Implementing the Remote Control feature in ZENworks for Desktops

Did you know ZENworks lets you gain remote control of a desktop without having to leave your desk? In this Daily Drill Down, Ron Nutter shows you how to implement the Remote Control feature in ZENworks for Desktops.

ZENworks’ power is not limited to managing applications by user, group, or container. It also gives you the ability to gain remote control of a desktop without having to leave your desk. Imagine how much more productive you or your help desk staff can be using just this one tool. In this Daily Drill Down, I’ll walk you through the steps involved in implementing the Remote Control feature in ZENworks for Desktops. I’ll assume that you already have ZENworks installed and that you are familiar with controlling access to your applications using ZENworks and the Novell Application Launcher window. For more information on ZENworks, see the Daily Drill Down “ZENworks tips and tricks.”

What is ZENworks’ Remote Control?
Remote Control is just one of the features ZENworks for Desktops makes available to administrators. Depending on the type of support you need to give users, you can implement a control or a view. Using a control is similar to running pcAnywhere on a remote machine and using a network connection to support a user. With remote views, as the administrator you can only watch—you can’t affect what the user is doing.

 Depending on the customizations you’ve implemented at a desktop level (for example, a hosts file containing the names of servers and their IP addresses), you have the option of using the File Transfer portion of the Remote Management component of ZENworks for Desktops. File Transfer allows you to transfer files from the server and/or your workstation directly to your users’ computer. That way, you avoid intermediate steps, such as copying a file to the server and then to your users’ workstations, e-mailing the file to your users, or bringing the file to their workstations on a floppy disk.

The Remote Execution option allows you to execute programs remotely on a user’s workstation to apply updates or perform similar tasks without having to visit the workstation. For the purposes of this Daily Drill Down, I’ll look at implementing just the Remote Control portion of the Remote Management features of ZENworks for Desktops.

Getting ready to implement Remote Control
To implement Remote Control successfully, you must install the Novell client supplied with ZENworks for Desktops (or a later version) on the computers that you want to use Remote Control on. The Workstation Manager service should be installed as a part of that process.

If you’re installing the service onto Windows 95/98, run the Setup.exe program from Sys:\Public\Client\Win95\IBM_enu. If you’re using NT, run the client installation program from F:\Public\Client\Winnt\i386, the directory on your NetWare 5 server.

When the client installation window appears, select the Custom Installation option so you can add the Workstation Manager service. Figure A shows the options that should be selected by default: Novell Workstation Manager and Novell Distributed Print Services.

Figure A
You must install the Workstation Manager service to implement Remote Control on your workstations.

Verify the selections, and then click the Install button to update the client installation. After the client installation process has completed, click the Reboot button. Once the workstation has rebooted and you’ve logged on to the network, you are ready to proceed to the next step.

Watch for a small banner bar to appear in the upper-left corner of the window. The banner will confirm that Novell Workstation Manager is installed, and it will disappear from sight almost as quickly as it appeared.

After you’ve logged back into the workstation, start NWAdmin. First, you’ll need to create a workstation import policy. Creating a policy lets you specify how the workstation objects appear in NWAdmin so that you can invoke the Remote Control feature.

If you haven’t already created a user policy package, you should do so now. This package lets you create a workstation import policy so that the workstation you want to control appears in the NDS tree. Right-click the container object in which you want to create the user policy object, then select Create.

When the New Object dialog box appears, scroll down until you see the Policy Package object and double-click it. When the Policy Package Wizard appears, as shown in Figure B, select the appropriate user policy object for the version of the desktop operating system you’re using.

Figure B
You can use the Policy Package Wizard to create new policy packages.

If you have multiple desktop operating systems, create a user policy object for each type of desktop environment on the network. For our example, I’ll create a user policy object that will work with Windows 95/98. Select the Win95-98 User Package object in the Policy Packages window and click Next. Although Remote Management Policy is listed, you won’t be able to configure it at this point.

