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I was recently interviewed by Rae Clemans, Microsoft System Center Alliance Project Manager, for a Microsoft internal sales podcast. With Rae's permission I'm sharing the transcript (or the bits I can publish!).

RC: “It’s another fine day for a System Center Alliance Filling the Gap: System Center Extensions podcast, and I’m Rae Clemans, SCA Marketing Project Manager. We’ve covered a lot of ground in this series already, but we haven’t talked about how our SCA partner ENGL extends System Center to simplify the management and deployment of Windows drivers with SCCM 2007 and MDT 2010. When your customers are talking about how difficult it would be to deploy the latest version of Windows, this gives you a great opportunity to talk about how they can do it easily with SCCM and ENGL Driver Manager. Your customers would get simplified deployment, higher productivity, less down time and all the benefits that SCCM and the latest edition of Windows can bring to their business.”

“So who is ENGL? ENGL is based in Oxfordshire in the United Kingdom, AND like Microsoft they are a company with global reach and their product applies to all our System Center customers. ENGL specializes on writing tools and solutions that help administrators deploy Windows. Heath Upton has been with ENGL for almost 12 years, and is the Director of Engineering. Welcome to the podcast Heath, I’ve been looking forward to getting you and the ENGL story online.”

“First and foremost, explain to me just what is ENGL Driver Manager?”

HU: “Driver Manager is an enterprise driver management solution, that reduces the cost and time associated with deploying hardware drivers, as part of an existing Windows OS deployment.”

“It’s REALLY easy to use. Administrators import SCCM hardware inventory for the different machine models into Driver Manager. A search for the latest drivers for a Windows version and platform, for example Windows 7 64-bit, is sent to the ENGL Driver Repository on the web. Driver Manager then receives details of the latest Windows drivers that match the hardware inventory. Drivers are then automatically downloaded from the machine manufacturer and OEM web sites. Each driver is analysed to determine the best installation method, then SCCM driver and software packages are created that automate the driver installation.”

“Behind the scenes, my team is continuously data mining machine manufacturers and OEM’s to find and match the latest Windows drivers. Drivers for new machine models are typically available to Driver Manager within 1-2 weeks. If a customer finds a problem with a driver, for example a broken link or an installation failure, an ENGL support ticket can be raised from within Driver Manager.”

“We recently ran a poll targeting System Center administrators and I’d like to share some of the results with you. Over 60% of organisations have more than 2 machine manufacturers, 75% try to standardise on a single manufacturer to avoid driver deployment issues, 80% find it hard to locate the correct drivers, and 90% use trial and error to automate driver installation. Following those results you won’t be surprised to hear that all administrators polled admitted to spending more than one day PER machine model, PER OS platform, finding and packaging the Windows drivers.”

“So, Driver Manager saves organisations time and money by streamlining the processes around finding, downloading, packaging and installing Windows drivers.”

RC: “I understand that Driver Manager helps organizations to deploy Windows 7, can you describe the experience so the sales force can understand the pain you are answering for customers?”

HU: “Even thou Windows 7 and Windows 7 SP1 were released with updated drivers, there is most likely a need for enterprises to use Windows 7 drivers provided by machine manufacturers.”

“As you’ll recall from the survey, customers find deployment of drivers a major challenge and it’s often the reason why customers haven’t yet migrated from Windows XP to Windows 7.”

“If an organisation is running Windows XP now, using Driver Manager the latest Windows 7 drivers can be download, packaged and tested prior to a full OS rollout.”

RC: “Will it be able to deploy the next version?”

HU: “If you’re referring to Windows 8, then the answer is yes. As soon as the machine manufacturers and OEM’s make Windows 8 drivers available, we’ll begin checking the driver compatibility and adding them to our database.”

“It’s also worth mentioning, that we’re working on a new version of Driver Manager that will be compatible with SCCM 2012 and MDT 2012.”

RC: “I think we get the picture, but can you detail the kind of customer that would most want ENGL Driver Manager?”

