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Remote Control of Shared PCs

Novell Cool Solutions: Trench

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Posted: 10 Jan 2001

We recently ran this question in the Q&A, and made the topic an Open Call for ideas. We were fascinated to see how many different solutions you came up with. If you think of any more, let us know and we'll add them to the list.

Original Question:

Peter wrote: We installed ZfD3 which is a great product, we just have one thing that's been bugging us. We use Remote Control, when somebody calls we use Remote Control to take over his/her desktop. "Ok, what's the problem", I hear you say, "Find the workstation and do Remote Control." But what workstation? We have several flex PC's, so a person isn't always on the same PC.

Is there a way you can see which workstation that person is logged onto at that moment?


Allen Baruch

About Remote Control with shared PCs...We dealt with the same issue here by putting a shortcut on the Start Menu for NCWhoami.

This way the user can tell us what PC they are at.

If you have any questions you may contact Allen at

Debbie Carraway

We support public computing labs in which any one of 30,000 users might be logged in at any one of hundreds of workstations.

To enable our Help Desk to use ZEN remote control when a user calls, we deployed the NCWhoAmI application through NAL, using the icon title "Workstation Name", in an application folder called "Help". NCWhoami is available on the ZENworks Cool Solutions Downloadables page.

The Help Desk staff member asks the user to look in NAL in the "Help" folder, run the "Workstation Name" app, and tell them what it says. NCWhoAmI shows a dialog in a very large font that displays the workstation object name, the NDS tree name, and the context.

If you really want to avoid user involvement, one way to go about it might be to look at the "Network Address" property of the user object and try to match that to a workstation object. (In ConsoleOne, Network Address is on the user object's General tab under Environment.) It's multivalued, so you may see both IPX and IP addresses, and multiple addresses if the user is logged in on multiple workstations.

You can use "Find" in ConsoleOne to search a container and, if you choose, all subcontainers. If you select "Advanced" for the search type, and do a search like:

[Object Types]=Workstation AND
WM:Network Address= END

you should be able to find the correct workstation object.

If you have any questions you may contact Debbie at

Ian Burton

There are a couple of ways to do this. Both involve the way in which you import workstations:

  1. Assign each workstation an arbitrary ID (asset number, ID number, call it what you will). If you set the computer name to be the same as the asset number (it's what we do here) and set the workstation import policy to use the computer name, then you can just request the asset number from the user.
  2. In NetWare Administrator, if you open up the user object, under the "Environment" tab, there is the "Network Address" property. This contains the IPX address (a portion of which is the MAC address) of the workstation that is CURRENTLY logged in (or multiple if more than one). If you include this information (Network Address) in the workstation import policy, you can move down to the associated workstations tab, and select the workstation in question out of the list.

I would recommend option 1 in most cases - most users don't mind reading a clearly labelled sticker on the machine (ours are on the top, near the front; I've seen others on the front, or on the monitor).

If you have any questions you may contact Ian at

Simone Golik

In response to Peter's question: I suggest that he runs an nlist command:

nlist workstation where "operator" eq USERID

where WORKSTATION_CONTAINER equals the path to the container where the workstation exists and USERID equals the full path of the user's login identifier. eg WORKSTATION_CONTAINER = .WKS.CONT.REGION.ORG, USERID = .CN.CONT.REGION.ORG

In the example above WKS, CONT, and REGION are the names of Organisational Unit objects, ORG is the name of an Organsation object, CN is the name of a User object.

Peter could create a batch file substituting parameters %1 and %2 for the WKS container and User details.

Nick Fletcher

What about using a naming convention that uses the IP address of the PC (assuming no DHCP in use) or the name (could be an inventory number)?

If you have any questions you may contact Nick at

Ulrich H.Eggert

I use 'Quick Remote Actions' from Daniel Stricharz which I was made aware of on the 'Cool Solutions' site some while ago. A very nifty tool that will show you for any given user object (among lots of other infos) the ws-object being in use by it.

If you have any questions you may contact Ulrich at

Jeff Schuler

By using the Quick Remote Actions tool featured in the past on Cool Solutions you can do this in a snap. All you have to do is select the correct user object and it will tell you which machine they are currently logged into. I have a number of users who move between computers and have had the same problem, ending up RC'ing three or four boxes before finding the right one. Now I just pull them up in QRA and select the box they are currently logged into.

If you have any questions you may contact Jeff at

Kevin Doerr

I would suggest looking at Quick Remote Actions in the Downloadables section. Our helpdesk uses this tool because of its small size, efficiency, and features.

