I like to throw one of these out there every six months or so. It tends to get people thinking and helps others to relive those nightmares they thought were behind them.

So please tell us your worst,hellish,hardest,most frustrating,tear your hair out, or just downright mean and nasty app you have ever packaged and perhaps the steps it took to "get it out there"

This will be fun :)
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I'll go first then.

Most people here know that mine is Adobe Acrobat Pro 6.0 and so I wont relive it except to say that the night before it went into the next mornings production run I didnt sleep at all and I nearly cried when it worked flawlessly.

I had to repackage the vendor msi and make it work for 2 different versions of Office for standard users without rights to even see their own C drives. We also have redirected My Documents to network drives.

It took me 2 months to do it and during that time I aged a couple of years and got some grey hairs that i still have today.
Answered 06/24/2005 by: MSIMaker
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Mine was Rational ClearCase (version 5 I think).

This application was a nasty SETUP.EXE with no real enterprise deployment option that we could use in the company. It was nasty in the fact that it installed network file system drivers and added itself to the Network Neighbourhood. MSI doesn't suport file system driver services (Type 2) so it was a matter of forcing the service into the tables and registry keys.

It took me over 3 weeks and am glad that we haven't had any problems with it yet...
Answered 06/24/2005 by: brenthunter2005
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I had so much fun with ClearCase last year! I like applications that install drivers for no real good reason.

My all time has to be Merak's Peep. The MSI from the vendor didn't even install the app correctly. It took a few weeks of head bashing until it was discovered that we had an EXE server that was not registered. And no the vendor had no part in identifying the issue.
Answered 06/24/2005 by: kkaminsk
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Clearcase 5 here as well. I never could repackaged it properly. We decided to go with 6 when I was about 3 weeks into it. 6 is built around an MSI (YAY). An IS MSI (BOO).

We're still have random clitches where the MSI doesn't apply the transform I created.
Answered 06/24/2005 by: Bladerun
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i worst is BlacbBerry there msi really really sucks
Answered 06/24/2005 by: linstead
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I found Blackberry MSI is fine actually. Most people have problems because its an InstallShield Script MSI (ISSCRIPT) which in my view are horrible to deal with. Also, I've seen some people (including myself) attempt at create a snapshot.
Answered 06/24/2005 by: brenthunter2005
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My biggest nightmares are custom applications from contracted developers. It's not so much a matter of packaging them, but rather their extremely poor understanding of Windows standards and the needs of Corporate environments. How they get the contract in the first place, I don't know. I only know that they're here and I've got to deal with 'em. Here's some of the fun shenanigans I've come across:

[&:] Install instructions that include the step "Edit the plain text configuration file to include your Database Master Schema Password." Yup, the big kahuna password for the database of highly sensitive information in plain text on all the company's workstations, clear as day. "Oh, that's a problem?"
[&:] Installs using a very old version of Wise Installer designed for Windows 95, when the app is desinged for XP. The instructions actually said to ignore 118 popup error messages, the install would still work. The developer also thought we would manually install the app, on 3000 machines. Apparently clicking an Ignore button 354,000 times isn't a big deal.
[&:] Applications that install to the root of the user profile. Not even My Documents, not Local Settings, not Application Data, the root of the profile.

The biggest headache with off the shelf stuff was nailing down Sun Java. Certain web apps require certain versions and there was no "one version fits all". Multiple versions of Java can be installed, but did Sun put a single reg key to define which version is the default in IE? No. They have a reg key in each version that says "I'm the default", essentially making an infinite amount of keys to search to find the IE default. Set a new default and you have to search through all the other versions to unset the "I'm the default" registry key. Why they couldn't put that key one level higher, I have no idea. They also think an MSI is just a wrapper for custom action installs. Java files are extracted from an archive and installed through a custom action, not the file tables. Sun just doesn't get it.
Answered 06/24/2005 by: VikingLoki
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Managing Java VMs is always fun.

