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The House of SCCM and Intune on System Center Street

Tag: Microsoft

Windows 10 Automation–Changing Language–B1903

A customer of mine is in the process of bringing the image factory back in-house, leveraging their ConfigMgr installation, hosted in Azure, to deliver Windows 10 task sequences (build and upgrade) to intranet and eventually via their CMG, internet based devices.

The quality bar is relatively basic from the MSP that is responsible for purchasing, preparing and shipping their devices to their end-users, so it hasn’t taken long to spin up OSD in ConfigMgr, and match the build results, producing a better tooled, more customised build that meets their needs and goes several steps further, while they handle purchasing via the MSP and do the delivery themselves.

Managing the Windows 10 image factory using ConfigMgr is an interim measure for this specific customer, at some point they will swing towards using AutoPilot as part of their modernisation and cost reduction plan that we’ve come up with, which includes the ultimate objective that a company can have nowadays, or an IT pro can have on their radar, the biggy, winding up Active Directory.

Part of this customers image factory requirements is that the build starts out life in English (en-GB), so that their build engineers can customise the OS further with a bunch of tasks that haven’t been brought into the task sequence at this point, due to time restraints or Windows 10 B1903 related bugs (VPN settings annoyances when setup in SYSTEM context, SCCM delivered Wifi profile password woe’s …). Finally the customer wants to be able to switch the builds language to that required for the target user, just before they close the lid and begin shipping.

In this post I’m going to show how I handled the customers language requirements in Windows 10 using SCCM OSD, leaving some footprints on ground already well-trodden by notable others.

Straight out of the gate I was experiencing issues setting the language reliably in Build 1903.

I tried to approach using the unattended setup file, that ‘trusty’ old horse, and when that wouldn’t play ball, I turned to using brutality with DISM and PowerShell applets at the tail end of the task sequence, in an attempt to coerce the operating system into doing my bidding. Failure is a spur towards success for the less weak-of-heart, is what I say when things just don’t work. Surely there has to be a way.

I cruised the net. Saw much chatter about language issues in various Windows 10 builds, most of it seemingly unrelated noise, I noticed a post by Dan Padgett where he uses a different method, RUNDLL32 and an XML file (or two), passed it by, I recall at the time thinking that it most likely was for an older version of Windows 10 and looked pig ugly Smile

At my whit’s end, I reached out to Paul Winstanley, who promptly pointed me back at Dan’s post as the only reliable way he could get it all to work at present.

Dan’s post is actually quite comprehensive and is in part a derivative of some of the ground work carried out by Nicolas Lacours, there isn’t much more for me to add if anything, a Stirling job indeed, instead I’ll show how I leveraged the proposed method to switch languages during and after OSD.

So yeah, I implemented Dan’s write-up on using the RUNDLL32 method, and viola, after a bit of tinkering to match up with the task sequence variables in use, and after ironing out SillinessFromMe™, I was able to produce a build in any of the list of languages the customer needed.

Now that language in the newly built OS was controllable (thanks Dan and Nicolas, and Paul for circling me back there!) the next step was to force it to build with en-GB, while storing away in the registry what was chosen as the destination language when UI++ launches, so that it can be read in and processed another time to do the final language switch.

At this point the build engineer has an en-GB build to log into, and do whatever they want in readiness for the user.

The next piece was the final language switch, I used another task sequence, with all the language steps from the main task sequence copied across and some additional bits added, and then deployed as Available to the OSD build collection.

This then showed up in Software Center, and could be run as the final task before the device is powered off and shipped.

I’ll now go over the OSD build parts where it differs from Dan’s, and has notes worth pointing out, as I said there wasn’t much need for any change from what he has already etched out.

At the front-end of the task sequence, UI++ runs and interviews the build engineer:

  1. Launch UI++, buzz the engineer for build details and store selections in task sequence variables
  2. Stored the resulting OSDUILanguage value in a new task sequence variable called StoredOSDUILanguage, which is then used at the tail-end of the task sequence as part of the branding\tattooing (not MDT tattoo) of the device
  3. OSDUILanguage is forced to become en-GB to model the experience needed, this is the override that will force all builds to be en-GB initially

After the Setup Windows and ConfigMgr step, we break into the steps to handle the language.

Pretty much how Dan does it. I think the only difference is that I put the Language pack logic on the steps, and added the UK keyboard instead of US.

The final part of the solution in my task sequence runs just before the task sequence finishes up, and is used to poke the value stored away in the task sequence variable StoredOSDUILanguage, into the registry for later use alongside a few other settings.

Aside from my modifications, if you follow Dan’s guide, and you’ll get perfect a result every time. Very nice.

The task sequence to do the final language switch is part-clone of the OSD build task sequence steps, along with some customisations.

As you can see the structure of the change language task sequence is a copy\pasta of the OSD build task sequence with some added bits:

What’s happening:

  1. OSDUILanguage, the task sequence variable doing all the language donkey work, is set to en-GB as a default in case anything goes awry
  2. The registry key OSDUILanguage is retrieved from the registry and poked into OSDUILanguage, I do this using a PowerShell script stored in the same package hosting the language injection script from Dan
  3. A task sequence variable that I use to confirm if the language can be changed, BeginProcessing, is initialised as False
  4. OSDUILanguage is used to drive the dynamic variable step, each rule sets the BeginProcessing variable to True

5. The Begin group has logic on it that will skip the group if BeginProcessing isn’t true, which essentially ends the task sequences execution.

The rest is identical to the OSD build task sequence, the language is laid down, three reboots occur, and bosh the language has changed for new users (who have not already logged in). I will no doubt finesse this out a bit more to do error handling and an existential check on the registry key to trigger an abort if missing.

