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AppDeploy: Reviews: Book: SMS Installer by Rod Trent

Home > Reviews > SMS Installer
 
 
SMS Installer
by Rod Trentxxx

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AppDeploy: Reviews: Book: MCSE SMS 2

Home > Reviews > Implementing and Supporting SMS 2
 
 
MCSE: Implementing & Supporting Microsoft Systems Management Server 2
by John R. Vacca

 
When you first take a look at this nice white hardcover book, you’ll think you have got a great resource in your hands. Upon closer inspection you will find you were sadly mistaken. Before the book even gets into the meat of SMS 2.0 it incorrectly lists among it minimum requirements, NT 4.0 SP3 though the actual requirement is for NT 4.0 SP4. Next you’ll flip though and be surprised to see Program Group Control for application sharing, which makes up chapter 12 of the book. If you heard that feature was no longer available in SMS 2.0, you heard correctly. But this mysterious copy of SMS still details the whole process. Then, finally, you’ll notice something is not quite right about all these screen shots in the book. And again, you’ll be right- every picture in the book depicts the old 1.2 interface and not the newly implemented MMC console snap-in.

This really isn’t any mysterious copy of SMS your reading about- it’s the beta version. While in a quick hurry to be the first on the block to get a SMS 2.0 book out (which they accomplished) they did so at the expense of accurately documenting the final product. The SMS 2.0 MCSE exam is no cakewalk, and if you use this book to help you along you’re going to be in even worse shape.

On the plus side, the book is well written, but for all the misinformation provided, and also the lack of information (discovery is covered on a single page,) it is not worth your time or money.

Bob Kelly
AppDeploy.com

Don't Buy It Now At Barnes & Nobel

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AppDeploy: Reviews: Book: Official InstallShiled Windows Installer Developers Guide

Home > Reviews > Windows Installer Developer's Guide
 
 
The Official InstallShield for Windows Installer Developer's Guide
by Bob Baker

AppDeploy.com has received numerous comments that The new Windows Installer edition of InstallShield's product is intimidating and overkill for some installations. The reality of it is that Windows Installer itself is just not simple, through many Wizards and extensive online documentation InstallShield has done an excellent job of making the complicated as close to simple as it gets. Despite this there are still actions you can perform and customization you can inject that just isn't possible to offer through another wizard. 

As you might expect the book starts out with an introduction to the Windows Installer and installation itself. Virtually every management service of Windows 2000 is covered in varying detail. These pages provide an excellent overview of the deployment and installation related technologies in Windows 2000. It includes everything from some interesting information concerning the similarities between IntelliMirror and SMS and where they overlap in functionality, to an in-depth discussion covering the design and implementation of the Windows Installer Service itself. This book does a great job of covering the topics of interest to installation and deployment in Windows 2000.

Package creation with InstallShield - Windows Installer Edition is covered in depth. The author Bob Baker is a technical trainer at InstallShield and these chapters show it. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 walk you through the creation of a sample application in phases, with plenty of detail along the way.

A section devoted to extending the functionality of the Windows Installer through use of custom actions follows next. Custom actions are the way to inject custom code so you may perform actions not built into the Windows Installer already. Some examples of this offered in the book include checking to see if a reboot is needed, performing license verification, removing an old product that used a legacy installation or to validate a serial number entered during installation.

Five chapters are devoted to advanced concepts, the first four of them go from an introduction, to some advanced details of the InstallScript language. InstallScript is similar to the "C" programming language and when compiled uses a scripting engine to interpret the InstallScript code and pass it to the processor as machine code. Creating and compiling scripts is covered, including documentation on the script editor itself with example code and instructions. It includes details covering how to access COM objects with your InstallScript code and the section ends with a departure from the InstallScript topic going into how to create and share components within the Windows Installer. 

Finally, two chapters on solving real-world problems round out this book. The issues of globalization and localization are explained with scenarios and details surrounding how to create a localized installation. How to perform updates and upgrades, along with sufficient detail into the particulars make up the final chapter of this book.

