Thursday, December 22, 2016

VMware App Volumes - The Next Evolution in VDI - Step 2 Writable Volumes

Hi Friends,

Ready for the next step in VDI evolution?  A little while back I showed you how cool AppStacks were in VMware App Volumes - The Next Evolution in VDI - Step 1 AppStacks.  Today I'm going to show you how to setup and use Writable Volumes.  AppStacks are really cool because you can assign applications to users that need them, Writable Volumes allow users to install their own applications on non-persistent desktops!

Wait, wait, wait just one second there Neil, you just contradicted yourself.  Install applications on non-persistent desktops?  Isn't that the whole point of non-persistence?  You're right friends, and that's what makes Writable Volumes so cool!  Writable Volumes give users the persistence and freedom they demand coupled with non-persistent desktops that allow administrators to roll out patches and changes to a single image.

Don't believe me huh?  Yeah, I was a bit skeptical too, but wait till you see how cool this is!

Let's head over to our App Volumes GUI, click on the Volumes tab and then Writables.  Click on the Create Writable button to create our first writable volume.

This next step looks like there's a lot going on, but it's pretty easy and I'll break it down step by step.

First, we need to find who or what we're going to assign this Writable Volume to.  In the case below I'm assigning it to a user named avtest1.

After you click on the search button, App Volumes will go take a look through your active directory and find the user or machine you want to assign to.

Check the box of the user or machine you want.  Now we select what storage the Writable Volume will reside on, the path to it and the source template.  Here I'm using a Tintri T5080.

Once you're happy with your configurations, click on Create.

The Writable Volume has been created!

Wait, don't celebrate too much yet, we're not there just yet.  Notice the status is Enabled, but Detached.  We've created our Writable Volume, but our avtest1 user hasn't done anything with it yet.

I've just logged into a virtual machine called appvolumes2 with user avtest1 and everything looks normal on the Windows side, but unknown to our avtest1 user, they now have a 10gigs of storage to install applications of their own!  Notice the state is now Attached?

The plot thickens!!!

One thing I forgot to mention is that the desktop(s) that will use App Volumes need to have the agent installed.  That can easily be rolled out by changing the golden image and doing a recompose.  Here's a screen shot of appvolumes2, the agent is installed and my test application, Notepad++ is not there.

Here I am installing Notepad++ on appvolumes2 as user avtest1.

And here's appvolumes2 after the install.  If you take a look the Notepad++ shortcut is on the desktop and it's now listed as an installed program.

Now, for the test, if I log into appvolumes2 as a different user, will Notepad++ still be there?

Woo Hoo!  I'm logged into appvolumes2, but as avtest2 and there's no Notepad++.

Now, what if I log into another desktop as avtest1?

Okay.... NOW it's time to celebrate!

How cool is that?!?!

Until Next Time!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Dr. Brain's - Gadgets of The Year for 2016

Hi Friends,

It's that time of year again!  Yep, Dr. Brain's Gadgets of 2016!!  I had so much fun writing about last years gadgets, I decided to do a repeat for 2016.  Without further delay, here are the gadgets!!

NES Classic Edition

In my opinion, the original NES **IS** the home system that changed home gaming forever!  No offence to all the great home systems that came before the NES, but before it there was a big difference between arcade games and home systems.  Even before NES I was amazed video games were available at home, but the NES brought arcade quality to our living rooms.  Remember the original commercial with Super Mario, Duck Hunt and the little robot dude?  I sure do!

Amazon Echo and Alexa

This is the second year Amazon has made my list.  They just keep coming up with cool stuff!  Remember watching movies where your house is totally automated, you ask for something and ta-da!  The Amazon Echo and Alexa might not be there just yet, but it's getting pretty darn close.  It's like having a personal assistant ready to answer your questions!  Bravo Amazon, keep up the great work!!

