The question has come up recently from a number of trainers whether they can access their DaDesktop Fresh Start and Trainer machines using SSH for ease of use.
Unfortunately, we do not permit this for security reasons which are explained a bit more fully below:-
Please note for DDOP - DaDesktop on Premise, SSH access can be permitted on the server if required by the customer assuming further mitigating security conditions to restrict access.
Most applications work absolutely normally when prepared in the Fresh Start machine when using DaDesktop (DD). But there are one or two applications that due to the cloning process do not work as expected, and need a few extra steps to allow normal operation.
Hyper-V server is one of these. You can find a short guide to the small changes required when running Hyper-V in DaDesktop below.
There are a lot of interesting new developments happening with DaDesktop, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to update you about them. We're also now launching some very useful new features that have been in development for a while.
I will be doing more training sessions at some point soon to demonstrate these new features and to provide more info about the other changes. Additionally, full documentation will also be available shortly.
beta-button.png New Training Room - This has been entirely rewritten inhouse and will provide a simpler, better training room, but without some of the unwanted additional features on the original training room that was used from a separate application. This meant that the integration previously wasn't ideal, ie an extra chat function completely separate to all other chat apps was included.
There are views for Trainer, Side by Side and Grid and a new course Recording feature.
beta-button.png Enhanced Desktop view. This uses a more standardised system called QEMU Spice to provide DaDesktop sessions to users.
One major benefit is that Copy and Paste from the user's computer to the DaDesktop machine now 'just works'.
A couple of examples amongst many more :-When using a MacBook, the clipboard 'just works', previously this relied on a non standard way of doing things compared to Windows and Linux. Unicode characters, e.g. including Polish/Chinese characters, can now be copied and pasted without issue, where previously support was poor or non-existent. This also makes usage of DD4W easier too.
Newly built DD desktops will be supported straightaway, whereas older course machines will still use the older VNC connection method until they are updated.
production.jpeg Optional dates on Courses - To simplify course creation, it's now possible to create Courses without specifying course dates. This additionally helps where a Trainer / or Co-ordinator wants to start working on a FreshStart machine on a course but the actual course dates are not yet known. Course dates can be added when they are finally known.
This new approach will also be particularly useful for more informal training events where dates can be agreed at short notice.
Please note - the original method of adding dates when creating the course is still of course available.
production.jpeg Expected number of course participants - this new field has also been added on Course entry. It does pretty much as it says. Trainers and Co-ordinators are asked to input the expected number of participants on courses so that better planning of server resources can be made.
This is different to the Max. number of participants field as this value was sometimes inflated to allow latecomers to join a course, and ended up skewing the resources higher than necessary in our DD Planner calculations.
production.jpeg Participant Course Access Simplified - Previously, access to the DaDesktop machines for each user was only allowed after the start time set on the first day of the course. However, to allow additional time for participants to test out using DaDesktop beforehand, often the start time was set earlier than the real course time. This occasionally caused a degree of confusion for participants.
So to improve matters, course access has been greatly simplified.
On course days, course access is now available at any point in the day, ie before and after the course.
Outside of course days, participants now get 15 mins access to try their DaDesktop machines, instead of the previous 5 mins. See Joining a Course section here in the documentation.
production.jpegDeletion of older unused Standalones. Usage of DaDesktop is increasing, which is good, but there are a good number of Standalone Desktops that have not been used for a long while, and possibly may never be used again. In order to make the most of our resources, users will be asked if they haven't used their machines in the last month whether they still want to continue using them, and if no longer required the machines will be deleted in two weeks time. It's easy to stop deletion of any important desktops so that the question will never be asked again. This change is being made to free up disk space on servers, where there had been a few issues recently.
Trainers are requested to update their DaDesktop machines using the latest OS templates to get up to date with new features and security updates. Effectively this means recreating the machines using the latest OS template available, but the benefits include more secure desktops with improved features such as the QEMU Spice support mentioned above.
Almalinux 8 has been added to the default OS choices available which adds support for anyone who prefers using RedHat / CentOS Linux distros. AlmaLinux is a 1:1 binary replacement for CentOS 8 which is no longer supported.
If you need further information about DaDesktop or need any help with any of these new features, please contact me, or a member of the Tech team, and we'll be happy to assist.
To simplify things, course access to DaDesktop machines has now been simplified.On course days, access to DD machines for participants is now available at any point in the day, ie access is now fully permitted before and after the course for the entire day Outside of course days, participant's now get 15 minutes access instead of 5 minutes to try out their DaDesktop machines.
Originally, there was occasionally some confusion about course start times, if the Course times had been set earlier in DaDesktop compared to the official course start time, to allow participants to get logged in and test their machines.
Further documentation for course participants can be found here
Most applications work absolutely normally when prepared in the Fresh Start machine when using DaDesktop.
But there are one or two applications that due to the cloning process do not work fully as expected, and may need a few extra steps to allow normal operation.
Screenshot from 2022-07-20 17-50-35.png
In this case Oracle Database Server was set up in Fresh Start but when cloned to Trainers and Participant's machines, the Database server could not be contacted. This is because Oracle use the hostname of the server, which in our case gets changed when cloned as the Trainer's or Participant's machines.
Workaround steps to prepare the Oracle server application in a way that works correctly after Cloning are shown in detail, with screenshots for each step in the guide below:-
Guides for other applications that require small changes to run normally will also be added to the DaDesktop Documentation.
