Windows Installer, Application Compatibility and Deployments

Webinar: In-depth demonstration of AOK Browse-it Tool

With the launch of Windows 7 and IE8 as the embedded browser, compatibility for web-based applications and websites is crucial to ensure a smooth and cost-efficient migration. In 2010 web applications now outnumber native installed applications by a ratio of 1.2 to 1. This trend towards adoption of web-based applications makes it critical for organisations to be able to ensure compatibility.

ChangeBASE’s latest Plug-in for browsers, AOK Browse-It, enables organisations to speed-up their migrations to IE8 by overcoming this last compatibility hurdle.

Join the AOK Team on Monday 23rd  August, 2010 (4pm BST/ 11am EST / 8am PST / 5pm CET) for an one hour webinar with Chief Technology Architect, Greg Lambert to find out the below.

The categories of compatibility challenges facing organisations migrating to IE8 including:

  • Compatibility of web-based applications that need to integrate with the browser to enable functionality
  • Rendering issues where a website, rather than an application, may not render or display correctly or certain buttons or links may not work

How AOK Browse-It can address these concerns and enable a smooth and easy migration

In-depth demonstration of AOK Browse-it including enhanced granular reporting

Courtesy: Changebase Communication emails

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Microsoft Virtualization Windows Installer, Application Compatibility and Deployments

Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) – Introduction

Windows XP Mode was introduced in Windows 7 as one of mitigation which would allow users to run legacy applications on Windows 7 as of one Compatibility solutions.  This method looks cool and easy. Its suited for individuals or small scale companies. However, when the size of the organization is high, this solution is not advised. It is not easily manageable and thats exactly where MED-V comes to help!

Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V), enables deployment and management of Microsoft virtual PC Windows desktops to address key enterprise scenarios. Primarily, MED-V helps enterprises upgrade to the latest version of Windows even when some applications are not yet functional or supported. MED-V builds on top of Virtual PC to run two operating systems on one device, adding virtual image delivery, policy-based provisioning, and centralized management.

MED-V helps to minimize application-to-operating system compatibility issues while accelerating operating system migration. In fact, MED-V helps remove the barriers of upgrading the operating system. By delivering Windows XP or Windows 2000 productivity applications in a Virtual PC, you can complete testing more quickly and manage incompatible applications after the upgrade. MED-V also gives users a seamless experience because virtualized applications can be accessed from the standard desktop Start menu and appear alongside native applications.

To Install, Setup and Work with Virtual Windows XP Mode in Windows 7 – Read this article

When you add MED-V to a Microsoft Virtual PC, you’ll get the following administration capabilities:

  • Virtual images repository and delivery to provide mechanisms for simplifying the process of creating, testing, delivering, and maintaining virtual images from a central location.
  • Centralized management and monitoring to help administrators manage the entire life-cycle of virtual machines deployed on desktops throughout the enterprise
  • Usage policy and data transfer control on the MED-V client to enforce user or group usage policies, access permissions to virtual images, and data transfer permissions

In coming days, you will read more on this topic!

Courtesy: Microsoft Virtualization Team Blog

General Microsoft Windows Installer, Application Compatibility and Deployments

Windows Server 2008 R2 Feature Components and Hyper-V Architecture – Poster

Windows Server 2008 R2 Feature Components – This poster provides a visual reference for understanding key technologies in Windows Server 2008 R2. It focuses on Active Directory Domain Services, Hyper-V, Internet Information Services, Remote Desktop Services (including Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)), BranchCache, and DirectAccess technologies. In addition, updates to core file services and server management are illustrated.

Download the Windows Server 2008 R2 Feature Components Poster Here [pdf  document]

Hyper-V Component Architecture – The Hyper-V poster is a great visual tool to help in the understanding of the key features and components. It highlights key Hyper-V components including, Architecture, Virtual Networking, Virtual Machine Snapshots, Live Migration, Storage Interfaces, Storage Types, Storage Location and Paths, & Import and Export.

Download the Hyper-V ComponentArchitecture Poster here [pdf  document]

This large-format poster provides practical visual depictions of the Windows Hypervisor, live migration process, cluster shared volumes architecture, VMQ data paths, disk storage I/O path, and much more.

