Friday, 30 September 2011

Virtual Platform of the Week – VMware ThinApp

This week, Ben Cook, Senior Technical Consultant, has explored how applications may function if moved to a VMware ThinApp environment. Using the Thin-App report groups included in AOK Virtualise-It, Ben has tested four of his most frequently used applications in order to highlight the types of issues that may be encountered by organisations considering the move to this virtual platform.

ChangeBASE AOK 4.1
Naturally, ChangeBASE is interested to see how its own products react to new environments.
AOK was given the AOK, for want of a better word, and the ThinApp package Ben created works well.

AOK result: Correct.

FileZilla 3.5.1
AOK also marked this as green, and Ben was able to create a fully working ThinApp package for this application.

AOK result: Correct.

Google Chrome 14
This application also got the go ahead, and the ThinApp package is fully functional.

AOK result: Correct.

Lightroom 3.3 (x64)
Bad news for those hoping to get this application working in a ThinApp environment - AOK flagged this as red, predicting that it would fail due to the detection of 64-bit files. Sure enough, when Ben tried to create a ThinApp package for Lightroom, the process failed as the .exe is 64-bit:

AOK result: Correct.

All in all, a good result for VMware ThinApp compatibility, and complete success for AOK!

Thanks for your interest in ChangeBASE’s Virtual Platform of the Week.  Don’t forget to check out next week’s post where Ben will be exploring another virtual platform, SWV by Symantec.

For more information on how AOK can get your applications working in virtual environments, fast, please visit our AOK Virtualise-It and AOK VReady-It pages.

XP to Windows 7 – watch out for Legacy and UAC!

A leading US-based telecommunications provider has engaged with ChangeBASE recently in order to assess the impact of migrating its 350,000 desktops from Windows XP to Windows 7. The organisation is looking to reduce its reliance on costly manual resource and get its applications working on the new operating system of choice as soon as possible, and that’s where AOK comes in.

Mike Russell, Solutions Engineer at ChangeBASE, conducted a POC with the organisation to demonstrate how simplicity, speed and efficiency of AOK functionality. These applications were uploaded to the AOK workbench and tested for compatibility with the following:
• Windows 7
• Windows Server 2008
• Windows 7 64-bit
• Internet Explorer 8
Reports were available within minutes with detailed information on which applications were deemed “green” and ready to proceed to UAT, which were deemed “amber” and would require some form of fixing, and which had been flagged as “red” and contained fundamental incompatibilities at program code level.

As you can see, deploying this application estate on Windows 7 would likely to have resulted in substantial difficulties for the organisation, potentially impacting business-critical functionality.
In this case, Legacy Help Files and UAC File Header Issues pose particular problems, with 36% and 24% of Apps being affected.
Custom Action Security Issues and Legacy Control Panel Applet Security Issues present further problems, with 19% and 13% of Apps being affected.
In addition to these risks, assessing this manually would have been a lengthy and costly process, which is precisely what the organisation sought to avoid.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Office and Packaging News

Office News

Learn best-practices in Outlook with this free online course of videos.

Amiproject is a very impressive-looking online viewer for MS Project files.

Packaging News

Windows 8’s MSI has barely changed.

Have you checked out the rest of Carl's Industry Newsletter this month?
For Windows 8 news, Virtualisation news and  Platform and Browser news, please follow the links.

ChangeBASE at Fusion 11

Mike Russell, Solutions Engineer at ChangeBASE, has spent the last few days in Washington Fusion 11, which brings together the greatest minds and the most respected practitioners to facilitate a total immersion experience into today’s most relevant service management topics, including Cloud computing, virtualisation and SAAS. Mike had a great time on the CDC stand and got the opportunity to chat to delegates from a wide variety of organisations about their migration projects. 

For every 10 organisations Mike spoken to, around 3 had already made the move to Windows 7, and the majority of those who hadn’t yet were considering it. AOK by ChangeBASE can of course accelerate and simplify this migration by automating the testing of applications for compatibility with the new operating system, and fixing the vast majority of amber issues that are reported.