The included CD contains a full PDF copy of the book along with Adobe reader, IE5.5 and the Windows Installer Software Development Kit from Microsoft. Broken down by chapter are included examples used in the book and demos of several InstallShield products are present as well; DemoShield, InstallShield Express, InstallShield for Windows Installer, InstallShield Java Edition, InstallShield Professional Standard Edition, InstallShield Tuner and PackageForTheWeb.

The Official InstallShield for Windows Installer Developer's Guide provides insight, tips and useful examples to get you familiar with InstallShield - Windows Installer Edition, and the Windows Installer itself.

Buy it now at Barnes & Noble

Bob Kelly
AppDeploy.com

 
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AppDeploy: Reviews: Software: Application Integration Suite v2.0

Home > Reviews > Application Installation Suite 2.0 
Application Integration Suite 2.0
 
Note: As of version 3.0 this product is now known as Wise Package Studio

Wise Package Studio at AppDeploy.com 

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Overview: Application Integration Suite allows for the repackaging of applications into Windows Installer (MSI) packages and features a conflict checker to identify and resolve conflicts between packages prior to deployment.
Cost: Call for pricing (800) 554-8565
Operating System: Windows 9x, NT4, Windows 2000 and ME
System Requirements: Pentium II 233 or higher (350mhz+ recommended), 64mb RAM (128 recommended), 65mb HD space on boot drive, 120mb on installation drive. SVGA 800x600 (1024x768 recommended). WindowsŽ 2000, 98, 95, NT 4.0, Me (Millennium Edition), or greater. Internet Explorer 4.01 Service Pack 2, or higher. Windows Installer-based installations require the Windows Installer to be present on the destination computer.

After taking a good look at the Application Integration Suite, you will wonder why something like this did not come along sooner. Administrators are often forced to use development tools geared toward programmers in order to create a reliable customized Windows Installer package. For most administrators the goal is the creation of a relatively simple, consistent and silent application installation that can be performed remotely without breaking the other applications previously deployed. Conversely, developers have the issue of presenting various options, dialogs and work to offer a reliable, user-friendly and configurable setup for their applications. Many times these differing goals result in this installation work being done twice- the developer provides an installation routine geared to meet the needs of everyone, and it then becomes the administrator’s job to essentially strip all of this away in order to generate a simple, silent installation customized to the needs of their specific organization. Repackaging the application for deployment accomplishes this task.  To allow for the best of both worlds, Windows Installer installations are preferred by most administrators. The problem is that there are still a relatively small number of applications being shipped using Windows Installer (MSI) installations. It is becoming more and more routine for organizations wishing to take advantage of  the new MSI technology to not only repackage new applications for deployment, but migrate their old packages as well. Application Integration Suite provides an excellent solution by offering a repackaging tool that creates Windows Installer packages with an integrated conflict checking utility and a customizable process checklist. 

The suite contains two primary integrated utilities: the Package Manager and ConflictManager. The ConflictManager is available optionally in addition to the Package Manager, which itself is made up of several tools (listed below.) During installation you have the choice of installing the Package Manager locally or on a server where it may be executed over a network. Package Manager is designed not to make changes to your workstation that would cause interference with the repackaging process when installed locally. ConflictManager requires MDAC and Crystal Reports, which may adversely effect your repackaging process if installed locally- both the Package Manager and ConflictManager may be installed to a server during setup where they may be executed over the network to ensure this is not an issue. During the installation you may choose to specify an existing SQL server to connect to, or you may create a Microsoft Access database instead, for use by the ConflictManager.

A checklist is used to walk administrators through a defined set of actions that may or may not have a “run” button alongside it to launch an associated tool. This view is referred to as the project’s “Workbench”.

