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AppDeploy > Articles > ManageFusion 2004

ManageFusion is an Altiris user conference held last week in Orlando, Florida (October 3-6). Last year saw about 350 attendees, this year attendance was up to approximately 500. Topics covered naturally revolve largely around products provided by Altiris and its partners, but most all of the sessions focus more on the solutions they address, which generally made for much better presentations.

I attended the Computing Edge SMS User’s conference a few years back (SMS User Conference 2000), and it had quite a nice turn out. Later, Altiris acquired Computing Edge and continued the conference (SMS/Win2k User Conference 2001). Now the Microsoft Management summit, attendees number in the thousands (Notes From the Microsoft Management Summit 2003). Altiris still takes part, but the conference has been taken over by Microsoft. ManageFusion is a conference that aims to provide its customers product information and best practices more akin to the early days of the Computing Edge conference.

Last year I took part in a panel discussion session at ManageFusion, and this year I was pleased to accept an invitation to attend simply to meet with some key people and get a better understanding of what Altiris (and Wise) have available today- and more interestingly, what they have planned for the near-future. I attended several sessions and had a chance to sit down and discuss some of the new technologies and product directions with product managers.

The Keynote address started with a long list of advancements Altiris had made since last year's ManageFusion event, Dwain Kinghorn (Altiris CTO) discussed their list of upcoming releases:

  • Handheld Management Suite
  • Macintosh SW Delivery
  • Patch for Windows 6.1
  • Multicasting for SW Delivery
  • SW Delivery Sequencing
  • Wise Package Studio
  • Application Management
  • Carbon Copy
  • Recovery Solution – Load balancer
  • Network device provisioning
  • Network device connectivity
  • Unix and Linux Monitor
  • Monitor for Altiris Servers
  • Monitor for SQL Server
  • Application Virtualization
  • SMS Connector
  • Asset Control and Contract

The Altiris Keynote was filled with humorous videos that made the presentation very entertaining. The delivery was a funny video making light of a scenario the audience could identify with (software compliance, migration, software delivery) and then illustrating how Altiris provides solutions to tackle the problem.

It was announced that a major goal of Altiris for 2005 is to provide workflow and service request to tie actions performed by their many tools. While Altiris has many solutions and integration is improving, there is still some disconnect between them. Addressing this, it the workflow interface will perform a logical hand-off between the different solutions as appropriate based upon the task at hand.

Even if you have not been paying attention, it is hard not to take some notice of the many acquisitions that Altiris has been engaged in over the last few years. One of the interesting new technologies discussed at ManageFusion involves a technology that came from an unpublicized acquisition- a company named FS Logic. The tool is "Altiris Protect". It is used to configure use of an entire system on a per user basis. It can configure if any changes are kept or not, so that anything the user does during a session may be easily discarded. Such information may also be archived (this allows you to save your changes/data to a designated area). Finally, you can also choose to have session information persist and not be removed at all.

Right now Protect is locally installed and managed, and does not integrate into other Altiris solutions. However, according to James Strayer (Altiris Product Management) version 2.0 will provide centralized support at the server.

Expanding upon the Altiris Protect model, a similar (and rather exciting) new technology was introduced in a session protected by a NDA. It is a new technology provides a virtualization of applications named Fortress. An early adopter program (pre-beta) is to start in January with a target release date of April (which will naturally depend upon the feedback from the EAP). This very cool new way of doing business could very well replace the repackaging process for some organizations. Those present at the session constantly asked questions which hindered the presentation, but showed the concern/interest in this new technology. I was asked not to discuss the specifics of Fortress, but will meet with Altiris again when it is ready for general availability.

Version 5.5 of Package Studio is due out around the November timeframe. Most of the changes introduced will be based on support for handling patches. Patch testing and patch assessment will be addressed by offering the ability to natively import patches (snapshots will not be necessary) into the Package Studio application database for conflict analysis. Other integration areas will include the ability to perform preflight deployment testing of patches and to test patches using its Test Expert tool.

I had a chance to sit down with Rich Bentley (Segment Manager - Packaging) to discuss this upcoming release and I also wanted to be sure to ask his opinion how things were going since the acquisition of Wise by Altiris. He said he felt it was going very well and that, if Wise were to be acquired, he could not think of a better company to have done so.

