Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Xenapp 6.0: "A device attached to the system is not functioning."

We had a user call our help desk stating that they weren't able to log into their XenApp 6.0 published desktop.  It accepted their credentials, started going through the motions of applying group policy, etc., but before the desktop actually appeared, the session disappeared completely.  After doing some testing, I noticed that an error message was popping up, for less than a second, right before the session closed.  With my trigger finger, I was able to snap a screen shot to discover the following error: "A device attached to the system is not functioning."
After poking around the Citrix Delivery Services Console, I discovered the that the user had a Disconnected session out there, that was obviously in a completely cheddared state.  So, when the user was logging in, they were being reconnected to their broken session, and were never able to log in.  After logging off the disconnected session, the user was able to start a brand new session and log in successfully.

Friday, October 7, 2011

7 Things to Convince Me to Switch to the iPhone 4S [REVISITED]

I previously wrote about the possibility of switching from the Android world to the iPhone world.  Now that the iPhone 4S has been announced, and will be released next week, I figured it would be a good opportunity to revisit the demands I made in order to make the switch a no-brainer:

1) The iPhone 4S must be released on Verizon at the same time as ATT
Check.  Plus, it's being released on Sprint.

2) The iPhone 4S must be capable of utilizing LTE
Fail.  However, as I mentioned in my previous post, there was a little bit of wiggle room on this one, and now that I have seen what the current generation LTE chips do to battery life on the existing Android handsets, I'm happy to stay away from it for now.

3) The iPhone 4S must have a dual-core processor
Check.  It will include the A5, which will supposedly increase general processing performance by 2x and graphics performance by 7x.

4) The iPhone 4S must include an NFC implementation
Fail.  I must admit that I figured that NFC, in general, would have come a lot farther this year.  Google just recently introduced Wallet, which is currently only available on one phone on one carrier.  We have a ways to go before this really goes mainstream.

5) The iPhone 4S must use a better notification system
Check.  iOS 5 includes a notification system very similar to the existing Android implementation.  It looks good to me!

6) The iPhone 4S must have a dependable, free (or inexpensive) turn-by-turn Navigation application
Check (TBD).  I have discovered Waze and Mapquest to be two free options, and there appear to be a few not-too-expensive options.  I'd have to test them out to determine their quality though.  Any suggestions?

7) Along side the iPhone 4S, Apple must provide free MobileMe access
Check.  iClould will be free, and available this coming Wednesday (October 12th).

So, there you have it.  The only two fails were for LTE and NFC, which were definitely my least critical concerns for the new iPhone.  Without further ado...

iPhone here I come!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why the Kindle Fire Will Defeat its Android Counterparts, but not Kill the iPad

When Steve Jobs took the stage earlier this year to unveil the iPad 2, he made a claim that this would be the year of the copy cats.  While that has claim has been materialized in devices like the Motorola Xoom,  RIM's Playbook, and even Barnes and Noble's Nook Color to a certain extent, there is a new challenger in town: the Amazon Kindle Fire.

While I would argue that it's not really "correct" to compare the iPad 2 with the Kindle Fire, it's bound to happen, and as consumers are shopping for a tablet device this holiday season, the question is going to come up.

Although it's too early to come up with final judgements, as the product won't even be released until November, we can at least make some early speculation as to how this will affect other tablets on the market, and whether or not we may have an iPad "killer" on our hands.

First, this is why the Kindle Fire will defeat, and most likely destroy its Android counterparts:
Its focus is narrow, and its goals are specific
Unlike the majority of Android tablets on the market today, the Kindle has a very specific purpose -- above all else, it is an e-reader.  Sure, it's also a media consumption device, but when it comes down to it, users will want a great reading experience.  When you pick up a Xoom, or a Playbook there's not as much direction or purpose -- it's simply there for you to guess what you should be doing.

It has more and greater content available
The Kindle Fire will have the Amazon Appstore for Android and while it's not as comprehensive as the general Android Market, there is a great selection of apps.  (PS -- it was a very smart move to establish that Appstore in the world of Android before the release of the Kindle Fire).  Where the Kindle Fire truly shines is in the media available: Movies, TV Shows, Music, Magazines and of course, books.  Obviously you can download the equivalent Android apps for some of these things on other devices, but the experience will be nowhere near what you find on the Kindle Fire.  Couple that with the seemingly incredibly fast web browsing, and a casual user has everything they need.

It's priced right
If I was the maker of an Android tablet right now, I would be afraid.  Very, very afraid.  Barnes and Noble (which took a hit to their stock value after today's announcement) has to be especially concerned.  At a price point of $199 (which is currently $50 less than what the NOOK Color costs, which is significantly less than other Android tablets) it makes for a very attractive package -- I mean, we all saw what happened with the $99 TouchPad, right?