The best install document ever came from a site another contractor I know was on. It had the app being installed, the installer crashing and then a snapshot of the error report being sent to Microsoft. Sure, I can package that!
Answered 06/24/2005 by: kkaminsk
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Hmmm I'd say Adobe is right up there, but most recently was a custom written Java application. It wasn't for an enterprise deployment, but for actual release to clients of the company I did the capture for. They HARD CODED the application to look for its configuration file in "C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\Application Data" - and then told clients it would work on Windows 95. They refused to change that, saying the fact it wouldn't deploy properly was what I was getting paid to fix. There was no advertised entry point for self healing of that file if the clients decided to roll it out via SMS/Altiris/Zen/Whatever.

Oh, it also had a configuration file that told the application where the windows directory was, but it was formatted: C\:\\WINNT - so I had to write a vbscript to get the windows directory and parse it into that format and insert it into the configuration file.

But from vendor provided MSI's, I think one from a Finnish engineering company where each file was its own merge module was the most intriguing (had about 40 files, so there were 40 seperate merge modules ... who designs these installs???)
Answered 06/26/2005 by: plangton
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Yah I'd say Acrobat 6.0 Standard was one of my hardest ones to crack.

Had to repackage the vendor msi as I just couldn't get it to advertise properly. Getting to the bottom of the PDF Printer (the ports in particular) was a nightmare as Wise just couldn't capture it. Also the fact that we were upgrading from v5.0.5 just compounded things, as well as doing a package upgrade for reader v5 to v6 at the same time. It was really these apps which made me reconsider my career in packaging. Fortunately I stuck with! Took ages but I got there in the end...

More recently ArcGIS Desktop 9.0 and required 3rd party plugins was a mission - but still more straight forward than Acrobat!

Hard packages build character! [8|]
Answered 06/28/2005 by: MSIPackager
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Another vote here for Acrobat 6.0 - never did get it to work properly. Fortunately when 7.0 came out we bought a corporate version (no activation) and that packaged with very few problems.
Answered 06/29/2005 by: upthorpe
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Hi,

I've got F5 FirePass Client Setup high up the list of most worse application. The F5 Network comp delivers with its firewall with a client setup msi file. This file can be installed but not via Active Directory. No problem would you say just break open the msi and change is till it does. Then I discoverd that the installation is meanly based on an install.dll that does all kind of routines. If the vendor msi is not change able than you might say capture the installation. That goes fine, it even installs via AD. But deinstalling result in lossing the network card. Yes its true, after removing the software Windows XP does not have a network card any more. So you might ask how does F5 do it's removing self? The answer is frustrating simple by an deinstall.dll[:@].

Edwin
Answered 06/29/2005 by: Siebrasse
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Excellent topic- I have to chime in on this one: ArcGIS 8 was easily the most distressing package I’ve had to deal with so far. In the target environment there were older installations that had to come off first, and with no automated ability to do so, I had to script my own detect/remove routine which required a reboot. In fact, this installation required multiple reboots. Being part legacy and part MSI meant it could not simply be repackaged. The final solution (which took months to perfect) needed to be deployed hands-off via Active Directory. It performed multiple reboots with auto-logons which was further complicated by a security banner that needed to be disabled during deployment. Key to my eventual success was the discovery of several undocumented public properties (now documented here in the Package KB). A very frustrating package to say the least, a subsequent executable “patch” was released to update the MSI. Vendors need to realize that if they are going to go with Windows Installer (encouraged), they need to stick with the technology when releasing patches and updates (a rant for another thread).
Answered 06/29/2005 by: bkelly
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Nice one Bob - we had ArcGIS v8.3 before recently moving to v9..

As you said we couldn't repackage 8.3 - it crashed Wise (v4.6 back then) everytime so it went out as a manual install, there was certainly not enough time avaliable in the team to even attempt to achieve it in the way you did.

When I did the ArcGIS 9 package I just used appserch to check for the 8.3 manual install and popped up a message to contact the helpdesk to get it removed first - at least they can use remote desktop...

