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    Profiles - a different approach

    We often have threads about profiles and how best to manage them. I reckon you could summarise it by saying that mandatory profiles work best for IT admin and roaming profiles (when they work) work best for users

    Using mandatory profiles with redirected desktop, my documents and application data gives at least some ability to save settings but you still lose anything that would be saved in the registry.

    If you have a mix of Windows 7/Vista and XP then you have more problems - settings won't roam between the v2 profile and the XP profile.

    As part of our preparation for the move to Windows 7 we (Imperial College) have been considering various ways of dealing with this and have been looking at a couple of products - Appsense and PowerFuse 2010

    A big problem with profiles is that they become huge because they contain settings for everything so even if you're logging on and only going to use Word for 5 minutes you still get the settings for every app you've ever used.

    What both of these do is decouple the user settings from the profile. An agent runs on the user machine and watches for any app starting. When it does, the settings for that app are loaded from a store and injected into the registry "just in time". As settings are written back to the registry, the agent captures and stores them.

    This works transparently across OS versions and can even work if you're logged on at multiple machines while you're still logged on (eg change the font in Notepad on machine 1 while you're logged on at machine 2. Open Notepad on machine 2 and the font change is immediately picked up)

    Appsense writes all the settings back to a SQL database, PowerFuse to a set of encrypted files on the user's home drive.

    Both packages offer far more than this (management of settings, ways to roll back settings per app, control over what users can do and so on) and both look very interesting.

    I've no idea of pricing - both companies did the "what's your budget" line rather than just saying "it costs £x per seat" so I'd guess they're expensive.

    I don't know if anyone has used either of these products but they do look interesting and it might just be a suitable approach for some people.

  2. 4 Thanks to srochford:

    Arthur (24th April 2010), GrumbleDook (23rd April 2010), Soulfish (24th April 2010), wesleyw (22nd September 2010)

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    AppSense Environment Manager looks really cool. I'll have to find out some prices, although our budget would be £0.00 at the moment.

    When using roaming profiles and software like AppSense it looks like you still have to manage folder exclusions though.

    Profile virtualisation products like this one and this one can optimise what is roamed; however exclusions may still be required and are necessary if are using standard Windows roaming profiles or less complex virtualisation solutions such as Citrix Profile Management. (Source)

    It would be great if Microsoft buys them and integrates this technology into the next version of Windows Server like they have done in the past.

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    I've got a quote for RES powerfuse that worked out to be about £26/seat - over £10k for us! Very expensive, but they both look like great additions

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    Would this work for a notebook user at home? Will be looking for the answer but if anyone knows please let me know.

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    RES PowerFuse will work for users with notebooks at home as long as you enable off-line files for the home folder (because the settings are stored on the home drive and you've got the off-line version of that). Pretty sure this wasn't mentioned by the appsense people (we're only looking at it for teaching desktops) but no reason why it shouldn't work as long as they have web access - the system works by talking to a webserver rather than SMB or other protocols which don't work nicely through firewalls)

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    Quote Originally Posted by srochford View Post
    I don't know if anyone has used either of these products but they do look interesting and it might just be a suitable approach for some people.
    We use RES Powerfuse here. Not without its problems, but it is a brilliant way to manage users. I'm still on a steep learning curve as I've only been here a couple of weeks, so don't ask me any questions on it just yet!

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    We have win7 and some xp clients and if the profiles are setup correctly they are backward compatible. Students log on here from win7 to xp and back again no problem. Not sure about vista in the equation as I do know in early days there was a problem between vista, xp and profiles but I presume that had been fixed.

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    There is also Spoon for Applications. They have 100's of applications ready to use from your browser for free right now. I can't tell the difference between them and native apps in terms of performance!

    Spoon App Library

    Spoon app virtualization technology emulates operating system features required for execution. As a result, Spoon virtual apps have essentially the same performance characteristics as native executables.

    The core of Spoon app virtualization technology is the Spoon virtual machine (VM) kernel. The Spoon kernel is a lightweight implementation of core operating system APIs, including the filesystem, registry, process, and threading subsystems, completely implemented within the user-mode space, allowing Spoon apps to be executed without any device driver installation or administrative privileges.
    Spoon Application Virtualization Technology - Spoon for Business
    Last edited by somabc; 24th September 2010 at 05:32 PM.

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