One neat thing that this tool will allow you to do is initiate a remote control session from the user object or the workstation object. When you are browsing the tree in QRA, you can right-click on any user or workstation object and choose from any of the remote actions (remote control, remote execute, file transfer, etc.). When you select a user, the multipane GUI shows you which workstations the user is logged in to.

I find it much more convenient and intuitive to initiate the RC session through the user object, since the user name is one of the first pieces of information that I usually get from the user and our users are rarely logged in to more than one workstation. It's a cool tool that's definitely worth a look.

If you have any questions you may contact Kevin at

Jim Trotter

The technique I use to identify which workstations users are on is to make the first field of workstation naming the MAC address of the machine. If I need to ID a machine that a user is logged in on, I can then NLIST user="username" /a (or another utility that performs the same function). The result gives me the IPX (MAC) address of the users machine. The machine is then easily found in NWAdmin, or whatever utility one uses to remote control.

This works great on an IPX network, I do not know how it would work on an IP only network.

I'm always happy to assist fellow ZENers. Despite all the hype I see over a lot of other products, ZENworks is the absolute best at:

  1. Making my life easier.
  2. At what it does!

If you have any questions you may contact Jim at

Jimmy Benson

In response to the remote control question, I can think of two ways that you could possibly solve the problem. I have implemented both ways in the school corporation that I work for in southern Indiana: West Clark Community Schools.

First, you could use a program like BOX.EXE, which can be found in the tools section of the Cool Solutions web site, and include the parameter in that program for the workstation name to be displayed. We have it setup to display the user's full name, the time of day, when their password expires, and the workstation name. This is executed each time a user logs in through a container login script, so if they read the information that is displayed, they will be more likely to be able to give you their workstation name upon calling.

The second solution, and a better solution, would be to setup the Help Desk Policy under the user policy that you have associated with everyone. Within the details of that policy you can specify how the end users can contact the IT Department for computer help, but you can also specify what information you would like sent back to you, or made available to the end user upon calling the IT Department.

The Help Desk Policy has two main features: Mail, and Call. The Call feature is exactly what it sounds like. It enables the end user the ability to look up contact information for IT Department. Once the end user is on the phone, the Help Requester application also allows for you to get information from the end user just by having them click on a specific tab in the application. Information they can provide you with include their user context, and workstation name.

I've implemented the Mail feature for our corporation so that the end user simply clicks the Help Desk application on their desktop that I setup (the executable is in the SYS:PUBLIC directory called Hlpreq32.exe) and then click the Mail button.

Going back to the Help Desk Policy, within the user policy, you will want to set a couple of features.

  1. First off, you want to go to the "Help Requester" tab in the policy and enable the user the ability to both launch the help application, and to send trouble tickets via an e-mail program (ex. GroupWise.)
  2. Second, you will want to go down to the "Trouble Tickets" tab and enable any information that you would like sent back to you such as the user context, user location, and workstation ID as I have setup for my situation.

Then once you distribute the application to users via ZENworks, and they e-mail you with a problem they are having, you get the problem they are experiencing, but you also get the users context in NDS, you get their location (if you use that field in the user object) to distinguish between buildings if you need to, and the most important piece of information that you get is the workstation ID which we all know is the vital piece of information that you need to remote control a workstation. I hope this helps you out with your remote control dilemma!

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at

Mike Gord

New to ZEN 3 is the ability to find the User object in NDS. Go to the ZENworks pulldown tab, and choose Logged in Workstations. You'll see the workstation object that the user is currently logged into. From there, you can choose the properties of that workstation object, and then proceed with Remote Control.

If you have any questions you may contact Mike at

Manfred Engels, CZ Groep, The Netherlands

Here is my solution:

  1. In NWADMIN, select SEARCH in the OBJECT menu. In the search screen, select the context you want to search (For instance ROOT) and be sure to check the SEARCH SUBTREE checkbutton !
  2. In the SEARCH FOR box select:
  3. In the PROPERTY box select:
    WM:NAME User
  4. Make sure EQUAL TO is selected and type the FULL context of the user you want to search for in the last box (for instance USERNAME.FIN.COM.ORG) and perform the search.

The search result will be the workstation that user is currently using.

This method is also very useful for searching other properties of course!

If you have any questions you may contact Manfred at


When setting up the workstation import policy use the IP address as the first field in the workstation name. When a remote session is required select the user to be controlled from their log in name, on the environment page the current address of the user's workstation is displayed. Click "associated workstations" and then select the user's current workstation from the available workstation objects being displayed. This presents a couple of extra mouse clicks but narrows down the possible choices quickly.