One concern I (and many other users I have spoken with) had was what might become of Wise Support. Wise support had always been excellent with very knowledgeable and helpful people available with quick answers to hard questions. Alternatively, for Altiris this was easily one of the company’s weakest areas. It was bad enough that Altiris admitted to the problem and attacked the it more than once, promising improvement each time. It’s been a difficult road, but it sounds like the problem has finally been sufficiently addressed.

Formerly responsible for the outstanding support at Wise, Mike Smed was handed the role of attacking “the support issue” for Altiris. Customer feedback ratings were at a low, at a one out of four average feedback rating. The problem was addressed by sifting through thousands of resumes to build a support team. This was narrowed down to 150 potential candidates and finally, 50 of the best were hired to make up a bulk of the new support team. Today Altiris enjoys excellent survey feedback results. And while the Wise team is still fully intact with its own support staff, its processes have been updated to fit into the overall Altiris support processes.

Altiris has had its own repackaging technology for some time now known as RapidInstall. While even before the acquisition by Altiris, Package Studio was pushed as the solution through a close partnership with Wise, RapidInstall still remains part of the Altiris offerings today. This will eventually be replaced by Wise Package Studio technology. Right now Client Management Suite (CMS) level 2 contains Package Studio Professional, and it is planned that around November 2004 CMS level 1 will include InstallTailor (now available free) and the WScript Editor (not as a repackaging tool, but as one for creating administrative scripts) in the near future.

I was told that we can expect Package Studio to incorporate its database information with those customers that run CMS to avoid a duplication of application information and databases. And (of benefit to all) Package Studio will migrate to a web-based interface, which is a feature Wise had long planned to implement.

ManageFusion was a very good time, with lots of interesting sessions on best practices, use of the Altiris products and success stories by customers who stood up to share how they addressed their problems with these tools. If you are an Altiris customer, I'd highly recommend attending this event. I was even told that ManageFusion may evolve into more than a user conference with more generalized discussions on desktop and server management.

- Bob Kelly 10.12.04

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AppDeploy: Articles: MSI Custom Actions w/Package Studio and KiXtart


MSI Custom Actions 
with Wise Package Studio 
and the KiXscripts Editor

Many organizations utilize KiXtart scripts, and scripted or EXE compiled "wrappers" for their deployment operations. However, by using the facilities provided right within Windows Installer itself, you may accomplish everything from dropping a file footprint for inventory purposes, to using the existence of a file as a condition of installation. To take this even further, custom actions provide a means to kick off a customized script within the MSI installation process, even a full-blown scripted installation.

A Windows Installer custom action is a user-defined process executed by Windows Installer during execution of a Windows Installer setup (MSI). It may be a DLL call, VBscript, or any Executable file. This paper describes the steps that may be taken in order to generate an MSI package using Wise Package Studio that spawns a scripted installation using the familiar KiXtart scripting language. This can be valuable in environments that rely on Group Policy as their sole means of deployment (only MSI packages may be deployed in such an environment). Additionally, KiXtart is a scripting language that many systems administrators are familiar with. In this example we will use the Java Runtime Environment setup as the custom action to install. However, the procedure for any scripted installation or change would be similar.

1)    Create JRE InstallShield answer file

2)    Create EXE of KiXtart installation script

3)    Create MSI with custom action for deployment

Create Java Runtime Environment (JRE) Answer File

Legacy InstallShield setup files provide native support for the creation and use of an answer file that may be used to facilitate a silent application installation. The Java Runtime is such an installation. In this case, the answer file may be created using the following command line:

c:\> \\server\package_share\jre\jre-1_2_2_011-win.exe -a -r -f1"\\ server\package_share\jre\setup.iss"

More information on creating InstallShield answer files:

Sample setup.iss file contents:

[InstallShield Silent]
File=Response File
[File Transfer]
szDir=C:\Program Files\JavaSoft\JRE\1.2
Name=Java Runtime Environment

Create EXE of KiXtart Installation Script

Using the KiXscripts Editor, the below script looks in a predefined variable used by its EXE packaged scripts named $EXECmdLine, which contains any command line switches passed to the EXE. If it contains "uninstall" an uninstall will be performed. The script will log actions or problems in the Windows Application Log. Upon installation, a shortcut is removed and the uninstall displayname value is cleared (to keep from having double entries in the Add/Remove Programs applet. Additionally, Sun has provided special switches to optionally specify the inclusion of Internet Explorer and Netscape plug-ins: to account for this the script checks for the browsers and the appropriate switches are specified. This script uses a UNC path to run the unattended installation from the network; you may also choose to include the installation files in the MSI package itself so that the installation does not need to go over the network.