Ring Video Doorbells

Okay, so it's a video camera, so what right?  Yes, it is a video camera but it's very cool!  It can hook up where your old door bell ringer is, pings your phone when someone is ringing your door or if it detects movement.  You can talk to the person ringing your door from almost anywhere!  The kit comes with all kinds of great things you many need for installation and their videos are top notch showing you how everything fits together and how to do the install.  Awesome job Ring!

Pip-Boy: Deluxe Bluetooth Edition

Okay, okay, okay it's not available until March 2017, but this is so fricking cool!!!!  Brought to you by the awesome people of ThinkGeek!  Look how cool it is!  Need I say more?!?!

The Apple Watch

Second year in a row, WOOT!  There's lots of arguments around wearables.  I've seen some articles poo-poo'ing them, but I think they're AWESOME!!  Is the Apple Watch perfect, no, but it's VERY cool.  My wife got me one for my birthday this year, yes she is an awesome wife, and I'm currently on watchOS 3.  Apple recently released the second generation of the watch and I hope this means it'll be around for a long time.  I'm weird, I don't use it for it's normal functions.  I don't have it pinging me about my appointments, I don't text with it, but I still love it!  Apple has some pretty cool watch faces, I usually have it on Mickey Mouse, but the other day I needed a stop watch, just changed the face to a chronograph and BOOM, instant stopwatch.  But where does this thing really make me happy?  Games!  I've got breakout, a Flappy Bird type game, Pong, and there's this really cool one called Time Unit.  Oh and I didn't realize I could upload my music from my phone to my watch so I can listen to my music on a bluetooth speaker or headset without my phone!

Microsoft Surface

I've got to hand it to Microsoft, it's not easy coming up with new and innovative consumer computers, but I think Microsoft has a winner here.  A tablet that can replace my laptop, pretty cool huh?  Remember Star Trek Next Generation?  Where they were always typing on these little pad thingies?  Hey, we're just about there!  Here's hoping that I'll soon only have one device that does everything!


Nope, not going to include a link because there are tons of different sites and vendors that sell them.   Love them or hate them, you got to admit they made an impression on you this year! :-)  When I first heard about them I was expecting a gravity defying device like Michael J. Fox road in Back to the Future 2, but alas, it still has wheels and you still need roads.

Pokemon Go

You didn't think I would forget about Pokemon Go did you?!?!  When was the last time you heard of a video game that actually got people moving!?!?  Pokemon or Pocket Monsters are not new, they've been around for quite some time now.  They were introduced in 1995 by Satoshi Tajiri and it focused around games and trading cards.  If I'm wrong, please forgive me I'm using Wikipedia for my facts.  Pokemon have always been popular, but with the creation of Pokemon Go, Pokemon became a household name for people who never knew a thing about Pokemon.  It's still a similar concept,  you're a trainer of these little critters.  You go looking for them, capture them and train them to do battle!  According to Wikipedia, the app has been downloaded more than 500 million times and is one of the most used and profitable mobile apps in 2016!!!  Yep, my wife and I play Pokemon Go.  :-)

Super Mario Run

There was enormous anticipation for this game, well at least by me!  :-)  It was first announced at the Apple annual iPhone event on September 7, 2016 and I couldn't wait!!!!  I'm a HUGE Nintendo and Mario fan and was so excited Nintendo finally decided to bring the plumber with the red hat to iPhone!!  It was just released on December 15th this year, so time will tell if Mario's charisma can propel Nintendo into a major developer for mobile apps.  I REALLY hope Nintendo will release more applications for mobile.

Apple iPhone 7

Ask anyone, almost ANYONE what an iPhone is and I'd be surprised if they haven't heard, seen, tried or own one.  This year Apple introduced the iPhone 7 and it's cooler than ever.  Something my wife and I noticed is that with the iPhone 4, the camera quality became really good.  So good we stopped carrying our other cameras.  That's a pretty tall order since we're both photography nuts and we love taking pictures.  A friend of ours once said that the best camera you have is the one that's with you when you want to take a picture.  The cool thing about having the camera on your phone is that your phone is usually with you!  Apple has also improved the camera substantially since the iPhone 4 and it keeps getting better.  Bravo Apple!


