The System Center Configuration Manager 2012 Beta 2 client agent has been updated significantly. One of the things that has been changed a lot is the client-side interface that allows an end-user to select optional software to install, scripts to run, or operating systems to deploy.
In previous versions of ConfigMgr, there was a Control Panel applet called “Run Advertised Programs.” A user would open this in order to browse the list of optional program made available by a ConfigMgr administrator. There was another control panel applet called “Program Download Monitor” that would allow an end-user to monitor the download status of a program – admittedly, this was probably hardly ever touched by an end-user, realistically.
These two Control Panel applets have been removed entirely, along with the “Remote Control” applet that allowed users to control whether or not they were notified when an administrator or helpdesk user tried to remotely view or control their system. Instead, they have been replaced with a utility called the “Software Center” — this is accessible from the Start Menu under Microsoft System Center –> Configuration Manager 2012 –> Software Center.
The new Software Center utility provides a few different screens, which add a lot more functionality than existed in previous versions of ConfigMgr. The first page that comes up when the utility is started is the “Installation Status” screen. This screen contains a list of optional software or operating system deployment task sequences published to the client.
When you select a piece of software and click the “Install” button, you are shown a progress bar that indicates the status of the deployment.
The second page of the Software Center is the “Installed Software” screen. This screen displays software that has been deployed to a client via ConfigMgr. Consequently, you won’t see anything populated in it initially, but if you install a piece of software (as we did just above), items will begin to show up in the list. The details configured for the application package are displayed in the lower pane of this page.
As you may notice from the screenshot above, there is a button at the bottom of this page that allows you to uninstall software.
The third and final page of the Software Center is the “Options” page. This page contains an array of useful options, including the ConfigMgr remote control options that carry over from the retired “Remote Control” Control Panel applet. The settings on this page are as follows:
- Work Information
- Business hours: <From> – <To>
- Days of the week: Sunday – Saturday
- “You must reserve at least four hours each day for system maintenance activities”
- Power Management
- Do not allow power settings configured by your IT department to be applied to this computer
- Computer Maintenance
- Automatically install required software after business hours and restart this computer if necessary
- Suspend Software Center activities when my computer is in presentation mode
- Remote Control
- Use remote access settings from your IT department
- Level of remote access allowed
- Do not allow remote access
- View only
- Allow remote control of this computer by administrators when I am away
- When an administrator tries to control this computer remotely
- Ask for permission each time
- Do not ask for permission
- Show the following during remote control
- Status icon in the notification area
- A session connection bar on the desktop
- Play sound
- When session begins and ends
- Repeatedly during session
As you may notice, some of these options are very similar to the ones in previous versions of the ConfigMgr client. Some of the wording has been changed, but fundamentally some of them are the exact same option — my analysis of the wording is that they want the user to feel like they are more in control of what happens on their computer, even though we know that, that probably still won’t be the case in most IT departments.
The business hours feature is interesting, although I will predict that a lot of people will be asking for the ability to create “windows” of time, similar to ConfigMgr Maintenance Windows on the server side. That could provide the opportunity for people to allow maintenance during their lunch breaks, or during longer meetings.
I’m a bit curious about how the “presentation mode” is being detected, however. Unless I’m forgetting something very obvious, Windows doesn’t have an official “presentation mode,” so I’m guessing some sort of special logic would have to be built into the ConfigMgr client in order to detect when someone is giving a presentation. The existence of PowerPoint as a process would obviously not be adequate, as someone could be using a different piece of presentation software, or be simply editing in PowerPoint (and not actually giving a presentation).
Well, I hope this article has given you some insight into the new Software Center in the Configuration Manager 2012 client software. It looks like Microsoft is trying to rope a few different features together, which is great, and put the end user in the driver’s seat more as well. I hope to see continued improvements to the client-side software at ConfigMgr 2012 RTM.