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The Basics of Creating and Importing an AOT File

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By David Lewis

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Posted: 25 Aug 1999
 

Editor's Note: David has answered a few questions that were triggered by this article, and we've added them to a special Q&A section at the end of this article. Updated September 22, 1999.

An Application Object Template (AOT) file makes the job of distributing applications to your users' workstations very simple. It contains the details of what is required for the application to be installed. The file is a record of all the registry entries to be added, all the files to be copied, and all the changes to be made in the .INI files and system text files (autoexec.bat and config.sys). It contains everything the Application Launcher needs to be able to distribute the application to a workstation.

ZENworks provides the tools you need to create an AOT file and use it to set up an application object that will be distributed to your users. The snAppShot utility creates the AOT file for you, which you then import into NetWare Administrator 32 (NWAdmin) to create an application object, and finally, you modify the object's settings, giving the users access to it.

To help you understand the basic procedure, we will walk through the process of setting up a simple and straight-forward application object -- one that distributes Netscape Communicator. We won't discuss many of the details of the individual steps, which you can read more about in the on-line help.

  1. Creating the AOT
  2. Importing the AOT into NWAdmin
  3. Modifying the settings

Creating the AOT file with snAppShot

The snAppShot utility creates the AOT file by scanning the workstation, waiting while you install the application, and making a second scan; the differences it finds between the two scans are recorded in the AOT file.

To do this step, you'll need a copy of Netscape Communicator and a clean workstation -- one that does not have extra stuff installed on it. Make absolutely sure that Netscape is not already installed on it.

  1. From the workstation, run snapshot.exe, found in the SYS\public\snapshot directory of your NetWare server with ZENworks.
  2. In the first screen click Standard.
  3. snAppShot will now bring up a series of four windows prompting you to enter
    • the application object name and icon title
    • the application files location
    • the name and path of the AOT file to be created
    • the drives to be scanned
    Just follow all the the instructions and suggestions that snAppShot gives you and enter the information. For the most part, it is very straightforward.

Important Note: The application files location must be a folder on the network and not on the local workstation. As snAppShot does its second scan, it copies all the newly installed files to this directory so they can be distributed to other workstations. If you specify a local folder, the Application Launcher will not be able to find the files when it attempts to distribute the application to a different computer.

After you've entered all the information for which snAppShot prompts you, you will see a summary page. When you click Next, snAppShot will begin its first scan. Just sit tight; it will take a few minutes.

Once snAppShot finishes, you can begin installing Netscape.

  1. In the snAppShot window, click the button labeled Run Application Install, and browse for the Netscape setup program, whether on CD-ROM or on the network.
  2. Follow the instructions and install Netscape, noting especially the installation directory, for which snAppShot will prompt you later on. (Sticky-note Alert)
  3. When the installation finishes, you will be asked if you want to reboot the computer. Go ahead and do this; snAppShot will continue automatically once the system restarts.

When the system reboots and snAppShot resumes, it will prompt you for the directory to which you installed Netscape.

  1. Enter this path and click Next. snAppShot will now do its second scan, compare it to the first scan, and create the AOT file. Again, this will take a few minutes. When done, it will display another summary page.
  2. You should note the location of the created AOT file, as you will import it into NWAdmin. (Sticky-note Alert) Click Finish to close snAppShot.

Importing the AOT file into NetWare Administrator 32

Once snAppSnot has created the AOT file, you are ready to go into NWAdmin and set up the application object.

  1. Run nwadmn32.exe, found in the \Public\win32 directory on the SYS volume of your server. It should come up with a browser window displaying the objects in your context.
  2. If it does not, or you want to work with a different context, click the Start a new browser button, and enter the tree and context you want.

Decide in which container or organization you want to create the application object.

  1. In the browser window, right-click on this unit and select Create? from the list that appears.
  2. You will now see a window asking you which type of object you want to create. Select Application and click OK.

The Create Application Object dialog box will now come up, which consists of a series of four windows.

  1. The first asks gives you a choice between creating an application object without an AOT file, with an AOT file, or from an existing object. Select Create an Application object with an .aot/.axt file and click Next.
  2. The second window asks you for the path of the AOT file you created using snAppShot. Enter the path by typing it in manually or by clicking the browse button to find it; click Next.
  3. The third window gives you the option of changing the object name, the source path, and the target path. The source path is the application files location where snAppShot copied the Netscape files; the target path is the directory to which Netscape will be installed. Both of these fields will already be filled in with the correct directories so you should not need to change them. Just go ahead and click Next.

