We hear variations of this question quite often. Sys Admins write in and say something like "Hey, it's great that I can see what applications are installed but how can I find the computers that are missing certain applications?"
This is a valid question and, good news, you can, most likely, have it answered quickly and for free. PDQ Inventory Collections are a great way to organize your office computers by which software is or ISN'T installed.
Let's take Microsoft Office. Out of the box PDQ Inventory has a collection called Systems with Microsoft Office. Under this collection exist 3 child (or Sub) collections. The parent collection (Systems with Microsoft Office) has a simple filter. Show all computers that have an application containing Microsoft Office in the name. (OK, it's a tad smarter than that, but I'll get into the specifics of the filter later). Each child collection has a filter which identifies even more specifically as to whether the computers have 2003, 2007 or 2010 versions of Microsoft Office. That is all fine and good but let's take this a little farther and identify computers missing Office.
There are two excellent ways to do this. One is slightly more intuitive so we'll discuss this method today.
Since we already have a Collection which already identifies which systems have Microsoft Office you can build a collection which effectively says "show me computers that aren't in the collection called "Systems with Microsoft Office". Let's use the following steps:
- Create a Dynamic Collection called "Systems missing Microsoft Office"
- Add a filter type of Collection and specify that any computer cannot be a member of the collection "Systems with Microsoft Office"
- Save it and look at the results. Wait... We don't care about Servers since they will never have Office installed. So let's define another filter to strip out servers.
- Edit the Collection and add a new Operating System filter (click the blue + icon to add a new filter) where the OS Name does not contain the word "server". Let's also add a Never Scanned is False filter to strip out any computer from showing up which has never had an inventory scan.
Here is a video showing how to create this collection.
See more examples on our public forums
Hey System Administrators! One of the many cool features in the Pro mode of PDQ Inventory is the Registry Scan Profile. With this scan profile you can define certain registry keys that you want to scan on all of your computers and then store the results in your PDQ Inventory database.
What if you want to know if a certain process is set to start at logon time? Scan the Run and RunOnce keys. Check out this quick video on performing this task with PDQ Inventory.
What if you want to see if the Remote Administration firewall setting has been enabled? Or, more specifically, what if you want to find all the computers in your environment where Remote Administration is not specifically enabled? Here is an example where we use a new Scan Profile to find the problem computers.
The ability to group your computers in pretty much anyway imaginable is only a few minutes away. Since I know that all of you have mastered typing and using your mouse with one hand - for various reasons I shan't delve into - you don't even need to put down your Mountain Dew to get things started.
First, though. Why would you want to have different groupings for your computers? A lot of reasons. It's pretty much the same way you may organize your music, videos, finances and pr0n. I have so many great dynamic and static Playlists in iTunes and, for the most part, any of my 35,000 songs are always near to hand. PDQ Inventory Collections, like their AA Console predecessors are just as useful and easy to create.
Here is a quick video where we demonstrate building the two types of collections: Static and Dynamic. You will also see how to create sub (or child) collections.
The examples shown in that video were performed using the free version of PDQ Inventory. We will also show video examples of how to use some the better, more comprehensive, features available in the Pro version of PDQ Inventory.
Please give us examples of what types of tutorials you'd like to see. Having a difficult time with a feature? Have you run into a problem that you think you can solve with PDQ Inventory or PDQ Deploy but you just don't know how? Well, send us an email or, better yet, post your question on our support forum.
If you've been using the PDQ Inventory Beta and creating your own collections you've probably run into the filters for Date & Time data. These filters have some interenting features that you will want to be aware of in order to narrow right down on the data you want.
There are two ways to enter a date filter, either by typing in the value in the box:
or by using the ... button to open an edit window:
Fixed and Relative Dates
You may have noticed in that screen shot above the Fixed and Relative options. Fixed dates are pretty self explanatory, i.e. the filter is based on a single date & time. Relative dates are where these filters get really interesting.
Filtering based on relative dates creates a "sliding window" of time that computers are either inside or outside of. These are the only type of filter that can change collection membership without a rescanning of inventory. As the window of time moves, computers are moved around collections as needed.
Getting computers not rebooted in the last 30 days or computers where the last scan is more that a certain age is a snap.
When entering a date / time filter as text (as in the first screenshot above) there are a number of different ways to enter the values to get just what you want.
Fixed dates and times can be entered however your system will recognize them. Any of the following below work on my Australian formatted dates:
March 5, 2011
5 Mar 2011
5/3/11 5:00 pm
Relative times can be entered in two different ways. First, written out:
30 days ago
1 hour from now
30 minutes ago
The time unit can be one of Day, Hour, Minute, or Second (either singular or plural) followed by either "ago" or "from now." You are limited to a single time unit, though, so "1 hour 30 minutes" must be written as "90 minutes".
For a bit more flexibility, you can use the more compact time span expression:
3.4:13 [3 days, 4 hours, 13 minutes]
1:25:30 [1 hour, 25 minutes, 30 seconds]
The system tries to be as flexible as possible, but it should be pretty easy to determine the format to enter. As always, the pop-up editor can be used if you're not certain.
So, now that you know how to use date/time filters, go forth and create the perfect collections!
If you've used both AA Console and the beta for the new PDQ Inventory you may have noticed a couple of differences in collection filters. The biggest difference is how filter fields are structured.
In AA Console each field is searched individually, which makes the filter engine simple but does lead to some consequences in that you may not get the computers you're looking for. So, for example, let's say you have a single computer in the database and it has 2 applications in inventory, thus:
If you want a collection showing computers with Adobe Reader versions other than 10 you might create the following filter:
This seem like like an obvious way to get what you're looking for, but once you realize that it's matching the applications individually, you see a problem.
||Matches filter 1
||Matches filter 2
You would expect your computer to not match the filter because it has version 10.1 of Adobe Reader, but it does because it has another application that doesn't have 10.1. We got around this in AA Console by adding a new field called Application Name and Version which concatenates the name and version in a single value to allow for them to be matched together. But this doesn't help with all of the other fields that you might want to work with.
