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AppNote: Using Novell ZENworks in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Novell Cool Solutions: AppNote
By Marcus Williamson

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Posted: 27 Oct 1999
 

Novell Research AppNote to be published in November, 1999. Pre-released by permission.

Editor's Note: This thing is jam-packed with very helpful screenshots, and may be very slow for you. If you prefer, you can download the PDF version of this AppNote.

Thanks to David Anderson, director of the SETI project, and the Sysops of the Novell Support Connection Forums for their assistance in reviewing this AppNote.

Contents

Introduction

This AppNote describes how to use Novell ZENworks to distribute the Berkeley SETI@Home software used as part of the SETI project in the search for evidence of Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

The AppNote was inspired by questions from a number of customers who, after creating ZENworks Application Object Templates for the standard office applications and their in-house software, wanted to try something a little more adventurous?

What is SETI?

SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is the largest and most successful collaborative computing project of all time. The SETI project aims to analyse terabytes of data received at the Arecibo Radio Observatory, using software on multiple Internet connected PCs to perform the data analysis. The project and the SETI@Home software is looking for patterns in the incoming radio data which might indicate the presence of Extraterrestrial Intelligence in the region of the sky being scanned. At the time of writing (August 1999) more than one million users across the world are already taking part in this project.

The SETI@Home software consists of two parts: an "application" and a "screensaver". The application does all the work: it downloads blocks of data from the Internet, performs the number crunching on that data (looking for orderly patterns that might be artificial), returns the results to the SETI server and downloads the next block of data. The application is represented by a green radio telescope icon in the Windows System Tray (normally at the lower right of the screen). The application window can be opened by double-clicking on this icon.

The SETI@Home screensaver runs when the keyboard or mouse have not been used for a while. It displays colour pictures showing the progress of the data analysis process. Normally the application processes data only when the screensaver is running, although the application can process data all the time if configured to run in that mode.

The SETI@Home screensaver software looks like this:

The screensaver display shows information about the current data unit being analysed, as well as information about the user running the software, including the number of data units completed and the total amount of computer time provided to the SETI project by this user.

A "data unit" is a unit of information downloaded from the SETI database for analysis by the SETI@Home software. A data unit is typically 300-400k in size and consists of digitised radio frequency data captured from the radio telescope at a particular time and date for a certain section of the sky. When the analysis is complete a results file of around 10k is returned to the SETI database.

What is ZENworks?

Novell ZENworks is an NDS-enabled software application designed to reduce the cost of networked PCs and makes users more productive. ZENworks includes policy-enabled application distribution, desktop policy management and workstation maintenance.

With self-healing application delivery, desktops customized for the users needs and easy problem resolution, ZENworks makes the network effortless for the user. This allows the user to have all the power of the PC without having to be responsible for making it work.

In the examples shown here we shall demonstrate the use of ZENworks application distribution and desktop policy management features.

Requirements

In order to distribute SETI@Home using ZENworks you will require:

SETI@Home for Windows Software

The SETI for Windows software can be downloaded from: http://setiweb.ssl.berkeley.edu/

The file downloaded will be called: Setiathome_win_1_06.exe (or similar)

At the time of writing (August 1999) the current version of SETI@Home for Windows is 1.06.

ZENworks Software

Any of the following ZENworks versions may be used to distribute the SETI@Home software. Whichever version of ZENworks is chosen, the ZENworks software must be already installed and operating correctly on your network before attempting to distribute the SETI@Home software. Additionally the Novell Client software which includes the Workstation Manager must be running so that ZENworks desktop policies can be enforced.

ZENworks 1.1

ZENworks 1.1 consists of: Software Distribution, Desktop Policy Management, Remote Control, Hardware Inventory and Software License Metering.

This software was previously available from Novell Authorised Resellers until the advent of ZENworks 2.0.

ZENworks 2.0

ZENworks 2.0 consists of: Software Distribution, Desktop Policy Management, Remote Control, Hardware and Software Inventory and Software License Metering.

This software is available from Novell Authorised Resellers.

ZENworks 1.1 Starter Pack

The ZENworks 1.1 Starter Pack is available to all users of NetWare 4.x and NetWare 5.x and consists of just the Software Distribution and Desktop Policy Management components. These are the only components required for the distribution of the SETI@Home software.

