App-V 5 Connection Group Manager

 

I’ve been testing a new tool developed by Howard over at HRP Consultancy called App-V 5 Connection Group Manager.  It’s very handy indeed.  There are dozens of scripts out there which do a similar job (keyword – ‘similar’), but most importantly they rely on adding each package to a machine and using Powershell CMDLets to query the package cache and generate the connection group XML file.  Considering an example where we may want to connect half a dozen apps (of varying file sizes!), this in itself may take me 20-30 minutes or more to prepare my virtual machine!

Contrast the aforementioned cumbersome approach with this tool, whereby all we have to do is simply point to the .appv file itself (stored on the file system in an unpublished state) and bang….it extracts the relevant DisplayName, PackageId and VersionId’s to add to the connection group.  What’s more is that this tool provides a GUI which enables us to order and prioritise our connected packages, specify connection group names and GUIDs whilst providing support for the more recent schema’s VersionId and isOptional attributes.

Virtualisr – FREE App-V 4.6, App-V 5 and App-V 5.1 Automated Sequencing

Virtualisr is a tool used for App-V 4.6, App-V 5 and App-V 5.1 automated sequencing/virtualisation.  It can convert scripted installs (VBS, BAT, CMD) to App-V, convert MSI to App-V and convert executables/legacy installers to App-V.  It can rapidly accelerate application migrations and save your company hundreds of man-hours and thousands of pounds.  Other virtualisation technologies can be supported upon request.

PLEASE NOTE: Virtualisr has been updated to support VirtualBox 5.x.  For older versions of VirtualBox please contact me for legacy versions of Virtualisr.

PLEASE ALSO NOTE: I generally only use Virtualisr when I have a batch of pre-configured (or default) apps that I need to quickly convert, or if I’m performing a  migration for a client.  In reality this is probably every few months since most of the time I will package ad-hoc requests.  During this period Oracle tend to update VirtualBox and as part of these updates they usually alter the command line syntax!  This may stop Virtualisr from functioning correctly.  If this is the case please contact me and I will attempt to resolve any issues as soon as possible.

Download:

Pricing:

  • FREE!  (for a limited period – licenses will be provided in batches of 10).  License key must be obtained from us first.  Contact us here

Overview:

  • App-V 4.6, App-V 5 and App-V 5.1 Automated Sequencing/VirtualisationOracle VirtualBox
  • Sequence on your own custom virtual machines
  • Keep your installation files local and secure
  • Utilise industry leading Oracle virtualisation software
  • Bulk import multiple applications to convert, and perform batch conversion whilst you make a brew!
  • Perform batch automated* conversions of .EXE (legacy installers), .MSI, .VBS, .BAT and .CMD to App-V 4.6 and App-V 5 formats
  • Supply command-line arguments for your installation target
  • Apply one or many transforms (MSTs) to MSI installations
  • Manually specify package names (auto-generated from imported MSI/MST name as default)
  • Perform MNT/VFS installations (App-V 4.6)
  • Manually specify PVAD, or automatically set PVAD to actual installation directory (App-V 5/MSI only)
  • Specify App-V templates, Full Load, Mount Drives etc
  • Record Problem Step Recorder screenshots to use as part of your discovery inventory
  • Output conversions to a logical folder structure
  • Compatible with Oracle VirtualBox and VMWare Workstation** virtual machines
  • License not used for failed conversions***
  • Unlimited remote support

* scripted installations can only be automatically converted if the scripts themselves are automated with no human interaction required.

** VMWare Virtual Machine needs to be hosted inside Oracle VirtualBox

*** sufficient error handling required in scripts

Missing any functionality?  Contact us here to request it.

virtualisr

Why Virtualisr:

There are products such as Autonoware ConversionBox and Flexera AdminStudio Virtualization Pack which already provide automated App-V virtualisation and do a decent job of it.  However these are costly (certainly when we’re talking about multiple application portfolios containing several hundred applications), cumbersome installations with often complex licensing agreements.  Virtualisr is a lightweight (under 500kb) executable used alongside Oracle VirtualBox and is completely free.

System Requirements:

  • 6GB Memory (minimum)
  • 2.5 GHz dual-core Intel or AMD processor
  • Powershell 2
  • Microsoft .Net 3.5
  • Oracle VirtualBox (https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads)

Setup:

The Virtualisr executable does not install anything.  The program is run directly.  It works by launching virtual machines that are hosted in Oracle VirtualBox (since VirtualBox is free).  You can also mount your VMWare virtual machines in VirtualBox in order to use Virtualisr.