However, the main story that came out of Mike’s time at Fusion 11 was the benefit of AOK for those already using Windows 7. Patch and update management, for example, was recognised as a major concern for many organisations, for which AOK Manage-It provides the solution. With this AOK bolt-on module you can create a database of applications, a safe test environment, to assess the impact that monthly patches will have, allowing you to remove the risk of deploying to the active environment.

A second example of how AOK goes beyond the adoption of Windows 7 was revealed in Mike’s discussion with an organisation in the nuclear science field. As it transpired, the company was on Windows 7, however this was not their only platform – in order to cater for all the applications necessary to continue vital processes, they were also on Windows 98, 2000, ME and XP!

The cost and upkeep of such an environment can only be imagined - what happens when support becomes too expensive? What if employees wanted to start making the most of mobile devices, and accessing these applications through these? What if the organisation had to virtualise to keep up with the competition?

AOK gives organisations in this situation options – by lessening risk, cost and time, migration is made more feasible. With AOK, businesses can move forward without leaving behind essential functionality.

Whether you are only just beginning to consider a migration project, have come out the other side, or are anywhere in between, AOK by ChangeBASE can help.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Windows 8 News and Rumours

Here's the next snippet of Carl's Industry newsletter, focusing on Windows 8.

An incomplete developer preview of Windows 8 and Windows Server 8 has been released at //build/ conference, 500,000 people downloaded it in the first 24 hours, and it has already begun receiving updates

There are an additional 300+ features that were not shown at the conference.
Why not check out the official Windows 8 forums?

What are your thoughts on Windows 8? What are you most looking forward to, and what are your concerns?
We'd love to hear your comments.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Internet Buzz and Virtualisation News

Here's the next snippet from Carl's industry newsletter.

Internet Buzz
Google+ is now open for anyone to join.

Virtualisation News
ThinApp is on a new version, 4.6.2, with all kinds of new improvements and extra application compatibility improvements.

Lots of new images of prebuilt VMs are available for download.

Funky 1970s Microsoft video taking a shot at VMWare.

Continuing on the retro theme, check out how far technology has come:

Operating System Update - Windows 8 Application Compatibility Preview

This week's Subject Matter Expert Update comes from Ben Nel, Technical Specialist.

Microsoft has just released the Windows and Windows Server Developer Preview Compatibility Cookbook. In the world of application compatibility, this will be one of the most important ingredients in determining if your applications will be compatible with the latest Microsoft operating system, just as Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Application Quality Cookbook and Windows Vista and Server 2008 Application Compatibility Cookbook accompanied previous releases. The purpose of these documents is to introduce us to compatibility issues that may be faced when running applications on new Microsoft operating system, and the new features and enhancements that will be available.

So, what are the highlights?
  • Operating System Version: The Client Operating System version number will be 6.2., Windows 7 being 6.1, Windows Vista 6.0, and Windows XP version 5.1. As this will be a minor version change it suggests that we won’t see the major architectural changes that were introduced with Windows Vista, making a transition from Windows 7 much easier than a transition from Windows XP. 
  • .Net Framework 4.5 is the default and .Net Framework 3.5 is optional. If you are upgrading from Windows 7, .Net Framework 3.5 will be enabled by default. If a user wants to install applications that rely on .NetFramework 3.5 or 2.0, it will trigger a request for these files from Windows Update service. 
  • Desktop apps may not be visible after launching the default web browser. By default, Internet Explorer 10 will be launched as a metro style app (full screen). You can change the behaviour by changing “Default view for links” setting in Internet Explorer. 
  • Application (Execution) Manifest (introduced since Windows 7) is used to determine the operating system the application was meant to target. By default, this will be assumed as Windows Vista.  It ensures that with future releases the applications will be handled as if running on the supported OS version. An example for this is the behaviour of PCA (Program Compatibility Assistant). For example:
  1. Windows Developer Preview: apps with the compatibility section do not get the PCA mitigation.
  2. Windows 7: apps with the compatibility section are tracked for potential compatibility issues for Windows Developer Preview changes (described in this document).
  3. Windows Vista (default): apps that fail to install properly or crash during runtime under some specific circumstances get the PCA mitigation.
  • Then there is a large section on how applications address larger storage volumes. Some new functionality that has been introduced here is:
  1. Expansion on the support for 4K disks that builds on what is available in Windows 7 SP1.
  2. New APIs to query the physical sector size.
  3. Enhanced fsutil command line utility.
  • Thin Provisioning of LUNs that provides a storage service module which can be applied to client-server storage systems, virtualisation storage and cloud storage services.
  • Windows 7 Backup and Restore functions will be deprecated. It was rarely used and will be replaced by the File History Feature.
  • Windows Desktop Manager is always on cannot be disabled by users or applications. Applications that try to programmatically disable this Desktop Composition will get a success returned, however Desktop Composition will not be disabled.  
  • Kernel mode drivers will not run if they are not signed by a trusted certificate authority and testsigning will not be permitted. This change affects all drivers for devices that support the unified extensible firmware interface and does not affect any user-mode drivers.  
  • There are also a number of new features introduced, including support for USB 3.0, new API calls for storage solutions, etc.
ChangeBASE will be keeping a close eye on new developments, so watch this space!