The ZENworks 1.1 Starter Pack is available as part of Novell NetWare 5 and as a free download from: http://www.novell.com/download/#Clients -- Network

Creating a SETI@Home Application Object

In order to distribute the SETI@Home application it is first necessary to create a "snapshot" of the installation of the software, which will create a SETI@Home Application Object Template (AOT). It is from this AOT file that the SETI@Home Application Object itself will be created in NDS.

Running a snAppShot consists of the following stages:

  • Starting the snAppShot process
  • Installing the software
  • Configuring and customising the software
  • Ending the snAppShot process

Starting the snAppShot process

To start the snAppShot process, run the program SNAPSHOT.EXE, normally located in the directory SYS:PUBLIC\SNAPSHOT. The snAppShot program will run and present you with the following screen.

From here, select Standard to continue. Then type the name of the Application Object which will be created and the icon title (not used in this case), both "SETI":

Select the location in which the SETI@Home application files will be placed.

In many environments a "library" of standard applications will already have been created underneath the SYS:PUBLIC\snAppShot directory, or elsewhere. Choose this directory, with SETI as a subdirectory.

Now choose the name of the Application Object Template (AOT) file which will be used for SETI. Accept the default, which is "SETI.AOT".

Select the C: drive to be scanned:

Check the summary screen then press Next to continue:

ZENworks now prompts to run the installation program for the application to be installed.

Installing the SETI software

To install the SETI software, run the program setiathome_win_1_06.exe which will have been downloaded from the SETI web site. See the "Requirements" section above for the location of the SETI@Home for Windows software on the SETI web site.

Installation starts with this screen:

Followed by:

Select the default Destination Location:

then "Next":

After the SETI@Home files have been copied, this message will be displayed:

When the installation has completed successfully, configuration screens will be displayed, as shown below.

Configuring the SETI software

At this stage you should provide a "nickname" which will be the name to which you may be referred in the statistics section of the SETI website. You should also enter an e-mail address, as well as some generic location information.

If you have already signed up for SETI on another computer, you may use the same e-mail address and other details, or use different details at this point.

The configuration for SETI@Home preferences appears next. Here you can decide:

  • The mode for Data Analysis
  • Only when the screen saver is active (normal)
  • Always runs
  • The mode for Network Connection
  • Ask
  • Connect automatically (normal for LAN-attached PCs)

If you are using a proxy or firewall, such as Novell BorderManager, the proxy address and port number (usually 8080 or 80) can be entered here.

After selecting "OK" additional customisation may be carried out as described below. Any configuration or customisation performed here will become part of the snapshot.

Customising the SETI software

The SETI software includes two bitmap files, HEADER.BMP and SETIHOM8.BMP, both of which may be customised to your environment. The characteristics of each of these files are shown below:

Filename

Purpose

Size

HEADER.BMP

Appears in the header of the screensaver

500x41

SETIHOM8.BMP

Appears in "About SETI@Home"

490x141

If you wish to replace these files with your own customised bitmaps, they should have already been created using your favourite graphics editor using 256 colour bitmap files at the sizes shown.

At this stage in the snAppShot process you may copy the files which you have previously prepared into the C:\Program Files\SETI@Home directory.

Ending the snAppShot process

After the SETI@Home software has been successfully installed onto the template PC the snAppShot process can be ended. To do this, flip back to the snAppShot process and press "Next":

Here, the snAppShot process is told to which directory the application files have been installed:

The snAppShot process now re-scans the PC to determine the differences between the "after" and "before" states and creates the Application Object Template (AOT) file.

Creating the Application Object

Now that the Application Object Template (AOT) file exists, it is possible to create the Application Object in NWADMIN. To do this, start NWADMIN then select the container in which the Application Object should be created, then right-click and select Create.

Choose to create a new Application Object:

Opt to create an Application Object using an AOT/AXT file.

Select the path to the SETI.AOT file which was previously specified during the creating of the Application Object Template.

Two confirmation screens will display the details of the Application Object already provided earlier in the snAppShot process:

Followed by:

The Environment tab for the Application Object should be checked to ensure that "install only" is selected:

The System Requirements tab should be checked to ensure that Windows 95/98 (and/or Windows NT) are specified in the Operating System requirements:

For SETI to be made available to network users it is necessary to associate the users with the SETI Application Object object which has been created. This is carried out by selecting the Associations tab for the Application Object. In this case all members of the ACME organisation container will receive the SETI Application Object:

The application is set to "Force Run" so that it is invoked every time the NAL.EXE or NALEXPLD.EXE programs are loaded.

