Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Microsoft's Springboard series

It appears that Mark Russinovich is presenting a Springboard area on Microsoft's web site to ease Windows Vista implementation pain by providing some much-needed guidance.

He kicked things off last month with a Springboard Live! Virtual Roundtable. He assembled a panel of experts (including Mark Minasi) and three Vista early adopter clients. They spent an hour discussing topics related to adopting Windows Vista. You know me, I'm a sucker for learning what Microsoft is thinking when it comes to Vista so I dove right in.

I found the roundtable to be a good use of my time - you likely will too - very informative. They pointed to some interesting resources that might help those of you considering a Vista deployment:

  • Microsoft Assessment and Planning Accelerator (MAP) - is supposed to be an enterprise inventory, assessment and reporting tool that can assess your readiness to move to numerous Microsoft products such as Vista.
  • Windows Vista Hardware Compatibility List - is basically a comprehensive listing of PC systems and peripherals known to be compatible with Vista (very comprehensive). Despite this simple list being incompatible with Firefox, I'm sure this information will be more reliable than the failed "Vista Capable" program.
  • Windows Vista AppReadiness - another comprehensive list - but this time of legacy software applications and their Vista compatibility.
I'm not so sure about that last one though... If I hadn't heard a Microsoft talking head send me to the site, I would have been suspicious of the strange URL, complete lack of Microsoft branding and poor resolution of the logo certificates. I'm also not sure I trust what it is telling me. I took a look at Visual Basic 6 which I am having trouble packaging for BDD at the moment. The site claims it "Works with Windows Vista". It doesn't qualify that or provide any additional guidance. However, when I attempt to run the silent install, I am only greeted with the following Vista AppCompat message and am unable to proceed:

The roundtable goes on to remind us about new features of Vista SP1 such as:
  • Bitlocker can now support multiple partitions (not just the first one).
  • Improved file copying (see Vista copies files like a duck).
  • Microsoft Deployment Toolkit replacing BDD.
  • Volume Licensing has Vista and SP1 integrated in one package (recommended for new installs).
However the three clients who were Vista early adopters were a major disappointment. Despite them being friends of Microsoft that presumably got lots of support, I was expecting them to give me hope that great Vista implementations were possible - that my own failures were somehow my own fault. They tried their best. They nodded their heads at the right places and smiled while describing how great their deployments went. But if you actually listen to the things they said during their discussions, you quickly realize the reality was very different:
  • one client admitted to turning off UAC! Not something we want to do - and certainly not what I would consider a feature of a successful Vista install.
  • while talking about hardware demands of Vista, another client admitted to only deploying to new PCs. That means he is maintaining a heavily mixed environment and can hardly be considered a successful implementation of Vista (too limited for my taste).
  • although that same client claimed to have installed Vista to laptops, you quickly realize that his "traveling nurses" probably have received a stand-alone treatment without the need for features like Offline Files.
  • another client who claimed to have rolled out to the majority of his organization, admitted to have avoided laptops. They were planning to wait for SP1 before tackling those - he had Offline Files problems no doubt.
  • that same client also admitted to having to install XP virtual machines to support some older legacy apps! That's two windows licenses and double the support per PC! Hardly what I would consider a successful Vista deployment.
But these guys were smiling and nodding their heads! Are these the BEST examples Microsoft could find? Am I the only one that doesn't know what a successful deployment means anymore? I'm so depressed.


Anonymous said...

smsinst.exe in Visual Studio 6 is hard-blocked in the Windows Vista system shim database. That is why PCA is firing that message.

Gordon Martin said...

Yes, that was my point. Vista itself has clearly been told by Microsoft through the shim database that the silent installer for VS6 is not compatible. But the AppReadiness site makes no mention of this information that is clearly available and rather important for many of us.

Rather than being able to take VS6 out of the box and just distribute it because it is compatible - I instead had to develop an extremely convoluted automated install process of my own. Rather than just setting some parameters, I had to modify many registry keys and use products like Autoit to navigate through the interface.

Automating a VS6 install is not trivial! It certainly should be mentioned as a "compatibility issue".