HU: “Driver Manager takes away the pain from managing Windows drivers. The more machine manufacturers and models an organisation has, the more help Driver Manager will be. It’s all about time and resourcing. Each time a customer buys a new machine model, it could be a server, desktop, laptop or tablet, how much is it costing to get a consultant or internal resource to package drivers? Wouldn’t it be better for the customer to own a supported solution that enables it to manage drivers internally at an overall lower cost?”

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Imaging Toolkit Application Logic rules provide a very powerful method of controlling which applications are installed during the Build Process. Using rules you can build a machine with applications for a specific department, role or even user.

By way of a quick review, Imaging Toolkit provides some logic rules that are used to control how applications (bundles) are installed during the build process. When using logic rules your _Installer bundle will have every bundle that might be required for deployment listed in the Install action set.

During the build process Imaging Toolkit will analyse the bundles assigned to the workstation and if specified, the owner (user) of the machine. The analysis process will look at direct assignments and dependencies, so you could have a bundle assigned to the workstation that delivers an icon for an application that is dependent upon the bundle that installs the application. The result of this analysis will be a list of bundles that are to be installed, Imaging Toolkit will then block the caching and installation of any bundle that is not on this list.

The table below show's a resulting list of bundles based on the _Installer and Workstation bundle assignments:

_Installer Bundle

Assigned to Workstation

Resulting Action

MS Office 2010 Installer

MS Word 2010 (icon)

Install MS Office 2010 Installer

Adobe Reader X Installer

Adobe Reader X (icon)

Install Adobe Reader X Installer

VMware workstation Installer


Skip bundle

Winzip 15 Installer

Winzip (icon)

Install Winzip 15 Installer

With Imaging Toolkit 6.0.6 we added a new configuration option named "Log Bundle Names During Analysis" within the ZENworks Applications properties. The setting controls whether bundle names appear in the Ztoolkit.log file when the bundle assignments are being analysed. This option may seem fairly innocuous at first glance because more logging is always good... right?

In larger environments where customers have 100+ bundles in the _Installer bundle "Install Action Set" we have seen significant delays in the logic rule processing. This delay is caused because we have to make repeated web service calls to the ZCM server to retrieve the bundle name. So the new option disables the retrieval of the bundle name. We have seen logic rule processing decrease from 90 minutes to 30 seconds with this change.

It should be noted that setting "Log Bundle Names During Analysis" to false does not affect the Build Process Status Window, so you will see the status update the bundle name as each bundle is installed.

For more information on the application logic rules take a look at the Imaging Toolkit documentation:

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The ZENworks Imaging Environment fails to reboot on Dell Optiplex 380 machines requiring a hard reset of the machine.
update the z_maint.cfg file with the kernel options "acpi=off nolapic"


DEFAULT imaging
LABEL imaging
kernel boot\linux
append 5 initrd=boot\initrd mode=5 rootimage=/root install=tftp://$PXESERVER/boot splash=silent vga=0x314 tftptimeout=50 $KERNEL_PARMS


DEFAULT imaging
LABEL imaging
kernel boot\linux
append 5 initrd=boot\initrd mode=5 rootimage=/root install=tftp://$PXESERVER/boot splash=silent vga=0x314 tftptimeout=50 acpi=off nolapic $KERNEL_PARMS

Save the change to the z_maint.cfg file

The optiplex 380 machines should now reboot successfully from the ZENworks Imaging Environment

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I'm pleased to announce that Imaging Toolkit 6.0.6 is now available for download to customers and partners worldwide. We aim to release updates to Imaging Toolkit within 30 days of a major ZENworks release and for Imaging Toolkit 6.0.6 we've done it in 16 days!

Imaging Toolkit 6.0.6 updates and fixes include;

  • ZENworks Configuration Management 11 SP1 support
  • A number of fixes to the cloning process
  • Application logic rule processing performance enhancements

For a detailed list of changes view the Release History.

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This TechBite session (presented on 3rd August 2011) is available here.

The TechBite session explains how to use ENGL tools to set up and configure Windows 7 system partitions and enable BitLocker during the build process.