Microsoft Windows Installer, Application Compatibility and Deployments

What’s New in System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) v.Next

System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM)System Center Configuration Manager v.Next provides powerful and flexible user-centric management, allowing people to be able to seamlessly access their data from virtually anywhere, across multiple device types while providing IT with unified management tools and centralized control.

Providing User-Centric Management

Configuration Manager v.Next provides client management a user-centric approach, without being overly complex, while simplifying and consolidating onto a single, unified tool. These comprehensive user-centric management tools can help IT to manage and provide people with software that is tied to their identity and can follow them across multiple devices and access scenarios.

Flexible Delivery of Applications

Configuration Manager v.Next automatically delivers people applications by sensing and responding to system conditions that can be used to intelligently deploy applications in using a method most appropriate to the situation., a concept known as Conditional Delivery. This type of application delivery is provided through a new application model where the application itself is defined once, then delivered through multiple channels such as virtual, mobile, on presentation servers, or via traditional application deployment. This allows for a significantly simplified application deployment process. The applications themselves are protected with state-based delivery, which continues to provide people with predictable and reliable access to applications in the event that they are damaged or accidently deleted. People get the best experience with each of their devices through a process that distinguishes between primary and secondary devices and delivers services in the most appropriate way— including traditional, streaming, or from a presentation server.

On-Demand Applications

Configuration Manager v.Next helps to reduce the load on IT staff by providing people with an intuitive, self-service Web portal that allows anywhere access to enterprise applications that are dynamically customized by the user’s identity and role, helping to make people more effective, productive, and empowered. This rich storefront experience allows people to intuitively find and select which applications they need access to – making it easy to let people choose exactly what they need to do their jobs, when they need it.

Unifying Management Tools

Configuration Manager v.Next helps modernize IT, providing for a simplified, lean, and unified infrastructure for management and security to streamline your operational costs. Centralized management of desktop virtualization platforms, including Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-v) {App-V Guides/Tutorials}, Microsoft Enterprise Virtualization (Med-V), and Citrix XenApp, is also integrated into the Configuration Manager v.Next.

In addition, Configuration Manager v.Next provides for robust mobile device management support on multiple platforms such as Windows® Phone and Nokia Symbian, enabling people to self-provision applications, control settings, and manage mobile device updates.

Forefront® EndPoint Protection will also be built on Configuration Manager v.Next. Forefront EndPoint Protection and Configuration Manager are being brought together to help organizations gain efficiency in client protection management by reducing infrastructure and simplifying Deployment, thus helping to reduce costs.

Simplify IT Processes to Reduce Costs and Support Compliance

With Configuration Manager v.Next you can now set baseline configurations for your client systems to help automatically detect vulnerabilities based on changed configurations and to help identify non-compliance issues. With IT-defined automated remediation in Configuration Manager v.Next, configurations that have been changed from the baseline configuration can be detected and automatically reset to the desired configuration to further enhance system compliance.

Simplifying Management Administrative Improvements

Configuration Manager v.Next eliminates the need for additional primary Configuration Manager sites, which were traditionally used for data segmentation, by allowing for throttling and scheduling capabilities on distribution points as well as in primary sites. This allows for Configuration Manager site design flexibility that was not possible with previous versions.

The administrator console in Configuration Manager v.Next has been significantly enhanced with the addition of a role-based access control (RBAC) model that provides administrators with a streamlined console customized to their specific role—granting only what they need to do their job.

In addition, Configuration Manager v.Next provides for a ‘self-healing client’, that auto-remediates client health, even if the client is removed. This can significantly reduce IT administrative overhead and improve deployment reliability.

Providing an Integrated Platform

Configuration Manager v.Next provides for integrated end-to end IT client lifecycle management, from imaging to application delivery, maintenance, patching, and remediation, as well as supporting decommissioning of the devices—all through a single tool.

Additionally, Configuration Manager v.Next provides tight interoperability with Windows with features such as BranchCache™, direct access, power-saving settings, the User State Migration Toolkit (USMT), and the Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT). Because of this interoperability, it can help administrators get the most from Windows clients while gaining efficiencies in management.