Creating a Policy Package

As well as creating an Application Object, it will also be necessary to create a Policy Package which will force the SETI@Home screensaver to be active for the users specified. To create a new Policy Package, select the container in which the Policy Package should be created, then right-click and select Create.

Choose the Win95-98 User Package:

Use the default name or choose another name for the Policy Package:

Choose the container which will use this Policy Package. In this case all users in the ACME organisation container will be using the package:

Confirm the selections made by pressing "Next":

Now, edit the Desktop Preferences policy of this Policy Package:

Select the option "Always update workstation during NDS Authentication" then click on the Display icon:

Select the Screen Saver tab, enable the Screen Saver tick box, the Screen Saver radio button and insert the name of the Screen Saver as C:\WINDOWS\SETIhome.scr:

This will ensure that the SETI@Home screensaver is selected every time the user logs in. At this stage the wait time may also be changed to a suitable value for all of your users.

Distributing the SETI software

So, that might seem like a lot of work, but ZENworks is all about providing Zero Effort Networking for users! Administrators have to do a fair bit of work just the one time, but that good work can then be replicated hundreds or thousands of times across your network.

If a new version of the SETI@Home software is made available, it is recommended that the new version is downloaded, the snAppShot process be run again and a new AOT file created, as described above. This will ensure that the latest software is always being used.

When users next log in, if they are in the NDS container associated with the Application Object and are associated with the Policy Package, they will receive the SETI@Home software and their screen saver will be set to run the SETI@Home screensaver.

What is Installed?

The following files will be installed onto the PC for each network user. This information was obtained by examining the file FILEDEF.TXT in the SYS:PUBLIC\SNAPSHOT\SETI directory after creating the Application Object Template has been created:

Filename

Purpose

C:\Program Files\SETI@home\Uninst.isu

Uninstall script

C:\Program Files\SETI@home\setihom8.bmp

Bitmap which appears in "About SETI@Home"

C:\Program Files\SETI@home\header.bmp

Bitmap which appears in the header of the SETI@Home screensaver

C:\Program Files\SETI@home\ico00001.ico

Icon for the SETI@Home program

C:\Program Files\SETI@home\SETI@home.exe

Main program

C:\Program Files\SETI@home\windows_help.txt

Help file (ASCII text)

C:\Program Files\SETI@home\config.bin

Configuration settings

C:\WINDOWS\IsUninst.exe

Uninstall program

C:\WINDOWS\SETIhome.scr

Screen saver program

On the first time it runs at the users' PCs, you will notice that the SETI@Home software connects to the SETI site to download its first data unit. This will take from a few seconds to minutes, depending on the speed of your Internet connection. Subsequent access to obtain new data units will be after around 10-50 hours per PC, depending on the performance of the PCs being used.

After installation, users may wish to change the login name being used for their PC. This can be changed by doubleclicking on the green "radiotelescope" icon in the system tray followed by Settings and Change/Create Login. The user is then presented with the following dialogue, upon which he/she may modify his/her SETI login details.

Conclusion

As can be seen, ZENworks provides an effective method of distributing the SETI@Home software to all networked workstations with no effort required on the part of the network user. It is hoped that the example provided here will assist not only with the implementation of SETI@Home but of other applications which are installed onto the local PC in a similar way.

So, have fun with ZENworks and good luck in your hunt for Extraterrestrial Intelligence!

Further Resources

These resources may be useful in providing more information about ZENworks and about the SETI project:

About the Author

Marcus Williamson is Managing Director of Connectotel Limited, a Novell-specialist consultancy based in London, UK and operating worldwide.

Until July 1996 he was Team Leader of Novell Consulting (Europe), based in Duesseldorf, Germany and responsible for consulting activities in the Eastern Europe, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. He worked with Novell for over six years and has worked with NetWare for the last thirteen years. Marcus has contributed many times to the Novell Research AppNotes and other technical publications, is a regular speaker at Novell's Brainshare events in the US and Europe, and is a Sysop on the Novell Support Connection forums on the Internet.

Marcus's home page can be found at http://www.connectotel.com/marcus.


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