Sample KiXtart Installation Script for JRE:

Next, using the KiXscripts Editor, create an EXE package using the "EXE Package Maker" feature. If KiX32.exe is not included on your target workstations, accept the default and include KiX32.exe within the executable package.

The KiXscripts Editor is available at http://www.kixscripts.com 

Figure 1: KiXscripts Editor EXE Package Maker Dialog (click for full view)

Note that the creation of EXE files from scripts within the KiXscripts Editor is a registered feature that is disabled in the demo version. Optionally, you may specify KiX32.exe as the executable and include the script within your package to be used as a command line parameter in your custom action. You may also specify CMD.EXE as the custom action executable and pass, "/c <path>KiX32.exe <path>jre_ca.kix" as a command line parameter. There are many possibilities, but a compiled executable is the easiest to implement.

Not familiar with KiXtart? KiXtart is a very powerful and easy to learn scripting language often used as a logon script processor. In most environments, it requires only a single executable to execute scripts with a wide range of functionality. A book on the KiXtart Scripting language is available at http://www.kixtartbook.com 

Create MSI with custom action for deployment Using Wise Package Studio
  1. Launch Windows Installer Editor
  2. Press OK to Accept default from New Installation File dialog to create a new WSI project file with the "Windows Application" template. If this dialog does not present itself when launched, choose "New" under the "File" menu on the toolbar.
  3. Choose "Product Details" on the left pane and in the right pane enter a name for the product. In this case "Java Runtime Environment" and other details as desired. Although inconsequential to the actual execution of this MSI, a Default Directory should be specified. Click the "Change" button and accept "Program Files" as a default directory. 
  4. Choose "Add/Remove Programs" from the left pane and in the right pane check the options for "Hide modify button" and "Hide repair button". Because this is a scripted installation, and not an MSI installation, these options will not be available. You may explain this using the "Comments" field as a message to users that may be looking for this functionality. 
  5. Click the "MSI Script" at the bottom of the display to switch to the MSI Script view. 
  6. Select the "Execute Immediate" tab at the bottom of the "Installation Sequence" frame.
  7. Scroll to the bottom of the script and click once to select the line just below the "InstallFinalize" Standard Action. 
  8. From the action list on the left, double-click "Execute Program From Installation" 
  9. In the dialog that appears, enter a name for the custom action (such as "InstallScript") and use the browse button to locate your EXE packaged KiXtart script. To ease future modifications to your MSI package, specify a resilient path for this file, such as a UNC path or consistently mapped drive letter. 
  10. Select the "Properties" tab and change the default "Processing" selection to read, "Synchronous, Ignore exit code" and press "OK" to finalize the change. When you do so, the executable will be added to the packages resources. Along with several standard files use for the installation process itself, your script file may be seen in the "Installation Expert" view by selecting "Resources" on the left pane. 
  11. As it is now, the script would run each time the MSI were triggered, even during uninstall. To modify this behavior, add a condition for this action by selecting the "Execute Program From Installation (InstallScript)" line and double-clicking "If Statement" from the left pane. For the "If Condition" enter the following: REMOVE <> "ALL" and click "OK". Next, select the line below "Execute Program From Installation (InstallScript)" and double-click the "End Statement" item from the Actions list in the left pane.
  12. As it is now, the script will run the custom action during installation, but will not run at all when uninstalling the MSI. To take uninstall into account, you may copy and paste the three new lines we have added (the If statement, the custom action and the end statement) and paste them immediately below the existing entries so that the three statements appear twice. In the second copy double-click the first line and change the condition to read: REMOVE = "ALL" Next, double-click the "Execute Program From Installation (InstallScript1)" line and change the name of the custom action to something more descriptive (such as "UninstallScript") and in the "Command Line Arguments" field enter "uninstall". You could optionally have a second script for removing the software, but in this example we have taken advantage of the KiXscripts Editor's ability to handle command line switches and incorporated both actions in one script.