Legacy Configuration Manager Migration and Support

Configuration Manager v.Next provides support for an organization’s existing traditional device-centric management models. The product does not require organizations to immediately replace legacy management techniques and can instead make a slow and gradual move to the new models. This allows for the flexibility to take advantage of new upgrade features without necessarily switching to new management models in entirety.

Unify and Simplify

Configuration Manager v.Next allows for a comprehensive user-centric approach to client management, tying applications directly to a user’s identity and allowing applications to follow people across multiple device types. Combined with user-friendly tools such as the self-service portal, Configuration Manager v.Next empowers people with the flexibility to work from multiple locations and on multiple devices.

Finally, Configuration Manager v.Next provides for a single view into overall client health, and allows for IT controls and remediation automation that helps to enhance the overall client management approach.

Summing up

The 3 Significant Pillars of this release of System Center Configuration Manager include,

Embrace user-centric management

  • Provide a rich application management model to capture admin intent
  • Allow the administrator to think users first
  • Provide the end user a fitting user experience to find/install software with
  • Allow the user to define their relationship to applications

Modernize our infrastructure and core components

  • Redesigned hierarchy and SQL Server replication
  • Automated content distribution
  • Client Health improvements and auto-remediation
  • Redesigned admin experience and role-based security model
  • Native 64-bit and full Unicode support

Continue to improve throughout the product

  • Software Updates auto-deployment (including Forefront definitions)
  • Automated settings remediation (DCM “set”)
  • Consolidated and expanded mobile device management
  • Improvements to OS Deployment and Remote Control
  • And much, much more.

In the upcoming articles, you will read more on the Software Distribution benefits in SCCM v.Next, Mobile Device Management etc.

Source: System Center Configuration Manager v.Next Data Sheet and MMS2010 Presentation Materials

Windows Installer, Application Compatibility and Deployments

IE6/IE7 to IE8 Application Compatibility Beta Test Opportunity – App-DNA

Migrating to Windows 7 means upgrading to Internet Explorer 8. But until now there was no way to test web applications to ensure they are compatible with the new browser. App-DNA now offers a unique opportunity to assess IE8 application compatibility and remediation requirements for web applications in a beta version of the AppTitude application compatibility software platform that includes specific IE8 testing and remediation capabilities.

App-DNA is currently seeking eligible beta test candidates to perform testing of an upcoming release of AppTitude that includes specific functionality for IE web application compatibility testing and remediation. To register for the App-DNA AppTitude IE beta program, please complete the survey here by July 30, 2010.

internet-explorer-8Compatibility for IE8 web applications is a hurdle for enterprises planning to simultaneously migrate to Windows 7 and IE8. In addition to proven Windows 7 migration accelerators, the upcoming release of AppTitude includes new features to:

  1. Address the blockers surrounding web application compatibility
  2. Automate the capture of the web application source
  3. Test the web application’s “DNA” with specifically designed heuristic (experience based) algorithms to determine success of the application with IE8 and Windows 7 security hardening
  4. Determine best remediation paths to ensure mission-critical web applications behave well on IE8.

To register for the App-DNA AppTitude IE beta program, please complete the survey here by July 30, 2010.

Courtesy: App-DNA emailers

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Microsoft Windows Installer, Application Compatibility and Deployments

Download Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit 5.6 – Released

The Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) version 5.6 contains the necessary tools and documentation to evaluate and mitigate application compatibility issues before deploying Windows 7®, Windows Vista®, a Windows Update, or a new version of Windows Internet Explorer® in your environment.

