Friday 26 September 2008

Adobe Reader - Redirection Blues

This week I had the pleasure of working with some of the Microsoft Premier Field Engineers (PFE's)  in an effort to further understand some of the application compatibility issues that might occur when sequencing for Microsoft App-V (formerly SoftGrid).

Quickly, the topic turned to compatibility issues surrounding Folder Redirection as this appeared to pose a serious compatibility problem for Adobe.   

A quick scan of the web, raised a number of forum posting where numerous IT  personnel could not get Acrobat or Reader 9 deployed to C# debugging and "file not found" issues.

For a few samples look here:

It looks like there were some pretty drastic solution paths explored here, especially for Citrix deployments. Yikes... I am really glad that I don't have to do this stuff anymore...

Before I dive too deep into the Adobe deployment problems, let's have a little introduction to Microsoft's Folder Redirection . 

The idea of re-directing user local data folders onto the network was introduced with Windows XP and is defined as, "the automated re-routing of I/O (operations) from local standard folders to use a different, storage elsewhere on the network". Translated, this means that some standard user folders (i.e. My Pictures, My Documents) are redirected to store your files on a network server.  This greatly increases the chances that your files (and Pictures) will get backed up in the laptop being nicked or knackered.

Windows Vista uses folder re-direction on the following directories; Contacts, Desktop,  Documents, Downloads,  Favorites,  Music, Videos, Pictures, Searches,  AppData, Links, Saved Games.  

I have included a sample screen-shot of a Vista re-directory folder structure for your amusement.

If your browser has a spell checker AppData would appear with a red underline, which is appropriate as the AppData folder is one which caused us and to my great surprise, Adobe quite a lot of trouble.

Through our trouble-shooting exercise it became Adobe Reader and Acrobat 9 were attempting to write user specific data to the AppData folder. This is fine and according to the Microsoft logo application development specifications, this is OK.

So, in an enterprise environment, a user will logon to their desktop or laptop and if their IT department has done their job,  the AppData folder will be redirected to something like;  \\servername\region\department\username\AppData

And, here is the big issue. As folder re-direction takes place prior to logon- the user will not have any mapped drives. So, the fully qualified path to the final resting place on the target server for AppData will be a UNC path. 

Hint: It will be a UNC path.

As you can probably guess where I am going here; 

Adobe Acrobat 9 and Adobe Reader can not store their AppData files onto a UNC path. After a little debugging through their code, it appears that there is a failure to "read from left to right" and correctly parse the full path.

Hence, the file not found, app crashes and C# debugger errors that present themselves to users upon application start-up.

So, I did little more digging and loading Flash and version 6,7  and 8 of Adobe Reader. All of these packages use the redirected folder "AppData" in the same way - and I am sure that they will experience the same issue.

I will write more on the Adobe issues next week. And, there will be plenty to write about as it looks like there are over 400 application level conflicts between Adobe Reader 9 and Acrobat 9.


Folder Redirection has a brief mention here: 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have yet to find resolution to this problem. Any ideas? fibrewire(at)hotmail(dot)com