The next window asks you for the name of the user package and the container that you want to create it in. Unless you’re planning to create multiple user package objects in a particular container (which is useful when you have distinct differences between workstations in the same container), you can accept the default and click Next.

Normally you’d have to browse the NDS tree to select a location for the user policy object, but since you’ve already selected a container object, NWAdmin assumes that’s where you want the object. In the window that follows, you can click Workstation Import Policy and then click the Details button, or you can double-click Workstation Import Policy.

By default, the Allow Importing Of Workstations option is selected. You’ll have three options for storing the imported workstation objects:
  • Associated Object Container
  • Selected Container
  • User Container

Choose the Associated Object Container option to place the workstation objects in the same container that will hold the user policy object. The Selected Container option allows you to specify an explicit NDS path where the workstation objects are to be stored. The User Container option allows the workstation object to be created in the same container as the user who is registering the workstation.

After selecting the Associated Object Container option, click the Workstation Naming button. In the resulting window, you’ll specify how the workstation object is named in NDS so that you can easily find the one you need to work with.

By default, the workstation objects will be named using the workstation’s machine name and the network address of the workstation. The network address used will depend on the protocol you select as the preferred network address.

You may have several workstations with similar machine names. In that case, you may want to choose the IP address instead because you may be more familiar with the address of the workstation than its name. (Of course, you might have a problem with this approach if you’re using DHCP to assign the workstation IP addresses and you have noticed a problem with IP addresses appearing to move around the network instead of staying with one particular workstation.)

Other options for naming your workstation include:
  • The DNS name of the workstation
  • The type of CPU in the workstation
  • The workstation’s preferred server name
  • The name of the user logged in at the workstation
  • The type of operating system installed on the workstation
  • A unique label assigned by you

You can use any one of those choices, or use them in combination to create individual workstation names.

At this point, specify a time at which the workstation client software will need to check NDS to verify that the workstation object has been created. Unless you will have a lot of workstations logging in at the same time, or you anticipate a larger number of changes on a constant basis, accept the default value of 60 minutes.

Now, click OK to save your workstation import policy configuration. In the Policy Package Wizard window, click the Next button. The window that follows asks you to select the container to be associated with this policy. Since you had selected the container before clicking Create, NWAdmin will display the selected container’s name in this field. Simply click Next to proceed.

The summary window lists the choices you made during the creation of this object. After verifying the selections, click the Finish button to create the user policy object in NDS. When the wizard’s final window disappears, you should see the new policy object at the top of the currently selected container.

Although this step is not mentioned in the documentation, you’ll need to create a remote management policy. If you don’t do this now, you won’t be able to control a workstation remotely even if you’re logged in as Admin. Take a moment and click this policy to enable it. By enabling it at this level, you’re setting things up for the entire container.

If you want to restrict Remote Control access to only certain individuals or groups on your network, you can do so by overriding the defaults at the individual workstation object. To do so, click the Operators tab in the workstation object and specify the users or groups. At this point, you will need to have a few of the users log on to the network so that you can start to see workstation objects that are available for importing.

Importing workstation information
You are now ready to start the process of importing the workstation information gathered during the login process. In NWAdmin, right-click on the container object in which you created the workstation import policy, and then click Details. Scroll down the list of buttons on the right side of the Organization properties window and click the Workstation Registration tab.

You should see a window similar to Figure C that lists all the workstations that have logged in since you created the workstation import policy. If you drag the bar across the window where the ready-to-import workstations appear, you will see all of the possible variables listed for each workstation. You can import the workstations one at a time. Or if you prefer, you can hold down [Shift] while you select the ones you want and import a group all at once.

Figure C
These workstations have logged in since you created your policy package.

Click the Import button to create the necessary workstation objects. After the import process finishes, a message window appears that tells you how many workstations were imported. You can also see a log of what was done. However, the log really isn’t very useful—it simply tells you which workstations were imported and what their NDS names will be in NWAdmin.