Figure 2: MSI Script View of custom action entries (click for full view)

  1. Because your MSI package must contain some file to meet Windows Installer requirements, lets include an INI file that records the installation date and time:
    - From the "Installation Expert" view, choose "INI Files" in the left pane.
    - Select the "Program Files" folder and press the "New File" button.
    -  For "INI Filename" enter "ScriptedInstalls.ini" and for "INI Settings" type "[Installed Scripts]" on the first line for a section name, and then "[ProductName]=[Date]" on the next line which are properties that will be interpreted by Windows Installer (for example, "Java Runtime Environment=4/28/2003").
    - By keeping this dynamic, you may choose to enter the same INI file entry in all your packages for an additional method of tracking package installations.

Figure 3: INI File Details Dialog

  1. Save the WSI project and give it a short, but descriptive name, such as "JRE12.WSI".
  2. Press the "Compile" button at the bottom of the display to generate an MSI file in the directory specified for the WSI file entered in the previous step.

In Add/Remove Programs you will see the Change button disabled and no specified file size. If you click on the "support information" link you will be presented with more specifics, including the comment information you may have included as shown in figure 4 below.

Figure 4: Add/Remove Programs View of a Scripted, MSI-Triggered Installation (Click for full view)


Bob Kelly
iTripoli, Inc.

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AppDeploy: Articles: Product Interviews

Home > Articles > Product Interviews


AppDeploySM asks today's leading MSI repackaging vendors 
the same six questions about their products:

  1. When people ask you what does your product do, what do you tell them?

  2. Can you provide a quick history of your product for us?

  3. What would you say is your product's strongest feature?

  4. What do you believe to be the most underrated or misunderstood feature?

  5. What do you believe makes your product stand out when compared to other products?

  6. What do you see in the future for your product?

See answers provided by:

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Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) 2003 Notes

Notes From The Microsoft Management Summit 2003

SMS Workstation Image Deployment

During the keynote presentation at the Microsoft Management Summit (Mar 18-21, 2003) in Las Vegas an upcoming feature pack was announced that will allow for the deployment of images, similar to how packages are deployed today. The SMS Feature Pack, "OS Provisioning" will provide support for the DABS (or Drizzle) distribution of images, which are then applied by rebooting into the Windows PE operating system to actually apply the image to the workstation. PowerQuest DeployCenter (Drive Image) and Symantec Ghost support is already confirmed and other vendors may be included before its release. In an effort to establish a standard for providing image configuration information (product ID, computer name, etc.), Microsoft is developing a new Image Definition File format is being worked on with other key vendors. The process will also allow for the migration of user data and settings by leveraging Microsoft's User State Migration tools. Integrated as a new folder in the SMS Management Console, the "Images" area will allow for targeted distribution and package definition file (PDF) support. Like any other package, the deployment may be configured to copy itself to client systems where the action of imaging may be triggered through its full Add/Remove Program (ARP) support. This is a very impressive capability that is sure to make a lot of people happy. 


Bob Kelly

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AppDeploy: Articles: MMS 2003 (Topaz)

  Home > Articles > SMS 2003 (Topaz) 

 SMS 2003 (codename: Topaz)

A new Mobile Client, Active Directory Integration and an all-new metering solution are among the highlights of the upcoming SMS release that users have been patiently awaiting. At the Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas (on April 30, 2002) Brady Richards (Lead Program Manager) and Bill Anderson (Lead Product Manager) provided an insightful discussion and demo covering the finalized list of enhancements and new features we can expect. Although still not scheduled to enter beta until the summer of 2002, a "preview" release was distributed to conference attendees. Below is a summary based on the conference presentation.

The Mobile Client
The new Mobile Client is designed for remote users, but more and more it is being said that this may be the preferred client for all systems, regardless of their network connectivity. It was developed completely from scratch and is based upon WindowsUpdate.com Technology using HTTP as its communication protocol.

BITS, or "Drizzle" support, is an integrated feature of Windows 2000 and XP and is a key example of why the Mobile client will only be supported for Windows 2000/XP and later systems. This capability allows client systems to download packages in the background and may optionally execute them when the download is complete. The BITS download supports checkpoint restart and is bandwidth aware.

Client installation has always been something of a pain, and this is yet another complaint addressed by SMS 2003. The client will provide a simple MSI setup for installation. The new client also brings with it a new security model, requiring no local account for operation. Another great enhancement is the Mobile Client's ability to use Active Directory to determine the closest distribution point to use. This does not move management of the client to another site, but simply allows you to avoid installing over slow links.

