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Mass Management

The PC-Duo software is offered as modular components and includes pieces for inventory, software metering, software distribution, diagnostics, helpdesk and remote control. Thirty-nine software combinations are available. The software installs agent programs onto each workstation. These agents report back to and receive commands from a centralized management server. I tested the inventory, metering and distribution modules in our Syracuse University Real-World Labs®, installing all the components on a single Microsoft Windows 2000 Server running Microsoft SQL 2000.

I installed the client software on each of my workstations across the network from a shared directory, a task that can be accomplished using a login script. The program prompted me to enter my name, telephone number, department and location. Only an administrator can edit or request an update of this information (in places with high turnover or frequent reorganization, this could be a hassle). The client agent software registers with the management server and the server runs a process that integrates these clients into the database every five minutes.

PC-Duo supports both fixed and dynamic groups for organizing workstations, letting you tailor the product to your groups. Clients can be imported into fixed groups individually or through membership in other groups. A workstation can reside in several static groups simultaneously. The dynamic groups are created from clients pulled from an SQL query. Fortunately the product uses an SQL wizard, making it easy to write the query string from the available fields. I made a query for clients that had more than 50 MB of free memory and the wizard generated the SQL query string for me.

Driving Installs

To test the product's distribution capabilities, I installed a copy of AOL Instant Messenger. To define the software distribution, I specified command-line parameters when running the installer in cases where a privileged account was required or when a reboot was necessary. I also selected the platforms on which the installer should be run in case I encountered programs that wouldn't run on Windows 2000/XP but would run on Windows 95/98. This completed the definition for the AIM package. I then copied the installer into the offline area directory.

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