  4. On the fourth and final window, shown above, you will see a summary of the Application object's settings. Notice especially the two check boxes; check the one labeled Display details after creation. Once you click Finish, NWAdmin will read the AOT file, create the Application object, and bring up the object's details page where you will do the final step to make the application available to users.

Modifying the object's settings to give users access to it

You should now see the object's detail page, similar to the one below.

In order for your users to have access to this application, you must do two tasks: set the system requirements to include the operating systems on which the application will run, and associate the object with the users that will be able to run the application. Here's how.

The first task is to add the operating systems on which Netscape will run.

  1. Notice the list of tabs on the right side of the details page. Click the one labeled System Requirements, which brings up (no surprises here) the System Requirements page.
  2. Click Add and select Operating System from the list that appears.
  3. From the drop-down list of the window that appears, select Windows 95/98 as the Windows platform, and click OK.
  4. If you also want your Windows NT users to have access to Netscape (and why not?), repeat these steps, selecting Windows NT as the Windows platform.

The second task is to associate the application object with the users that should have access to it.

  1. Go to the Applications page by scrolling down through the tabs on the right-hand side of the details page until you find the one labeled Associations and click this tab. You should now see the Associations page, which looks like this:

  2. To associate users with the application, click Add, and, browsing through the list of available contexts and objects, select the user or organizational unit that you wish to associate with the application.
  3. If you choose an organizational unit, select the option to associate the application with all Users within this container from the window that appears, giving all users within that unit access to the application.

After selecting an object and clicking OK, you will see that it has been added to the list of objects that can use the application. You can keep adding users and organizational units until all the users that should have access to the application are associated with the object. Once you have finished, click OK and the changes you have made will be saved.

That's it. Once you've done this, any user who is running Windows 95/98 or NT, and who has been associated with the application object, will be able to install Netscape by running the Application Launcher from his computer and double-clicking the Netscape icon. Walking through the setup of this simple application object should have given you a basic idea of the over-all process of distributing applications. Here's hoping it has sparked your interest and you will continue learning about the exciting world ZENworks offers you by reading and experimenting more.

Q&A About this Article

Zaher A wrote: Following David Lewis's steps in his article I've created an AOT for Netscape installation (on a "basic Windows 95 machine"). Then I created an application object from that AOT with the NWAdmin. I'd appreciate some input for the following:

1. How can I reduce the resulting AOT file (noticing that the resulting axt file is very large in comparison with your sample netscape AOT downloaded at http://developer.novell.com/research.

DAVID: First of all, the .axt file generated by snAppShot is always larger than the corresponding .aot file because it is saved as text instead of binary. Also, your .aot is probably significantly larger than the sample netscape .aot file that can be downloaded from DeveloperNet because the sample file is for an older version of Netscape (4.06). You're probably using a later version (4.5+) that has more files and registry keys, making the .aot file much larger.

2. Which of the registry "creations/alterations" in the application object are unnecessary and can be safely ommitted?

DAVID: It's hard to say which of Netscape's registry keys are unnecessary. My opinion is that if Netscape creates or modifies a registry key it must do it for some reason. Why not let it create all the keys it thinks it needs? I guess you could delete the registry keys one by one and see if Netscape still works after each one is deleted. I wouldn't waste my time on that, though, just to make an .aot file a few kilobytes smaller.

3. How can I register the prefs.js and which of the resulting three to use? The AOT does not include that.

DAVID: I'm not sure what you mean by "registering" the prefs.js file. DeveloperNet has an article that mentions altering the Netscape user preference file (prefs.js) so that GroupWise will work with Netscape. If this is what you're talking about, this is the way I would do it:

  1. Run snAppShot's pre-installation scan
  2. Install Netscape
  3. Add the three lines mentioned in the DeveloperNet article to prefs.js
  4. Allow snAppShot to do its post-installation scan and create the .aot file

By no means am I the Registering-Groupwise-with-Netscape guru so I can't say anything about whether or not step 3 will actually work. If you know exactly what modifications you need to make to the application you are trying to setup, you should make them before snAppShot's second scan. This way, any changes made will be incorporated into the .aot file.

About the Author

David is a wunderkind on the Application Launcher engineering team. He currently tests and de-bugs snAppShot and the App Launcher snapin to NWAdmin.


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