Monday, 26 September 2011

And the verdict is...Windows 8 is on the right track!

Last week, we invited you to join the debate on whether Windows 8 was a step in the right direction for Microsoft or doomed to fail. The masses have spoken and 62% agree with Ed Bott's assessment that, after the failure of Windows Vista and the "much-needed course correction" of Windows 7, "Windows 8 is aimed squarely in the right direction."

This praise of the new operating system, however, was accompanied last week by a stark warning from Gartner: skipping Windows 7 is a risky strategy which could result in a wide gap during which organisations will be unsupported. According to Michael A. Silver, David W. Cearley, and Stephen Kleynhans, whilst it may be tempting for organisations who have not yet made the upgrade to hold out for Windows 8, the likelihood of reaching this before running XP support runs out is slim.

With Microsoft promising that those applications supported in a Windows 7 environment will work in Windows 8, moving to this 'interim' platform remains an important step in the migration process and will ensure that the functionality of your organisation isn't compromised.

Platform and Browser News

Here's a snippet of the latest industry news from Carl Bennett, Technical Specialist at ChangeBASE.

Platform News

It is not just WindowsXP that is due to be unsupported in the near future; Office 2003, Windows Server 2003, Exchange 2003, SCCM 2003 are on their way out too.

Control multiple computers with one keyboard and mouse without a KVM with a new Microsoft tool.

Have you ever wondered where the XP default wallpaper was photographed? The story goes that the grapes normally growing in the California valley had a disease that year and grass was growing instead.

Browser News

IE 9 and 10 now get 100% on the ACID3 test because the criteria have been lowered.

A widely-reported story about Internet Explorer users being stupid was a hoax

Thursday, 22 September 2011

The World is Changing: Considerations for Browser Migration in the Enterprise

This ChangeBASE white paper - The World is Changing: Considerations for Browser Migration in the Enterprise - is essential reading for those planning a move to the latest version of the Microsoft browser, Internet Explorer 9.

The world is no longer what it used to be.

Today, our way of working is vastly different from what it used to be. As individuals, our lives, both professional and personal, are a mass of applications. We expect information to be at our fingertips, that we will be instantly gratified when we seek new knowledge online. Anything less than a real time return on our queries is fast becoming unacceptable. 

What does this mean for the enterprise? Ultimately, that there is a deepening reliance on browser-based access to the corporate application estate.

Enabling this browser-based world brings its own unique challenges, never before encountered by the enterprise. This white paper will look at the three primary factors which organisations need to consider when migrating to a new browser, and how those hurdles can be overcome. This will be discussed with specific reference to the latest browser version from Microsoft, Internet Explorer 9 (IE9), along with the benefits of deploying this new browser into the enterprise.

