SMS Integris (Omnis) Compatibility on Windows Vista and Windows 7

My previous articles on this subject are published here and here. Our site experienced considerable difficulties in making School Management Systems’ Integris 6.90.xx function successfully on Windows Vista even though the vendor does not have a history of problems. The majority of difficulties to date are on 32 bit Vista systems. We do not have a 64 bit edition of Vista for testing. The Integris software is widely used in the UK and Australia by primary and secondary schools, as well as in New Zealand.

On Windows 7, 32 bit and 64 bit Hyper-V virtual machines as well as physical 64-bit installations have been used for testing. So far all problems were experienced only in virtual machines. Difficulties have not been found to date in the physical computers running the Windows 7 Release Candidate, all 64-bit. Our 64-bit VM has Windows 2000 compatibility mode set, but no compat settings have been needed on any physical x64 PCs. It is not necessary to set this application to be run as an administrator on physical x64 PCs, although it is recommended on Vista from our experience. After the compat settings were removed on the x64 VM, no problems have been experienced. Likewise there were no problems initially setting up Vista on a physical x86 computer, which was my own workstation. It was later x86 computers that had problems on Vista. The inconsistencies in problem occurrences on different machines cause me to consider that an update or service pack, or a particular application that a hardware vendor may be supplying, has caused the problems. The Hyper-V server has just been updated to WS2008 Service Pack 2.

The vendor has highlighted that the Omnis runtime 3.3.3.x is not certified by Tiger Logic for Windows 7. It would be therefore inadvisable for any school sysadmin to roll out Integris on Windows 7 site wide until RM-SMS have updated the runtime to a Windows 7 certified edition. There are two possible workarounds for sites that wish to push ahead with Windows 7 rollout:

  • Using Windows XP Mode to run Integris. This has to be set up on each client machine, and it requires that the CPU supports Intel VT.
    • Using a Terminal Server to run the Integris application for end users. This does not require individual configuration of clients, nor does it require clients to support Intel VT. We will be using this option at our site to allow for remote access to Integris with the secondary benefit of resolving the compatibility issues. We are assuming the 3.3.3.x runtime is Windows Server 2008 compatible as this is the environment that hosts our terminal server.

In the main, while XP Mode is a nice idea, the virtual machine has to be set up for each computer that it runs on. Moreover this requires a compatible CPU as the Windows 7 version of Virtual PC requires hardware virtualisation support. While AMD support VT on all of their non-Opteron CPUs, lower end Intel Pentiums typically omit it. I have the galling situation that all of our recent desktop purchases do not support VT because we did not know about this feature and its significance for future desktop OSs. I think that changing CPUs to get VT support is not worth the hassle for most of the PCs at our site which do not have it, compared to the TS option even though this requires CALs at additional cost. Those CALs have a dual function for enabling remote access and thus the cost is not wasted on physical machine resources that are irrelevant to remote access.