April 14

What’s New in Droplet Computing 1.2.3

It’s been some time since I blogged about things Droplet Computing. The main reason is we have been so busy with customers and product development (and documentation work!) I’ve had to focus purely on supporting new and existing customers. We have seen a spike in activity and engagements before the whole Coronavirus thing, mainly caused by the EOL of Windows 7, and folks being forced to decommission and get those apps into either Windows 10, Apple Mac, Linux, Chromebook or environments like VMware View, Citrix Virtual Apps or Amazon WorkSpaces. We are experiencing another spike of interest because of the Coronavirus, as customers look towards their nascent Work From Home (WFH) capabilities, and try to scale them to unprecedented demand, that few if any could have envisaged even a couple of weeks ago. I suspect when this is all over (and it will eventually be over) folks are going to have to think again about their WFH capacity.

So, in this blog post, I want to talk about what’s been happening in product development…

Droplet Computing DCA v1.2.3

The first bit of news is we recently GA’d a new version of our software that through a co-incidence of versioning has the number 1.2.3. Back in the early 1990’s Lotus 123 was the first application I taught as a fledging IT trainer fresh out of university.  Back then Windows 3.1 had just gone mainstream and folks were being ported off their old DOS PC programs to this new-fangled thing that needed a “mouse”. I recall one delegate left a course because the creepiness of moving a pointer on the screen freaked them out, although they had no issue with moving the cursor on the screen!

I suggested our new DCA release and the Droplet Container Image (DCI) should not include Notepad as our default sample app but a DOS version of Lotus 1-2-3 as a nod to the past, and a little tongue in cheek joke – ostensibly to show how Droplet Computing Containers can run all sorts of apps, not just modern ones but Jurassic ones too! So here’s a screengrab of Microsoft Excel 365 and Lotus 1-2-3 for DOS running side by side…

The Spreadsheet Wars live again! 😀

Customers actively engaged in PoCs should consider upgrading to the latest version, to take advantage of all the new features, as well as fixes and performance enhancements. Existing customers obviously qualify for the upgrade as part of their support and subscription, but it’s not mandatory.

Droplet Computing is GA for Google Chromebook

A couple of weeks ago we GA’d the first release of our software for Chromebook. Initially, validated the solution with our DCI-X container (The X stands for cross-compatibility suitable for older Apps) container, and then last week – after substantial testing and QA – we were confident of the performance and stability to support our DCI-M container (M stands for modern, and I’ve had the DCI-M running Office97 and O365 suitable for modern and less Jurassic apps).  If you’re not familiar with Chromebooks, Google has had a project called “Crostini” it’s called “Linux Beta” in the UI. Our regular .DEB file installs natively to this environment that we would usually use with Ubuntu. We have had this capability for more than a year, but recent changes in Crostini enabled by Google (THANK YOU GOOGLE, DROPLET LOVES YOU!) meant that finally, the performance was acceptable to us such that, with a modest amount bugfix es and testing, we were ready to GA.

Crostini has come on leaps and bounds in terms of performance in recent months, but the “killer moment” was the turning on of the access to Intel-VT instructions via the KVM /dev/kvm device. Performance is, from an end users’, perspective near native. From an end user experience perspective, it’s a “blink and you’ll miss it” level of performance. With our new development, we have been able to ramp up our relationship with Google directly, and I’m pleased to say that a recent tests conducted by Google engineers came back with a resounding thumbs up – not least because I was able to pull out the stops and build both a 32-bit and 64-bit container for their testing purposes, as well as an update to make things like Visual Studio 2019 work.

DirectLaunch

It is actually a feature that’s been around since the 1.2 release, but functionality that’s often overlooked by customers. So, I want to take this opportunity to highlight and focus on this feature. DirectLaunch something very simple – the ability to create shortcuts in Windows 10 that launches applications within the container. The syntax for DirectLaunch is very simple:

This will start the container using the configuration held in the per-user “settings” file:

“C:\Program Files\Droplet\Droplet.exe” launch

This will start the container (if not already started) and launch excel.exe, assuming MS Office of whatever flavor has been installed:

“C:\Program Files\Droplet\Droplet.exe” launch excel.exe

This syntax can be used to put shortcuts on folks’ desktops using a variety of methods such as AD Policies or your UEM of your choice such as VMware DEM or Liquidware ProfileUnity. They can also be used in “Application Publishing” solutions such as Citrix Virtual Apps, VMware Application Pools or Amazon AppStream.  For example, in Citrix Virtual Apps 7.x you express the parameter in the command-line arguments section.