For more information on the upcoming release of the AOK Internet Explorer 9 plugins, please visit our website.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Test your applications for compatibility with Microsoft Remote Desktop Services

Back in June, ChangeBASE announced its new plugins for Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS).

In this webinar video, ChangeBASE's Microsoft Strategic Alliances Manager, Dawn Clifton, and Senior Consultant, Ben Cook, explain how the functionality of AOK Virtualise-It can help simplify and accelerate the move to this environment in more detail. These plugins, like others throughout the AOK suite, test applications in minutes to give the user a clear Red, Amber and Green report on which applications contain fundamental incompatibilities at a program code level, which will require remediation and which are ready to proceed directly to UAT.

More information on Microsoft RDS and AOK is available here.

Windows 8 - Join the Debate!

This week, Ed Bott and Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols are locked in battle to decide whether Windows 8 is moving in the right direction, building on the huge success of Windows 7, or "headed toward another Vista-sized fiasco". You have until Thursday 22nd September to cast your votes here. Who will you side with? 

Whatever your opinion on Windows 8, application compatibility remains a key concern. Microsoft maintains that the operating system will be backward compatible, indicating that Windows 7 ready applications are unlikely to encounter severe problems, however changes are inevitable in any product evolution. Moreover, if organisations are still stuck on XP, the substantial jump is likely to result in a complicated migration project.

Windows 8 - Application Compatibility: A Preview, a ChangeBASE Technology Briefing, offers a concise introduction to the types of compatibility issues that may be encountered, and the potential impact of Windows 8. It's essential reading for those considering reaching this platform in the future.

What are your thoughts on Windows 8?

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Flexera AdminStudio 10: Review by Andre Lokkers

Earlier this week, Andre Lokkers took the time to review Flexera AdmiStudio 10 and, in this, AOK by ChangeBASE.

Those Dutch speakers among us can access the full article here. For those who require a translation, Lokkers very rightly states that the Application Compatibility Pack uses AOK functionality which is fully integrated into Flexera AdminStudio 10. He notes that, with this functionality, 95% of "Amber" Windows 7 compatibility issues can be automatically fixed.

To avoid confusion, I thought I would take this opportunity to clarify the differences between the AOK functionality integrated into Flexera AdminStudio 10, which makes up the Application Compatibility Pack, and the full AOK suite by ChangeBASE.

As discussed in this AppDeploy thread;
  • Application Compatibility Pack is a light edition of the Full AOK tool from ChangeBASE.
  • It is limited to Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 and 64-bit reporting groups.
  • Since AdminStudio 10 SP1, reporting is integrated.
  • Application Compatibility Pack allows users to create a global assessment of all imported applications.
  • It allows the testing and fixing of one application at a time.
  • There is no upgrade path available to the full AOK product.
  • Unlimited use and reasonable pricing achieves ROI after 35-50 applications.

In comparison, the full AOK product:
  • Provides the functionality to report on all the above and also:
- Citrix XenApp, XenDesktop
- Microsoft App-V, RDS and Citrix-hosted
- VMware ThinApp
- Symantec SWV
- Office 2010 inter-compatibility
- Internet Explorer 8
- Microsoft Patch Updates
  • It also provides automated fixing for Windows 7 and the virtualisation technologies.
  • Testing and fixing can be done in bulk – you can test or fix an entire estate at the click of a button.
  • In addition, you can write your own checks and fixes to comply with your organisation’s Best Practices.
  • The full AOK product also includes AOK VReady-It, which convert native MSIs into virtual formats for deployment with App-V and SWV, with Thin-App and XenApp functionality coming soon.

As you can see, the basic difference from the point of the user is the level of functionality. If you wish to test for Windows 7/ 64-bit and Server 2008 only, for a smaller estate, you may wish to consider Admin Studio Application Compatibility Pack.

For larger projects and application estates, or if you are looking at virtualisation, Office 2010, or further reducing your Windows 7 migration risk by checking your web-based applications for browser compatibility (as IE8 is embedded into Windows 7), you should consider the full AOK product suite.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Internet Explorer 9 - Will your web apps work?

