value will be what you came to see. If you want further confirmation, there will also be KVP named DriverDesc with a value of Microsoft Hyper-V Network Adapter (and possibly a number, if it’s not the first).

Windows Server 2016 book serves up PowerShell recipes

Microsoft introduced a number of new features in Windows Server 2016, from container support to the Nano Server deployment option. But there’s no need to cook up a script from scratch to implement these innovations when there are prepared PowerShell recipes that do the job.

Windows Server 2016 admins can automate jobs and reduce their workload if they master newer cmdlets. For IT shops that want to avoid manual intervention to arrange and manage features in the latest server OS, there are more than 100 PowerShell recipes in Windows Server 2016 Automation with PowerShell Cookbook: Second Edition by Thomas Lee that can help.

Lee provides scripts to ease the mundane processes that can trip up admins who need to be available when trouble strikes. Microsoft switched the Windows Server patching to a cumulative model in 2016, which made the monthly releases more frustrating to handle for some. Lee has a few scripts to make the process less painful. For admins who want an easier way to work with the Desired State Configuration management tool to keep certain systems tamper-proof, Lee walks through the concepts and provides PowerShell recipes to set up the deployment.

In this excerpt taken from the book’s first chapter, Lee describes PackageManagement, a PowerShell module that helps admins and developers install and manage applications from the command line:

PowerShellGet is a powerful resource for PowerShell, built on top of the core PackageManagement capabilities of PowerShell 5. It is one of many PackageManagement providers available. …

PackageManagement is a unified interface for software package management systems, a tool to manage package managers. You use the PackageManagement cmdlets to perform software discovery, installation, and inventory (SDII) tasks. PackageManagement involves working with package providers, package sources, and the software packages themselves.

Within the PackageManagement architecture, PackageManagement providers represent the various software installers that provide a means to distribute software via a standard plug-in model using the PackageManagement APIs. Each PackageManagement provider manages one or more package sources or software repositories. Providers may be publicly available or can be created within an organization to enable developers and system administrators to publish or install propriety or curated software packages.

Editor’s note: This excerpt is from Windows Server 2016 Automation with PowerShell Cookbook: Second Edition, authored by Thomas Lee, published by Packt Publishing, 2017. For updates to scripts used in the book, check the author’s PowerShell Cookbook GitHub repository.

New Citrix ShareFile features automate workflows

Recent updates to Citrix ShareFile features aim to make it easier for employees to complete common workflows.

ShareFile this month got updates to its customizable workflow feature that allows organizations to store workflow data on premises. Workflow capabilities have become more common in content management tools, and Citrix’s enterprise file sync and share (EFSS) offering may pique the interest of organizations where employees repeat certain business processes.

“For transaction-based businesses, the workflow feature could be quite useful — [for example], a real estate transaction that requires multiple reviews and approvals,” said Jo Harder, a cloud architect and analyst at TVP Strategy.

 ShareFile also added support for information rights management for cloud customers and a new migration service for moving from other storage systems.

What’s new with Citrix ShareFile Workflow

The ShareFile workflows feature, which allows users to carry out common tasks such as submitting requests and making approvals, came out for the web version of the service in 2016 and became generally available for its mobile apps in June. Integration with Citrix’s Secure Forms app development tool allows organizations to create custom workflows that aim to streamline repeated processes people do manually. It also allows organizations to set custom triggers that cause an action, such as alerting a manager by email when an employee fills out a form that requires approval.

Before this latest ShareFile update, the custom workflows were only available for data stored in Citrix-managed cloud storage; now, organizations can store the data on premises.

We are very heavy on trying to automate processes.
Michael Thompsonsystems engineer at a managed services provider

IT professionals and end users can create workflows in ShareFile using templates. Once a person builds a form, he or she grants a user or group of users permission to access it. Users can then access the forms they’re approved to use from the ShareFile Workflow app, which is available on desktop or mobile and is separate from their stored documents in the ShareFile app.

This capability would be useful for handling project management documents that employees constantly send back and forth among themselves for reviewing and signing, said Michael Thompson, a systems engineer at a managed services provider with several hundred employees who manage more than 30,000 customer sites.

“We are very heavy on trying to automate processes as much as possible for the minutia that you get tasked with day to day, so that’s a big deal to us,” he said.

The MSP uses ShareFile today for sharing documents, but employees use encrypted email to send and sign project management documents and service agreements.

“That works OK, but ShareFile fits that bill better,” Thompson said.

Custom workflow ShareFile features are included in the premium and platinum editions of the service.