Once you click OK in the Container properties window and refresh the NWAdmin window for that container, you should see workstation objects for each of the workstations you created. Double-click on one of the workstation objects to open a properties window. The title bar of the window, shown in Figure D, will read Workstation:, followed by the object name. (This name will follow the naming convention you specified in the workstation import policy.)

Figure D
You can view the information collected for your workstation.

Scroll down until you see the Remote Management button, then click it. In the resulting Remote Management properties window, click the Remote Operations button. Then, select Remote Control. If everything goes well, you should see a window telling you that NWAdmin is resolving the workstation address. The next window requests the user’s permission for you to take remote control.

If you receive a message that the Remote Control program was unable to locate the workstation in NDS, try deleting that workstation object in NWAdmin, re-login at the workstation, and then re-import the workstation’s information. If you see the error again, try running WSREG32 on that workstation and you should be able to gain control. If the problem persists, check out Novell technical document 10013987.

Taking control
Once you’ve successfully established connections to the remote workstation, you’ll see a window similar to the one shown in Figure E. You may find that the image of the remote workstation is a little smaller than what is on your screen.

Figure E
The controlled workstation’s desktop appears in a window on your desktop.

If you left the Remote Management policy at the default settings, you should see a small box on the upper-right corner, informing the user that you have remote control. You can turn off this display if, for example, you don’t want users knowing that someone is watching over their shoulders.

On the title bar for the Remote Control session, you’ll see five buttons. The first button emulates what would happen at the workstation if the Start button were clicked. This button can be handy if the toolbar on the workstation has been hidden and you can’t get it to appear on the screen. The next button, App Switcher, gives you the flexibility of being able to press [Alt][Tab] to move from application to application.

The next button, which looks like a key, enables you to reboot the workstation without walking the user through the keystroke process or visiting the workstation yourself. This button can be useful if a workstation has locked up on a user and you’d like a way to get things restarted without having to power down the workstation.

When you need to invoke special keystroke sequences that normally would cause your management workstation to reboot, you can click the next button, System Key Passthrough, to allow the keystrokes that would normally be trapped at your workstation (such as [Alt][Esc]) to be sent on through to the workstation that you have under Remote Control. The last button, Navigation, allows you to scroll around the screen when the resolution of the workstation under Remote Control won’t appear fully on your screen.

There is an additional level of configuration. Click in the upper-left corner of the Remote Control screen to open a drop-down list. Take a look at the Configure and Hot Keys options. Depending on your configuration, one or more of the options under Configure may be grayed out. You can force certain options, such as viewing in 16-color mode. System Key Passthrough can be left permanently enabled if needed.

The Options menu displays keyboard shortcuts for most if not all of the functions. If an option won’t work, you should get a message explaining why. For example, I tried to force full screen mode on the Remote Control session I was working with during the preparation of this Daily Drill Down, but was told that wasn’t possible because the session I had active was at a lower resolution (800x600) than the workstation I was using for initiating the Remote Control session (800x600). Although the resolutions were the same, I was running a higher color setting (High Color 16 Bit) than the workstation I had under Remote Control was capable of using.

In this Daily Drill Down, I showed you how to use the Remote Management tools that ship with ZENworks for Desktops. As networks become increasingly complex and you are asked to do more with less, tools like this will enable you to be more productive—and you won’t have to run all over your building to take care of user problems.

Ronald Nutter is a senior systems engineer in Lexington, KY. He's an MCSE, a Novell Master CNE, and a Compaq ASE. Ron has worked with networks ranging in size from single servers to multiserver/multi-OS setups, including NetWare, Windows NT, AS/400, 3090, and UNIX. He's also the help desk editor for Network World. If you’d like to contact Ron, send him an e-mail. (Because of the large volume of e-mail that he receives, it's impossible for him to respond to every message. However, he does read them all.)

The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein, but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.

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