Most enterprise sysadmins find themselves having to manage software that is positively ancient by nearly anyone’s standard other than that of their enterprise CFO. Windows XP Mode can be a valuable ally in that battle.
In my case the software from hell comes in the form of CA SiteMinder 6, which even when it was first published almost a decade ago didn’t play well with contemporary client software once the security patches started flowing. Of course back then we were able to delay the pain by avoiding security updates until stuff stopped working altogether, but in today’s dramatically more malevolent world that’s not possible anymore.
Let me be quick to point out that the fact I’m still running it is definitely not the idea of my company’s CFO. The fault on this one lies entirely in my department.
SiteMinder 6’s web policy console is optimized for Internet Explorer 6 with Java 1.5. It continued to run right up to IE 8 in Compatibility Mode (making it equivalent to Windows 6/7), or Firefox 17 ESR, with Java 1.6. Just recently after a long “vacation” from SiteMinder my successor advised he was having trouble connecting to the policy console. I checked the usual suspects (no room to go into those here) and finally concluded the problem was probably that our browsers and installed Java were a version too far for that old SiteMinder service to handle.
It took me around a half hour to come up with the idea of installing Windows XP Mode on my Windows 7 laptop to see if I could access SM through it.
There’s a good master article on insalling and using Windows XP Mode in Windows 7 that anyone who needs this option should try out.
Once my new Windows XP virtual machine was up and running, I went over to the Firefox release archives to download the setup for Firefox 17ESR in order to avoid the pain of trying to use IE 6 to retrieve jre 1.6 for i586 from Oracle’s Java archives and Microsoft Security Essentials x86 (you need to go to the link from inside your XP guest in order to download the 32-bit version of the software). That last piece of software is especially important because an XP Mode guest will almost certainly increase the risk of infection to the host it lives on.
Once I had installed all the requisite software and pointed my XP Mode IE 6 browser at the SiteMinder web console url, it only took a few minutes for the venerable parade of dialogs to start popping up that would finally lead to the cheesy 1990’s era login screen we administrators know and love.
There’s a moral in this story somewhere, although I can’t think of what it could be right now — other than the words of the Boy Scout Motto, “Be Prepared”.