PDQ Inventory resolves this problem by grouping fields underneath their respective types of inventory data. Now, to implement the logic above you would just create a single application filter:
The new architecture of the PDQ Inventory filters allows this to be done easily and logically. You can even add more Application filters to the same collection to combine the varous filters.
This issue has been one of the more confusing in AA Console and we're glad to finally be able to clear it up with our new software. If you haven't had a chance to try out PDQ Inventory, please give the beta a try. The software is free to use just like PDQ Deploy and we hope you find some good use for it.
Dynamic Collections are an extremely simple, yet powerful, tool that can be used to breakdown your environment into logical groupings. For instance, you can have a Collection that specifies that all member computers must have Symantec Antivirus installed, or must have at least 2 GB of RAM.
There are two tools within Admin Arsenal that you can use to help you be more effective with your Collections. The first is the Export / Import command.
Export / Import allows you to either share or receive Collections that have been previously defined, perhaps by another Administrator. If you have defined a great Collection go ahead and export it and offer it to other AA Administrators. This can save duplication of effort plus you can look like a bad ass.
To export a Collection (or a Collection Folder) go to Admin Arsenal, right click on a Collection and select Export...
An XML file will be created. You or any other AA Administrator can take that XML file and import it into another AA console.
In a nutshell, the Export command allows you to save or share the collection DEFINITION. If you want to export or extract the Collection data (such as member computers, etc.), then you will need to use a different command altogether.
With a Collection highlighted, simply go to your Computer menu and select Save Computers As...
Enter the name of your file and hit Save. You can now import this data into Excel or Lotus 123 or another reporting tool.
It's important to know which of your computers don't have the latest Windows Service Packs. I'm going to show you a quick way to find this out using the inventory in Admin Arsenal.
Our goal is to create a collection for each operating system, and then roll them up into one collection folder which will give a birds-eye view of all the missing service packs. In the end, you should have collections that look like this:
The first step is to create a collection folder. Once you have the folder, right click on it and select Any Children under Collection Folder Rollup. This will show all of the computers that appear in any of the child collections we create.
Below this collection folder, create a dynamic collection for each operating system. Each collection will need two filters, one for the operating system and one for the service pack. For example, the XP collection looks like:
Once you're done, all you need to do is select the top folder to see all of your computers which are out of date. Collections are "live" in that when computers get re-scanned, the members of the collection will be updated automatically.
You can tweak any of the collections to meet your needs. You may have, for example, some computers which cannot or should not be updated. You could then add filters to the appropriate collections to keep them from showing up.
To save you time, I've exported the collections used in in the example (out-of-date-service-packs.xml) Import them and use them to your heart's content.
In Admin Arsenal, collection folders are handy to keep your collections organized, especially when you start to get a lot of collections to keep track of. What you may not realize is that folders can also hold computers. This is accomplished by Collection Folder Rollup.
Rollup refers to the ability of folders to look at each collection inside of them, combine all of the computers in each, and roll them up into a single list. This is especially useful when the criteria for your collections is hierarchical in nature. Consider the following example:
This hierarchy works great if you want to quickly see which computers are servers, or only the servers with Windows 2008. To get the computers to flow up into the folders, you need to set the Collection Folder Rollup property of each folder. This is done by right clicking on the folder.
You have three choices for rollup.
- No Children - Don't do any roll up, the folder contains no computers.
- All Children - Include any computers which are in all of the child collections. A computer must show up in every collection to be in the folder.
- Any Children - Include computers if they appear in any child collection. This is the choice that we want for the example above.
Once you have your collection folders rolling up computers, you can use them everywhere you would use a static or dynamic collection.
OK, so your manager asks you the question: How many computers don’t have Symantec Antivirus (SAV) installed?
You reply that you will find out and get right back to her. You open up Admin Arsenal and then just kind of stare at your screen. Hmmm, how are you going to display all computers that DON’T have SAV installed? Isn’t that kind of like a professor asking all people who aren’t present to raise their hands? There are two roads that we can take to show systems without SAV. Both include using Dynamic Collections.
- From your main Admin Arsenal window select New Dynamic Collection from the Container menu.
- Give the collection name something useful such as: "Systems WITHOUT SAV".
- Change the match operator to “Not Any”.
- In the main filter body change the first filter to “Software Name” and use the operator “contains”. In the field following “contains” type in: "Symantec Antivirus".
- Save and close your new collections window.
When you highlight your new collection you will see all machines that do not have Symantec Antivirus.
You can get the same result as our first example using two collections. While, on the face of it, it would seem asinine to create two collections when you can get the same results from one, there may be times when you will want to create two collections. Suppose you would like a collection that shows all systems WITHOUT SAV as well as a collection that shows all systems WITH SAV.
- Create two Dynamic Collections and name them something like “Systems with SAV” and “SystemsWITHOUT SAV”, respectively.
- In the "Systems with SAV" add the filter: "Software Name contains Symantec Antivirus".
- In your second collection (the "Systems WITHOUT SAV"), change the filter to show collection with the operator “not member of”. You can select the appropriate name of the collection from the drop down list.
The second collection will simply show all computers that are NOT members of the collection “Systems with SAV”. Since the “Systems with SAV” collection only reports computers that have Symantec Antivirus installed, then creating a collection to display only computers NOT in the “Systems with SAV” will show you all computers that do not have Symantec Antivirus installed.
Clear as mud? Try it out. Of course you can substitute SAV with any application you want. Remember, collections are here to make your job easier.