ESRI really sorted out deployment with v9 - apart from a problem with newer processors . chipsets with hardware DEP (Data Execution Prevention) but that can only be got around by turning it off in the BIOS!! Apparently v9.1 doesn't have the same problem, so I'll look forward to that [:'(]
Answered 06/29/2005 by: MSIPackager
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I haven't had to deal with it in some time, guess I'll keep my fingers crossed that 1) ESRI gets it right with the 9.1 setup, and 2) that I don't get asked to deploy anything prior to 9.1!

BTW, nice idea using appsearch to prompt the user- I guess this would have to be an advertised or user-assigned installation to work (so someone would be logged on to see the message)? I always try to assign to computers when using AD for deployment- might be another good topic... I'll start a new thread for that one -- never mind, looks like I already had: http://itninja.com/question/what-is-your-primary-method-of-deploying-software-with-group-policy?
Answered 06/29/2005 by: bkelly
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Yep they are big on hot desking here so we advertise almost everything per user.

The only stuff which goes out per machine are apps that either go out to all workstations or apps with hardware requirements - such as Palm Desktop (which is another absolute swine to package!)

Have voted accordingly!
Answered 06/29/2005 by: MSIPackager
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such as Palm Desktop (which is another absolute swine to package!)


I forgot about this one, had to do it a few weeks ago and boy was it a pain.

One I'm currently working on for a product called Ellipse is stumping me, the install works fine when run normally but errors when running silently. I can see what the problem is clearly, but have no idea how or why it's doing it differently for the silent install!!

Never had too much of a problem with Acrobat packages, but then I don't know how many of you guys use SMS installer to generate install scripts like we do?

Give me a few months and I'll have a nice long list of packages that are a pain (so far out of 383 packages me and a couple of other guys need to do we have just 136 completed :( ).
Answered 06/29/2005 by: swwdesktops
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My Votes are:

Worst ever:
ClearCase 5.x ... I got it to work but I was not really proud of that package. It turned out to be kind of a hack job in my mind.

One that shouldn’t be a problem but always is:
Adobe 6 and 7 Standard and Pro and Adobe Elements, Why can't Adobe create printers using Windows standards? MSIPackager described the issues I had with Adobe pretty well (were you here?). I ended up pushing it with SMS (I use GPO so resorting to SMS is a defeat for me).

The one that kept me busiest for the longest:
Documentum! Which was great fun, not because the app is bad, but there is a ton of integration to account for, and constant requests for configuration changes.

My current number one problem child is Interwoven Desksite and Mailsite v8. Another document management app, which has pretty tight integration with numerous other applications on the workstation. Aside form the bi-monthly hotfixes (that would be bad enough) Mailsite adds a data file to Outlook (so you can use it from within your mail client directly). In order to get the Mailsite data file Outlook integration to actually work, you have to close and launch Outlook three or four times after adding the data file to the mail profile (how's that for consistant?). The best part is the error message Interwoven has popping up when the data file finally connects, which states that the requirement for multiple Outlook restarts is Microsoft's fault!

MSI Packager, I’m sorry to admit it but I copped out with Palm desktop for the Treo 650 the other day. I just did a zap file and I have a tech visit the desk. (we only have a couple here, the firm is actually big on Blackberry).[:)]
Answered 06/29/2005 by: BobTheBuilder
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Actually I'll revise my first email, the hardest thing I've done packaging wise is fixing a package a predecessor had created that left machines unable to boot when it was uninstalled. Three weeks it took me to figure out how to uninstall and upgrade that thing.
Answered 06/29/2005 by: plangton
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ORIGINAL: plangton

Actually I'll revise my first email, the hardest thing I've done packaging wise is fixing a package a predecessor had created that left machines unable to boot when it was uninstalled. Three weeks it took me to figure out how to uninstall and upgrade that thing.



I agree Plangton.....I had the same problem with Nero. Some other guy had packaged it and on removing it broke my install. It's a bit annoying when it affects 300 users :(
Answered 07/02/2005 by: MSIMaker
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the adobe suite.. was hard.
I am changing the Exceed now.. It is not working yet.. pfff
Answered 07/06/2005 by: nostradamuz
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Definitely Corel WordPerfect 7 onto Windows XP. No kidding!!

