I’m so excited! Today I discovered how to deploy software with Active Directory!
Disclaimer: this is NOT a manual or howto, it is just some notes from my experience.
I already knew that it was possible to install applications automatically using certain rules in AD, but it seemed quite complicated to me. I’d never touched a W2K3 before, and I don’t like to break things (even though I do it sometimes), so I kept away from the Windows servers. Today, after some months working with those machines, I got enough confidence to start looking around and find a solution. To which problem? Software deployment.
Currently, we install software from a share manually, and only some programs (like Office), are installed via AD. For new machines, we use a ghost image to install all software at once. However, software gets quickly outdated, and needs to be updated. I find really annoying to check and reinstall new versions every time. I lose my precious time and I always forget to install something. I prefer to dedicate efforts on solving infrastructure issues or experiment with new tools and projects. I really want to find a way to keep software organized, up-to-date, and synchronized. I was about to forget that one, I also want the same versions in all the offices. That’s another problem, because sometimes you update an application in the main office, but you forget about the others. It’ll be nice to have everything mirrored somehow.
I still have to think about the last issue, but I found some clues about keeping organized and up-to-date our applications. My first attempts have been quite a nightmare, with error messages in Dutch. Useless messages, like
“Application cannot be deployed because the application is not installed.” (original in Dutch)
provoke negative reactions on me and colleague, like
– “No te fot! Si lo que vull és instal·lar-ho!”
After fighting for more than 2 hours, trying all options, rebooting the computer thousands of times, we’ve given up. But then I found a book about Active Directory Infrastructure. One of those Microsoft Certification books I always hated. Today I found it very useful. After reading some pages, I could decipher what was on my screen. Yeah, I already install the administrative tools in English, but anyway, my Windows XP keeps on showing some messages in the OS language. The interesting thing is that you have basically three options to install apps:
- Force user or computer to install a program, called assign by Microsoft, so it will install automatically at boot time.
- Publish them in Active Directory, and make them available on Add or remove programs, in the control panel. I found this option very useful, because we can maintain there updated versions of all applications people can install but we don’t want to force them. In addition, I think is easy for the users to find what they want and click Install. You can add Categories and that way keep everything organized. And one app can belong to several Categories. Mola!
- Ummm… I forgot about the third way. Oh, wait, you can also install programs if people click on an file whose extension is on the GPO. Still kind of a mystery for me.
Another amazing thing is that you can set all the Windows settings you want, and remove bad applications, like MSN Messenger or Outlook Express. Cool! I don’t know if I’ll have enough patience to wait until tomorrow to try it… In fact, I’m wondering why we are not using these features we’ve paid for. I should ask someone.
Resumiendo… Microsoft guys are not so bad after all. Despite bugs and headaches, I think Active Directory is one of the things they have succeed. In fact, they use open standards like Kerberos and LDAP. I believe that helps to integrate Windows with other systems, like my lovely Debian servers.
Tomorrow, I’ll continue my research. I still have a lot to read. Mainly the best practices section, but also the troubleshooting section, where they explain how to face their useless error messages. I hope there is some kind of “real” debug via the registry.
See ya! 😉
PD: to celebrate my discovery, today I prepared “Pinya ofegada amb panses i costella de porc” (cauliflower with raisins and pig rib). Delicious! 😀