Softwarefilter: Free Citrix Windows based style solution for running a legacy program?
October 2, 2009 5:00 PM   Subscribe

Help me find a temporary stopgap for legacy software?

Long version: I've been tasked with upgrading our base computer image at my new job (XP Pro 32bit SP3). The new image works fine for 99% of my user base however, one department has an "old" (circa 1999) vb6 application with:

Custom DLL's
An installer that does not work inside of XP SP2+3

The application was built in the 95/98 era and was hacked into place on the former image (XP Pro SP2) by the tech I replaced (OT: He left under good circumstances, helluva tech but unfortunately he is not available as a resource to me).

I was able to get the software running initially with use of process mon and alot of blurry eye work. Unfortunately a good portion of the functions inside are not working due to the installer failing to register files properly and XP saying "eff" to various registry writes. I finally hit a brick wall today and am unable to progress any further.

The application itself is SQL based. I've already sent a request to our dev team for a new interface. This however is going to take time on a project that is already behind (new guy rescue?). And for the curious, I was dropped into this as a stopgap with minimal information. No bashing me for lack of preparation please. I've been at this company for less than 2 months and am still discovering legacy apps that no one in IT seems to remember/know about on a daily basis.

Short version:
I am looking for some free Windows based software I can load on a couple of the old boxes that would let people launch the program ala Citrix style. My Google-Fu is failing me and I haven't been able to find anything that fit the bill. I am unable to install the legacy app so I
need something that can be installed in place preferably.

Barring this, I am crazily thinking about setting up a couple of the old working boxes and using AutoHotkey + RDP + Concurrent terminal services patch to fill the gap until the new interface can be coded.

As always, any input from the collective mind is very much appreciated.
posted by unvivid to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Virtualize! Get a copy of VMware ESX or MS Hyper-V and simply move the whole machine image into a VM. Done.
posted by GuyZero at 5:17 PM on October 2, 2009

VMWare Player is free; but you will need a legal copy of Windows XP/98 for each machine. VirtualBox (atleast on my machine) doesn't work well on Wireless. If it works under SP2 -- it REALLY should work under SP3.
posted by SirStan at 5:43 PM on October 2, 2009

It's a longshot, but if the app happens to work under wine, you could virtualize a linux install with it without the M$ licensing fees.

Probably doomed to fail, but hey, it'll take 10 minutes to find out if you have a linux box around.
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:31 PM on October 2, 2009

This sounds like a perfect match for application virtualization, but I don't know of any decent freeware solutions for that.
posted by JaredSeth at 8:51 PM on October 2, 2009

Looking at this from another direction: Can the development guys turn over their install-maker and install spec for you to examine? That should, if nothing else, have the scripts and registry stuff you could manually install or port over to a more modern installer. IT guys are so used to looking at end product and installers -- or whatever they're handed -- it sometimes seems counterintuitive to just say "give me the pieces and I'll put it back together" even if that would solve their problems.

Maybe try that?
posted by majick at 7:06 AM on October 3, 2009

Any reason you can't manually register the DLL files that are failing inside the application? Rather than rely on some dodgy .reg file?

If your previous guy got it wo work with a .local file for isolation and thats no longer working, you could try using a manifest for isolation which can include DLL registration information in a .manifest file. If you use Installshield/Wise for app packaging click here to see how to create a .manifest.

Have you tried some application compatability settings to see if they help?

Other than that, virtualise.
posted by Admira at 2:12 AM on October 5, 2009

I was able to get the application working with some tweaking:

The old installer was definitely a problem.

I extracted the included Cab used the setup file .fsf to determine where the files were installing to and how the system was registering them. I used Advanced Installer to build an MSI that registered the DLL's. The app installed fine at that point but I still had various objects crashing out the program. I pulled out my process mon research and found out that the app was trying to access the C: drive for temp storage. Added that file to the installer.

At this point I still had several objects that were crashing out the app. I had previously tried compatibility mode but not in conjunction with the temp file in C: -- I Set app compatibility to 95 and it's working. Thanks for all the advice from everyone. I may have not used virtualization for the fix but I dabbled a bit and I am considering it for some other implementations I will be doing in the future.
posted by unvivid at 10:45 AM on October 6, 2009

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