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App-V 5 SP2 HotFix 4 is more than a hotfix
Contributed article by Tim Mangan.

App-V 5 SP2 HotFix 4 is more than a hotfix

Here is my explanation: Someone at Microsoft has been taking lessons on how to name product releases from Citrix. There really can be no other explanation for App-V 5.0 Service Pack 2 Hotfix 4. It is full of features. I mean, why not call it release 5.1 (or 5.3)? Or maybe Service pack 3? Surely they know how to build a full installer at Microsoft, right? You mean I have to install the client, then the hotfix, and then reboot? Really???? Sorry user, we'll have to reboot you now. Sure, existing users would have to reboot if it were a service pack, but new users require too many reboots between the pre-requisites, the client, and hotfix. I can hear the screams of my pal Nicke from here without the phone, and he's in Sweden and I'm in Boston.

Because there is so much in this release, you should probably fully test before deploying. But at least there is a lot of good stuff in the hotfix which you request via web (KB 2956585). Since MDOP 2014 just came out yesterday without the changes, perhaps the dev team just missed the window to get it into the MDOP release. Anyway, when you receive the zip file, ignore the x64 in the name and unpack it from any machine, you will find an update exe for each of the clients (RDS and WD), and a full installer for the sequencer.

  1. Virtual Application Deployment Speedups. With all of the good things that the version 5 rewrite brought us with openness, it turned out a lot of that openness lead to slower deployment speeds. A few of the bigger problems were addressed in SP2, but at the time Microsoft indicated that the performance of deploying virtual apps needed more work. This is especially true in semi-persistent scenarios like VDI and RDS, where apps must be deployed and streamed possibly every time the user logs in. The dev team has worked hard on this, making improvements here and there, but especially in Shared Content Store Mode.

    These performance changes do not require server side updates (as there are none) and should not require repackaging.

    In addition to the software changes, they also provide some performance guidance; information about how certain kinds of apps can affect this performance.

  2. Ability to write files in the VFS. It was a huge step back from the old release when we lost the ability to write to files located in the VFS area. In developing 5.0, Microsoft under-estimated the creative stupidity of application developers and just assumed that they would only update files in reasonable locations. They quickly learned that we deal with a lot of strange apps, not only a bunch of apps developed in-house at enterprises 10 years ago, but also the latest releases from some major software vendors. This issue has been a blocking item for some customers that wanted to migrate to 5.0. I'm glad to see it fixed.

    Keep in mind that there are still file types that may not up written to! App-V still protects files of certain extensions, so an "autoupdate" of the vendor's exe is not supported.

    This change is both sequencer and client oriented. It adds a checkbox to the advanced tab on the sequencer. I have not checked, but it might be possible to add the new syntax to a DeploymentConfig file of an older package on the updated client.

  3. Support for executables on network shares The App-V Client now correctly supports shortcuts to executables on a network share. It now performs user impersonation when a virtual application uses resources located on a network share. Previously, the only way to get this to work was to give the client computer account permission to the share.

  4. Package Branching is back! Branching is the ability to open up an existing package, make modifications, and save it as an entirely new package rather than as an update to the existing package. While the update method is preferred when it is a replacement for everyone, branching allows for different versions of the package to be deployed in parallel. This oversight drove a few customers to buy AVE just to have a way to branch again.

  5. Package conversion enhancements. On this one, I'll admit that while I prefer to start over rather than convert, Microsoft has made a number of fixes and improvements to significantly increase the rate of successful conversions of App-V 4.* packages. The conversion rates are improved again (as they were in SP2 sequencer). The sequencer also now detects and warns against certain hard coded paths that it detects and cannot fix.

Plus the hotfix includes the mysterious Hotfix 3 which resolves the following:
  • Client crashes issue in certain situations with Config Manager (now resolved).
  • PowerShell windows that appear on taskbar momentarily during publishing refresh (now hidden).
  • Registry changes in in the DeploymentConfig file were ignored (now working).

Hotfix 3 was a web-available KB (2956985) for a short while only to disappear and become available after opening a support call with Microsoft, which you wouldn't know to do because they pulled the entire KB article.

App-V hotfixes traditionally also contain all previous hotfixes, so there is no need to apply hotfix 1 and 2 if you want to apply this hotfix.

The hotfix will require a client reboot. A quick test indicates that existing apps are working prior to reboot, but additional operations like app publishing fails until the reboot is completed.

This article is reprinted with permission, and was first posted on Tim's blog, May 1, 2014

Published Sunday, May 18, 2014 12:46 PM by David Marshall
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