Please get in touch for further details
A few times now we've had Course participants who have asked if we could keep/restore access to their Desktop after a course.
Primarily, this is done now via Spool, but for occasions when users have not set up Spool, or are not offered it (Spool is not offered worldwide at present AFAIK) we should save one copy of the Trainer's or Participant's Desktop for reference.
This would require further discussion, ieWe would need a config to ask if a Desktop is required to be kept. How long would it need keeping for ? There are also space considerations in keeping Desktops.
For a private server, there are other considerations to take into account.
Remote Replica is a very useful new feature designed to replicate, or clone your Fresh Start Desktop to another server often in a different geographical location. Any changes to your machine will be silently and automatically copied in the background to the replica without requiring any further user input. Thus the Remote Replica is always ready if you need it.
New Documentation explaining useful ways how this feature can be used is now available as below :-
Please let us know in the comments how you find this feature.
The ability to make publically available course recordings should be available on DaDesktop. This was previously possibly, but no longer appears to be possible currently.
We need to make sure that permission is given for this by the trainer and with the consent of participants first.
Course Recordings should be available on the DaDesktop site https://www.dadesktop.com/videos-catalog
For certain errors / warnings we should use more specific or different wording according to the user role type. Examples below but there may be others required:-Error not relevant to user
Here the user is a participant, so doesnt know/care what a FreshStart is , and can't control a Fresh Start machine anyway1 So this error message to a participant is very confusing and not helpful.An error is shown that is not an error
A trainer who had issues with cloning FS to Trainer Desktop, getting 403 errors as the trainer desktop already existed.
here it should really say error, it should just be an Informational alert warning that trainer Desktop already existsAnother message that should only be shown to certain user roles
Here the trainer was confused, thinking that this message was for him and that he was only going to have 5 minutes to work on his material. But this message should only be for Participants, not Trainers who have full time access when creating a FreshStart
We've recently introduced improvements so that if you need to resize your Fresh Start machines, you no longer need to make manual changes to extend the partition within the VM itself. This greatly simplifies the process and saves time.
This is the case for any standard NobleProg OS Templates, using either Windows or Linux. Custom templates may still need manual disk resizing which is detailed in the guide below.
An updated guide to resize Fresh Start desktops can be found here https://www.dadesktop.com/doc/resize-disk-of-fresh-start-desktop-in-course
I'm very pleased to announce that we have released a Debian 11 (codenamed Bullseye) OS template for DaDesktop today.
This new template is being distributed to all DD nodes so will be available to every DaDesktop region shortly.
As a note we support Windows, Ubuntu, CentOS and Debian officially but we're happy to provide custom templates for other operating systems such as Fedora if required.
Please get in contact with us if you require assistance https://www.dadesktop.com/contact-us
When using DD nodes that use fully cloud based infrastructure such as AWS, we should add an option to :-
'Click to extend memory' link on DD to change the amount of memory allocated to this server to permit high DaDesktop memory usage for DD Desktops.
Depending on config this may be done 'on the fly' or may require a VM reboot.
If a participant have high latency, detect whether they are using VPN, and notify them and advise them to do something about it.
I recently provided some training on the DaDesktop platform to NobleProg staff to explain more about DD, and to provide a run through of how it works and a quick look at some of the newer features too.
The video can be found below:-
NB The video is just over 30mins long.
General layout of DaDesktop
DaDesktop For Work (DD4W) - Flexible Virtual desktop machines that can be spun up in seconds to work from.
FreshStart - What is the purpose of the FreshStart Machine?
Recordings - Room recordings or Trainer Desktop Recordings
Remote Replica - Available for Standalone and dd4w machines, not for FreshStart nor course desktops currently
Multi-trainer capability - With example
Users in different geographical locations - For trainer, freshstart desktop and participants
Spool - Ability to keep course desktop after the course finishes
Port forwarding allows exposing a port or ports of a desktop to the local network or the internet. It is commonly used with Remote Desktop Protocol.
This feature can be used for both DaDesktop Course machines (Super admin and own permissions required), DaDesktop For Work or Standalone machines. Please note, the interface may appear slightly differently for the different types of machines.
This feature has been improved by the addition of auto allocation of ports both TCP and UDP as well the maintaining the manual port forwards feature as originally introduced.
For further details please see the DaDesktop Port Forward Documentation
Sometimes, we only find our about course issues using DaDesktop after the course is finished.
Although the Technical Support Chat icon is always shown on screen, it may be that users aren't aware that live technical help is close by.
A suggestion is to have the ability to send a helpful preset message (or newly written one even), that can be quickly and easily sent to all members of a course using the chat introducing the Tech support agent available at the beginning of the course in a semi automated manner.
This needs thinking through more for best effect but would be a big help I think ..
When we see 'Error 1006 in DD connection logs' this usually indicates an issue caused by the participants' network access, possibly restrictions on websockets.
For example something like Akamai CDN WAF could restrict access as it does packet inspection eg WebApplicationProtector-CS.pdf
"with Layer 3/Layer 4 Protections inspect packets and network connections to determine which requests to automatically block."
In this case there is little we can do so we should warn users with a message such as :-
'There is a problem with your network , please either change your network configuration or contact your network administration team for advice.'