Step 1 – Install Oracle VirtualBox

You can download it from this location: https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads

Step 2 – Create your Sequencing Virtual Machine base image

NOTE: If you already have VMWare virtual machines set up you can use these by importing them into Oracle VirtualBox (Just select ‘Use an existing virtual hard drive file’ and then specify the VMDK/VDI when asked to configure the hard drive).  If you already have VirtualBox virtual machines configured you can use those too.  In both cases, just ensure you have the latest Guest Additions (see below) and you can then ignore this step and step 3.

Get hold of an ISO of the Windows operating system that you want to sequence applications on.  Open Oracle VirtualBox.  Create a new Virtual Machine, specifying memory amount and hard disk configurations. Be wary that there are some large applications out there. I’ve created mine as the default 25GB.

Once you’ve created it, start the VM and point to your Windows ISO when it prompts to select a start-up disk. Follow the usual instructions to install your copy of Windows. Ensure that you give the admin account a password and don’t just leave it blank.

Once this is complete and you’re logged in to the operating system, install the latest Guest Additions (I installed 4.3.12 at the time of writing this).  You can obtain it from this location:

VirtualBox Guest Additions (choose version and downoad the .iso, for example VBoxGuestAdditions_4.3.8.iso)

and instructions are here:

https://www.virtualbox.org/manual/ch04.html#additions-windows

Reboot your VM. Configure the base image as required (service packs, windows updates etc).  Once done, disable Windows Updates, stop the Windows Defender and Windows Search services.  Disable Action Center messages. And disable User Account Control.

Create a snapshot.  I called mine ‘base’

Step 3 – Create your App-V 4.6 and App-V 5.0 snapshots

With our base snapshot running, install the App-V 4.6 sequencer with all the relevant service pack and hotfixes. Once done, create a snapshot called ‘App-V 4.6 <Service Pack/Hotfix etc>’.  For example, mine is called ‘App-V 4.6 SP3’.

Now revert back to the base snapshot. Install the App-V 5 sequencer, again with any service packs and hotfixes. You may also need to install the relevant prerequisites for the App-V 5 Sequencer. Once done create another snapshot.  I called mine ‘App-V 5.0 SP2 HF5’.

You should now be ready to sequence!  It’s pretty self explanatory (i think!), but just in case it’s not, here are a few instructions:

How it Works:

Before you start, create a folder and dump all of your installation source in there.  I created a folder on the root of C: called ‘ToConvert’.  I also organised each application into their own folder for clarity.

Step 1 – Launch Virtualisr.exe

Step 2 – Import Packages to Virtualise

Specify your license key.  You can check how many licenses you have available by clicking ‘Get Status’.

Click ‘Import Source Files’ and point to your source dump location.  In my case, as mentioned above, my source dump is C:\ToConvert.  Click Ok and all of the .MSI, .MST, .CMD, .BAT and .VBS files will populate in the DataGrid.  You can filter which file type you want to view.  From the screenshot above, you can see there are 11 columns.  They should all be self explanatory but you can hover over the header for more information.

  • Dark grey denotes a disabled cell
  • Select zero to many transforms.  If you need them to apply in a specific order I suggest you name them alphabetically (or prefix with a number) to order them as they will install in the order shown in the GUI
  • The Package Name column is editable.  By default it will give this the name of the MSI/First MST/Script provided as install source.
  • The PVAD columns are also editable
  • The MNT checkbox will (in the case of and MSI) attempt to install the MSI to the PVAD location.  Otherwise it will perform a VFS installation.
  • The O/R (Override) checkbox will attempt to get the INSTALLDIR of an MSI and set the App-V 5 PVAD to this location
  • Select the ‘AV4.6’ or ‘AV5’ check box to convert the installer to the relevant format
  • Configure Feature Block 1 with FullLoad
  • Specify the Virtual Machine to use, and select the appropriate snapshots for sequencing App-V 4.6 and App-V 5 packages.  You must also specify the login credentials for the admin user.

Step 3 – Click Virtualise!

Output:

Two folders will be created in your source dump folder called ‘Virtualisr-AV5’ and ‘Virtualisr-AV46’.  Your packages will be output to these locations, and named according to the package name you specified in the DataGrid.

A log file will also be created in the source dump folder called virtualisr.log.  This is appended to each time you run Virtualisr, and is opened at the end of each session.  It should contain installer exit codes (in case the installer fails), sequencer exit codes (in case the sequencer fails) and VBoxManage.exe exit codes (in case the VirtualBox element fails).

