Posts tagged: Back to the roots

From humble origins comes True Greatness

By Max Ranzau

 

From the Blast-from-the-Past Dept. A while back I was sorting some old CD medias and I came across one which made me pause for a bit: It was none other than one of the very first publically available versions of a RES product, the PowerMenu 2000 product. Yeah, so this was back in the late nineties, where everything sold better if you put the number 2000 after it :-) Anyway, PowerMenu 2000 was the ancient forerunner of the product of 14 years later, known today as the RES Workspace Manager. The grand purpose of this article is to show you how ahead of it’s time, PowerMenu 2000 really was. Second, here’s a chance for a trip down memory lane to visit the humble roots, of what is today in my opinion one of the most stellar enterprise management software suites on the market today.

win101My inspiration for ths article came from the well known Chain of Fools video, where the author goes through upgrading from MSDOS 5.0 all the way up to Win7. Knowing the easy upgrade methodology employed by RES from day one, I’m willing to wager the usual bottle of Danish Akvavit (known akvatiltstateside as battery acid :) that you can do the same with PowerMenu 2000 all the way up to Workspace Manager 2012 in a similar fashion. The only major hurdle to pass here is migrating from PowerFuse 7.03 to PowerFuse 2008 as you had to do a complete datastore migration. In case you’re wondering about that, read this article from the archives. Other than that it’s just upgrading one RES PowerPack or Servicepack to the next.

The PowerMenu 2000 product was launched during the 32bit Winframe/NT 4.0 TSE days, so in order to give the software a compatible fighting chance to actually work, I installed it on an x86 Windows 2003 server and it still ran without a hitch. Fun fact: Now you know the reason why the default name for the RES created folder in the user’s homedrive pre WM SR1 was “PWRMENU”. For the record this folder in current versions of WM is now called Personal Settings.

bftp-i1When installing PowerMenu 2000, it’s noteworthy that the entire ISO with presentations, docs and everything is about the same size as the MSI installer of today: Around 35 MB. Back then we still used InstallShield though. The entire thing was pretty much a next, next finish job, as it still is today:

bftp-i4During installation, we prompted for a fileshare. For those of you unfamiliar with RES history, this share was home of the original FoxPro based configuration settings database. This was the same deal up to and including PowerFuse 7.03, until we went 100% SQL back in PowerFuse 2008. Today RES Workspace Manager supports every MS SQL version from version 2000 and up including SQL Azure, Oracle, MySQL and IBM DB2.

After installation the product could launch straight into the managed desktop executable, which today still is available in Workspace Manager 2012, known here as the RES Shell. There is a still relevant article available here, which shows you how to make use of it to get your Start Menu back on Windows 8. Back in 1999 PowerMenu did not have any support for the native Explorer. This was due to the fact that many customers had up until then been using it on top of Citrix Winframe, which had no Explorer. The user shell with PowerMenu 2000 looked like this:

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During launch you’d see these two splash screens. On the left was the original PowerMenu 2000 splash screen, which back then was mandatory. Today’s Workspace Manager obviously allows you to turn it off. On the right you see the original restrictions of running trial mode on the product. Also note the old triangle RES logo – that’s what we looked like back then! :)

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At this point you’re probably wondering; okay then, what could this old WM precursor do then? What was it’s operational scope? Well, back then it actually covered several of the main areas that the Workspace Manager of today does, including configuration, performance and a bit of security. One thing that definitely wasn’t in the product then, was any kind of profile management like the User Settings of today. Managing user settings from the profile was however still a pretty new concept then as CCS had barely thought up Hybrid Profiles at that time. Let’s have a look at what the management console (known then as the Enterprise Manager) looked like:

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Granted, there wasn’t a whole lot of options back then, however the basic premise of editing a Managed Application within an application tree or list, is a solid concept that lives on today. Even the Audit log was there to begin with. If you notice the blue fields in the upper right they indicate who created and changed the current object and when.

Presuming you know your way around the current version of the Workspace Manager product, you are likely to recognize some features in PowerMenu’s managed applications, which are present in the current releases. Access Control was pretty much the same, although AD and OU’s weren’t supported as an Access Principal back then. This is probably due to the fact that Windows 2000 was barely out of the box at that time…

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In the lower left corner above, you’ll recognize the license management and enforcement, which still looks pretty much the same in WM, although it now lives on it’s own separate tab in the console. Funny thing here is that the Cost field still to this day isn’t being used for anything just yet. Of interest here as well is the PowerHours/Opening Hours feature. You will find this exact feature (with the same dialog) is still in the WM product under the properties of a managed app, below Access Control | Time Restrictions | Basic tab. Already back then RES did ODBC Datasources. Today it still works in pretty much the same way.

Now, let’s have a look at the PowerLaunch options. The term PowerLaunch is still to this day occasionally being used by yours truly and some of our other oldschoolers, when referencing as a whole things that happen during user logon in Workspace Manager:

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Specifically these are things like printer/drive mappings, drive substitutions, registry hacks, environment variables, files and folder created in the users homedrive, and external tasks were already there as well. One thing I’d like to emphasize is the registry editor. It still looks like it’s former self without many changes. Due to the lack of kernal drivers back then, we did not have the Registry Tracing feature, which came later in PowerFuse 2010.

On the same note here is the security option of lore, known as PowerSense. Today the Workspace Manager security model includes subsystems for Process security, Read-Only Blanketing, File and Folders, Removable Devices, Session, URL and layer 3 Network security. The beginnings were somewhat more humble:

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Back in PowerMenu 2000, the way that PowerSense worked, was that unauthorized processes were simply killed uppon detection, rather than preemtively blocked at the kernel layer. I believe we already started introducing the original AppGuard kernel driver somewhere in early PowerFuse series 7 in the early 00’s.

Another item of interest is a personal all-time favorite feature of mine, Access Balancing, which has been largely unmodified for 14 years:

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While it was originally designed as a login-throttle for Winframe/Terminal Servers, there is a separate article here on how to use it even today to obtain valuable statistics about user logon time. On the topic of statistics, it’s also worth mentioning that PowerMenu 2000 included already then the first pieces of Usage Tracking, known back then as PowerWatch.

thetardisThere are many interesting little tidbits and mental morsels to savor in this piece of old software. I hope however, with this little trip down memory lane, to have shown you both how far ahead of the curve RES technology was already back in 1999 and at the same time indirectly how amazingly far we have come since then. Not only has Workspace Manager evolved over the years into a fullblown enterprise class management software suite, but let’s not forget about the 5 other product lines which has rolled off the block since then: Automation Manager, IT Service Store, VDX, Hyperdrive and BDA.

I for one can’t wait to see what the next 14 years will bring!