Stuff Made by Smart People to Help Make Your Life Easier – Part One

One of my favourite sessions at TechEd Europe 2014 was presented by Jörgen Nilsson and Stefan Schörling.  You can see the entire presentation here. Today I’m going to comment on a few of the tools they spoke of that I find particularly useful.  All of the tools they presented are worth closer examination because they’re all just, well, brilliant.

The first stand out is a tool of brilliance created by a guy named Johan Arwidmark called the Hydration Kit for Configuration Manager 2012 R2.  This is pure genius.  Using this tool you can whip up a test environment quickly and easily.  After you download the software you prep the environment by installing the ADK and MDT, set up the necessary directory structure, unpack the Hydration Kit, distribute the downloaded files to the appropriate folders, and create a couple of VMs.  Then you’re off to the races.  Microsoft has something similar called the PowerShell Deployment Toolkit for System Center but I lean towards the Hydration Kit.  I have my own test environment setup and can’t tell you the number of times it has saved my bacon in doing something in the sandbox before having to execute the task in “real life”.

The next item is a tool called the Configuration Manager 2012 R2 Prerequisites Installation Tool.  This bad boy does as advertised and checks to make sure everything is good to go and simplifies the installation of the many components to make your Configuration Manager 2012 R2 world go.  This is one of the creations of Nickolaj Andersen.

I’m a big fan of BranchCache.  Why not take advantage of the bevy of client machines to help do some of the heavy lifting when it comes to distribution of files?  BranchCache for OSD Toolkit made by a company called 2Pint Software, and FREE, helps to do just that by offloading the task of grabbing the necessary files for OSD (WinPE, Task Sequences, etc) from local client machines instead of from the Configuration Manager infrastructure directly.  I love this stuff!

That’s it for now.  I’ll have a part two for you in a couple of days.  In the mean time, go check out this good stuff, if you haven’t already.  I can tell you I’ve been working with Configuration Manager for a few years now and there were more than a few surprises in the presentation at TechEd Europe.  So much goodness!

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