Update: 31st August, 2010 – Microsoft released an update to the Application Compatibility Toolkit 5.6,  (Source- Chris Jackson, AppCompayGuy)

The fixes are:

  • Fixes an issue where deployment status can be lost after an upgrade
  • Fixes the issue where Stock Viewer’s “Show me a Star” demo does not launch
  • Fixes an issue where you can see timeout errors with large databases on sync
  • Removes the need for ALTER permissions on the database to sync with the web service
  • Updates the help file to remove content on the Setup Analysis Tool (which we removed in the original release of ACT 5.6)
  • Updates the online whitepapers to reflect changes made in the CHM

Some of the new features of ACT 5.6 are:

  1. The Application Compatibility Manager now has separate compatibility assessments for 32-bit and 64-bit Windows 7. This brings you the latest information from the software vendors on whether their apps have been tested and certified on Windows 7 based on architecture.
  2. Data Collection Packages now run on 64-bit systems.
  3. Manage compatibility readiness separately for 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7. Deploying to a mix of both 32 and 64-bit Windows 7? ACT now makes it possible for you to target your compatibility testing separately to each architecture by allowing you to create different assessments for each one.
  4. Compatibility Administrator can now shim 64-bit and MSIL-compiled applications.
  5. Standard User Analyzer and Internet Compatibility Test Tool have both been updated and now support running on 64-bit operating systems.
  6. ACT 5.6 talks to a new web service when you click Send and Receive to synchronize your applications with Microsoft. You will notice that synchronizations are much quicker on average as the amount of application data being sent up has been reduced significantly. The new web service will also be updated every two weeks with the latest Windows 7 compatibility assessments from software vendors, so be sure to keep your database synced periodically.
  7. ACT 5.6 includes a useful demo application and a tutorial that you can use to learn the ropes with shimming applications to fix compatibility problems. The application is a dummy application with some of the most common compatibility errors in it that you can remediate until you have a fully working version of the app.
  8. The ACT community assessments have been updated to be vote based. Based on how other users of ACT voted, you will now see a sliding bar depicting how compatible the community thinks an application is. This makes it easier to understand the community’s perception of an application’s overall compatibility at a glance. This is especially useful indicator of whether an application will work when a vendor hasn’t yet published a compatibility statement for their software.

Download the Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit 5.6 here

You can also watch these Videos and other How-To Articles to fix AppCompat Issues

Community Activities Microsoft Windows Installer, Application Compatibility and Deployments

Moving Applications to Windows 7 and App-V | Flexera Software Webinar

Join Flexera Software™, the leading provider in Windows® 7 application readiness solutions, for a discussion of how you can automate and standardize OS migration and application virtualization projects to ensure a fast and successful application deployment. This Webinar will explore an end-to-end process for Windows 7 and App-V application migration projects, strategies to reduce the cost and complexity and also, how a continuous application readiness process creates a repeatable and reliable standard for your next migration project.

In this Webinar you learn the “6 Steps to Faster Windows 7 Application Migration” and how to:

  • Drive down the cost and complexity of preparing for a Windows 7 software deployment
  • Speed conversion of MSI packages to App-V and other virtualized formats
  • Shift from reactive to proactive application management
  • Better understand your application estate
  • Make sure your applications are ready to move when you are
  • Reduce manual migration to save time and resources

Date: Thursday, June 24, 2010, Time: 9:00 PT / 11:00 CT / 12:00 EST

Register for the Webinar here

How-to Microsoft Windows Installer, Application Compatibility and Deployments

Application Compatibility Toolkit 5.5 Guides, How To Tutorials

Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit is a lifecycle management tool that assists in assessing compatibility issues in your overall application/device/computer portfolio.  This tool helps in,

  1. Gathering Inventory for software, hardware, and device assets
  2. Compatibility evaluation and Get Vendor Support Statements
  3. Recommendations for fixing applications
  4. Tools to apply compatibility fixes or “shims” to applications

The Application Compatiblity process can be easily defined in 3 Steps – Collect-Analyze and Mitigate.

To facilitate Readers/ People who plan their first steps towards Application Compatibility, I have written these 6 Part Series on various tools which are a part of the ACT. These articles will provide information on how to start the appcompat process in an organization (or even as an individual) and fix applications!

Application Compatibility Process (ACT 5.5)

Install and Setup the Application Compatibility Environment

This article will give you detailed instructions on how you can setup up the ACT 5.5 Environment, configure the Application Compatibility Manager and start the AppCompat Process. This is the first step towards solving Application Compatibility Issues with Windows 7.