Citrix ShareFile Workflow
An example of a workflow form created with Citrix ShareFile.

More new ShareFile features

Citrix also added a service to help organizations migrate data from legacy file servers to Citrix-managed storage zones. The offering, aimed at companies with large amounts of data, allows new or existing ShareFile customers to schedule a time to migrate data that will have the least effect on user productivity.

Additionally, the information rights management (IRM) capability Citrix announced last year will now be available for Citrix-managed cloud storage, not just on-premises storage. IRM ensures that any file encrypted and requiring authentication in ShareFile remains that way no matter where it lives.

The latest ShareFile update also brings several minor new features to its Microsoft Outlook plug-in and a new add-on for Outlook on Apple macOS and Outlook Online.

ShareFile’s role in the EFSS market

Other EFSS products also offer workflow capabilities, such as Box’s Relay feature. A couple aspects differentiate Citrix ShareFile, however, including the ability to take advantage of mobile app templates in Secure Forms and allow for IT management through Citrix Workspace. Another leg up is Citrix’s ownership of RightSignature, an e-signature software similar to DocuSign that provides secure signing functionality users can incorporate into the workflows, Harder said.

Still, the future of ShareFile has been somewhat unclear after Citrix laid off hundreds of employees, including many in the ShareFile business, last month. At that time, CEO David Henshall said the company would focus ShareFile more on the enterprise market rather than SMBs.

Gartner’s 2017 Magic Quadrant for content collaboration (formerly the EFSS quadrant) placed Citrix as a leader but ranked its “ability to execute” lower than that of Box, Dropbox and Microsoft.

“Competition is definitely heating up,” Harder said.

Jamf Pro 10 self-service features entice Apple admins

MINNEAPOLIS — Contextual security and end-user self-service capabilities in the new version of Jamf Pro are welcome features for IT professionals who use the software to manage Apple devices.

Jamf Pro 10, which Jamf shops have been awaiting for more than a year, will also come with updates to the IT management dashboard, new patching and compliance features and an overhauled user interface.

“We like the new format; it’s more user-friendly now,” said Bobby Tishaw, vice president of IT operations at Comprehensive Pain Specialists, a healthcare organization in Franklin, Tenn. “It hasn’t been really intuitive before.”

The new version will be generally available next week, Jamf Software said here at its annual user conference, Jamf Nation. At last year’s conference, CEO Dean Hager said the plan was to ship Jamf Pro 10 in the first half of this year. But in a June letter to customers, Hager said it was “taking longer than we thought” because of all the major changes being made to the product.

What’s new in Jamf Pro 10

Jamf Pro allows IT to configure, secure and manage Apple Macs, iPads, iPhones and Apple TV devices. Formerly called Casper Suite, its features include app distribution and management, self-service capabilities for users and asset management capabilities such as license tracking, device inventory and compliance reporting and alerting.

New in Jamf Pro 10 are a redesigned interface that aims to provide simpler navigation and dashboard reports that let IT more easily view compliance information. The software also provides security warnings based on end-user context. When an admin sets up a configuration profile for a Mac, for example, he might get a notification that he needs to configure additional settings to meet the company’s security standards.

Comprehensive Pain Specialists is doing a Jamf Pro proof of concept for its macOS and iOS devices and is eager to implement Jamf Pro 10, Tishaw said.

“Having the security messages pop up is really handy,” he said.

The patch management is going to be huge for us.
Jesse SandstromApple systems administrator, Jive Communications

The new version also includes more features that allow IT to automate some aspects of software patching and more easily see what devices need patches, especially for third-party software. These capabilities may help some organizations eliminate the need for third-party patch management tools.

“The patch management is going to be huge for us,” said Jesse Sandstrom, Apple systems administrator at Jive Communications, a unified communications provider based in Orem, Utah. “To have something that’s more automated and does things for us in Jamf, a tool that we already use, is really going to bring it all together.”

IT ‘excited’ about self service

The automation comes in with a new feature that lets IT set notifications to remind users to download and install patches and set a grace period in which they have to do it. That’s all part of Jamf’s self-service portal, where end users can manage their app downloads and updates, bookmarks, printer connections and more on their own.

“Our engineers seem to be really excited about it,” said Jeff Rivers, technical specialist at Commerce Bank, based in Kansas City, Mo.

The bank uses Jamf Pro in a test environment and plans to move to Jamf Pro 10 in production for about 100 Macs in 2018.

“We’re trying to guide things more into self-service,” Rivers said. “When they can click on something and it’s all there, the users are happy.”