Home automation is HUGE, and even though I talked about the Ring doorbell earlier in this article, I felt adding more wouldn't hurt at all.  If you haven't had a chance to take a look at some of the Nest products, they are very cool!  They have the thermostat, smoke/CO detector, indoor cameras and now outdoor cameras.  From what I've seen the products are simple to install, simple to use and are very sharp looking!

Google Self Driving Car

Yay!!!  Let's hear it for self driving cars!  Yep, I know they're not available to the general public and I know there's a whole lot more of them out there then just the Google Car, but how cool is this?!  I was in a co-worker's Tesla earlier this year and it had the self driving feature, it was so cool!  It showed you, other cars, where you and they were in the lane, etc.  I can't wait for truly autonomous cars to be available to the public.  The tough part is making it so EVERYBODY is no longer driving.  But Neil, how can you put your life in a computer's hands?  A computer is faster, non-biased, doesn't hesitate, more reliable and doesn't get angry.  Only time will tell how reliable, safe, etc. these cars will be, but I'm hopeful.  It's not the flying car I was promised as a kid, but it's so cool, I might forgive the people that promised me one!

Tesla Model X

Ooooooh <drool> <drool>!!  Elon Musk, you make some REALLY sexy cars!  And!  And!  They're made right here in Fremont California!!  Look at those doors, look at them!  Not only are his cars all electric, full of electronic goodies, but they're sexy!  This is the second year Telsa has made my list and I hope the Model 3 will come out soon so I can talk about it soon.


Okay, no it's not a gadget and no it didn't come out in 2016, but it's an awesome website!  It's my go to site for most of the shirts I wear these days.  :-)  ThinkGeek comes out with really cool products that they've created and carries tons of products that would be difficult to find anywhere else.  If you haven't had a chance to check out their site, I highly recommend taking a quick peak.  Before you know it you'll find your shopping cart overflowing with cool gadgets you never knew existed!

Unless I have a spark of imagination, but I think I'm sparked out this year, that's Dr. Brain's Gadgets for 2016!  I hope you enjoyed reading about them and will return to Glick's Gray Matter for lots more fun and geeky technology articles for years to come!

Happy 2016 My Friends!


Friday, December 16, 2016

DABCC Radio - Tintri / Citrix Ready: VM-Aware Storage Podcast - Episode 266

Hi Friends,

I'm happy to announce myself and Lei Yang were on DABCC Radio with Doug Brown!  Lei and I had a great time talking to Doug about the goodness of Tintri, VM-Aware storage and how Tintri can help with your VDI and Citrix deployments!

What's DABCC Radio you ask?  From the DABCC site, "DABCC Radio is an interview based podcast show where the hottest virtualization and cloud vendors talk with Douglas Brown about their solutions. Detailing such topics as, what do they do, how it works, why we should care, how do they complete, and much more. Featuring technologies such as virtualization, cloud computing, desktop virtualization (VDI), server virtualization, application virtualization, remote desktop services, application deployment, application management, performance monitoring, and server-based computing from vendors such as Citrix, VMware, Microsoft and many more! DABCC Radio is hosted by Douglas Brown, Microsoft MVP, Citrix CTP, VMware vEXPERT, and founder of"

Take a look at the DABCC site, there's tons of great material!

Here's the direct link where you can listen to the episode or you can get it from iTunes.

Thanks to Doug for having us on his radio show!!

This definitely calls for a Flash Jump!

Monday, December 5, 2016

VMware App Volumes - The Next Evolution in VDI - Step 1 AppStacks

Hi Friends,

I've been busy learning all about VMware's new cool VDI technology, App Volumes.  Let's set the Wayback machine to the dawn of virtual desktops.

