Windows Connected has six useful tips for admins dealing with Vista's new imaging technology: Script Everything, Automate Your Installs, Virtual Machines make it easy, Minimize Drivers in your reference Image, Keep a build document, Hardware.
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I, mostly, agree with everything, except for the "script everything" advice. If you are working for a big company, and can concentrate on writing deployment scripts, then you might agree with this recommendation. However, if you are responsible for other areas, too, then you probably won't have the time for writing scripts.
I, also, doubt that scripting reduces the number of mistakes, as Josh states. It is the nature of any kind of program code, to be prone to error. The less code is involved the fewer mistakes, you can make. It is one of the biggest advantages of imaging technology that you don't need to work so much with scripts as with unattended setups.
That's why I would replace this tip with another one: Add as much applications to your master image as you can. Software deployment is time consuming and usually error-prone. If you can't install some applications to all of your desktops then better work with multiple images. Since you can now create images in a virtual environment, for example with VMware Workstation, it is much less time consuming than with Windows XP.
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First, create an image containing the applications and settings that all your machines need. Then, you clone this image with just a mouse click to prepare those images for special purposes.We have been working with a similar technique since the first availabe imaging tools. In my view, it is much less error-prone and time consuming than any script-based deployment method. Now, with Vista's new imaging capabilities it is even easier.
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Just to clarify by “script everything” I am not talking about removing the use of images. It was meant to mean script the cusomtizations you are applying to your base image. For example any manual registry customizations, wallpapers, etc. to the base OS that would not typically be included in an “application”.
I can see now that is a bit confusing and so i will try to word it better in the post.
Hi Josh, that is exactly how I understood it. I think you expressed it well. My view, however, is just different. I wouldn’t recommend scripting the customizations if it can be avoided. It is better to customize your master PC using Vista’s graphical user interface before you create the image. This way, you don’t have to run scripts afterward. If some of your desktops need different registry settings, you better use Group Policy instead of scripting. This is just my opinion. I know that many sys admins see this differently. Your view is not really uncommon.
I disagree with the idea of avoiding scripting. In fact I would go on to say if at all possible script the entire Build process of creating an image. While it is just as easy to make mistakes in scripting as you would by manually tweaking a reference computer, once you identify and correct the script then it is fixed. It is quite easy to accidentally configure a setting only to realize it after the fact, thus forcing you to start all over. (I would at least)
Scripting does increase development time of the image, but it is worth the time to be able to sit back and watch the development process from start to finish without laying a finger on the keyboard.
This also allows you to create the same image time and time again and know that you created the same exact product. Isn’t that the point of creating an image in the first place?
I agree with you that it is also possible to make mistakes when working with a graphical user interface. In my view, however, it is much less likely than with scripting.
It is not necessary that you start again from scratch when you realize that you have made a mistake. If you create your images in a virtual environment, for example with VMware Workstation, you can create different versions of an image easily. Actually, you can work with images like with text files or scripts, just click “save
I understand where you’re coming from, I think the problem that I would have is that there is no log of what is changing when you are manually configuring an Image. Say you decide to set a configuration differently. You change that setting in the script you are using and you update your Change Control system. You are relying on a person documenting what they are doing and how they are changing their process as requirements change.
Vista has lessened the use of scripting to some extent, but it hasn’t eliminated it by any means. The irony is that the reason that Scripting has been lessened in Vista is because Windows has automated much of what has been done by you by hand previously. So you’ve embraced Scripting to a certain extent.
As for Application Settings, it is useful to have GPOs at your disposal, but when the customer requires a specific set of settings on a Standalone Image (disconnected) then GPOs do little good.
I wouldn’t say that Vista has lessened the use of scripting in general. I was only talking about the deployment process. In some areas, we will probably see more scripting soon. That’s where Powershell comes in. My general attitude is that you should only use scripting when you do not have any choice. However, there are many cases where scripting can save the day.