The updated Jamf Pro 10 self-service portal will include more bookmark customization capabilities, plus more detailed information on in-progress app downloads and updates. Organizations can also add their own branding to the portal.

Sandstrom and the Jive Communications’ marketing team have been working on logos and icons to include in the self-service portal while awaiting Jamf Pro 10, which the company plans to upgrade to.

“If we can make it more familiar to [users], they’ll use it more,” he said.

The self-service improvements are the most appealing aspects of Jamf Pro 10, said a senior technology architect at a healthcare IT solutions provider in Kansas City, whose role is specifically geared toward ensuring user satisfaction.

“We want to make things as simple as possible for them,” said the architect, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with press. “For the user experience, the branding is huge.”

Microsoft integration

Microsoft and Jamf also demonstrated the new integration between Jamf Pro and Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility and Security (EMS) suite. The capability, announced at last month’s Microsoft Ignite conference, allows IT to block users from using non-compliant Macs to access applications that are connected to Azure Active Directory. Users must register any devices that they want to access those apps from — including Office 365. And when users attempt to access them, Microsoft Intune works with Azure’s conditional access policies to either allow or prevent access based on compliance standards that IT sets.

Tishaw’s company will consider doing macOS and Windows management together through the new integration, he said.

“We have a lot of Windows too, so that was interesting,” he said.

The Kansas City healthcare solutions provider already uses Jamf and Intune, so the new capability is particularly enticing, the architect said.

“That integration piece and the ability to say ‘this device is compliant, this device isn’t compliant’ is important,” he said.

The Microsoft integration will be available later this year, Jamf said.

The Complete Guide to Hyper-V 2016 Integration Services

28 Sep 2017 by Eric Siron
   
0    
Hyper-V Articles

Isolation represents one of the fundamental features of a hypervisor. If we didn’t want isolation, we would have little need to virtualize anything. We could install one operating system on a host and add software until we ran out of capacity. Security and compatibility prevent that approach. However, too much isolation causes other problems. Microsoft supplies the Hyper-V Guest Services as one solution.

The Isolation Model

Visually, Hyper-V’s isolation model looks something like this:

Hyper-V's isolation model

The management operating system loads the hardware drivers that Hyper-V utilizes, but otherwise, stays separated. Hyper-V keeps the management operating system and virtual machines “partitioned” from itself and each other. Of course, 100% isolation is neither possible nor practical. So, Hyper-V provides several interfaces for the virtual machines to use. VMBus manages most of these interfaces. As a “bus”, it carries requests and responses between Hyper-V and the guests.

The available interfaces in Hyper-V 2016 (that I know of):

  • Emulated and synthetic hardware, SR-IOV, and Discrete Device Access
  • Automatic virtual machine activation (Datacenter Edition only)
  • PowerShell Direct
  • Service monitoring (Failover Clustering only)
  • Integration services
    • Operating system shutdown
    • Time synchronization
    • Data Exchange
    • Heartbeat
    • Backup (volume shadow copy)
    • Guest services
  • Virtual Trusted Platform Module (vTPM)
  • Hyper-V Sockets

This article focuses on the integration services.

An Overview of the Integration Services

Each integration service provides a specific function to the virtual machine. For most, you can figure out its function just by looking at its name. The functions are projected into each virtual machine, but a matching software construct must exist and be enabled within the guest operating system.

For Windows guests, Microsoft provides a set of standard Windows services.

  • Hyper-V Data Exchange Service: aligns with Data Exchange
  • Hyper-V Guest Service Interface: aligns with Guest services
  • Hyper-V Guest Shutdown Service: aligns with Operating system shutdown
  • Hyper-V Time Synchronization Service: aligns with Time synchronization
  • Hyper-V Volume Shadow Copy Requestor: aligns with Backup (volume shadow copy)

Microsoft has distributed these as core components of its operating systems since Windows Vista/Windows Server 2008. Up through Windows Server and Hyper-V Server 2012 R2, every server maintained a local copy of the integration services and conveniently packaged them as vmguest.iso at each reboot. You can find the files in the host’s “Windowsvmguest” folder and the packaged ISO in “WindowsSystem32”.

Starting with Windows 10/Windows Server 2016, these files no longer exist on the host.

Windows Services that are Not Part of the Hyper-V Integration Services

You may see additional services that include Hyper-V or something that implies Hyper-V. Other than the ones that I listed, none are part of the official Hyper-V 2016 Integration Services stack that we’re talking about in this article.