Support for Droplet 64-bit Containers on Linux and Chrome OS

As part of my engagement with Google Support staff, I was asked if we had, or supported, a 64-bit edition of our container image. The answer is we have always been able to support a 64-bit OS, currently supported on Linux and Google Chrome OS platforms. We are currently working on developing 64-bit support for Windows 10 and Apple Mac containers. With the updates that are coming from Intel we will be able to QA this support at some point in the future.

With that said, I haven’t actually seen a huge demand for 64-bit containers, mainly because there is usually a 32-bit edition of the software that offers the same functionality and performance. This was the case recently with a financial institution that had a legacy Java application. Initially, the customer said they “had” to use the 64-bit. Turned out this was just some “corporate standard” that because they had 64-bit Windows, they thought they “had” to use the 64-bit version of Java. Turned out the 32-bit version was just as good. So much for that “had”. I know that someday a customer will have an application that was only compiled and encoded in 64-bit. So, I feel it’s better to be ahead of that requirement.

Exporting Application Tiles and Disabling Shared Folders

Application Tiles is the term we use for the icons available in the Droplet Workspace UI that only allows the end user to launch their applications and for the administrator to configure. Essentially, these act as read-only shortcuts. Administrators can now easily export this application tile configuration to an apps.json file and reuse that configuration. In the case of AD GPO’s, it’s one of the core configurations files I push down to the user profile, so everything is configured for the first logon.

Next to the export functionality we now can disable “Shared Folders”. In case you don’t know we have our own internal file replication service (strictly speaking not a share as such as its not driven by SMB/CIFS/NFS). Occasionally, customers don’t want any file access – this is especially true when the containerized app is a DB application and all the end users changes are written to a DB backend from the client.

In Summary

Droplet Computing 1.2.3 demonstrates our commitment to pushing our containers into every nook, cranny, and platform. With the incorporation of Chromebooks to our stable of support platforms, this opens new vistas and opportunities before ourselves as a company and our customers alike. I’m confident that this will provide a firm foundation from which we can focus on ceaselessly improving the user experience and creating ever increasingly seamless integration by which legacy and modern applications co-exist in the same instance. We have demonstrated our commitment to future-proofing the Droplet Computing platform by developing our capabilities to run 64-bit instances of our containers – as well as introducing the kind of administrative controls that befit a mature technology. I’m very excited about the future of technology.

You can learn more about what we do by checking out these resources, and if anyone would like to engage with me directly to stand up a ‘proof of concept’ just reach out to me thru the usual channels.

Case Studies including our very latest with Oxford University:

https://www.dropletcomputing.com/documents/

Product Admin Guides and Integration Guides:

https://www.dropletcomputing.com/product-guides-documentation/

Getting Started Videos:

https://www.dropletcomputing.com/videos/

 

 

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February 3

Tripple Boot – Windows, Linux and ChromeOS

My shortest most succinct blog post ever.

Don’t bother. Life is too short.

That was easy.

🙂

Joking apart what I decided to do with my Lenovo IdeaPad 530S was put Neverware CloudReady on to internal NVMe drive, and I bought 128GB MicroSD card for £20 and put Ubuntu on that. I have a separate box that runs Windows 10 on physical that I can Microsoft RDP into at home and remotely. That way, along with Apple Mac I have all my OSes covered….

UPDATE: Later in the year I was repairing a friend’s laptop. I bunged my SSD drive into their laptop, installed Windows to it, and then put the SSD in a USB-C caddy – from there I was able to boot the Lenovo from that, a bit a plug-and-play. So not quite a genuine dual boot (boot for single media, with a nice menu) but near with multiple devices and toggling with the BIOS menu instead. So in this configuration – allowed legacy (BIOS) and EFI booting, with EFI booting set as preferred – and place the internal SSD, external SSD into the EFI list, and the MicroSD card at the top of the BIOS list. That creates a menu like this:

Linpus: Neverware Cloud Ready

EFI USB: Windows 10

USB HDD: Ubuntu on a MicroSD

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January 20

Boot to USB with ChromeBook and Neverware CloudReady

I’ve been doing some experimenting with Droplet Computing, and I had a need to trash a cheap Chromebook I have (XMA Vigilen 360c) , to boot from Neverware’s CloudReady Home Edition of ChromeOS. It’s a long story – why I wanted to do that – but this article is about how got that far.