Internet Explorer 9 offers a wealth of benefits to organisations. From security to speed, it has been argued that “The arrival of Windows Internet Explorer 9 is arguably the most dramatic upgrade in the browser's illustrious 16-year history." In addition, as Greg Lambert, Chief Technology Architect, ChangeBASE suggests, "IE9 is the latest browser edition and forms a core element of the migration path to Windows 7."

However, the adoption of this latest version of the Microsoft browser and its associated benefits may pose significant compatibility issues with regard to both presentation and functionality. Left unchecked, this may hinder the user experience and in turn lead to lost revenue and damage to an organisation's reputation.

Here's the ChangeBASE website as it is intended to be displayed: 

One of the major changes in Internet Explorer 9 is the enforcement of strict rules that mandate that certain content such as cascading style sheets and external JavaScript files be sent with the correct MIME type.

The below image illustrates what happens in Internet Explorer Standards Mode when Cascading Style Sheets are delivered with an incorrect MIME type; they are completely ignored and much of the formatting is lost. This image demonstrates how the same ChangeBASE website would look if these serious rendering deficiencies were encountered.

This next image shows the result of creating an HTML element on-the-fly using a piece of JavaScript that used to be acceptable in Internet Explorer 8 and earlier, but now is illegal in Internet Explorer 9 Standards mode.

If we insert some further JavaScript code that was perfectly acceptable in Internet Explorer 8, further errors are encountered. Depending on the level of debugging and error reporting set in the options of Internet Explorer 9, this issue could fail silently with highly unpredictable results.

As you can see, organisations who move to Internet Explorer 9 without addressing the application compatibility challenge may encounter serious problems both internally and externally. From 5th October 2011, AOK Browse-It by ChangeBASE will offer new Internet Explorer 9 plug-ins to identify these problems, enabling organisations to adopt the new browser more quickly and with less risk.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

ChangeBASE announces IE9 Plug-ins for AOK Browse-It

With web application compatibility being a stumbling block for many organisations migrating to Windows 7, the  team at ChangeBASE has today announced the development of its AOK Browse-It IE9 plug-ins.

The AOK IE9 functionality comprises of fourteen individual plug-ins specifically developed to test for the potential compatibility issues that websites, intranets, extranets, online portals and web applications may encounter in IE9. Segmented into two distinct groups, IE9 presentation compatibility issues and IE9 operational compatibility issues, the plug-ins test and report on web application issues using the same methodology, accuracy and QA audit trail as with all other AOK modules and checks. Organisations can then take appropriate action against the findings to either deploy to IE9, fix as appropriate or make the web application redundant from the portfolio.

Outlined below is an overview of the plug-ins that make up the AOK IE9 Reporting Group.  

IE9 Presentation Compatibility Issues are addressed by the following;
  • MIME Handling Analysis – addressed by two plug-ins
  • Asian Font Rendering Analysis
  • Static Text Rendering Analysis
  • CSS3 Declaration Compatibility Analysis - addressed by two plug-ins 

IE9 Operational Compatibility Issues are addressed by the following:
  • HTML Syntax Analysis
  • HTML Attribute Analysis
  • HTML Property Analysis
  • IFRAME API Analysis
  • JavaScript Property Enumeration Analysis
  • JavaScript Function Analysis
  • Deprecated DOM Event Analysis
  • Popular JavaScript Framework Analysis

More information on how AOK Browse-It can make your move to the latest version of Internet Explorer faster, simpler and less costly is available here

You can also find out more about the new IE9 functionality by watching the AOK demo video, in which we demonstrate the plug-ins so you can see for yourself how they work within the AOK Workbench. 

September 13th Microsoft Patch Tuesday Application Compatibility Report

Application Compatibility Update
By: Greg Lambert

Executive Summary
With this September Microsoft Patch Tuesday update, we see again a relatively small set of updates in comparison to the lists of updates released by Microsoft in the previous months. In total there are five Microsoft Security Updates with the rating of Important. This is a minor update from Microsoft and the potential impact for the updates is likely to be moderate.