Those services:

  • HV Host Service: Rather than re-invent the wheel, I’ll just paste the perfectly adequate description text right from the service: “Provides an interface for the Hyper-V hypervisor to provide per-partition performance counters to the host operating system.”
  • Hyper-V Host Compute Service: You will find this service on Hyper-V 2016 hosts, including Windows 10 and nested Hyper-V instances. It provides an API for container systems.
  • Hyper-V Remote Desktop Virtualization Service: I have no idea what this service does. It’s always running on my 2016 guests but not on my 2012 R2 guests. My first thought was that it enables Enhanced Session Mode from within the guest. So I stopped it. I had no trouble using Enhanced Session mode after that. It may be for RemoteFx.
  • Hyper-V Virtual Machine Management: This is the familiar VMMS that has been with us since the beginning. In previous versions, it was just called “Virtual Machine Management”. It runs on all Hyper-V hosts and enables VM control functionality (start, stop, etc.).

Integration Services Version Compatibility

Even though the host-side projections exist within every virtual machine that it creates, not every guest operating system has access to the matching client-side service. As an example, the Hyper-V Guest Service Interface cannot be installed into any guest prior to Windows 8.1/Windows Server 2012 R2. Therefore, that service will not be available on earlier operating systems.

Also, the host’s version rules over all guests. If you install a later version on a guest and then move it to an older host, you might have some difficulties.

Installing/Updating Hyper-V Guest Services on Windows

As previously mentioned, all currently supported versions of Windows and Windows Server ship with the guest services already installed. The process for updating them has changed since its inception, however.

For Windows XP/Windows Server 2003 up through Windows 8.1/Windows Server 2012 R2 while running on any Hyper-V host version from 2008 through 2012 R2, you would install/update by inserting the host’s vmguest.iso in the guest. The Hyper-V Virtual Machine connect window included an action:

Integration Services Setup Disk

Any time that Microsoft released an update for the integration services via Windows Update, only the host would be automatically updated. The guests could only be updated via a manual process. You could use the action shown above, manually insert the vmguest.iso, or even manually transfer the install files into the guest.

Now, the client packages for the integration services are also delivered via Windows Update. Simply keep your guests up-to-date and you will no longer need to worry about this.

Note 1: I am not certain what operating systems are included. I know that W8.1/WS2012 R2 and W10/WS2016 receive updates this way. I am not certain about earlier versions. If you know, please tell me.

Note 2: For older operating systems, remember that the host version rules. Meaning, do not attempt to install the files from a 2012 R2 host into a guest running on Hyper-V Server 2008.

Note 3: You’ll face some challenges for unsupported legacy operating systems such as Windows XP. You’ll need to find the newest versions that will still install by trying each of the server versions in turn. Do not expect perfect results.

Installing/Updating Hyper-V Guest Services on Linux

The core Hyper-V guest services have been natively built into the Linux kernel for quite some time. If you use a recent, mainstream distribution, then you’ve already got most of the services. They will automatically be updated anytime you update or upgrade your kernel.

If you wish to update the components separately or on a system with an older kernel, Microsoft makes the Linux Integration Services available for download. As of this writing, the current release version is 4.2. The lis-next GitHub project provides the source for feature backports to older versions. You can watch Microsoft’s official virtualization blog for notifications about new versions.

Not all features are included by default with the kernel-embedded integration services, notably Data Exchange and file copy (the only part of Guest services that Linux supports). Start on Microsoft’s official Linux on Hyper-V page. On the left or at the link list at the bottom, find your distribution’s page. Follow the directions to enable the additional features on your distribution.

Details on the Hyper-V Integration Services

Each service provides specific functionality, described below.

The Hyper-V Operating System Shutdown Service

Hyper-V’s Operating System Shutdown Service communicates with the matching service in the guest operating system to gracefully shut down the guest operating system. Without it, you can only force stop the virtual machine from Hyper-V.

The Hyper-V Time Synchronization Service

Hyper-V’s Time Synchronization Service keeps the guest’s time inline with the host’s. It respects any time zone differences. Do not use it for virtualized domain controllers, especially one that holds the PDC emulator role. Otherwise, it’s generally a good idea to leave it enabled for all guests.

The Hyper-V Data Exchange Service

Hyper-V uses key-value pairs to transmit unformatted information between the guest and the host. On Windows guests, the service operates through the guest’s registry. On Linux, the service operates through specially formatted files. On the host side, the Hyper-V WMI API facilitates key exchange for all guests. I have an article series that explains all of this and provides some plumbing to make it easy to use.

