Prepare for Vista Future

 
 
By Andrew Garcia  |  Posted 2007-01-29
 
 
 

Despite all the hoopla around Microsofts Windows Vista, enterprise IT managers wont—and shouldnt—rush en masse to the new operating system. Nonetheless, eWEEK Labs advises that administrators examine tools such as FullArmors ADMX Migrator to better understand and prepare for the operating systems presence in the network.

One of Vistas great under-the-hood enhancements is dramatically improved Group Policy implementation. As we have said previously, Vistas Group Policy has many more configuration settings (more than 2,500) than Windows XP does, as well as improved language support for internationally dispersed domains and more efficient template management structures.

The Group Policy implementations in Windows 2000, 2003 and XP used ADMs, or Administrative Templates, which were written in a hard-to-learn, proprietary markup language to deliver customized settings and configurations. Vistas new ADMX-style templates, on the other hand, are written in standards-based XML, although crafting new templates from scratch remains a daunting task due to the complexity of the template format and style.

Managed via either a GUI (called the ADMX Editor) or the command line, ADMX Migrator simplifies the transition to the new format: It can convert legacy ADM templates to ADMX, allowing administrators to leverage previously homegrown Group Policy configurations in Vista while taking advantage of the size and language benefits of the new template format. Administrators also can use ADMX Migrator to create new ADMX templates without needing to learn the ins and outs of coding the new format.

ADMX Migrator runs on Vista, as well as on Windows XP with Service Pack 2 and Windows Server 2003 with SP1. This will allow administrators using older operating systems to start migrating or creating templates. Vista-based workstations will be required to test the new ADMX templates to ensure they work as expected.

Installing ADMX Migrator on Windows XP or 2003 requires an upgrade to MMC (Microsoft Management Console) 3.0, .Net Framework 2.0 and XML Core Services 4.0 SP2.

In tests, ADMX Migrators migration capabilities worked well. We simply pointed the tools file browser at a copy of an ADM template, and the tool generated the equivalent ADMX (settings) and ADML (language) templates in a temporary folder. The tool also asked whether we wanted to import it to our local template repository for immediate use in a Group Policy Object.

Click here to read Labs review of Vista.

From the ADMX Editor GUI, we could either create a brand-new template or edit one we had previously converted. We could define the appropriate registry key; spell out setting information and expository details to guide the Active Directory policy administrator; configure drop-down boxes or check boxes; and organize policy settings into sensible categories. The GUI also displayed some rudimentary information about the templates we modified, tracking version information.

We converted and created several small sample ADMX templates, all of which worked flawlessly when we exported them to a Vista workstation. To use these templates with Vistas Local Policy, we just had to copy the ADMX and ADML files to the correct location in the Policy Definitions folder in the operating system %systemroot% and then fire up the Group Policy Object Editor, where we could view and implement the settings defined in the new templates.

While ADMX Migrator is quite handy and straightforward, most administrators will not see much tangible benefit from it right now. Migrating old ADM templates to ADMX promises to provide great relief for long-standing issues surrounding bloat in the SYSVOL. (Active Directory stores a copy of every relevant template in each policy, which is automatically replicated to every domain controller in the network.) However, this benefit will not be realized any time soon because Windows 2000-, XP- and 2003-based machines must still use the old format as long as they are managed by Group Policy.

In other words, companies that do plan to start deploying Vista will need ADM templates for a long time.

ADMX Migrator can be downloaded for free from either fullarmor.com or microsoft.com.

Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at andrew_garcia@ziffdavis.com .

Vista Group Policy essentials

—Microsoft has shaken up the Group Policy enhancement market through its purchase of Desktop Standard and Winternals, but these vendors are worth a look to increase GPO functionality:

  • fullarmor.com

  • beyondtrust.com

  • netiq.com

    —A starter kit of Microsoft tools and references to help admins get going with Vistas Group Policy improvements are at www.microsoft.com/downloads.

    —For an indispensable guide to Group Policy news, tips and literature, go to gpanswers.com.

    Source: eWEEK Labs

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