Second, this is why the Kindle Fire cannot, and will not, kill the iPad:
It has a different target market
These positive points are all well and good, but does it add up to an iPad killer?  I think not.  From what I've seen of the presentation made today, there was a little jab at syncing a device using a wire, but it didn't seem focused on what the Kindle Fire could do that the iPad can't (like Flash, for example, which other companies have tried to make a major selling point).  Instead, it focused simply on what the Kindle Fire does well.  And while it does many things very well, there was no mention of certain things the iPad excels at -- like content creation, for example.  Not to mention the hardware differences that equip the iPad to be a useful tool in more situations (thinking of GPS, cameras and a microphone specifically).

The Kindle Fire is no laptop replacement
Along those same lines, the ways the iPad and Kindle Fire have been presented are different.  Steve Jobs considers the days we live in to be the "Post-PC era" and that the iPad is the new personal computer.  In many cases, an iPad can easily be considered a laptop replacement, and has the specs and apps to back that claim up.  The Kindle Fire, on the other hand, is presented more as an entertainment device.  While its hardware specs are nothing to balk at, it's lacking in some key areas (screen size not being the least of these).  Likewise, I've never heard of anyone buying an iPad for the sole purpose of reading books.

Content is still king
It's great that Kindle Fire users will have access to the Amazon Appstore for Android, and to the TV and movies available through their video services (including cloud syncing services) -- but the content available via those venues pales in comparison to what iPad users have at their disposal in iTunes.  Not only that, but the issue of few apps designed and developed specifically for tablet use still plagues the Android Market at large.  Until this changes, it'll be hard to sway users toward Android tablets.

So where does this leave us?  Will/Should consumers own both devices?  I find this highly unlikely and unnecessary.  Instead, I think consumers will fall in one camp or the other for the reasons mentioned above.  Sure, some households may contain both devices, as each person's needs and preferences are different, but at the end of the day I think it can be settled by answering the following question: do you need a low-cost, focused but potentially lacking tablet (but stellar e-reader), or do you need a premium laptop replacement with less limitations?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

XenApp 6.0: Printers Fail to Autocreate on a Mac

I got a call from one of our users that has a Mac at home and connects to our Citrix XenApp farm through our Access Gateway.  Apparently, everything was working fine, except that the printers locally attached to his Mac would not auto-create in his Citrix session.

While I enjoy using my Macbook at home, we have no Apple gear here in our office, so I was unable to do any tests in our lab environment.  That's when I decided to call on the power of Google for help, and stumbled across the following Citrix article: Printers Defined on a Mac Client Fail to Auto-Create when Connecting to XenApp 5.0 on Windows 2008

Basically, the issue was that a printer driver (the HP Color Laserjet 4500 PS for XenApp 5, or the HP Color Laser Jet 2800 Series PS for XenApp 6) was no longer installed on our XenApp servers.  Early on, before we learned about the pains of printing in Citrix, we freely installed drivers for printers.  After finding out that was a very bad idea, I went on a driver purging spree, only allowing battle-tested drivers that were absolutely necessary to be installed on our farm.  I must have deleted the required driver in this process, as it is apparently installed by XenApp automatically.

For those curious, the reason why you need these HP drivers in the first place is because, for the time being, the driver that Citrix uses for their Universal Print Driver is not compatible with Macs.  So -- if you find that your Mac printers are not auto-creating, double check to make sure the required driver is installed!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Moving to OS X Lion with a Clean Install

As I am sure you Mac users are well aware, OS X Lion was made available yesterday morning as a purchase through the Mac App Store.  There are a few tutorials out there in regard to doing a clean install, but I thought I would document my process since it may help someone else.  My existing setup:

  • White Macbook Core 2 Duo, 2.16 GHz
  • 120 GB 5400 rpm hard drive
  • iLife '09
  • OS X Snow Leopard
My goal by the end of the day yesterday:
  • 500 GB 7200 rpm hard drive
  • iLife '11
  • OS X Lion
For the hard drive upgrade, there are two great sites:
  • For the purchase: Other World Computing.  Their site allows you to pick your Mac model and then pick from compatible hardware.  I settled on this which gave me the hard drive, as well as an external USB enclosure to put my existing 120 GB drive in for back up and data transfer purposes.
  • For the hard drive replacement: iFixit.  I used the steps found here to replace my hard drive in about 5 minutes.  Super easy!
Before swapping in a new hard drive though, there are a few things that I had to do first:
  • Export browser bookmarks
  • Export Contacts
  • Consolidate my iTunes library.  I followed the steps from this Apple KB article (specifically the part about consolidating if I wanted to copy it to an external drive for the transfer).  This will move everything iTunes (music, etc.) into your iTunes folder.
  • Download OS X Lion from the Mac App store and burn a bootable DVD.  I followed the steps found here to do this.  When done, you can leave the DVD in the drive.
  • Make sure I know where saved application/game data was stored (I didn't want to lose my Plants vs. Zombies progress!).  In general, it seems like the path to application data on a Mac is /users/[username]/Library/Application Support/[application_or_publisher].  For example, the Plants vs. Zombies data I was looking for was located in the directory /users/matt/Library/Application Support/Popcap.
  • Backup anything else crucial in the event that this existing hard drive dies in the swap process
  • Deauthorize/Deactive licensed software (including iTunes... although I did this last)
Now, after shutting down, swapping hard drives and leaving the OS X Lion DVD in the drive, I did the following:
  • Hold down the 'c' key upon boot, this should allow you to boot to the DVD
    • Note: It took a LONG time for me to reach the actual Lion installation screen -- so you may need to be patient.
  • Once at the Lion installation, I had to run the Disk Utility.  This allowed me to format the new drive as Mac OS X Extended (Journaled).
  • After the format completed, I installed Lion -- so far so good!
  • NOTE: I'm not sure if this affected moving my iPhoto or iTunes library (as mentioned below) but I named my hard drive and username the same as my previous install so that all of my file system paths would remain in tact -- so if you have the option, I would recommend doing the same.  If you end up going with the external hard drive for your old one though, you will need to rename it upon connecting it to your Lion install -- my machine got a little confused with two drives with the same name!
Now for the unknown -- how do I get my photos from iPhoto '09 to iPhoto '11, and how do I transfer my iTunes Library with minimal fuss?  This ended up being A LOT simpler than I expected:
  • Since I had a brand new install of iPhoto '11 with no existing photos (this becomes way more complicated if you do have existing photos, so don't try this if you do!), I was able to simply remove the new iPhoto Library, and just copy over my iPhoto Library (the entire package) into the Pictures directory.  Then, upon launching iPhoto it let me know that it would need to upgrade my photo library, and it would no longer be accessible by older versions of iPhoto.  Fine with me!  When it opened, all of my photos, and events were in tact.  Victory!
  • Similar process for iTunes: I simply replaced the existing iTunes directory in my Music folder with the one from my old hard drive.  When iTunes launched, it briefly displayed a message that it was updating my library, but when it was done, all of my songs, album art, playlists, etc. were there! NOTE: I purposefully named the new drive the same as my old one, and also used my same username so the paths to my files would be the same.  So, I'm not sure if this would work if they weren't.
Beyond that, it was just copy/pasting data and setting preferences... not bad at all!

Hopefully this makes sense, but feel free to ask questions in the comments.  As always -- I will not be responsible for any damage that may occur due to following steps outlined in this post.  Your mileage may vary!

Friday, July 15, 2011

This is the XenApp 6.0 Hotfix you are looking for

Basically, this is just a quick update to my previous post on Citrix servers freezing.  In looking at the dates, I now realize that I have been waiting over two months for this hotfix!

Anyway -- the hotfix to resolve a LOT of stability issues was released this morning (XA600W2K8R2X64046) and can be obtained at the following site:

Happy patching!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Citrix XenApp 6.0 Servers Freezing

When we finally made our way through our XenApp 5.0 farm freezes, I never thought that I would revisit such a problem so quickly.  When we made our upgrade to XenApp 6.0 and Windows Server 2008 R2 I thought for sure we would be jumping into a much more stable environment.  Unfortunately, I was wrong.

Shortly after making the upgrade we noticed that our Citrix servers became unresponsive at random times throughout the day: you could ping them, but that's about it.  Any attempt to RDP or log in even at the console level was an absolute failure.  If you are experiencing this problem, I would recommend upgrading your servers to Server 2008 R2 SP1, and applying the following Microsoft Hotfix: KB 2465772.  In addition, you're going to want to install at LEAST this Citrix Hotix as well: CTX127023.  But really, I would install as many Public Hotfixes for XenApp 6.0 as possible that apply to your environment.

If that would have been the end of the freezing saga, I would have been content.  However, the freezing dragon decided to rear its ugly head again: whenever we tried to shut down a Citrix server after having a decent amount of load on it, it froze.  Basically, it would sit on the Windows "Shutting down..." screen with the spinning circle to never fully shut down or recover without a hard power off.

After working with Microsoft and Citrix, it turns out that there is a Citrix Hotfix that's working its way toward becoming public (supported by Citrix), that should be available in the coming weeks.  If you are experiencing this same issue (freezing when shutting down) you're going to want to keep your eye out for Hotfix 46 (full name: XA600W2K8R2X64046).

UPDATE: I've added a new post that provides links to this hotfix.

In the meantime, there are a couple pages you should be keeping an eye on:
  1. The list of Public Hotfixes currently available for XenApp 6.0
  2. A list of recommended Microsoft Citrix Hotfixes for XenApp 6.0 and Server 2008 R2
Both of these get updated from time to time, so you'll want to bookmark them and see what's new whenever you get a chance.

As always, this is what worked for me, in our environment, so your mileage may vary and I won't be responsible for any problems this post may cause :)