P S Schmied

In NW 5, you can use NLIST with switches to show the network address from which a user is connected. Build this into a batch file where the login name is the argument.

Have the workstation registered name start with the network address. You can then use a simple search for workstation name, open the workstation details page and remote control it. Alternatively, the archives list at least 2 canned solutions, which avoid using nwadmn32 to launch remote control directly.

Victor Zarichny

We deploy a simple ZEN icon to all workstations that points to the shared network file ncwhoami.exe. This file can be found here.

Just have the client click on the icon and have them to read back the Workstation context. If it states

"NOTE : This workstation cannot be remote controlled."

Then the PC registered and cannot be remote controlled.

Duane Benson

We have lots of floating users and had the same problem until I downloaded Quick Remote Actions from your Cool Solutions site. It will allow workstation remote control by username. All you have to do is type in part of the user name and it scans the user names in NDS to find a match, then you click the username and it finds the logged in workstation and opens a remote control to that workstation. It is small, quick and wonderful.

Tom Jones

We name the workstation objects by the computer name, which matches the asset ID, which is on a label on every PC. As an alternative, if the Workstation Manager is loaded, right-clicking on the Novell Desktop Management icon in the System tray and selecting Display NDS information will reveal the CN of the workstation object.

If you have any questions you may contact Tom at

Richard Harvey

For our workstation object naming convention, we use: User + Workstation Name + OS. For the workstation name we build it as: <Dept>-<OS>-<Workstation Serial Number>. This is useful as the Dell workstations have a clearly marked serial number on the side of the workstation.

In this case, regardless of the user on the workstation, all we would do is confirm the serial number of the workstation and then we can identify exactly which workstation object to remote control.

Another method would be to identify the user's current IP address in the environment tab of the user details, then identify the workstation with this IP address and control that machine.

If you have any questions you may contact Richard at

Tommy Mikkelsen

I have another solution on how to identify the user's workstation.

Use the following in your login script:

REGREAD "HKLM,SOFTWARE\Novell\Workstation Manager\ Identification, Workstation Object" #Z:\NAL.EXE /C="%FULL_NAME at the workstation named %99"

This way, the workstation name will be a part of the title for your NAL window.

Note: This only works if the client on WinNT is version 4.6 or above, and on Win9x version 3.1 or above.

If you have any questions you may contact Tommy at

Erwin Burkhardt

We have only NT Workstations and run NAL as shell with some parameters from login script:

(This is one row !!!) --
EXIT "nal /max /s /c=\"Your Login Name: %CN% Your PC Name: %COMPUTERNAME%\""

The %COMPUTERNAME% variable comes from NT and in our network is the same as the DNS name and the workstation name in NDS. Now every user can see his login name and workstation name in the top of his NAL window and can tell it to the help desk on the telephone if needed.

If you have any questions you may contact Erwin at

Christian Riiser

Since there are a lot of different solutions to this, making Mike Gord's BLEND into the backround, I just want to add that THIS FEATURE IS BUILT INTO the ZfD3 !!! :-)

FIND the user in ConsoleOne. Click on him, Tab 'Logged in workstations' and click on that. Then TAB -> Remote control. And there you go!

Joyce Murray

Another suggestion I have. On Windows NT you can change the "My Computer" icon to display the computer name and add additional text if desired. For example you can set it up so it displays "Workstation id <Computer name here>" Then the user of the workstation can easily report this information to the help desk.

Here are the steps required to change the icon:

  1. Launch Regedt32 and navigate to HKey_Classes_Root\Clsid\{20D04FEO....
  2. Select the <No Name> value on the right pane and delete it.
  3. Choose "Add Value" from the Edit menu.
  4. Leave the value name blank and change the data type to "Reg_Expand_Sz".
  5. In the string box enter %ComputerName%. (You may also use %UserName% to display the current NT user logged in and/or you can enter text.)
  6. Close Regedt32 and hit "F5" to refresh the screen.

Tim Craig

The easiest way to identify the name of the computer the current user is on is to change the "MY COMPUTER" icon with a registry tweak. I used snAppShot to create an application to modify the registry.

  1. Run snAppShot and take the before image.
  2. Use REGEDT32 and navigate to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{20D04FE0.....
  3. Select the <No Name> value in the right hand pane and delete it.
  4. On the Edit menu, click Add Value.
  5. Leave the Value Name blank and select Data Type of REG_EXPAND_SZ
  6. In the String box, type what you want to appear.
    Examples: %UserName% on %ComputerName%
    My Computer %ComputerName%
  7. Take the after snAppShot.

Once distributed, the icon will eventually refresh or the next shutdown and restart will activate.

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