In the early days, VDI was easy.  You had a bunch of non-persistent desktops that reset themselves after each use, didn't need customization or special user applications or profile settings.  These were created for call centers, libraries or wherever someone just needed a desktop for temporary use, logged in, logged out and everybody was happy!

But what happens when you need to create a desktop for someone like me?  I have specific applications I need, save data to my computer, have a certain look and feel I've come to expect.  Sheesh, what happened to simple non-persistent desktops?  I had to go and make it all complicated!

Okay, so how do I get the non-persistence and ease of use administrators need, but the customization and persistence users demand?

VMware App Volumes!  That's right, VMware has done a really awesome job balancing out the ease of non-persistence and the customization of full persistence Knowledge Workers have come to expect.

App Volumes is pretty packed with cool stuff, so I'm going to break the technology out into a few blogs.  Today I'm going to talk about AppStacks.  AppStacks allow administrators to install and assign applications to individual users or desktops as needed.  Yep, that's right, if you're a VDI admin and you've got users demanding certain applications or departments bugging you to install certain apps, this might be the answer!

The first step is to choose a desktop to install the application on.  Here I've chosen to install on a desktop called AppVolumes2.  I think it's a good idea to take a snapshot of the desktop before you start making changes just in things don't go to plan.  Tintri snapshots would be a good choice, they're fast and space efficient!

Okay, after you've selected which desktop will be the install desktop, go to the App Volumes GUI and select Create AppStack.

Give your AppStack a name, what storage it will use, the path and where the template lives.  Here I'm using a T5080, Tintri's top of the line all flash array.

One the AppStack has been created, next we need to attach it to our install desktop so the application can be installed and put under control of App Volumes.  Here we've got our newly created AppStack and I select Provision.

Remember when I said to pick a machine to be the install machine?  Here's were we search Active Directory for that machine.  When you find your machine, click on Provision.

Here we can see the AppStack is being attached to appvolumes2.

Okay, the AppStack is attached to appvolumes2 and as the message says, it's time to install our application.

We're connected to appvolumes2 and we can see the App Volumes message telling us we're in provisioning mode and to click OK after the install is done.

I've chosen to install Notepad++.  If you haven't had a chance to take a look at Notepad++ it's a really cool program that gives Notepad like capabilities but MUCH MUCH more!!  Definitely worth a look if you're looking at logs and opening text files a lot.

The next step is to install your application like you normally would.

Awesome, our application has been installed!  Click on the OK button and we'll proceed to the next step.

FYI, I didn't show it, but I deleted the installer because we're done with it.

The application is analyzed by App Volumes and then a dialog box will pop up telling you to click the OK button to complete the process and reboot the computer.

If everything works okay you'll be greeted with this dialog box that tells you the provisioning was successful.

Back to our App Volumes GUI, we can see the application installed and it's time to assign the application.  Wait a second, I thought we installed it on appvolumes2?!?!  Well, yes and no.  We did install it on appvolumes2, but it wasn't really installing it on that machine, it was recording the installation procedure so we can put the app on any computer we want.

Now, this part is cool!  We can assign the application to certain machines AND/OR users.  Pretty cool huh?  So here I'm going to assign the appliation to avtest1.  This way the user will get Notepad++ regardless of which computer they log into.

Now, the test!  If I log into appvolumes2 as user avtest1 will Notepad++ be there?

Yep, there it is.  But, here's the big test, what if I log into appvolumes3 with user avtest1?

Yep, there it is!! How cool is that?!

Okay, but what happens if I log back into appvolumes2 as a different user?  Here I'm logging in as avtest2.  Now remember, avtest2 wasn't given access to the application.

No application!  VERY cool!

Now this is just the tip of the iceberg, there's TONS more for me to show you.  Writable App Volumes, backup and recovery, the list goes on!

Be on the lookout for the continuing saga of App Volumes!!!

Until Next Time