Virtualisr log

A HTML report will be generated called Virtualisr_Report.html.  This will contain information from the sequencing session such as success rate, time elapsed, configurations, and package success etc.  Remember that ‘green’ means it has been successfully virtualised, but this does not imply that it will work in the App-V technology.  You will need to use a compatibility toolset to find this out before passing the application through Virtualisr.

Virtualisr report

Under the hood:

When the conversion process starts, a shared folder is created on the guest virtual machine and is mapped to the source dump folder on the host (in our example this is C:\ToConvert).  This is the only location on the host that the VirtualBox session has access to.  Hence any installation source, App-V templates, log files, reports and App-V output is located here.  See the screenshot below for an example of the files required for input, and the files which are output:

Virtualisr Input Output

Finally…:

I’m aware that once you kick off the conversion process that the GUI becomes unresponsive.  However the status in the bottom left will update, the log file will update and also the datagrid cells will be highlighted red (failure)/green (success) after each application has been processed.

Multi-threading in Powershell is not trivial, and one day I may look into using the Start-Job cmdlet and timers, as referenced to here: http://www.sapien.com/blog/2012/05/16/powershell-studio-creating-responsive-forms/.  But until that day, click ‘Virtualise’ and go and make yourself a brew (or a few brews, depending upon how many apps you choose to virtualise).

Virtualisr – Purchase Licenses

Status

Please purchase Virtualisr licenses using the form below. Please note that we will notify you of your license key and conversion count upon receipt of Paypal payment.

[purchase_link id=”968″ text=”Purchase” style=”button” color=”blue”]

 

GUIDMakr – Generate a random GUID and copy to clipboard

This is some VBScript code which generates a random GUID and copies it to the clipboard.  It doesn’t copy the brackets intentionally, so that pasting the GUID can be used for multiple scenario’s such as MSI (ProductCodes and PackageCode etc, by adding the brackets manually) and App-V XML attribute values (For Package GUIDs and Version GUIDs etc, where no brackets are required).

 

ValMakr – Command Line Windows Installer Automated Validation

ValMakr Prerequisites

Visual C++ Redistributables
evalcom2.dll (installed with Orca.msi)

Introduction

ValMakr is a tool which enables us to validate Windows Installers and Windows Installer transforms from the command line. We can use it to automate part of the Quality Assurance process during the packaging of applications.

As you probably already know, Microsoft already provide a tool called Msival2.exe which can be found here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/aa370504(v=vs.85).aspx

Although a nice concept, if any organisation started using this tool they would notice some limitations:

  • You cannot specify a transform (MST) file to validate
  • You can only filter out informational messages (and not errors and warnings)
  • Although you can specify ICE messages to include, you cannot specify ICE messages to omit
  • You can not do differential validation – that is, only find validation messages introduced by transforms
  • You can not validate the summary information stream of transforms

The second point above is probably just a nice-to-have, and may not ever be used to suppress showing warnings/errors.  The third point above is a useful one, since there are a few ICE messages which my current client chooses to ignore.  So rather than specifying every single ICE message apart from the ones we omit (as we would have to with Msival2.exe), we can (more efficiently) just specify the ones to omit.

We thought the lack of ability to validate a transform mentioned in the first point – especially in the modern era where most vendor’s supply their own MSI files – was a real showstopper.  ValMakr enables us to do all of this.  And a little bit more….

For example, if we chose to validate an MSI with an MST we could either do a full validation (whereby the MSI with applied MST is validated as a whole) or a differential validation (whereby we only capture the ICE messages which have been introduced by the transform).

In my current organisation we would generally do a differential validation pointing to darice.cub (since we’re generally not interested in vendor ICE messages, but only the ones which we may introduce) and then a full validation to our own custom cub file, which has been created using CubMakr. ValMakr also checks the Summary Information Stream (SIS) of transforms too, to ensure they validate against SIS rules specified in CubMakr. The following SIS entries are checked:

PID_TITLE
PID_SUBJECT
PID_AUTHOR
PID_KEYWORDS
PID_COMMENTS
PID_TEMPLATE
PID_PAGECOUNT

Here is a list of available parameters to pass (square brackets are optional, mandatory parameters are -msi, -cub and -log):

ValMakr.exe -msi <Full Path to MSI> [-mst <Full Path to MST>] [-diff] -cub <Full Path to CUB> [-ice <Colon separated list of ICE routines>] [-noice <Colon separated list of ICE routines to omit>] [-type <e/w/i>] [-log <Full Path to LOG>]

Examples:

Full validation of MSI

Full validation of MSI, omit ICE33 and ICE03

Full validation of MSI and MST

Differential validation of MSI and MST

CubMakr – Version 2 BETA Release

Last week we released CubMakr V2, with a few new features.  You can find a quick video here.