Creating and Deploying a Data Collection Package (DCP)

In this article, we will look at how to Create and Deploy a Data Collection Package (DCP) to gather inventory for software, hardware, and device assets. This package will start the ACT Data Collector Service to monitor the machine State. You will also learn options to schedule the Data Collection.

How to Analyze the Application Reports Collected?

In this article, we will look at how to categorize and prioritize applications in the ACT report which we get from the Data Collection Packages. We will also look at how to send/receive reports to get hints and support from the Community on solving AppCompat Issues.

Testing your applications as a Standard User

During Develop / Deploy phase of an application, its very important to test the functionality of an app as a Standard User. Especially when the organization has a locked-down environment. Standard User Analyzer tool exactly helps you in this purpose!

Identify Website Issues with Internet Explorer Compatibility Test Tool

This Tool collects your Web-based issues from Internet Explorer 7 / Internet Explorer 8, uploads the data to the ACT Log Processing Service, and gives the details about discovered compatibility issues. It also provides you links for more information about each of this compatibility issues.

Creating Shims to Fix Broken Applications

This article explains the Compatibility Administrator tool which enables you to resolve many of your potential application compatibility issues. It also explains you on how to create customized compatibility fixes, modes, AppHelp messages, and compatibility databases.

Shims for Specific scenarios:

Do lemme’ know your comments and Thoughts.!

Windows Installer, Application Compatibility and Deployments

Creating a Shim/Fix Using Compatibility Administrator

In the earlier article on Analyzing the ACT Reports, we learnt on how we can identify the application Compatibility issues in your machine/organization. Even If you are not keen in generating an app-report,  this method described in this article will help you learn how to mitigate an application using shims.

The Compatibility Administrator tool enables you to resolve many of your potential application-compatibility issues before deploying a new version of Windows in your organization. This tool enables you to create customized compatibility fixes, compatibility modes, AppHelp messages, and compatibility databases.

Process to Fix an Application – The steps involved in fixing an application using this tool is quite easy. First launch the application, test its functionality. If your enviroment is a locked-down one, then test the application as a Standard User. Identify the issues which arise. Use the Compatibility Administrator tool to create a new Shim database (.sdb), select the compatibility modes and fixes for this application. Apply this shim and test the application again. If the app works and responds fine, deploy the same on the machine.

Compatibility Administrator Process

Step 1: Install the Application Compatibility Toolkit and Start the Compatibility Administrator. You will need to run this as administrator

Launch Compatibility Administrator

As mentioned earlier, This tool  provides individual compatibility fixes, compatibility modes, and AppHelp messages which can help you resolve specific compatibility issues. Right click on the New Database, you will find these below options.

Creating an Application Fix Compatibility Administrator

Step 2: In this example, we will look at how you can fix an application. So lets choose Application Fix here. In this below dialog, give the application details and the executable you would wanna fix.

Create New Application Fix

Step 3: When you press the next button, you will get to see the list of the compatibility modes listed by default. If you have an issue with just the version in-compatiblity then choose the version in which the application was working earlier! You can also do a “Test Run” of the app.

OS Modes - Compatibility Administrator

Step 4: As of now, lets not choose any OS mode here. You can do it in the next window (when you have combination of shims to be choosed). As shown below, you have lots of shims to choose from. Select all the shims which would fix your application (based on the analysis you did during the Application Tests or from the Analyzed Report).

Available Shims - Compatibility Administrator

As you can see above, few of the shims do have parameters to work with. You can check the ACT Documentation to understand more on these individual shims. Check out these 2 articles, where I have written on how you can use Parameters for File and Registry Re-Direction shims (VirtualRegistry and CorrectFilePaths).

Step 5: Let me select the shims, which will resolve the issues with the application I am currently fixing. You can click on the Show Selected Button, which will list out all the shims you have selected.

Selected Shims - Compatibility Administrator

Summary Fixed Application - Compatibility Administrator

Click on Finish. This will give you the complete summary of the application and the fixes applied.

