Guest Post: Using Microsoft App-V to Virtualize and Deploy Browsium Ion
Posted by: Browsium
Posted date: April 18, 2012
This guest blog post was written by Tim Mangan, the owner of TMurgent Technologies which specializes in Microsoft App-V.
I have found that many of the companies that are interested in Browsium Ion are also using Microsoft App-V as part of a migration to Windows 7. So the question I get is, “can I use App-V to virtualize and deploy Browsium Ion”? While I have blogged about using App-V 4.6 SP1 to virtualize the older UniBrows product, I had not looked at doing so with Ion yet, but have now done so. The short answer is yes, but I’ll discuss this in this post.
Let’s start with the client portion. While much has changed under the covers about how Browsium provides a virtual browsing environment, ultimately the new version is simpler to deal with in App-V. The client portion is basically a specialized Internet Explorer plug-in (browser helper objects) with a proprietary license mechanism.
Preparing an IE plug-in to be virtualized in App-V is done using a process called “sequencing”. Sequencing plug-ins is usually easy, once you understand how to do it right. This is something we spend quite a bit time training people on in our Masters Level App-V Training Classes. The hard part isn’t the plug-in itself, but in providing way to ensure the user gets all of their plug-ins no matter how they start IE. That harder part involves creating a base IE package that consists of the shortcuts and file associations needed and using Dynamic Suite Composition (DSC) to load in the plug-ins. If you deploy the plug-ins this way you can update all of your plug-ins separately (which reduces risk and test time). But if you just want to provide a specialized shortcut to get IE to run one special application under Ion, you can skip all of that and create a single package with the Browsium Ion Client Add-on as an IE plug-in. The only difference between those options while sequencing the Browsium Ion Client Add-on is a decision on whether to publish a shortcut in the package.
The client needs a set of policies and rules to determine when to use the different rendering engines that is the Ion magic. These rules are created by the admin console, and there are at least four different ways of getting them to the client that I have identified. Which one is right for your company depends more on how you like to do things. These four ways to deploy the Ion Client Add-on via App-V and handle the rules are:
- The Ion Client Add-on is packaged without any policies/rules/settings. A central administrator runs the console to create the rules. When created, these are exported to ADM/ADMX & ADML files. These administrative templates are added to the central store, and a GPO is created (using the Group Policy Management Console) that enables each of the Ion settings captured. This GPO is applied to computers or users as appropriate. If you plan to deploy the rules this way, there is no need to update the App-V package when the rules change.
- A central administrator runs the console to create the rules and these are applied to the local registry. When using the Browsium Configuration Manager to save to local, you may select either machine or user, but you must remember to always pick the same answer when rules are updated. Once saved to the local system registry, Regedit may be used to export from the appropriate (HKLM or HKCU) Software\Browsium key. Next, the App-V package is created with the exported .reg file imported while in the sequencer monitoring mode. This places all of the settings directly in the virtual registry of the App-V package. No GPOs are required. When you want to update the rules, repeat this process and apply the reg file to an updated App-V package. Either “Active Upgrade” or “Branching” style of updating the App-V package will work.
- A central administrator runs the console to create the rules and these are saved to file, producing a BPX file. Next, the App-V package is created and, while in the sequencer monitoring mode, the exported .bpx file copied to the asset folder (the “Q:” folder created by the sequencer), and a single registry setting is added to HKLM\SOFTWARE\Browsium\Ion\Settings key named “LoadFromFileName” which is a REG_SZ containing the Q:\ path and filename.. This places all of the settings directly in a file within the App-V package. Again, no GPOs are required. When you want to update the rules, repeat this process and apply the bpx file to an updated App-V package. Either “Active Upgrade” or “Branching” style of updating the App-V package will work.
- A central administrator runs the console to create the rules and these are saves to file, producing a BPX file. This bpx file is placed on a network share that all users have read access to. Next, the App-V package is created and, while in the sequencer monitoring mode, a single registry setting is added to HKLM\SOFTWARE\Browsium\Ion\Settings key named “LoadFromFileName” which is a REG_SZ containing the share path and filename (the exported .bpx file is NOT copied to the asset folder). Again, no GPOs are required. When you want to update the rules, repeat this process and update the share with the new box file. There is no need to touch the App-V package! The disadvantage of this method is that users must always have access to the share file, so this is not appropriate for out-of-office laptop users. [Note: by using a file inside the package AND an osd script to copy the file from the share overwriting the one in the package you can get central file deployment and not touch the App-V package.]
I should note that it is also possible to add the Ion Configuration Manager to the App-V package if you want to give console access to certain users. This is not the normal case, but it works great if you need it.
Recipe Instructions to Sequence Ion Client Add-on (version 2.0 Update 2) with App-V 4.6 SP1:
- Create a new package
- Select Plug-in mode
- Point to the Ion client installer
- When asked for the primary program, browse to iexplore.exe in the Program Files\Internet Explorer folder.
- When you install the Ion Client Add-on, you should follow Microsoft best practices and change the install location to the “Q” Asset folder (although this app works OK if you use the default install location). When prompted for the license file, point to the license file you received. The Ion licensing is fully compatible with App-V and requires no special treatment.
- Make any additional registry or file changes based on your selected deployment strategy.
- Be sure to select the customize option so that you can edit the application shortcut.
- In the Application editor, you should rename the Internet Explorer application (to something like “Internet Explorer for Ion”, for example). If you are using App-V’s DSC, you will also want to remove the shortcut.
- Save off the package and deploy as desired.