One of the new features was simply being able to specify custom ICE references as opposed to all the ICE messages appearing as ALKANEICE01.  This was a request from Rory over at Rorymon.com.This can now be specified when you’re creating a new rule, at the very top:

ice_nameIf you’ve already created your rules you can edit each rule and change the name accordingly.  This is useful so that you can refer to specific ICE messages like you can with normal MSI validation (ICE33, ICE03 etc).  It also means you can set up a web page with references to your custom ICE messages and instructions on how they can be resolved.  Unfortunately, the HelpURL part of the ICE message no longer appears to be supported by most products so we can’t include this in the CubMakr toolset (sad face).

The second new feature in Version 2 is Advanced Scripting.  This is really interesting, as it enables advanced users to include their own custom VBScripts into the cub files.  These scripts can be used to perform custom ICE routines (which cannot be handled by CubMakr natively, such as detecting empty components) and even integrate with your own application tracking tools for real-time validation!!  The scripts can be sequenced to run before the CubMakr rules, or after the CubMakr rules.  An example of advanced scripting can be found here.

advanced_scripting

CubMakr – Advanced Scripting Example

I thought I’d give a quick example of how advanced users can utilise advanced scripting in CubMakr.

Example 1: Integrating with your Application Tracker

The first example I want to show is how we can integrate the CubMakr with your in-house tracking tool.  Some places use Sharepoint to track applications, some places use a SQL Server back-end (ok…so does Sharepoint….but I believe the preferred approach for querying Sharepoint is to use CAML and you can find a VBScript example on my blog here).

I’ll let you read the commented code to see what the script does, but basically:

  • In order to link your package to your tracker record, you’ll need a reference.  In this example I create a property in the MSI called ALKANEREF and set the value to the unique reference for my package.
  • In the script, I read the value of ALKANEREF and then query the SQL Server database to retrieve various records (vendor, application and version).
  • I then create a session property (i.e, not a property which will persist in my database) called ALKANEMANUFACTURER which we can then use as part of a CubMakr rule to validate (for example) the Manufacturer property value.

Because we want to set the ALKANEMANUFACTURER property before the CubMakr rules are run, we would obviously set this script to run before the CubMakr rules.  Here’s the script:

Example 2: Writing your own ICE routines

The second example I wanted to show you was writing your own custom ICE routines.  CubMakr is used to provide a simplified way of checking for certain entries within the windows installer tables and summary information stream.  It cannot handle more complex scenarios, such as checking for empty component, checking for duplicate registry entries etc.  For these scenarios there is now the facility to add your own custom ICE routines.  Here is an example of some custom ICE routines:

 

 

CubMakr Detection Examples

This page takes us through some quick examples of CubMakr detection examples. It includes examples using different search methods (‘equals’,’starts with’,’contains’,’regular expression’), resolving proerties, performing case-sensitive searches and using conditions.

 

Example 1:  Perform a case-sensitive search for a property name.  If property/value is missing, display a warning message.
Check:  Check that the ALLUSERS property is set to 1.

Check for ALLUSERS property

 

 

 

 

 

 

Example 2: Use the ‘contains’ comparison and flag for modification.
Check: Check the the Value column of the Registry table does not contain hard-coded paths.

registry_hardcoded

 

 

 

 

 

Example 3: Use the ‘equals’ comparison and flag for removal.
Check: Check the TNSNames.ora is not in the package (Files such as this are usually managed outside the package).

file_filename

 

 

 

 

 

Example 4: Use the ‘starts with’ comparison.
Check: Check that services use the ServiceInstall/ServiceControl tables, and not the registry.

registry_registry

 

 

 

 

 

 

Example 5: Use a case-sensitive regular expressions to check for the presence of multiple values.
Check: Use a regular expression to ensure that the COMPANYNAME property is one of our supported clients.

property_companyname

 

 

 

 

 

 

tipTip:  Use the following regular expression examples to construct your own searches.

 

Starts with: ^searchstringEnds with: searchstring$

Contains: searchstring

Equals: ^searchstring$

 

Example 6: Use the ‘Resolve properties’ setting to resolve a property value.
Check: Check that the Summary Information Stream Title value is the same as the ProductName property value.

sis_title

 

 

 

 

Example 7: Use a condition for the validation rule.
Check: Check that a launch condition is set.  Add a condition specifying that this rule is only valid when validating packages targeted at Windows 7 platforms.

launchcondition_condition