7 Replies Latest reply on May 25, 2018 9:49 AM by carlos

    Software Packaging

    JMello Apprentice

      What do you use for repackaging software? We have a lot of smaller applications that are undocumented or have complex configurations that are very difficult to create silent installs if at all. I have tried the new InstallEase with no luck. Does anyone have any recommendations on the best way to address these issues.


      Thanks in advance.

        • 1. Re: Software Packaging
          phoffmann SupportEmployee

          Not a piece of "specific software" but a useful lesson I've learned ... don't "skimp" on professional repackaging people.


          I've had the mindset of a "how hard can it be..."-type for quite a while, until a certain customer visit where I saw some horrific MSI packages. One particular "fun" one stands out to this day. If I remember correctly it was...


          • at the top layer -- An MSI using switches that aren't MSI switches
            • ... wrapping an EXE using some undocumented switchse ...
              • Wrapped around an MSI ...
                • Wrapped around yet another (undocumented EXE).


          ... no one dared touch the package (even though it had a demonstrably high failure rate at installing) as there was no documentation on it, hadn't been for 5-10 years, and (obviously) it was a business critical app.


          Fortunately, they had a (very) competent profession packager who tore the thing apart and could turn it into a sensible package (with documentation) based on a "best guess" & various testing scenarios.


          ... after that, and a few times of finding out that MSI doesn't really behave in a logically consistent way that I expected it to ... I've learned to appreciate & respect people who do packaging full-time. (And I've learned to avoid MSI as a "a little packaging on the side" tool).


          If you're going to do "a bit of packaging on the side", my vote would be for a simple ZIP-style wrapper (to keep the file-count low), and then a wrapper script to extract the files & run the (silent) installer. That should prevent you from running ("wait - it does WHAT?") type surprises that I ran into.


          The thing that - in particular - made me suspicious and distrusting about MSI was a simple "Oh, I'll use ORCA (an old MSI editor that used to be free) to remove this one call to create a registry key ...." ... only to find out that removing that one reference somehow failed to then install an entire 40% of the files somehow. *eye roll*.


          So yeah ... MSI is not as logical as it may claim to be (shouldn't be a grand surprise considering it was invented to deploy office) ... and competent packaging can be very much serious business.


          I am *ALWAYS* very happy (and appreciative) when I run into an account that makes a point of having a competent packaging process/person(s) ... and I am much less willing to indulge a "oh, it can't be THAT hard, surely?" thought process around packaging ... there's a LOT of pitfalls .

          1 of 1 people found this helpful
          • 2. Re: Software Packaging
            karlehenry Apprentice

            This is a very good questions and something we ourselves are investigating.


            Aside from InstallEase, There is a Company called Flexera that provided a lite version of Adminstudio which is a very robust version of InstallEase to say the least.  I have not used it yet, but based on my recent boot camp, its suppose to be very good.  Unfortunately, it looks like Flexera took the page down so I contacted them and awaiting an answer on if and how we can still obtain.  I will share once I get an answer.


            Here is some information: About AdminStudio Limited Edition for LANDesk Management Suite


            Also, we have been playing with an application that is called Silent Install Builder:

            Silent Install Builder


            There is a cost to it, but it has some pretty neat features, including the ability to provide screen clicking options.


            • 3. Re: Software Packaging
              JMello Apprentice

              Thanks Hoffmann,

              That is exactly what i am running into and these application are coming from the vendor like that.


              Unfortunately we don't have the luxury of having a full time packager. We are a small shop where everyone does everything. "Other duties as assigned." Myself and a co-worker are the soul all encompassing Ivanti Suite administrators (EPM, ITAM, ITSD) along with all our other duties.


              Karle, I have briefly attempted to use the AdminStudio Limited Edition. in the past. Like v9.6 days I got busy with other things and have not had time to dive into it again. (Warning Flexera will call endlessly trying to get you to purchase their full version which is very expensive and seems to replace EPM distribution altogether.) I sill have the installer and license. I might give that a go once more.

              • 4. Re: Software Packaging
                phoffmann SupportEmployee

                Gotcha - I know the situation JMello that you're describing.


                So as a "free alternative", "not really a tool that needs to be learned" possibility, I'd point back at a wrapper script (Powershell / your preferred poison of choice, even .BAT if you need to) and a humble ZIP of "the package(s)" you need.


                That way you can decompress into a temporary location, run custom installers, prompt users (if you need to, though that's usually best avoided like the plague), etc, do searches ("where is directory X located?") / kill off running processes / and feed those things into the relevant installer command-line.


                It'll save you having to learn the intricacies of a new tool, if there isn't an easy & free (/low-cost?) packaging solution out there. I'd be careful with snapshot-based packaging tools, as there's a bunch of products that "need to run stuff after a reboot" which can always lead to wonderful surprises.


                Hope that helps a bit.

                1 of 1 people found this helpful
                • 5. Re: Software Packaging
                  JMello Apprentice

                  Hmm... You can deploy a ZIPs? or are you referring to a PS or BAT deployment package that does the extracting?

                  And yes... I agree that snapshots seem to be very dirty. hard to filter out things that are not needed/wanted.

                  • 6. Re: Software Packaging
                    phoffmann SupportEmployee

                    Here's the concept:


                    You have:

                    • "A script"-file (the wrapper)
                    • A zip (which contains all of the installer stuff).


                    Here's the basic process of what happens / is supposed to happen:

                    1. Client downloads "the script" as the main package & the zip (as an additional file).
                    2. The script starts and ...
                      1. Client extracts "the zip" into a temporary location.
                      2. The script does what it needs to for prep.
                        1. Need to locate a directory for specific stuff? Do that.
                        2. Need to locate registry paths? Do that.
                        3. Read out things into variables, as needed.
                        4. ... etc.
                      3. .. "when ready" ... run the installer (with potentially customised execution based on the data you picked up).
                    3. Send return-code back to SDCLIENT (so you can see on the Core whether things went OK).
                    4. Success.


                    Essentially, you're throwing the "do the install" bits into the script (and that could be PowerShell, VB, .BAT, Python ... "whatever" at the end of the day), and the ZIP is just there to "hold the installer guff in a single place".


                    It's a very simple & "dumbed down" approach to packaging, but it allows you to do alot of the complicated stuff (finding where "thing X is" for instance) via the power of scripting languages (which is why I'd suggest not using BAT, as it's pretty limited).


                    Does that make more sense?

                    2 of 2 people found this helpful
                    • 7. Re: Software Packaging
                      carlos Expert

                      What are you trying to do? what is your expected result?

                      Are you trying to install these applications silently? If, as you mentioned, some can't be, then there is no way around it. All installers are depended on their corresponding architecture, for example (generally speaking) msis can be installed silently exes do not. 

                      About "applications that are undocumented or have complex configurations" well, if you want to create a package or installer for it, you'll need to figure out exactly what is required for that application to work, then proceed from there. Any application has its own installer by definition, unless it's some bad developed app.

                      I use WIX Installer (Its free) but it's hard to use IMO (No UI or fancy stuff) this is more professional, it creates registries, etc. If you only need to copy and paste then a batch file should be all you need.