The Hyper-V Heartbeat Service

Due to isolation, the hypervisor can only directly sense if a virtual machine is in a powered on state. Beyond that, whatever happens inside the VM stays inside the VM. The heartbeat service is a simple sort of up/down tool. If the service can respond to the hypervisor, then the guest operating system is running at least well enough to start services. There may be some more detailed checks included, but that’s the basic summary of this service.

The Hyper-V Backup (volume shadow copy) Service

The volume shadow copy service (usually known as VSS) is a mechanism that Windows uses to facilitate crash- and application-consistent backups without stopping a computer. It functions by quiescing I/O and notifying applications that a backup will be occurring. Virtual machines present a problem if you want to back them up from the host. Even though Hyper-V can pause processing for a virtual machine, it can’t directly quiesce the guest operating system. So, its backup integration service operates as an intermediary.

When backup begins on the host, it can use this integration service to notify the VSS service within the guest. On Linux, the integration services uses a similar mechanism, although it can only quiesce I/O.

In older versions of Hyper-V, virtual machine backup used the standard VSS mechanism in the host. In modern versions, it relies on Hyper-V’s checkpointing mechanism instead. However, in-guest operations are still controlled by VSS.

Hyper-V Guest Services

I really wish that Microsoft had come up with a better name than just Guest services. Without context, it’s tough to realize that this is not a synonym for the overall category of Hyper-V integration services. The Guest services Hyper-V service allows you to copy files directly between the host and the guest.

How to Manipulate Integration Services in PowerShell

You should not manipulate services from within the guest. Use PowerShell or the GUI at the Hyper-V level. It will automatically handle service status within the guest.

Be aware that you can’t force a feature to work if the guest’s integration services don’t support it. For instance, you can’t enable the Guest Service for a Windows 2008 R2 guest and then copy a file into it.

Retrieve Integration Services in PowerShell

To see the guest services and their statuses for a virtual machine, use Get-VMIntegrationService.

Ex:
Get-VMIntegrationService -VMName svdc1

gs_getvmi

From the output, you can see if a service is enabled and, if it is, its current status. Note that disabled services will always show a primary status of OK. This particular VM shows a nice example for secondary statuses as well. For the Heartbeat service, you can see that its monitored indicators are all OK. For VSS, it wants to tell us something about the component version, but we can’t read it all here.

To expand a secondary status description, specify the Name of the integration service to check, enclose the whole thing in parenthesis, and use the dot selector to pick the SecondaryStatusDescription property. Ex:
(Get-VMIntegrationService -VMName svdc1 -Name ‘VSS’).SecondaryStatusDescription.

gs_expandsecondary

Basically, the integration service is out of date, so I might have problems backing this one up.

Enable Integration Services in PowerShell

Enable an integration service with Enable-VMIntegrationService.

Ex:
Enable-VMIntegrationService -VMName svdc1 -Name ‘Guest Service Interface’.

It will help if you run Get-VMIntegrationService first so that you can copy/paste the name. You can also use the pipeline to send objects from Get-VMIntegrationService to Enable-VMIntegrationService.

Disable Integration Services in PowerShell

Disable an integration service with Disable-VMIntegrationService.

Ex:
Disable-VMIntegrationService -VMName svdc1 -Name ‘Guest Service Interface’.

It will help if you run Get-VMIntegrationService first so that you can copy/paste the name. You can also use the pipeline to send objects from Get-VMIntegrationService to Disable-VMIntegrationService.

How to Manipulate Integration Services in Hyper-V Manager

In Hyper-V Manager, you can determine if any given service is enabled. It will show the status of the Heartbeat service, but no others. Failover Cluster Manager uses the same dialog to show enabled/disabled state for services but does not show status for any of them.

On the virtual machine’s Settings dialog, look on the Integration Services tab. A service is enabled if it is checked. Be aware that checking a box for a service that the client does not support has no effect. For instance, you can check the Guest service box for a 2008 R2 guest, but you will not be able to copy files to/from it.

Integration Services for Hyper-V 2016 Management

To check the Heartbeat status, highlight the VM in Hyper-V Manager’s Virtual Machines pane. In the lower section, ensure that you are on the Summary tab. Look for the Heartbeat field:

Hyper-V Manager 2016

Leveraging Integration Services in Automation

I think that you can easily determine uses for these services, so I won’t throw a lot of silly ideas at you.

I would recommend that you find a way to incorporate regular checks of the Heartbeat service into your monitoring system. If the secondary status doesn’t return OK, there’s a solid chance that the virtual machine has crashed.

Look around a bit, and you might find other uses.

Have any questions or feedback?

Leave a comment below!