As you probably know Chromebook’s represent one of the most hardened, restricted and secured OSes to be found on a laptop out of the box. So unlike a generic Windows PC where a couple of keystrokes and you’re away with Chromebook it’s not straight forward

What’s meant to happen is you press and hold [ESC]+Refresh/F3 on the keyboard whilst holding the power

This allow you to enter a Recovery Mode and then use [Ctrl+L] to get into a boot menu. The trouble is my Chromebook didn’t ship with the now legacy firmware/BIOS to allow booting from a memory stick. So when I pressed [Ctrl+L] all I got is nasty BIOS-style beeps…

So to USB Boot to work, I had basically change the Firmware/BIOS to make it boot from USB… There involved three main steps

  1. Make the CloudReady USB Installer/Boot Drive – https://guide.neverware.com/build-installer/working-mac-os/#install-and-launch-the-chromebook-recovery-utility
  2. Get into Developer Mode – https://medium.com/@dihuta/turn-on-developer-mode-on-chromebook-bd8a05c31bf9[Ctrl+D] at the prompt to go into developer mode, and once developer mode is enabled, you always have to press [Ctrl+D] at the prompt
  3. Use MrChromebook.tech Firmware Script –  https://mrchromebox.tech/#fwscript

I had some trouble running MrChromebook’s script – I had to run it as two separate commands, rather than as one single string like so:

curl -LO https://mrchromebox.tech/firmware-util.sh

sudo bash firmware-util.sh

Once the script runs I was able to run choose 1 to install the older RW_Legacy Firmware to allow USB booting

After applying the Firmware Utility Script, [Ctrl+L] allowed me to boot to my USB stick holding Neverware CloudReady.

 

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January 15

Happy New Integration Guide: VMware Horizon, App Volues and UEM/DEM

Happy New Year! 

Happy New Integration Guide!

Late last year I spent time showing how Droplet Computing can run in the context of VMware Horizon Virtual Desktop as well as VMware Horizon Application Pools. I went on to show how you can leverage VMwareApp Volumes to deploy our software to a virtualized environment and use VMware  User/Dynamic Environment Management. It was nice to refresh my knowledge of VMware EUC offering as its been some time since I wrote my book about VMware VIew (that was back in version 4/5!). I was suitably impressed by the Instant Clones option which is a marked improvement on Linked Clones of old….

You can read our integration guide here:

https://www.dropletcomputing.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/VMware-Horizon-Integration-Guide.pdf

 

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December 10

Bizzy Little Bee…

I’ve been a bizzy little bee of late, in fact, everyone has at Droplet Computing – and I’ve been neglectful in reflecting that here on my personal blog. So this blog is a really a big summary of what’s been going down at Chez Droplet.

As you probably guess I’ve been bizzy on the documentation front – writing a number of integration guides that explain how we work in harmony with common strategic application delivery technologies. So we have integration guides on:

Amazon WorkSpaces

Amazon AppStream

Citrix Virtual Applications and Desktops

Other integration guides are due – today I submitted by guide to VMware Horizon View, VMware App Volumes and VMware User Environment Manager (aka Dynamic Environment Manager) for “peer review” before being thoroughly proof-read (thanks Janine!). A sneak preview of that was recently released in this blogpost wot I wrote:

https://www.dropletcomputing.com/2019/11/18/integrating-droplet-computing-containers-with-vmware-app-volumes-uem-and-jmp/

On the cards in the New Year there will be guides on Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop, FSLogix, and Liquidware’s FlexApp and Profile Unity and I think my CTO will probably write up his experiences of integrating with iGEL sometime soon.

