Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Vista Annoyances

I came across this article somewhat optimistically entitled "Vista Annoyances Resolved" It's worth reading because the author, Koroush Ghazi, does try to address some of the - er - quirks of the Vista experience.

The first "annoyance" he tackles is that of constantly changing folder views. This really struck a chord with me: why is it that when I open a folder full of c++ source and header files, Vista has suddenly decided to list them as music - complete with "Artist", "Genre" and "Rating" columns?

Ghazi goes on to discuss eight more annoyances, including User Account Control (for which I don't think there is a resolution), Bad Driver Support (which I don't think is the issue some would have us believe), and constant hard drive activity. The last is quite interesting. Ghazi highlights SuperFetch - the Vista "feature" that loads as much of your RAM as possible with stuff that you might need, so that it doesn't need to be fetched from your hard drive when you do need it. SuperFetch kicks in shortly after Vista boots, which unfortunately is also when you are trying to start Outlook, or whatever, and do some work. My solution to this is a simple one: never turn off your laptop. My Dell D630 now only ever sleeps.

There are problems Ghazi doesn't mention, however. As Paul Thurrott writes, "How about the weird folder/file deletion bugs where you somehow can't get the proper privileges to delete something even though you've navigated through all the required UAC prompts?" This is something I came across early on, and which has never been fixed. Still, at least people are classifying these issues now - the rest is up to Microsoft.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

User Profile Wizard 3.0 Beta 2

User Profile Wizard 3.0 Beta 2 is the first "feature complete" release of the latest version of our domain migration tool. What beta 2 adds over the first beta release is the ability to rename things. With User Profile Wizard 3.0 you are able to rename workstations, users, and - for the first time - the user profile itself.

With User Profile Wizard 2.5 you rename user accounts and workstations using a script generated by the Deployment Kit. The way this works is that the script will use a "lookup" file to match a user's existing account name to their account name in the new domain. The lookup file is simply a plain comma-delimited text file. So, for example, if a user's current account name is jsmith and their account name in the new domain is jane.smith, there would be an entry in the lookup file like this:


In exactly the same way, you can create a lookup file to change the current workstation name.

User Profile Wizard 3.0 takes the same approach. The difference is that you don't have to use scripting: renaming is built into the tool. All you have to do is tell User Profile Wizard where to look up the new user or workstation name. The way you do that is to put an entry in the .config file (click to view):

Similarly, there is a "machinelookupfile" entry in the .config file for specifying new workstation names. Note that the path to the lookup file is relative to profwiz.exe: if I'm migrating a remote machine from my workstation, "C:\Temp" is on my machine.

The other entries in the section of the .config file shown above relate to migrating machines remotely. "All" tells User Profile Wizard to try to migrate all the profiles on the remote machine. "OldDomain" tells User Profile Wizard which profiles to migrate. If you don't specify an "OldDomain" value, User Profile Wizard will look for local user account profiles, otherwise it will look for profiles of accounts in the domain you specify.

One option that customers have consistently asked for is the ability to rename the profile folder itself. This is the folder that is under C:\Documents and Settings, if you are on XP, or C:\Users if you are on Vista. Up to now User Profile Wizard has not allowed you to rename this folder. This has been quite deliberate on our part. Our aim is always to minimize disruption to the end user - not least because disruption=cost. Some lagacy applications use hard-coded paths to the user's profile, so changing the profile path can break those applications. However, there can be good reasons to change the profile folder name. One argument we have heard quite a lot, is that a Tech coming to look at a user's machine at some point in the future will be looking for the profile folder name to match the user's name - and it could be confusing if it doesn't.

User Profile Wizard 3.0 will now rename the profile folder for you if you want it to. All you have to do is set the "RenameProfileFolder" value in the .config file to "True". Just make sure you test it before you migrate everybody :-)