The PoSh to retrieve the registry key, which most likely can be done better, is here:

$tsenv = New-Object -COMObject Microsoft.SMS.TSEnvironment
$regValue = Get-ItemProperty -Path ‘HKLM:\Software\<COMPANY NAME HERE>\Branding’ -Name OSDUILanguage | Select OSDUILanguage
$tsenv.Value(“OSDUILanguage”) = $regValue.OSDUILanguage
Write-host (“Found language ” + $regValue.OSDUILanguage)

We can probably collapse that into a single line executed using a Run Command Line step and do away with the script. Be ideal if ConfigMgr let us read directly from a ‘repository’ such as the registry as a task sequence step, and poke the value into a task sequence variable.

With this mechanism in place, simply changing the registry key from say fr-FR to de-DE and running the task sequence from Software Center will swap languages for new users only.

I couldn’t get it to switch the language for any profiles that were already created on the device.

The build engineers profile remains en-GB, however the destination user once they log in for the first time will have the correct language set.

Now the customer has a handle on their Windows 10 builds, and language is slotted into place to fit their needs, initially configured as en-GB, then configured with one of several other languages supported by the company in readiness for delivery.

All in all a job well done I thought.

I might take a look into changing the language for all users not just new users, and whittle up a post on it at some point if its doable without the user having to be logged in.

PatchMaster–Version 1 releases

Rushing to get things ready for the week ahead at the MVP 2018 Summit, my main bit of fun was dragging its heels to get out the door, PatchMaster, but its done now, wrapped in an MSI and out the door.

Whether its forgotten a shoe or a sock, who knows, well you will actually, if you install and give it a try and something exciting happens.

Many nights of coding, time I could have spent chillaxing in World of Tanks,  were invested in getting PatchMaster fit for use, at least fit for use in my lab, a few testers labs and a couple of real-life development environments.

It is now over to you all, to explore it in your labs, and for the confident through observation, into production.

This tool’s main purpose is to setup a patching regime that can be initiated at a click of a button, once post-configuration is completed. Simplifying what for some is an arduous task occurring predictably each month and unpredictably via out of cycle patch releases.

Once you’ve got this tool working, patching will be a breeze, just open the tool, and if any patches show click, just click Build, which will introduce them into your environment in a structured way.

For bonus points PatchMaster also builds out Reporting SUG’s, which are a rollup of all patches for a product to make reporting on your patches easy.

You can check out PatchMaster here:

https://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/PatchMaster-51716e13

Top points for figuring out who the bust is for the tools icon Smile

A guide can be found here.

PatchMaster–Entirely Automate SUM

In 2017 two customers at roughly the same time asked me to ‘fully automate SUM’, both requests were driven by the low skill level of inbound SUM admins, the intent was to reduce the work surface for these admins, basically take out much of the SUM activity at each Patch Tuesday so that they could focus on troubleshooting to soak up issue clients.

Before then I was never asked to trick-out SUM, simply stand it up against the requirements of the customer (Products, Classifications, Languages and Deployment Collections).

So I went to town on a simple PowerShell solution to flatten the SUM role down to just running a script each month, reviewing its output then monitoring deployment progress through the three atypical deployment rings of Hard Test, Pilot then Production. Rinse and repeat each month, leaving just Out of Cycle patches to be harvested and deployed if required.

The fruit of that labour was a complex PowerShell script that pretty much stood SUM up for the current months patches in less than half an hour. I wrote that script for those customers and won’t be releasing it to the community.

I set about converting the PowerShell script into a .Net Executable and came up with PatchMaster.

It has sat in the developer dock for several months with occasional coding sessions performed against it, mostly due to lack of time to develop it further, and because I had a few gnarly problems that turned each coding session into hand-to-hand combat.

Well I cracked open the source over the Christmas break and had another go, stepped back, thought about the problems from a different angle and hey presto, as if by magic, I broke through.

I decided today that I will not commercialise this tool for SMSMarshall, instead, I will give it away to the community for free.

It will take me a few more weeks to finish this off in my spare time.

In the meantime here’s some UI shots, Alpha, things will change and the skin will be given some proper loving closer to release, right now it is a functional UI used to drive the coding taking place.

Rules: Create a rule defining what you want PatchMaster to build out for:

image

Guide the deployments into collections:

image

Scope SUG’s:

image

Preview what will be created (Will fold this into the Naming Tab functionality):

image

Define how your SUG’s will be named, this functionality will be folded into Preview:

image

There is still lots of coding to be done, but I don’t see there being any further complex coding just what I call wiring code, which doesn’t need much more than time to lay down, no clever thinking needed, that’s all been done.

Be cool to hear how you’ve automated SUM, or what automating SUM would mean to you. Would PatchMaster rock your world?

I know a few SUM admins that still build things by hand each month, what a waste of resource, PatchMaster will give back time lost to SUM each month, at least until my other ‘plank’ is implemented via the Product Group, which is to extend out the ADR feature to handle creating new Packages at each run instead of just new SUG’s, which would literally kill PatchMaster overnight (it has a few features like SUG’s for Reporting purposes, rollups etc that would still be useful) … that idea was suggested at the recent MVP Hackathon in Seattle, but didn’t get any traction (that kind of annoyed me, lots, a real lot, at least one of my other ideas was coded otherwise that week would have been entirely social), but the idea may see the light of day in future releases of ConfigMgr if I keep pressing for it, or you’ll continue using something like PatchMaster to fill this (totally) obvious Management gap in SUM.

Right then, carry on with my Christmas break now, and when I get back to the House of Power (my England home) I will burn some time on PatchMaster development.

PatchMaster can now be downloaded from the TechNet Gallery here.

A guide exists here.

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