My CTO, Peter has been busy refreshing all our admin guides to be OS-specific – rather than one admin guide to rule them all – as this was getting a tad unwieldy. These Droplet Computing Application getting started admin guides can all be found here:

https://www.dropletcomputing.com/product-guides-documentation/ along with their respective videos authored by yours truly – https://www.dropletcomputing.com/videos/

And Finally… to round off an eventful 5 months since I joined Droplet Computing as their Chief Technologist… we have a new release which we have imaginatively called 1.2 – packed with a whole host of lovely enterprise features:

Droplet Computing launches DCA v1.2 with new features designed for the enterprise

So that’s about it from me for now. All that remains is to wish you all a very merry xmas and peaceful new year…. 🙂

 

 

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November 12

Delivering Droplet Computing containers with Citrix Virtual Apps (formerly XenApp)

It’s been a long, long while since I looked at anything Citrix based. It feels really odd saying that because, before VMware came along, I was a Citrix Certified Instructor (CCI) and a Citrix Certified Enterprise Admin (CCEA). I first got into Citrix on the tail end of NT4 Terminal Services Edition (available from Q4 1999 to the end of 2003) and MetaFrame 1.8 (1998 to 2001 when it because MetaFrame XP) and stuck with it until around the Presentation Server 4.5 days (launched in 2007). At the time I wanted to keep both Citrix and VMware on my resume, but once agencies and other sources of my freelance work knew I was VMware certified, it seemed like no one wanted to punt me out for Citrix-based courses. The market kind of dictated my career direction to some extent. So, it was nice to hit citrix.com this week and download the binaries to check out what they now call “Citrix Virtual Apps and Virtual Desktops”, or the products formally known as “XenApp and XenDesktop”.

Read On….

 

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November 1

Droplet Computing Videos

Some handy video links!

Installing Droplet Computing to Windows 10:

Installing Droplet Computing to Apple Mac:

Installing Droplet Computing to Ubuntu Linux:

Installing Droplet Computing to Redhat Enterprise8 Desktop:

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October 11

Droplet Computing containers on Amazon AppStream

Amazon WorkSpaces was a doddle to get up and running as I am very familiar with VDI and workspace concepts. I’d not touched AppStream before, so I needed a bit of primer. I found this video by Thorr Giddings to be excellent. To the point and, for someone with quite a bit of experience, I was able to pause the video at the various steps and get the process down. The best 8 mins of my time this week!

In case you don’t know, Amazon AppStream is a fully managed application streaming service. You centrally manage your desktop applications on AppStream and securely deliver them to any computer. You can easily scale to any number of users across the globe without acquiring, provisioning, and operating hardware or infrastructure. AppStream is built on AWS, so you benefit from a data center and network architecture designed for the most security-sensitive organizations. Each user has a fluid and responsive experience with your applications, including GPU-intensive 3D design and engineering ones, because your applications run on virtual machines (VMs) optimized for specific use cases and each streaming session automatically adjusts to network conditions.

Read on…

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October 2

Droplet Computing containers on Amazon WorkSpaces

This week I spent time working with Amazon WorkSpaces. In case you don’t know, Amazon WorkSpaces is a managed, secure cloud desktop service. You can use Amazon WorkSpaces to provision either Windows or Linux desktops in just a few minutes and quickly scale to provide thousands of desktops to workers across the globe. You can pay either monthly or hourly, just for the WorkSpaces you launch, which helps you save money when compared to traditional desktops and on-premises VDI solutions. Amazon WorkSpaces helps you eliminate the complexity in managing hardware inventory, OS versions and patches, and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), which helps simplify your desktop delivery strategy. With Amazon WorkSpaces, your users get a fast, responsive desktop of their choice that they can access anywhere, anytime, from any supported device.

Read on…

 

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September 17

Droplet Computing Inception

Well, it’s just gone past a month since I joined Droplet Computing, and I’ve been busy, busy, busy, as well as you would expect when you start with a new company. As you might suspect, I’ve been quite “internally focused” (which sounds like some sort of medical examination!). But I’ve been trying to hold true to my goal of making Friday my geek-out day where I just get some technical playtime. I’ve been considering renaming Geek-Out Day as Michelle’s Mad Half Hour. You never know, it might catch on.

Read On…. 

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