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Friday, April 8, 2011

Lack of IIS Support in IS Automation Interface

In a previous blog entry I talked about how a couple of InstallScript UAC bugs went uncorrected for several years.  "Anonymous" left a comment saying "it wasn't a big deal".

So today I'd like to leave a little bread crumb for something that IS a really BIG deal.

InstallShield markets itself as having an Automation Interface and not just a big fat IDE.  That is correct and I make extensive use of it in my blending WiX with InstallShield designs.

InstallShield markets itself as having Native IIS 7 support.  That is correct and it's one of the big reasons I continue to use InstallShield.  WiX 3.5 is supposed to be up to that level but for now I've stuck with IS.

However, recently I discovered that InstallShield's automation interface has 0% coverage of the IIS functionality.  That is a huge omission as IIS changes represents a major component of the InstallShield tool.  

Now I wasn't in any of the meetings but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what probably happened.     Marketing and Engineering probably realized the need for a revamped IIS subsystem to deal with the latest versions of Windows / IIS.   They probably scoped it out and somewhere along the lines decided to drop automation support from the roadmap so they could keep their ship date and announce a new feature.

So there you go, sure they have automation and sure they have IIS but they don't have automation for IIS which in my book means they don't really have automation.  It simply is not feature complete.   This isn't the first, second or third time I noticed glaring holes in the automation interface but it's the most significant IMO.  I can kind of ( not really ) understand a property here or there missing but for an entirely new/rewritten feature to be omitted tells me that the automation interface isn't really a priority and that it's a false feature.   That it's only there for marketing purposes so that InstallTalk can blog it's usefulness.

Sure, I can "hack" around this problem as has been suggested to me  but I don't considering saving and closing the project object  then hitting it with a DTF SQL Query or  XML DOM to be "automation".  This is raw data layer access.

No doubt some at InstallShield will read this and say "he's spot on" and some will read this and say "oh Chris is off his rocker again... this is really no big deal.". 

So let's see how many years it takes for InstallShield to fix this one. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Interesting Thoughts for Today

I just came across two interesting blog posts today that I thought I would share.  The first is from The Agile Warrior:

Wherever you are working, pretend you are going to be there for ever.

This is especially important if you are a contractor.

When you act like you are going to be somewhere forever (and that it’s YOU who is going to be maintaining this software) you behave differently.

You start to write more tests.
You don’t mind creating the occasional support document.
You clean up as you go.
And you are less likely to sweep things under the rug.
You are nicer to people (you are going to be here forever after all).
And you start to care.

Making this attitude a habit isn’t just good for the soul. It’s good for the bottom line.
Contractors who don’t care don’t get asked back.
And nowhere is the world more small than your local IT community.

So start caring. Pretend you are going to be there forever and you’ll naturally act accordingly.
The second is from Joe Homs

What works equally well is to pretend you are leaving tomorrow. It’s a great exercise if you really do think you’ll be at your company for a long time and will have to maintain the software you create. If you’re leaving tomorrow, what would you fix, document, clean up, or write tests for? Who would you be nice to? We used to call this the “Hit by a bus” effect, but some people liked to use “the lottery winner” effect as the name. It really helped people get that they had to maintain their systems better and not become bottlenecks and share information.

Joe then goes on to quote Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi  with:

“Invert, always invert.”  - Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi 
Continuing, Joe says:

If you haven’t heard of Jacobi, you should check him out. Anyway, basically, all you have to do is think of the opposite of whatever position you are in. Have lots of time? Now pretend you have little. Have lots of people? What if you only had a few? Have only a little money? What if you had a lot? Stretching the constraints in your projects can really help you see new solutions. It’s helped me solve problems countless times for myself and my clients.

Fascinating thoughts if you ask me.

Monday, April 4, 2011

InstallShield Bug Backlog

I was reading through the InstallShield 2011 release notes from August 2010 when I noticed the following:

InstallScript Functions ServiceExistsService and ServiceGetServiceState No Longer Require Elevated Privileges

The InstallScript functions ServiceExistsService and ServiceGetServiceState no longer require elevated privileges. Therefore, installations can now call these functions when end users have limited privileges, such as in the Install UI sequence of a Basic MSI installation. This enhancement resolves issue IOC-000059857.

I then remebered blogging about that problem back in May of 2007. ( See: Vista UAC implications of ServiceControlManager API calls )

As I recall, this fix couldn't have been more then one or two lines of code.  Basically you just had to open the SCM API requesting less privs when you were only checking the status of a service.  I remember this because I had posted a workaround on the forums myself.

This bug was found in IS12. 

Was it fixed in IS2008?  Nope.
Was it fixed in IS2009?  Nope.
Was it fixed in IS2010?  Nope.

It was finally fixed in IS2011 which was released in August of 2010.  That's 39 months to fix a simple defect.  Surely all of those maintenance dollars from support contracts could have sped that up a tad.  Instead InstallShield continues to live up to their reputation of shipping new features but not fixing existing issues.

I'm going to be keeping that fact in my mind when I think about how long it takes WiX to ship a new release and how InstallShield now loves to throw the "Agile" word around in their marketing.