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The Basics of Pre-Install

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Ian Parish, Matt Brooks

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Posted: 24 Nov 1999
 

Editor's Note: We've added a Q&A section to the end of this article, where Matt will hold forth on questions that have arisen in your minds after reading it.
Posted November 29, 1999.

Pre-install Overview

Pre-install is a mechanism whereby an administrator (admin) can have software pushed to a workstation/user prior to the actual use or request to use the software. For example: the admin is rolling out Office 97 to all workstations in the enterprise, and wants the majority of the distribution to be done without the user having to wait for it to happen. By using the pre-install feature, the administrator can configure the pre-installation of the application to happen late at night. The next day, when the user runs one of the Office 97 applications, the only distribution done is the user-specific portions. This makes the launching of the application quick and requires no reboot at that point. Pre-install can be thought of as a specialized force-run/distribution mechanism.

Just the Local Machine Settings Please

Pre-Install is a new feature in ZEN 2 that is separate from workstation association (WSA). (Although it does complement WSA really well.) Pre-Install is a feature which, when enabled, will do all of the "Distribution" work (copy files, make registry settings., ini file changes, text file chnages, and shortcut changes) that are not "user" specific. The only things pre-install skips are the HKEY_CURRENT_USER registry settings and all other settings that are marked as Tracked Distribution Per User.

Pre-Install Scheduling

You have a couple of choices about how you want the pre-install to work for your users. One option is to just mark an application as pre-install and leave it at that. In that case, what would happen for the user is that the pre-install for that application would take place as soon as the application was read by Application Launcher, typically the next refresh or at startup.

Another option is to set a pre-install schedule. This schedule is entirely separate from the application schedule. The pre-install schedule controls when the pre-install is allowed. The application schedule controls when the application is available to the user. Therefore, the pre-install schedule totally ignores the application schedule. For example, you could mark an application as pre-install with a pre-install schedule set for 2 AM to 6 AM and an application schedule set for 8 AM to 5 PM. If the user left their machine on overnight, the application would automatically be pre-installed around 2 AM. Then when they came into work the next morning, the application would become available to run at 8 AM.

Can I have the Lights Out Please?!?

The greatest benefit of using pre-install is that you can do the majority of distribution work at off-peak times (late at night). This is why the Pre-Install feature is often referred to as lights-out distribution. The main requirement here is that you must have the workstations left on at night so you can get work done while everyone is gone.

You need to look at your network users and figure out if you are more comfortable with them staying logged in or logged out at night. If the answer is logged in, then it is easy: just associate the applications with your users and forget it. If the answer is logged out (which we think is the majority), then you need to associate the application with workstations. In both cases, once you've got it set up, all you have to do is to get your users to leave their workstations on at night.

Now, once an application is pre-installed the rest of the distribution is quick and simple. When your users double-click to run the application for the first time, all of the files will have already been copied and they get a quick distribution of just the user specific stuff and they are up and running the application in no time, and with no further reboot!

Refresh Me!

Just as with most other NAL settings, you need to refresh at least once for NAL to see any pre-install settings. For user-associated applications, just setup timed refresh for the user, or simply press F5 once. For workstation-associated applications it is a little more complicated. You'll need to either restart the workstation, set timed refresh for the workstation, or press F5 from the NAL Window or NAL Explorer to get the workstation agent to refresh.

Q&A about this Article

Mark Yount wrote: The feature article this week on setting up Pre-Install applications is great and something that I was planning on doing. My one concern is the requirement to "Leave the computer on". DOD is still concerned about power utilization and the security hazards of unattended PCs. Is Novell planning on incorporating Wake-on-LAN into the setup options for Pre-Install applications so that PCs that are not left on can be booted prior to the application distribution and shutdown afterwards?

Matt: Yes, we are watching the wake-on-LAN technologies and plan on adding integrated support in the future. In the mean time, there is nothing stopping you from using it yourself. Have your wake-on-LAN controller power the machines on at a certain time and have NAL fire off a shutdown EXE once the distribution is complete.

About the Authors

Matt Brooks and Ian Parish are two of the merry band of engineers who created ZENworks 2, specifically the Application Management features. Fine fellows, they are geeks of the highest order. Which is to say, they're smart as can be, yet are still able (and willing) to explain things in actual English. (It's harder than it looks.)


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