Corel WordPerfect 7 won't even install from the CD onto a Windows XP system. I had to use compatibility mode to run setup and then had to upgrade every DLL in the package. Ugh! It took 4 weeks using Wise. But, it runs better under Windows XP than it did under Windows 98. :)
Answered 07/06/2005 by: wbeck
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Corel WordPerfect 7 onto Windows XP

Now THAT is the best example of stubborn loyalty I've seen in a long time! [:D]

Do they drive to work in fuel injected, DOHC supercharged Model T's? ...that can fly?
Answered 07/07/2005 by: VikingLoki
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Hej,

My worst applications ever are those small apps. developed by One man companies. Got a few of them and the last one I have deployed was using BDE ( Borland Database Engine), and the app is establishing connection to the database through ISAPI32.cfg

Normally, it is possible to merge several configurations in ISAPI32.cfg but this app instist to create it is own. I have of course found out, when the users are started call me about that 2 other apps are not working.....

So, I am not a big fan of 1 man development companies......


And I would generally say, graphical programs ( photoshop, autocad, paintshop pro etc. ) always problems because of the file assocs ( who wants to open this file). Specially if you are deploying software in a lock-down environment where users cannot write into the Registry !!!![:'(]
Answered 07/07/2005 by: Priapus
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NuGenesis SDMS 6.01!!
The installation of NuGenesis requires you to first log in as the local "Administrator". An account with local administrative privileges will not work. Then you must place a configuration file on the desktop or else the application will not install! The people involved with deploying this app must have been on some really bad crack!!
Fortunately, with msi and and scripting I was able to package this nightmarish app and distribute to our end users. A nightmare turned into a happy ending..
Answered 07/07/2005 by: nitro
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Well I just got another one done which was a nightmare. It's called Mindgenius 2005.

It's a vendor msi which I had to repackage from scratch because it inserted files to System32 (which we don't allow)

After the capture it worked fine but when I moved the msi to another test machine it pitched a fit and after a few Regmons I discovered that the mindgenius2005.exe actually went and looked for Windows Installer GUIDS in

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Installer\UserData\S-1-5-21-blah-blah\Components

This was the exe looking for it not the shortcut. The person who wrote it actually hard coded the windows installer guids into the application. I ended up having to copy all of the component guids out of the vendor msi into mine to make it work.

This was a first for me but copying the guids worked.

After that the app starts up and creates its own unlock code based on the Computer Name and you have to enter 2 other codes that the vendor supply to you as well. Then you ring a 1-800 phone number and give the vendor support person the 3 numbers you have and she supplies you with a Security number which unlocks the application. During the unlock process the app tries to delete some keys from HKCR and rewrite them with the new binary data which is the unlocking code.

What a mess. My opinion is that software developers should not be made aware of the Windows Installer service because they try "clever" little things like this which cause nightmares for us.
Answered 07/08/2005 by: MSIMaker
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My two worst application ever.
The first was an early version of Documentum Desktop Client 4 a real pain.... since I had to make one package supporting W9x, WNT and W2000. This was an installshield package so I tried using iss-files, but with no luck. I landed on using the original installation and made a AutoIt script running in the background answering all dialogs appearing. The script had to handle any possible situation (quite a few)
The second I never got to finish, I spend about 300 hours and then just when I thougt I had found the solution the user told me he didn't need the application. Thes was some software from Mesa using a dongle for license and security.

I have had a few other as well but I find applications to day much easier than they used to be. And I only have to test the applications for W2000 and XP :-)
Answered 07/08/2005 by: andler
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Ok, I've had some rough experiences with several packages, so here are my top 3:

1. Centrino Wireless Drivers and Software on Dell Latitude D-Series Laptops - An absolute horror that took me about 3 months of off and on work to get running correctly. We are running Windows 2000 and are just now starting to certify our XP image, so we have to install the Dell software in order to use the integrated wireless cards. Their drivers and software install silently from a .exe for the most part, but always prompt for a reboot. Once the install completed, I had to kill the three tasks it started up, remove them from the Windows Run keys, and then rename the zcfgsvc.exe so that the PC wouldn't try to automatically connect wirelessly and prompt the user for credentials when they logged in (we have Cisco gear requiring LEAP authentication). Then, the shortcut I created for connecting would rename zcfgsvc.exe back and then invoke the app. It took me a few weeks to figure all that out, but it still didn't work. After a few more weeks, I discovered that the AEGIS 802.1x protocol wouldn't install under system authority (how our distributions run), and had to use the snetcfg.exe utility to install it. It took forever to finish because I only had 2 laptops to test on, and every time it didn't work right I had to reload them. After all that, our wireless team determined that the Centrinos were wreaking havoc on the access points so we had to upgrade their firmware as well as all our Cisco Aironet PC Cards. Which leads me to...

2. Cisco Aironet 350 PC Card Drivers/Software/Firmware Upgrades and Installs - Our users are Power Users so we have a custom service that can install device drivers through a protected interface for various pieces of hardware via .INF files. The vendor's driver .inf would silently install/upgrade the drivers, software, and firmware, but would always prompt for a reboot (they have since released a version that can take a /noreboot parameter). Because the install required user interaction, I had to create a script that ran out of the Startup folder upon reboot because otherwise current users would never run the shortcut to do it as they already had working software. Cisco's software was very picky and it took me forever to figure out that the install files had to be in \WINNT\Cisco for it to install right. Then it would create RunOnce keys that needed admin rights, so I had to move them to a special key that a custom service of ours will read to run commands under system authority before login. That took about 3 weeks to finally get working right because I had to reload every time it failed. However, when we began rolling it out, users were discovering that their non-work profiles were being removed if they were set as the default. Naturally, that's what our executives had done, so we had to stop the rollout and I had to revise the package. I basically used msgbox.exe to interview the user and determine if they had a Home profile as default, and then launch the old client utility under system authority (Power Users could not add or change profile settings) and hold their hand with more msgbox.exe dialogs to change the default profile back to Enterprise.

3. Cascade - This application connects to an ODBC database which stores information about all the equipment we have at our power plants and substations. This app is an IS MSI and there was no way I could get it to work in its MSI form. There are 4 different options for the install and multiple options can be selected, but the original request only asked for one. Naturally, they asked for 5 more combinations after the first was done. First off it took me a good 2 weeks to get the install to work at all thanks to a Sybase SQL Anywhere that was piggybacked, then the users discovered that when trying to view M$ Word attachments for different records it would attempt an MSI repair. I captured the repair and updated the package, but soon after we upgraded from Office 2000 to 2003, and I had to go back and do it for all 5 packages again. Of course, none of these updates were easy to figure out and to this day I still get occasional calls from the package owner about things that don't work right. Thankfully they're moving to a new version soon. Hopefull that's a straigt up MSI.

An honorable mention is the Adobe Acrobat line of products. We have Acrobat v4, v5, and v6 deployed, and they don't play well together and cause problems with Reader v6. I tried to package v7, but our software ordering department got the standalone version that requires activation so that got thrown out. We've since been in talks with Adobe for the last 3 or 4 months about getting into their MASSIVE Enterprise agreement. It truly is ridiculous how they set the levels for their contracts, we have to get a level 3 in order to cover all our users, but that gives us about 300 more licenses than we actually use. I have yet to see the Enterprise media for packaging. On top of all that, when I packaged Reader v7, I had to compensate for all the different versions that are deployed in order to prevent problems with file associations and IE. If only IE would come with native PDF support.

Ok, sorry for rambling on so much, but this was like a mini therapy session to vent all this frustration.
Answered 07/08/2005 by: WreX
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I agree that Palm Desktop is right up there. I created an "All-in-One" package that contained drivers for all the others... but it never ends. Thankfully, my current employer just decided not to support Palms in the future!