It was announced that the mobile client is intended to released with metering support. Ultimately, this will be dependent upon beta feedback; the release date will not be sacrificed for this feature in the mobile client. If this capability is not shipped in SMS 2003, it is promised to be made available within a few months of its release.

Active Directory Integration 
The Active Directory (AD) integration to provided is among the most anticipated enhancements that SMS 2003 is to provide. It will now allow SMS site boundaries to be defined based on AD site names. For migration purposes, or if you simply prefer, site boundaries may be defined based on both AD site boundaries and IP subnets.

AD Discovery allows for the discovery of new systems from AD machine accounts, AD User Discovery allows for discovery of Users and their AD containers, and AD Heartbeat Discovery provides discovery of AD containers for systems assigned to an SMS site. Discovery may be based on any area in Active Directory, including built-in OUs.

SMS 2003 can display advertisements in the Win2k (and later) Add/Remove Programs wizard. This is a selectable option via Package Program Properties. Now, SMS Advertisements will appear the same as group policy advertisements.

For simple packages, a PDF is not required (but is still supported). SMS 2003 can create "package from definition" using MSI directly, so all MSI packages are effectively SMS packages.

Inventory Enhancements 
Many new software inventory options are introduced with SMS 2003. A new WMI provider to inventory Add/Remove Program (ARP) installed program keys will be included, as will another new WMI provider to inventory MSI component status. These providers will also be available via the SMS Value Pack (expected to release to the web this summer) so these features can be exploited using SMS 2.0. Also among the inventory enhancements provided is an effective reduction of inventory by way of providing an ability to use wildcards. This allows you to limit what is collected (all EXEs in the windows directory, all DLLs that start with…)

SMS 2003 will provide an extensible web-based reporting tool built on the currently available add-in at Microsoft.com for SMS 2.0. It provides a set of automatically maintained high performance SQL views (the view schema is now both documented and supported.) This replaces the Crystal Reports implementation and also will also provide internationalized versions, integrated security and a more extensibility (easy to plug in additional reports).

SMS Metering 
Metering has been completely rewritten and is designed to be both more scalable and easier to implement. It will be integrated into the SMS console and database. SMS 2003 will provide "offline metering" to determine usage reporting and denial by time of day and/or security group. Note that the enforcement of license limits (online metering) will not be supported.

Rules are set at each site, and with a resource kit tool can be easily cloned to other sites. Metering data is "transaction" in nature and can therefore generate a large amount of data. To help determine how much data, a spreadsheet to calculate these numbers will be provided. All data has traditionally moved up the hierarchy, so it is important to plan for this. Data can be set to not move up the hierarchy (you can still generate reports reading data from remote sites.) For those that have implemented the existing SMS 2.0 implementation, be aware that metering rules and data will not be migrated to SMS 2003.

No More Logon Points 
With SMS 2003, there will no longer be Logon Points. SMSMAN currently requires logon points (it is used to install the SMS client bootstrap, compare client IP subnet data with site boundaries and to locate its CAP for assigned sites.) SLP allows CAPs to be used directly, eliminating the need for logon points.

Security Enhancements 
SMS 2003 provides a new Advanced Security Mode. Only the local system account needs to be utilized, greatly reducing the number of security accounts needed. Domain Admin access is no longer required. SMS 2003 also provides Security Rights Delegation. And finally, like group policy software distribution, SMS 2003 now features the ability to trigger MSI elevated installations for users with insufficient permissions in their own context.

Improved Replication 
Delta replication will only replicate updates as opposed to SMS 2.0, which replicated the entire updated package. This improved replication implementation also provides an automatic self-healing of downstream sites to fix these locations if they become corrupt or are otherwise removed.

Remote Control 
Remote control will be available for both standard and mobile clients. It integrates with XP Remote Assistance, which is built into XP and .NET server. The existing Remote Tools feature in SMS 2.0 is still provided across all supported platforms, including XP clients if desired.

The Upgrade Notes 
We are told the upgrade process will be very similar to installing a service pack. The initial migration is designed to be very simple, after which you may turn on new features you wish in a controlled fashion. SMS Servers must now have Windows 2000 Server or above as its operating system. Support has been dropped for NetWare and Windows 95, but SMS 2003 can work with an SMS 2.0 child site (including secondary sites) to continue this support where it is required. All SMS 2003 clients will require Internet Explorer 5.0 or above. For those still on SMS 1.2, there is no direct upgrade path offered, so get to work now!

Bob Kelly

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