XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC

“Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.” – Theodore Logan.

In this case it would be at the “Circle M” – strange and cool things.  I downloaded and installed XP Mode onto my Windows 7 RC 1 base image on my laptop – a Dell  Latitude D820 Core 2 Duo with 4 gigs of ram – hardware virtualization was already turned on in the bios which is needed.  XP Mode works hand in hand with Windows Virtual PC which I also needed to install.  Windows Virtual PC looks to be more of a fully integrated app than Virtual PC 2007 was.   If someone finds the UI for Windows Virtual PC let me know.  Gone is Virtual PC 2007’s UI collection of virtual pc’s.  You can launch from the vmcx file or from the Start/All Programs/Windows Virtual PC folder.

The UI around a Windows Virtual PC instance now includes USB options and Ctrl+Alt+del on the toolbar.  On the physical side in the Start/Program menu Windows Virtual PC builds shortcuts for the virtual OS instances and virtual apps for you to call on.

  When you open the Virtual Machines folder and right click on  a .vmcx file you have mouse menu option for “settings”.

I purposefully looked for and found an app that runs on XP but not on Windows 7 – a really old version of  CoolEdit – that was a “cool” wav editor program back in the day.  I verified that it wouldn’t launch on Windows 7.  I copied the install folder to the Windows XP virtual instance then copied a shortcut to the All Users folder.  This version of CoolEdit is a true headless app with no registry or installer files – it runs out of the folder – kind of like an, ahem, a Mac program.   Win 3.0 did that too.
The Shortcut showed up on the physical laptop after I put it in the All Users folder in the virtual XP OS.  I shut the virtual XP instance down then was able to launch the icon from my laptops Start menu.

After launch the app looks like a locally installed app without a border or a VirtualPC wrapper around it.  So that works – works really well.

The next thing I did was to install the App-V application virtualization client into the same virtual XP instance that CoolEdit was being launched from in stand alone mode – no management server.  I then sequenced a fun app called BlingClock Timer.  A Java based app that has a digital clock face that can be set to count down to zero.  The app requires Java so it was a fun exercise to stream an app to physical PC that neither has Java or the App-V client physically installed to it.

I selected the Create MSI check box in the App-V sequencer to add an MSI installer and XML XP Mode App-V MSImanifest file to the App-V file output folder.  I copied the completed sequenced app to the virtual XP instance and ran the MSI which fully caches the App-V app to 100%.  I then copied the BlingClock icon to the All Users folder which immediately puts it on the physical computer.  I closed the virtual XP instance and launched BlingClock from the physical computers Start menu Icon – what do you know?  The App-V notification tray status bar showed up and BlinkClock presented itself on the desktop.  A virtual app being “streamed” from a XP Mode virtual PC down to a physical PC – a poor man’s virtual streaming environment.Virtualized App-V Client on Windows7 XP Mode

So why add what seems to be a layer of complexity to XP Mode?  Because its freakin’ cool that you can do it, that’s why.  No, the reason is to extend any previously App-V sequenced apps.  If you’ve been following the MDOP Med-V news – you can install apps into a virtual XP instance and deliver an icon to the desktop of a physical PC from a Med-V streaming server.  The  XP OS is used but not visible to the enduser who launches the icon.  With XP Mode on Windows 7 you can place the must have programs into an XP sandbox – without a backend server to do the heavy lifting and keep it clean of installed apps.

Another compelling reason for XP Mode is side by side IE browsers of different versions.  CompuComIE6 and IE8 on Windows7 partners with and supports a broad spectrum of clients – the medical community seems to have a fair amount of web based apps that are grounded in IE 6 visa vie XP Pro.  With XP Mode on Windows 7 you can now have your low sodium, trans fat free snack derivatives and eat them, too.

If you’re looking for another vector for appcompat you may have found it.  Rather than placing an app in a stand alone version of XP Pro because it won’t run on anything else or you can’t upgrade your entire enterprise because of a handful of IE6 apps that won’t run on anything else I’d check out XP Mode on Windows 7.

Article written by Danny Knox




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