But I must say the hardest by far was PGP. Here are parts one and two of my steps to tricking it into working. Awful!
Answered 07/08/2005 by: ewall
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WreX, I must second your "Honorable Mention" (or should it be DIShonorable Mention?) for the Adobe Reader family... Especially since I've had to support and upgrade from old capture packages created by someone else. I can't wait for v7.0x!
Answered 07/08/2005 by: ewall
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I wish I had the PGP information last year. I passed that one into the manual install pile because there were only five users and the device driver was not going to setup capture.
Answered 07/08/2005 by: kkaminsk
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It was an in-house masterpiece. Judging by .dlls dating back to pre-1997 era, generations have contributed to its crazyness. Original progamer was let go; later on the ancient knowlege of how to make an installer (VB5 at the time of my first encounter with it) was lost.
So, the instructions for the install would go like that:
1. Run setup.exe. Click through 42 error messages (Per programmer, "You'll get that")
2. Run newSetup.exe after that.
3. Run patch.exe and patch.bat
4. Rerun newSetup.exe
5. Delete .mdb file.
6. Copy the new .mdb file from \\server\share
7. Copy a whole series of odd files.
8. Copy an entire directory from a PC that WORKS.
9. Replace the main executable with - get that - "New Test Copy.exe" (We are talking about a main application within production environment with 400+ users).
10. Create shortcuts for the application.
11. Call programmer when ready to launch the first time.
On average, the application would work in 60-70% of cases after that. If not, it's pretty much wipe & reload of the system.
Oh, yes - it also had to have several of not-so-minor pre-req's to be present on the system. Some of pre-reqs had dll conflicts with the application that would produce strange results in random places. Lots of times nobody would know if the program actually worked until the programmer checked on the AS400 to see if the batch got created. Job security at its finest. And, it had a sort of Y2k problem - its registry settings had to be manually reset after every 100 batch uploads [:@]
For all practical purposes, the application itself is a front-end for MS Access database that uploads data to the AS400. Why it turned out so twisted is not clear to me. (On a side note, the original programmer interviewed with our company this week for a consultant position. Needless to say, he got booted out of that interview as soon as his identity was revealed)

With the application being such a pain in the rear, the deployment strategy was to ghost a PC that works, and strip a few items out of the registry. Then load the remaining 20-30 apps on the top of all that, because it's easier that way.
So, just for fun, I decided to repackage that monster. Took me about two weeks of trial & error. The trickiest part was to figure out the secret combination of the 30-some dlls - the application was very particular about version #s. Luckily Filemon helped a lot, and SMS showed me where I could find the necessary files.

When the .msi was eventually delivered to my procurement colleagues, I almost saw tears in their eyes. Right now Group Policies distribute the application, and we haven't heard a single complaint in over six months.
Answered 07/14/2005 by: revizor
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Bravo revizor.....I read the whole thing and I'm rating you 2 points on that post :)
Answered 07/15/2005 by: MSIMaker
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Great war story, revizor!
Answered 07/15/2005 by: ewall
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wow.. this was the same dilemma that we faced a couple of years ago when we took over packaging for a large company.. luckily its easier because we're using WinInstall then.. now we've transitioned to Marimba its the same old story again.. left over applications created by "pioneers" which are not so clean and tidy and required to be "tickled" by us to make it work.. i'm "really looking forward to our next project [8D]
Answered 07/15/2005 by: rikx2
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The funnies thing is that when our previous sysadmin was tasked with pushing out that application, he asked the programmer: Is the setup automated?
The answer was, "Oh, yes, it's automated"...

We still crack jokes about that app.
Answered 07/15/2005 by: revizor
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My weirdest app was a Tivoli Management app in 1999. It was a simple app on the surface, but packaging it by capture inevitably lead to a non-functional install. Installing the vendor app over the package would make things work but capturing the change would reveal no changes at all to the target machine (with no excludes at all).  It was not until I started looking at the file properties that I stumbled across the one factor that was different between the package and the vendor install - the "ownership" of the files. The app would only work if the owner was "admin" which would never be the case with an SMS install or any user install unless the username happened to be admin. I ended up writing a small utility in winbatch which would change the file ownership after installation and then it worked perfectly. Go figure - why would ANYONE bother to check file ownership during an app's runtime? This was in NT4 days so file permissioning was already available.

Answered 09/08/2014 by: EdT
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