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How can I create Windows 8.1 applications and then deploy them with System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager ?



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Introduction

 

You now have the ability to develop your own applications and then deploy them to new exciting operating systems thanks to the recent releases of the following products:

 

  • System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager
  • Visual Studio 2013
  • Windows 8.1
  • Server 2012 R2

 

In this post I'll show you how to create a quick modern style (formally Metro) test application using Visual Studio 2013 and then add that application into System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager and finally deploy it to a Windows 8.1 computer.

 

Note: Windows 8 Store apps can be installed from the Store or from a distribution point using a process known as sideloading. You can get details about sideloading keys required for those apps here. You can also install LOB Windows Store apps that are not signed by the Windows Store. The apps must be cryptographically signed and can only be installed on a computer that trusts the signing certificate.

 

 

I assume you've already downloaded and installed Visual Studio 2013 on Server 2012 R2, you could install it on a Windows 8.1 computer if you wish, in fact that is a necessary minimum operating system level if you want to develop for Windows 8.1.

 

visual studio options.png

 

For your reference I used en_visual_studio_ultimate_2013_x86_dvd_3009107.iso available on MSDN.

 

Note: I'm not a developer, I'm doing this to give you some ideas about using modern style apps in Configuration Manager 2012 R2.

 

Step 1. Download and extract the Windows 8.1 app samples

 

Microsoft provides a whole bunch of example code/applications that you can use to create your first masterpiece. Download them from here and extract them locally. I downloaded the full zip package and extracted it to D:\Windows 8.1 app samples like in the screenshot below

 

windows 8.1 app samples.png

 

Step 2. Import an Application into Visual Studio

 

Start Visual Studio 2013, if this is your first time it may be a bit overwhelming, don't worry you'll soon get some action. I'd recommend a high resolution monitor for this type of work.

 

visual studio.png

 

I've already signed in with my Microsoft Live account so you can see my name in the top right corner.

 

Click on file and choose Open, Project/Solution

 

file open project solution.png

 

select a sample app from the list of 250 or so apps, I've selected Lock screen apps sample below

 

Lock screen apps sample.png

 

and select the C# folder within and then select the .csproj file within that folder (LockScreenApps.csproj) and click on Open

 

lockscreenapps csproj.png

 

If you don't have one already, you will be prompted to get a Developers License (it's free). So go ahead and get one.

 

get a developer license for Windows 8.1.png

 

and after signing in to your live account you'll get the license...

 

you now have a develop license for Windows 8.1.png

 

Your first project is loaded and you've got a developers license !

 

Step 3. Build and then Create app packages

 

We've got the code, let's build it. Click on Solution Explorer to the right to expand that menu if it isn't already expanded.

 

solution explorer.png

 

Right click on your app listed in Solution Explorer and choose Build (or rebuild if trying again....)

 

any messages about the build will be reflected in the output window

 

build output.png

 

Now that it has built the code, right click the application and choose Store, then Create App packages.

 

create app packages.png

 

select No when asked do you want to upload to the Store (Windows store), we are only testing after all...

 

no.png

 

leave the output location as default and click on Create, note that you can change the version number of the application here, cool :-)

 

select and configure packages.png

 

and if all goes well you'll be informed that it's done

 

package creation completed.png

 

Step 4. Create a GPO for Deploying Windows 8.1 apps

 

In Active Directory start up Group Policy management (gpedit.msc) and choose to create a new Group Policy Object

 

create a GPO in this domain.png

 

give it a suitable name

 

windows 8.1 apps.png

 

and once done right click and choose Edit

 

edit gpo.png

 

In order to deploy an appx app (modern style app) via Software Center certain requirements must be met on the client, and these can be done via Group Policy. So expand

 

Computer Configuration, Policies, Windows Settings, Security Settings, Public Key Policies,Trusted People

 

right click and choose import to import the needed certificate for each app you want to deploy,

 

import certificate to the store.png

 

browse to the CER file located in the AppPackages directory that you just built the app in (see screenshot below)

 

 

lockscreen cer file.png

 

make sure you are placing it in the Trusted People Certificate Store, click your way through the wizard

 

The certificate appears, note the expiration date, when it expires you'll no longer be able to deploy the app with that certificate.

cert expiration date.png

 

Next, set the following setting in the GPO

 

Computer Configuration, Administrative Templates, Windows Components, App Package Deployment,

Allow all trusted apps to install (Enable)

 

If you don't have that setting then you'll need to import it by logging on to a Windows 8 computer, copy the admx file from Windows 8 to %logonserver%, Logoff Active Directory, Logon AD, run gpedit.msc and the new templates are there.

 

allow trusted apps to install.png

 

the finished GPO should look like this

 

finished gpo settings.png

 

Step 5. Copy the new app to your Configuration Manager server

 

Copy the new application to your sources share on the Configuration Manager server.

 

copy app.png

 

Step 6. Create and deploy the application in Configuration Manager 2012 R2

 

In the Configmgr Console expand Software Library and Applications, choose Create Application.

 

create application.png

 

select Windows app package (*.appx, *.appxbundle) from the drop down menu

 

windows app package.png

 

point to the appx file in the files we copied in Step 5 above

 

appx file.png

 

continue through the wizard until completion.

 

summary.png

 

I won't go into details about Deploying the app as it's the same process as any application, just right click and choose deploy, go through that wizard...

 

Deploy Appx app.png

 

make sure to to Deploy it to a Device collection that contains our Windows 8.1 computer, make it an available (optional) deployment. and to distribute it to your distribution points.

 

deploy software wizard.png

 

 

Step 7. Test the new app on a Windows 8.1 computer

 

Logon to a Windows 8.1 computer and open software center, you should see our new app, click Install.

 

lockscreenapp in software center.png

 

after a few moments if it fails with The software change returned error code 0x800B0109 like in the screenshot below,

 

failure is an option.png

 

then make sure to update Group Policy like so...

gpupdate /force

gpupdate force.png

 

then try again. This time it will work :-)

 

installed.png

 

and there it is on the Start screen !

 

on the start screen.png

 

click on it to see what happens

 

lock screen apps.png

 

cool or what !

 

until next time, adios !

 

 

Related Reading

 

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