 

You can add or remove any steps you wish to include and an optional utility may be associated with each item. An accompanying page of information about each task is presented for each (not shown in the graphic above.) The sample project included gives you an excellent starting point to work from. You can add your own custom tools to the impressive list of those included, but you probably won’t need much more than these:

  • Windows Installer Editor [see image]

  • WiseScript Editor

  • SetupCapture Configuration

  • SetupCapture MSI

  • SetupCapture WiseScript

  • OS Snapshot

  • Application Watch – MSI

  • Application Watch – WiseScript

  • InstallTailor

  • Patch Wizard

  • Windows 2000 Verification Wizard

  • Import SMS / WiseScript

  • WinINSTALL Import Wizard

  • Distribution Wizard – MSI

  • Distribution Wizard – WiseScript

  • ConflictManager

The references here to WiseScript are for legacy packages using Wise Installer or the fully compatible SMS Installer. If this list of tools impresses you, it should. The SetupCapture Configuration tool is a wizard to help you establish the default capture settings such as if you want to capture deleted files, hardware registry entries, and deleted registry keys. This helps you establish consistency across packages in what is captured in a package for your organization. SetupCapture not only performs the task of repackaging your installation, but generates documentation which can be exported to HTML or CSV format. OS Snapshot captures your operating system so that it may be imported into the ConflictManager. InstallTailor is a tool that you may use to create transform (MST) files for your Windows Installer packages. The WinINSTALL Import Wizard will migrate any WinINSTALL package (.NAI) that you may have into a WiseScript package. It cannot import compiled executables directly; you have to convert the installation into a text file before importing. However, SMS and Wise packages may be imported directly from their compiled executables, but because the Windows Installer does differ from WiseScript actions items such as shortcut creation, graphic and billboard displays will not be translated. The Distribution Wizard can be used to facilitate the placement of packages for use on your network and is not actually used to deploy the package to target workstations. Options here include placing the package or complied executable to a network share or FTP location. 

The ConflictManager is used to detect and resolve conflicts between DLL, OCX and registry entries before applications are deployed. You may use the built-in rules for resolving common conflicts or customize them to meet your own organization’s standards. When conflicts are identified you can use the ConflictManager’s Resolve Wizard to resolve those not handled by your established rules.

 

Application Integration suite gives you an outstanding arsenal against what may have been seen as an impossible task- a way to move to a full Windows Installer library of packages for all of your current and future applications. A one hundred percent MSI package implementation offers you the ability to use the features of IntelliMirror for application deployment as well as a means for replacing missing and corrupt files at runtime. The ability to establish and easily follow a consistent process using the same rules to handle conflicts prior to deployment gives you your best chance at success in implementing Windows Installer packages in your environment today.

Discuss package creation issues with others in our package creation message forum.

Bob Kelly 
AppDeploy.com

Note: Application Integration Suite is now known as Wise Package Studio

 
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AppDeploy: Reviews: InstallShield AdminStudio 2.0

InstallShield AdminStudio 2.0


Overview: InstallShield AdminStudio 2.0 is an integrated set of tools for the creation, customization and conflict resolution of application deployment packages.
Cost: $2,899 (Upgrade From InstallShield Tuner or InstallShield Professional: $1,799)
Operating System: Windows NT4 SP3, Windows 2000/ME/98/95. IE 4.01SP2 or higher is required on NT/98/95 systems.
System Requirements: Pentium-class PC (300mhz or better recommended), 64mb RAM (128 recommended), SVGA display set to at least 800x600 with "small fonts" selected. For CD Installation 400mb is required before installation, 200mb after installation is complete. For Web download, 600mb is required before installation and 400mb after. If InstallShieldProfessional- Windows Installer Edition is installed, it must be removed prior to the installation of AdminStudio.

A Tool For Administrators

It is great to see tools like AdminStudio finally hitting the streets. In order for administrators to really work with the Windows Installer (customizing and configuring) they often are forced to work with tools designed for use by developers. AdminStudio is an excellent example of a solution geared toward providing administrators just what they need, with the option dig as deep as possible if the need should arise.


Main AdminStudio Screen

The tools that make up AdminStudio 2.0 are integrated in that they work well together and can share data between one another, but AdminStudio is essentially a suite of four stand-alone tools: Repackager, Author, ConflictSolver and Tuner. 

