60-Second Review: Jumping Profiles

Everyone has struggled with profile problems at some point. The first solution most of us found was to setup mandatory profiles.

Everyone has struggled with profile problems at some point. The first solution most of us found was to setup mandatory profiles. However, working strictly with mandatory profiles is almost impossible now because most applications store settings in each user’s profile. To solve this problem, several third-party software products have been created that mix the best aspects of mandatory and roaming profiles.

Jumping Profiles (from a company called “Messerknecht”) is one of these commercial products. Unlike some other products, Jumping Profiles focuses mainly on functionality instead of trying to develop the nicest GUI. It’s been around for awhile and was the first profile product which could save tricky user options like custom root certificates, windows appearance settings, mouse and keyboard settings, and user passwords.

Note that this review contains screenshots that are in the German language. (Messerknecht, the creator of Jumping Profiles, is obviously a German company.) They claim that English version of Jumping Profiles will be available soon.

Installation

The installation of Jumping Profiles is as easy as copying a single file (called jptoolbox.ocx) to the System32 folder of each server and registering it with regsvr32. If you do not have Microsoft Office installed on your Terminal Servers then you’ll also need to copy and register mscomctl.ocx and msstclfmt.dll. The last step is to add jplogin.exe and jplogout.exe to the login and logout scripts for each user or server. (Like most login scripts, you can run these from a UNC path.)

Like any profile management product, you’ll also need a file share where you can centrally store the configuration files.

Configuration

All configuration are done via file in the central network share. The configuration can be divided in two parts: saving and restoring the profile settings and configuring the settings in the profile concerning windows and application settings. Jumping Profiles works with registry keys in configuration files much like the Flex Profile Kit. However, even though the concept is exactly the same, the execution is the other way around. Where the Flex Profile Kit will save only the registry keys that you specify in the configuration file, Jumping Profiles saves all settings except the ones you configure (via a file called fadeout.dat.) The fadeout.dat file can be thought of as a kind of blacklist of settings which are not saved. Despite this size, the profile file is still typically only 50kb to 400kb per user.

Besides saving the profile, Jumping Profiles can also be used to set settings on group membership (mainly based on registry keys). Think of defining group drives, file copies, printer settings, and Windows and application settings by placing those settings in a couple of files. One of the difficulties in configuring these standard settings for users is figuring out where the change is saved in the registry. Jumping Profiles made a special executable to find that out for you. The program just works like Regshot—it compares the registry before and after the change and shows the changed registry files. An advantage of this executable is that you can add a description and automatically add the registry key to the grouplogin.dat (the file where all configuration settings are stored) of the chosen group.

It’s also possible to add a filter to this executable so that frequently showed registry keys (which you do not need) are displayed in grey (as shown in the following screenshot).

Jumping Profiles only saves the actual changes that were made in the user’s registry during the session. (Most other products will save all settings during logoff, regardless of whether they changed or not.) This means that the Jumping Profiles logoff process is pretty short. This also means it’s possible to use one configuration profile for several server groups or silos. (Since only the changes are saved, changes made on different servers are available the next time a user logs on independent from which server the user has logged off of and in what order.) Of course changing the same setting on more than one server causes that the setting will be saved from the last server logged off by the user. This scenario would require multiple Jumping Profiles configurations to be set up.

Jumping Profiles also provides a tool called JPManager. This tool is GUI based and helps you view and edit the configuration settings described above.

Management

Although is it possible to show users errors when something goes wrong, this is not activated by default (just like almost all profile products). Jumping Profiles comes with a special executable to troubleshoot problems. A user can run an executable called JPFreeze.exe that “simulates” the logoff process and all settings and useful information are saved in the target directory, allowing you to easily troubleshoot the problem.

User experience

Jumping Profiles developed a special tool for migrating the user from roaming profiles to Jumping Profiles. JPTransplant.exe can be placed in a logoff script. It then saves the user profile settings in a special file. As the administrator you can use a file called jptransplant.ini which will configure which settings from the roaming profile needs to exported in the special file. This special file is then used the first time by JPlogin.exe to build the Jumping Profiles profile in combination with the standard mandatory profile. Because Jumping Profiles save almost every setting (like windows appearance, mouse settings, etc.) and it uses the same profile on every server (despite the server group or silos), users do not notice that their settings are retained in some other way upon being switched over.

Conclusion

Jumping Profiles is definitely a well thought out "real" Profile Product. Jumping Profiles and the Flex Profile Kit both use the same way of thinking about a solution for profiles, although each product achieves the solution in an opposite way. Because the product only saves actually changes to the centralized Jumping Profiles configuration, the same profile can be used simultaneously on more then one server or silos without a problem. Jumping Profiles also offers nice additional tools like JPTransplant, Policy Builder and JPFreeze to make migration, configuration, and troubleshooting easier. Jumping Profiles is good product which easily competes with the other products in the market.

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Jumping Profiles
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I havent had this problem since 2003. We asked Microsoft to address this problem several years ago and they provided a solution in 2003. It allows you to set a Shared Profile location in 2003 GPO. It works as designed allowing me to have profiles follow users without setting a user defined ts profile path or using additional software. Further you can segment you servers in OUs to allow different profile locations. I don't know why the books or boards ignore this solution.

D.A.M
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this product is suited to sites from 300 clients up. They have no download to test it but it is installed thru their partners.
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D.A.M,
I've thought about implementing the solution you suggest and have also wondered why it hasn't been suggested before. I currently maintain a small farm (all Windows 2003) with roaming profiles and don't have any profile problems. The profile location is defined in the GPO.

If I wanted to have separate silo's then
OU structure:
Citrix Servers
Silo 1
Silo 2
.
.
Silo X

A separate GPO for each Silo would define to profile location.
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So what's the cost? I hafta provide this info when I make my presentation to The Powers That Be.
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My post, forgot to log in. Sorry.
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