Summary Application - Compatibility Administrator

The Windows installs a System Application Fix database for use with the Compatibility Administrator. This database can be updated through Windows Update, and is stored in the %WINDIR% \AppPatch directory. The custom databases which we create are automatically stored in the %WINDIR% \AppPatch\Custom directory and are installed by using the Sdbinst.exe tool provided with the Compatibility Administrator.

Step 6: Now you need to save this shim database file, and install it. You can either install it by, right click on the shim and press install button, or by using a command-line option.

Install Shims

Or using Command Line arguments – sdbinst.exe C:\msigeek.sdb

sdbinst Command Line

You also have an option to use a query tool that enables you to search for installed fixes on your local computers.

Query Database

You can read these articles to understand more on how to create shims for specific scenarios.

You must keep it in mind that, shims would just pass the condition (in simple words.. just a return true). This does not ensure or simulate the platform. So only when you are sure that, the application functionality can be achieved and this condition is just a road-block.. you can use shims to mitigate these issues!

Microsoft Windows Installer, Application Compatibility and Deployments

VirtualRegistry Shim: Registry Re-Direction to Fix Broken Apps

In this article, we will look at how to create a Registry redirection and make the application point to a new hive instead of the old one!

The Compatibility Administrator tool enables you to resolve many of your potential application-compatibility issues before deploying a new version of Windows in your organization. This tool enables you to create customized compatibility fixes, compatibility modes, AppHelp messages, and compatibility databases. To know more on how to create one and implement it, Read – Creating a Shim/Fix Using Compatibility Administrator.

Scenario: When I launch this application, and press on the browser button, i get a error dialog which says “The browse functionality requires IE6”. Windows 7 comes with IE8 as the default browser and we do not have any options to downgrade it to IE6.

Browse Internet Explorer 6

If the browse functionality will not work in IE8 or by Emulating IE7, and only works in IE6; the method to make it work is using Windows XP Mode.

On analyzing with Process Monitor (a Sysinternals tool) and clicking the Browse Button again, we will see a detailed report on all the resources this application action accessed. In this below dialog, you can find that this action has actually checked the IE Version number in the registry hive.

Process Monitor - Queries the IE Version

I reckon that the developer of this application had some functionalities which was working only with IE6 (at that time – legacy app), and hence, he would’ve added this as a launch condition. As IE8 is a higher version, and it would have a backward compatibility.. we will just need to comment this condition of checking the browser. Now if we want to send this application to the developer again to fix this simple stuff, it would involve lots of efforts of re-compiling, testing, communication etc. This is where, the shims come into picture.

In this post,we will create a new registry hive and path; make this application to point to the new hive, when the quering is done.  VirtualRegistry Shim exactly helps us in doing so.

Step 1: Create a new registry key which would mimick the original registry key. Instead of HLM->Software->Microsoft->Internet Explorer->Version, I will create a new hive in HKLM->Software->msigeek -> Fix Apps ->Internet Explorer->Version

Creating a Redirect Registry

Step 2: Launch the Application Compatibility Administrator, and create a new Application Shim. Select VirtualRegistry Shim and press the parameters button. This will give you options to configure the paths. You will need to use the ADDREDIRECT command.

VirtualRegistry Shim Parameters

Step 3: Give the parameter for this shim.

ADDREDIRECT(oldpath^newpath) is the general syntax. In our scenario, we will give it as ADDREDIRECT(HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Internet%20Explorer^HKLM\Software\msigeek\Fix%20Apps\Internet%20Explorer). You will need to give %20 to signify empty spaces.

VirtualRegistry Shim with IE Parameters

Step 4: Apply the shim and test the application.

Now, when I launch the browse button, the Internet Explorer window opens. What happens in background is that, a condition is checked for the old path and this shim redirects it to the new one. This passes the condition and launches the browser!

This mitigation technique can be used for any registry path redirection. If you have any application which is hard-coded and checks a particular registry key, this technique can make it refer a new path and hence pass the condition. You must keep it in mind that, this would just pass the condition (in simple words.. just a return true). This does not ensure or simulate the platform. So only when you are sure that, the application functionality can be achieved and this condition is just a road-block.. you can use shims to mitigate these kind of issues.

If you have issues with Hard-coded file paths, then do read this article!