As part of the Patch Tuesday Security Update analysis performed by the ChangeBASE AOK team, we have seen very little cause for potential compatibility issues.

Given the nature of the changes and updates included in each of these patches, most systems will require a reboot to successfully implement any and all of the patches and updates released in this September Patch Tuesday release cycle.

Sample Results 1: MS11-070 Vulnerability in WINS Could Allow Elevation of Privilege
Sample Results 2: MS11-073 Vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office Could Allow Remote Code Execution

Testing Summary

Vulnerability in WINS Could Allow Elevation of Privilege (2571621)
Vulnerability in Windows Components Could Allow Remote Code Execution (2570947)
Vulnerabilities in Microsoft Excel Could Allow Remote Code Execution (2587505)
Vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office Could Allow Remote Code Execution (2587634)
Vulnerabilities in Microsoft SharePoint Could Allow Elevation of Privilege (2451858)

Sample Results 3: AOK Summary Report Sample from a small database

AOK RAG Summary

Security Update Detailed Summary

Vulnerability in WINS Could Allow Elevation of Privilege (2571621)
This security update resolves a privately reported vulnerability in the Windows Internet Name Service (WINS). The vulnerability could allow elevation of privilege if a user received a specially crafted WINS replication packet on an affected system running the WINS service. An attacker must have valid logon credentials and be able to log on locally to exploit this vulnerability.
W03a3409.dll, Wins.exe, Winsevnt.dll, Ww03a3409.dll, Wwins.exe, Wwinsevnt.dll
Important - Elevation of Privilege

Vulnerability in Windows Components Could Allow Remote Code Execution (2570947)
This security update resolves a publicly disclosed vulnerability in Microsoft Windows. The vulnerability could allow remote code execution if a user opens a legitimate rich text format file (.rtf), text file (.txt), or Word document (.doc) that is located in the same network directory as a specially crafted dynamic link library (DLL) file. An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could gain the same user rights as the local user. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights.
Important - Remote Code Execution

Vulnerabilities in Microsoft Excel Could Allow Remote Code Execution (2587505)
This security update resolves five privately reported vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office. The vulnerabilities could allow remote code execution if a user opens a specially crafted Excel file. An attacker who successfully exploited any of these vulnerabilities could gain the same user rights as the logged-on user. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights. Installing and configuring Office File Validation (OFV) to prevent the opening of suspicious files blocks the attack vectors for exploiting the vulnerabilities described in CVE-2011-1986 and CVE-2011-1987.
Important - Remote Code Execution

Vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office Could Allow Remote Code Execution (2587634)
This security update resolves two privately reported vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office. The vulnerabilities could allow remote code execution if a user opens a specially crafted Office file or if a user opens a legitimate Office file that is located in the same network directory as a specially crafted library file. An attacker who successfully exploited either of the vulnerabilities could gain the same user rights as the logged on user. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights.
Ietag.dll, Mso.dll
Important - Remote Code Execution

Vulnerabilities in Microsoft SharePoint Could Allow Elevation of Privilege (2451858)
This security update resolves five privately reported vulnerabilities and one publicly disclosed vulnerability in Microsoft SharePoint and Windows SharePoint Services. The most severe vulnerabilities could allow elevation of privilege if a user clicked on a specially crafted URL or visited a specially crafted Web site. For the most severe vulnerabilities, Internet Explorer 8 and Internet Explorer 9 users browsing to a SharePoint site in the Internet Zone are at a reduced risk because, by default, the XSS Filter in Internet Explorer 8 and Internet Explorer 9 helps to block the attacks in the Internet Zone. The XSS Filter in Internet Explorer 8 and Internet Explorer 9, however, is not enabled by default in the Intranet Zone.
Groove.exe, Groovedocumentsharetool.dll, Grooveutil.dll, Groovewebplatformservices.dll, Groovewebservices.dll
Important - Elevation of Privilege

*All results are based on an AOK Application Compatibility Lab’s test portfolio of over 1,000 applications.