We have released a new version of the Application Compatibility Toolkit 5.0. Internally we refer to it as the 5.0.2 release, although the actual version number isn't 5.0.2, it's 5.0.5428.1056. (I still haven't fully grasped all of the inputs that drive the choice of version numbers.) Whatever you decide to call it, it's our third drop, and it includes a number of changes based on popular demand by you. I wanted to dive into some of the things that we addressed in this release.
- Support for the .NET Framework 2.0. This one is a big one. When the team started working on the toolkit, there was not much penetration of the 2.0 framework. It made sense to depend on the framework that more people had installed. However, now that Windows Vista has shipped, we find that most people are running their ACT client application on Windows Vista itself. And you know what? Installing a 1.1-dependent application on Windows Vista is painful. You have to install the framework. Then, you have to install SP1. This requires a reboot. After the reboot, you have to approve elevation of a final bit of code to finish up the job. Finally, you are able to install ACT. Now, you can just install it on Windows Vista, taking a 10 minute process into a 1 minute process. When you're working in a lab environment, and want to use the tools to do some testing, this really adds up!
- Removal of MSXML 6 Dependency. Another big win. Certainly, this makes the job of the data collection packages easier, but it wasn't making your job easier. Granted, if you had already installed MSXML 6, the MSI would just numinstances++ and everything was fine. But if you didn't have it installed, we'd drop it. And, shortly after we released ACT 5.0, there was a patch for MSXML 6. So, if this was the first drop, you'd have to follow up your deployment of data collectors with an MSXML patch. We just made your job harder. We figured we should have the harder job than you, so we removed this dependency.
- Data Collection Packages Creates as MSIs. If you have worked with previous versions of ACT, you know that we created DCPs as executable files, which you then had to deploy to your desktops. Most deployment tools work best with MSIs instead of setup.exes. It's even a logo requirement. So, now we create MSIs. This was another source of tremendous feedback when I talked to customers.
- Removal of Windows Live ID (Passport) Requirement. This really wasn't much of a problem for customers that had this working. I hadn't heard much feedback that it worked but people didn't like it. But what I did hear feedback from is people for whom it didn't work. The biggest culprit was proxy servers that required authentication. Now, we don't require a Windows Live ID (Passport) login - you just go directly to the web service. Hopefully this will enable a lot more people to be able to synchronize with the ACT community (and we're still working hard to add community features!).
- Standard User Analyzer MSI Creation. For those of you who have discovered the mitigation feature of Standard User Analyzer, one of the challenges is that you create these mitigation on the local machine. I later talked about deploying the fixes that you create, but we've made it even easier to test these fixes. You see, the average tester is not going to be able to fully test all of the software involved in your organization. So, what typically happens is that some expert in using the software uses it on Windows Vista until it breaks. Then, they hand it over to somebody who can figure out what is wrong. They may be able to resolve it using a mitigation created by SUA, but they can't thoroughly prove it because they aren't the expert in using the software. Now, they can export this fix as an MSI, and then drop it on the machine the expert in the software is using, and they can test it. Much easier! (Note that this isn't probably how you want to deploy the fix, but it's great for spreading it around your lab.)
- Standard User Analyzer Mitigation Rollback. Another great one - the fixes that you add can now be easily done without having to go into Compatibility Administrator to remove them! A convenience feature, to be sure, and one that I love.
- Standard User Analyzer Wizard. I haven't played with this one as much, but here's the idea. If you just want to mitigate a solution, and not know any of the details of what's happening, this wizard will do the same analysis and investigation, but the only output is an MSI that could fix the issues. Some follow-on work is necessary to merge this with your enterprise-wide custom SDB, but it could be helpful if you need to simplify.
- Application Filtering by Domain. Another popular request. If you are deploying Windows Vista based on location, being able to filter on a particular domain may make it easier to target that particular group of people.
- Reporting for Windows Vista Service Pack 1. For those customers who are going to be testing on SP1 (whether they're not deploying any Windows Vista machines until SP1, or if they are retesting an existing deployment) we can now separate your testing results into a new SP1 reporting node. (Note that we won't have community data for this until SP1 is released.)
- Updated Documentation. We have added a number of new walkthrough topics. We have included the Standard User Analyzer documentation to the overall ACT documentation, and we've begun to add new shim documentation. The shim documentation I'm particularly proud of, because I was able to contribute to this. Fortunately, I had the assistance of ACT's fine technical writer, Liz, who could translate my ramblings into something people actually want to read (hopefully).
We're going to start the update prompts from ACM itself on November 14, 2007. If you just can't wait, then you can always download manually from here and install it right now!