Repackager

The repackaging tool is the primary utility that most administrators responsible for deployment have worked with in one form or another, InstallShield Repackager is the tool provided in AdminStudio. Repackager works like other such tools by comparing a system before and after desired changes have been performed in order to gather the relevant elements for the installation package.



 

Repackager can be configured to scan for changes to the computer only in specified locations or even the entire registry and file system. The recommendation from InstallShield is to perform repackaging operations on a system with only the operating systems and service packs in place. Repackager can then be run over the network to further minimize contamination of the system during the repackaging process. The end result is an MSI package that can be further edited or customized with other tools in AdminStudio, Author and Tuner respectively.

Author

Previously known as InstallShield Professional - Windows Installer Edition, Author allows for the creation of setup interfaces by allowing you to create full setup routines. This may be accomplished by importing a repackaged setup, using the provided wizards or by editing a blank project from scratch. As part of the repackaging process this is the tool used to clean, customize and otherwise manipulate the raw MSI created by Repackager. The design is very straightforward and easy to understand. Descriptive text and links to help on everything is very well integrated and provides you with exactly the level of detail you need while creating your setup.


Definitely worth mentioning are a few key options available in Author...

  • Enforce Setup Best Practices - With a checkbox (not activated by default) Author will have the Setup Best Practices wizard provide guidance and enforce best practices.
  • View List Style - The detail and organization of your setup can be displayed using the default "Admin" style that provides an administrator-focused task list, which closely resembles the structure of InstallShield Tuner. Also available is a "Developer" style, which provides a task-oriented way for creating a setup project and the "Classic" style that closely resembles the structure of previous versions of InstallShield software.
  • Always Recommend Path Variables - This option causes Author to automatically assign existing path variables to your files. For example, if you are adding a file to your setup that is stored in your Program Files folder, the <PROGRAMFILES> variable will be used instead of a hard-coded path.

ConflictSolver

ConflictSolver is AdminStudio's answer to what has become a "must have" utility for package creation and deployment shops; a tool for the detection and resolution of file and registry conflicts between packages. With this detail regarding conflicts between packages, appropriate modifications can then be made to resolve them. ConflictSolver is able to report additional information between Merge Modules and MSI packages if the Merge Modules already exist in the Conflict Database.


When conflicts are detected a resolution wizard is displayed to help you through rectifying it. You may then choose to correct the problem in the MSI itself, or create a transform (MST) file to effect the desired modifications. Conflicts that ConflictSolver can automatically resolve are in boldface. Conflicts that require manual resolution, or ones that have been resolved automatically during a previous execution of the Resolution wizard are listed in plain text . If a conflict was previously resolved, status information appears in the bottom pane of the panel.

The ConflictSolver in AdminStudio 2.0 does not yet have a the capability to import a baseline snapshot. We have been advised that this a planned feature of an upcoming release, version 2.5.

At the bottom of the panel, a URL links to a page on the InstallShield Web site, providing any additional information about the conflict that may not yet be in the help system. Unfortunately none of these were functional at the time of this review.

Tuner

Tuner allows for the creation of MST (Windows Installer Transform) files. Transform files provide a quick and easy way to customize Windows Installer packages, including limiting the features to be installed, supplying registration keys, adding custom files to installations, moving/removing installed shortcuts and setting property values. A Response File Wizard is included to help you easily create a transform based on information gather during a simulated installation.


 

Summary

AdminStudio provides an excellent way to get a handle on the repackaging of legacy installations into Windows Installer packages. InstallShield provided a good team of products in InstallShield Professional - Windows Installer Edition and InstallShield Tuner. You could make packages with all the detail and low-level manipulation you may need. This suite adds a quality repackaging tool and conflict checking to this already great combination. The ability to detect and resolve package conflicts before they hit your client workstations is an immeasurable benefit that may save you countless hours of troubleshooting and user downtime. AdminStudio's ability to create, edit, customize and detect conflicts between packages provides you with the tools you need to attack any deployment package. 

 
Bob Kelly 
AppDeploy.com

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