Integrating PCAnywhere into NS6 and Helpdesk 6
While V7 of the Altiris product ranges have been introduced over the 2009/2010 year, upgrading to these is not straightforward. For many users, especially those who have recently implemented V6, the effort involved may not be justifiable in the immediate future and they may wish to stay using their existing setup for some time yet..One issue this raises though is that the remote control solution for V6 is Carbon Copy, which is no longer being developed and which, therefore, does not support the latest browser technology or OS versions etc. PCAnywhere as the replacement does, but is not integrated into the NS 6 platform. So what to do?
Now any customer who is on maintenance can obtain PCAnywhere (enterprise standalone) licenses to replace their Carbon Copy licenses – so we can get the software. It’s just a matter of coming up with a way of integrating this into NS6 so that we can provide a workable remote control solution to our Helpdesk and NS 6 user, using PCAnywhere….This article describes how to do this.
How remote control works in NS 6
When you make a request to remote control in NS6, be it through the NS Console or Helpdesk, it calls up a generic remote control web page. The page uses queries held in the database to determine what remote control options the selected asset supports and then presents these in the options list. The order of the options is based on a priority number held in the database for each remote control option – the default being the option with the lowest priority number. For example it looks at the installed agents table to see if the Carbon Copy is listed as being an installed agent, and if it is then makes this option available and as Carbon Copy has a priority value of 1 it will always be the default option. When you chose to run one of the options an aspx page is then called specific to the option, which starts the remote session. This page checks whether you have the appropriate software installed on your client to instigate the session and gives an error message if it doesn’t.
Integrating PCAnywhere into NS6
To integrate what we will do is :-
- Modify one of the existing options in the Altiris database, VNC for Windows, to be an appropriately configured PCAnywhere option.
- Change the priority of the Carbon Copy, Remote Desktop, and PCAnywhere options to make PCAnywhere the default option if installed
- Install an .aspx page for PCAnywhere that is in effect a modified copy of an existing page for one of the other options.
- Package up and install PCAnywhere on the clients with configurations appropriate for their role as a host only or host and remote controller.
- Put an Altiris.chf file in the root directory of the client PC’s that will be remote controllers. This is a default connect configuration file that is used when starting a remote session to another system and is required.
Some notes regarding this
- Carbon Copy solution must be installed in the NS for this to work.
- By modifying an existing option we are able to ‘undo’ any changes just by doing a repair on the Carbon Copy package.
- We will configure this to use the win32 PCAnywhere software. It is possible to configure this to use the Java based PCAnywhere web remote, though there are some limitations which make the solution slightly less ‘automated’.
- Inventory must be being run on the clients as the query to ascertain whether this is an available option uses the inventory data.
- The Altiris.chf file needs to be a valid PCAnnywhere configuration file, but does not need to have any options set, as the computer name that will be remoted to is passed in the command line. However if you want PCAnywhere to automatically login to the remote client and not request you login every time you start a remote session (there is no credential pass through) then edit the settings in this and select the automatically login option, giving an appropriate login account and password.
- With Carbon Copy it is possible through the NS console to set configuration options for authentication, whether an icon is visible in the systray, etc., etc. and for these to be automatically sent to the clients to reconfigure them. We do not have this capability here so the options need to be set at the time of implementation or through reconfiguring the PCAnywhere install packages and reinstalling. The configuration of the PCAnywhere host determines whether the user is prompted to grant access, and who are allowed to remote in. Normally one would have this configured to allow certain NT user groups to be granted access only and for the end user to grant permission.
- By default PCAnywhere host puts an icon in the systray. If you don’t want this visible you will need to add the registry file included to the modified installation packages.
- This makes PCAnywhere a remote control option for Windows machines. By modifying the other VNC options for Mac etc. or adding new item entries in the database this could be extended to support Mac and Linux remote control etc.
How to implement
- Run the attached SQL script against the NS database in a query window – note you may need to change the database name in the query to match yours (it is coded to Altiris, the default) . This replaces the VNC option for windows with PCAnywhere, and reorders the sequence so that the default option becomes PCAnywhere if installed on a client.
- Copy the PCAW.aspx file to the C:\Program Files\Altiris\Carbon Copy Solution\Web ( or wherever the Solution is installed )
- Restart IIS
- Download PCAnywhere and install on a machine
- Download Symantec packager and install on same machine as PCAnywhere.
- Run PCAnywhere on client and create a default host configuration file and authorisation file(s) for this.
- Create a remote connection configuration file called altiris.chf (one is included here too) This doesn’t need to contain anything specific though it is recommended one puts an ip address for a non existent computer in for the default ‘connect to’ and sets the automatically login if this is what you want.
- Run the Symantec packager and create a modified installation package that installs the host software, default host configuration file and authorisation file(s), plus, if you want the icon not to be included in the systray, the attached .reg file.
- Use the Symantec packager to create a modified installation package that install the host as above and the software to undertake remote control. Add the Altiris.chf file to this.
- Distribute these packages to the relevant machines
- On the clients that have the ability to undertake remote control move the Altiris.chf file to the c: root directory (it should be under the all users\application data\Symantec\PCanywhere\ remotes directory after install).
- Wait for inventory to run and start using it!
Finally my thanks to those Altiris technical folks in Europe who did most of the groundwork on this.