I have a love/hate relationship with Group Policy Preferences. On the one hand, they are an awesome time-saver. On the other, they are embarrassingly flawed. Last time I wrote about them I hoped upon hope that they would be better in Windows 7.
They are. A bit.
However, they still suck in certain circumstances.
My most recent annoyance is with the filtering system. This essentially allows you to create conditions for each setting that will be checked when Group Policy is processed. Only if those conditions are met will the settings be applied to the computer or user. These is what makes Group Policy Preferences so powerful, and there are many different types of conditions you can use.
Unfortunately, some of them are just plain broken.
For years I’ve used UltraVNC as my remote control system of choice when helping out users over the phone. Unfortunately, I’ve fallen out of love with it since adopting Windows Vista and Windows 7, as performance is sometimes pretty poor and several features just don’t work properly. You get what you pay for, I suppose (UltraVNC is free). It’s also a bit of a pain to deploy via GPO Software Installation, which makes it a headache when you have hundreds of workstations. In particular the mirror driver, which aids performance, is pretty much impossible to deploy in this way.
When deploying my first Windows 7 clients I resolved to find another way, and it turned out to be something I could have used all along: Unsolicited Remote Assistance, which is built-in functionality on Domain-joined workstations.
I HATE these stickers.
Not just the Windows ones; Intel, AMD, Creative; any sticker that advertises the innards of a machine is an offence not only to me but to the person who designed the computer in the first place.
There is not a product designer in existence who leant back in his chair one day and said to himself, “You know what would make this computer case PERFECT? A postage stamp-sized advertisement, clumsily stuck on by a ham-fisted moron who wouldn’t know straight if you beat him with a spirit level.”
There is simply no faster way to cheapen the look of a computer than to bung one of these on it. The first thing I do when I get a new computer is rip the damn things off. Often before even turning it on. LadiesMan and Overshare will probably have fond memories of me lambasting them if ever they forgot to do the same. That’s CHARACTER BUILDING, my friends. DISCIPLINE. RESPECT for the hard work of that designer, even if he does design cases for RM. He did not go through 4 years of university just to have a wonky advert slapped onto his painstaking design.
One day, you’ll thank me.
I have come to the conclusion that Group Policy Preferences, a feature of Windows introduced last year, is simultaneously incredibly useful and diabolically broken.
This will be an uncharacteristic rant for me, because unlike many of my fellow tech bloggers, I have few issues with Microsoft. Sadly, I wasted several hours today grappling with their failings, and for no good reason.
On the one hand, Group Policy Preferences provides an easy-to-use set of features for configuring workstations on a Windows Server network that could previously only be achieved using scripting, which is decidedly not easy-to-use. I started using this functionality very soon after it was released by Microsoft, and became an advocate for it on various technical forums.
Sadly, my experience has exposed a multitude of failings:
Overshare took a day off yesterday, but made two mistakes when he left the office the night before:
- Left his laptop in the office
- Left himself logged in
Given that he was already due some punishment for some decidedly schoolboy errors this week, Bond decided his unguarded laptop would be the medium through which his penalty would be exacted. Naturally, I was approached for ideas.
When Overshare came in this morning, this is what was waiting for him: