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The Importance of Launcher Configuration

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Shaun Pond

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Posted: 18 Apr 2005


The ZENworks Launcher Configuration, stored as attributes of User, Workstation, and Container objects, is often overlooked when ZENworks Desktop Management is being implemented. If, instead of ignoring the configuration, you would take just a few moments to configure your application launcher settings, you could reduce login times. In addition, you could customize what the user can see and do with the Novell Application Launcher (NAL).

Because the online documentation for ZENworks already contains details on all the Launcher Configuration settings, this article will concentrate on hints, tips, and warnings.

Hints, Tips, and Warnings

  1. Use as Top of Configuration Tree

    This setting appears at the bottom of the Launcher Configuration page, and is important in reducing tree walking: when NAL starts, the user and workstation helpers search up the tree, looking for Launcher Configuration settings to apply (settings on the object itself override settings on the object's container, which override settings on that container's container, and so on, right up to [root]). If the search finds an object with this flag set, the search stops there. For example, if you want to ensure that a particular user has different settings for testing purposes, apply the settings you want to that user and then check this box. The user helper will not search up the tree to find other Launcher Configuration settings. In most situations, however, organization settings must be applied as well, so it is good practice to check this box on the settings for the container which marks the WAN boundary in your tree (assuming you have organized your tree geographically).
  2. Effective Settings and Configuration Tree

    If you are getting unexpected results from current settings, you can check the effective settings for the affected object in View Object's Effective Settings mode; you can also view many of these settings with the NAL diagnostic tool, NALDIAG.EXE. (If you are using ZENworks for Desktops 4.x, you can call up the NAL diagnostic screen by right-clicking the NAL icon, or by selecting Help | About, holding down F2, and then clicking MORE.)

    After you have seen the settings, you can change to View Configuration Tree mode to determine where these settings came from.

  3. Refresh Frequency - If you make this setting too low, your network will be flooded with requests. Individual requirements will vary, but as a rule of thumb, do not set the Refresh Frequency to less than one hour or 3600 seconds. Also, be aware that if "Enable timed refresh (User)" is set to Yes, updates to applications may occur while your users are using the application. You need to understand what effect that can have, for example an application upgrade may require that the application is shut down, which may not be acceptable if this is attempted during the day.
  4. Application Inheritance Level - The default level has changed with the various releases of ZENworks. The default used to be -1 (Read to the top of the tree), but now the default is 1 (Look for applications associated to the object, and to the container it's in). Ensure that you have the Application Inheritance Level set to a sensible level for your organization.
  5. Disable Writing to the Cache - In previous versions of ZENworks for Desktops, users have experienced problems with the files stored in the hidden directory, NALCACHE. To avoid these problems, some users disabled the cache by changing the Launcher Configuration settings or by creating a file called NALCACHE, which prevents the creation of a directory with the same name.. Disabling the cache is inefficient and disabling it wastes bandwidth. With disabled cache, you cannot run NAL disconnected, you cannot uninstall applications, you cannot use Random Refresh Spread, and you cannot use Checkpoint Restart for remote users. If you have disabled NALCACHE, you might want to give cache another try.
  6. Random Refresh Spread - If you have a busy network, setting this option can reduce demand at the start of the day. If everyone logs in within a few minutes of each other, their systems will read information from the cache at startup. Each system will then make requests of eDirectory after a random amount of time. However, if you need everyone to be using a new version of an application object from login, this approach could cause problems because not all users will have this new application. Consider combining the Pre-Install Schedule and Wake-on-LAN.
  7. Always Evaluate Referrals - You should use this setting with care: every request NAL makes will be evaluated to determine which replica is the nearest. In most circumstances, this will slow down NAL considerably. However, if you have an environment where requests for resources are being sent to a remote server that also holds a replica of a partition that holds copies of the local objects,, you may find that requests are being sent to the replica on the remote server instead of to the local server; in that situation, turning on Always Evaluate Referrals may speed up operations by forcing NAL to check for a local replica.
  8. Read Groups for Applications (User) - By default, every group a user belongs to will be queried to see if the group has any associated applications. This can be a time-consuming process; if the user is a member of groups which are not present in a local replica, the WAN must be crossed to obtain this information. Although you might want to turn this option off, Groups can be useful in two scenarios:
    • You need more than one icon for an application. Perhaps you have a suite of applications, and you want to ensure that a user gets all of the NAL icons for that suite. If you associate all the applications to a group, and then make the user a member of that group, you only have to perform one action and the user will get all the icons.
    • More than one application is used to grant file rights (using the Common | File Rights tab) to the same place. In ZENworks, file rights are not granted at launch time; they are granted, by the ConsoleOne snap-ins, at the time the application is associated. If, for example, two applications are set up to grant access to the same directory, a user is associated to both applications, and then the user's association is removed for just one of the applications, what happens? The user loses his or her file rights to that directory because the file rights are removed when the first application is unassociated. To avoid this scenario, you should grant file rights to the Group, associate the application to the Group, and then make the user a member of the Group.
    If you have either of these scenarios, you may find it necessary to keep the default setting (Yes).
  9. Read Groups for Applications (Workstation) - This setting is disabled by default. If you want workstations to find applications associated to Workstation Groups, you will need to enable it.
  10. Remote Access Detection Method - This setting is quite straightforward. If you use connection speed, this is the speed with which you are connected to the network. Suppose you are connected at 100 MBPS to a home network, and you have a modem with a 56 KB connection to the office. Remote access detection will identify this as a fast, 100 MBPS connection,. For this kind of remote network, an alternative method would be preferable, because you will be treated as a local user, but your speed of access to the office will be slow. What is not so obvious about remote access is what occurs when NAL has classified you as a remote user. If you are a remote user, NAL will make sure you have all the files you need by automatically caching an application before installing it. NAL uses a checkpoint restart method so that if the connection is broken during the caching process, NAL will continue to cache from where it left off next time you try to launch the application. You can disable the "Checkpoint Restart Postpone" button for remote users; of course, if the user disconnects his or her computer, the application delivery will also be interrupted. As a remote user, you can also have NAL icons set to appear for this environment, and you can have an application failover to a different application, either if the main application fails or all the time. This allows you to, for example, have a Citrix application that you automatically use when out of the office.
  11. You can change some functions that are available to the user:
    • Allow users to exit. If you disable this option, users cannot easily shut down NAL (they can't click on the Close button and the "Exit Application Launcher" option under File is grayed out but, unless it's disabled, they can use Task Manager to close NAL).
    • Enable Manual Refresh. With this option enabled, users can refresh NAL by pressing F5. This can be useful if, for example, the Help Desk has just granted a user access to a new application; with this option enabled, the user does not have to wait for the next timed refresh (or reboot) to access the application.
    • Display System Tray icon. You can turn this option off if you want to keep your System Tray area uncluttered (the functions of this icon can also be accessed through the NAL desktop icon, if you choose to display it).

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