Would you like to upgrade the Novell client software on all of your Windows 2000 Professional workstations without even leaving your desk? If you’re like me, you’re already thinking this sounds like a great idea. After all, why would you want to walk up to each computer and run the client installation manually when you don’t have to? This article will show you how to use Novell’s Automatic Client Upgrade, or ACU, to quickly and easily upgrade the client software on your Windows 2000 Professional workstations.

Preparing the client files
You can download the latest Novell client software from the download section of Novell’s Web site. As of this writing, the latest client version for Windows NT/2000 is version 4.8. The filename is wnt48e.exe. The file is approximately 14 MB in size, so don’t try to download this one at home unless you have a high-speed Internet connection.

The self-extracting file will create the directory structure of \Novell\English\winnt\i386. Since you will be giving your users rights to these files, you might want to create a common folder that will hold nothing but client software. Just be sure not to put them in the same area where you store sensitive data such as the payroll or HR files.

Group membership
Once you unzip the files, you must create an NDS group for all of the users who will be using the machines that are being upgraded. This group must be given Read and File Scan rights to the folder you created to store the client software.

Part of the installation configuration allows you to generate a log file for the installation. If you choose to use this option, you must also give the group Write and Create rights to the folder used to store the log file. Putting the log file folder in the newly created clients folder might be an easy way of ensuring that these powerful rights won’t trickle down to a folder holding sensitive data.

Creating a platform-specific installation file
The client installation options that you want installed during the ACU upgrade are defined in a platform-specific installation file. To create this file you will use the Novell Client Install Manager, or NCIMAN.EXE. This utility comes with the client software and is located at \winnt\i386\admin\NCIMAN.EXE. Figure A shows you the first screen you will see after launching NCIMAN.EXE.

Figure A
You’ll see this screen when you launch NCIMAN.EXE.

You begin creating a customized installation file by selecting New File from the File menu, after which you will be asked to choose the appropriate operating system from the Install Type dialog box, as shown in Figure B. Click OK to continue.

Figure B
Choose the operating system you want to support.

Now, you need to customize the installation that will take place when your customers log in. There are three main sections that you can customize: Installation, Client, and NetWare/IP. To customize the client software upgrade, you will highlight the various sections and configure the various options.

The Installation section allows you to choose which components are installed and what some of the settings will be. This is basically what you do when you manually install the client software and perform a custom installation.

The Client section provides you with the opportunity to customize the Novell client software, which is very similar to what you do when you edit the properties of the client software that is installed on a workstation.

Finally, the NetWare/IP section allows you to configure the protocol choices with which the client software will be installed.

As an example of the possible configuration settings that you can perform, I will make two customizations to the Installation Configuration section, as shown in Figure C. From this page, you can customize the components that will be installed during the ACU installation.

Figure C
You can customize ACU components on the Installation Configuration screen.

As you can see in Figure C, Accept License Agreement is not selected. You should deselect this option so your users won’t have to accept or read a license agreement during installation. You can also select your Reboot Options and Protocol Mode from this tab.

For some reason, Novell has made NDPS a default installation selection. If you do not wish to install NDPS, click on the NDPS tab and deselect Install This Component and Component Is Optional, as shown in Figure D. If you don’t do this, NDPS will be installed when the client upgrade is installed.

Figure D
You can disable NDPS from the NDPS tab.

When you have made all of the appropriate changes to the installation options, you should save the configuration as a text file in the \winnt\i386 folder. If you are configuring multiple platform-specific installation files, you will probably want to name them descriptively, such as Win2000-Deskpro-PII.txt.

Modifying ACU.INI for Your Installation
The ACU.INI file is used to set the parameters for ACU.EXE. Figure E provides you with an example of this file.

Figure E
The ACU.INI file is used to set the parameters for ACU.EXE.

As you can see, the file is broken down into several different sections including:

  • LaunchInstall
  • UnattendFile
  • StatusLogging
  • AdministratorMessage
  • ClientLocalInstall

The LaunchInstall section should have a Launch option set to Yes; otherwise, the installation will not automatically start. When the DisplayDialog section has the option of Display set to Yes, the user will see what is taking place. It’s a good idea to leave the Yes setting as it is.

The UnattendFile section provides the path to the platform-specific file that I created in the previous step. Here, the Use option should be set to Yes. The File option contains the path and filename for the platform-specific information.

The StatusLogging section can be used if you would like a log file of the installation. If you opt to use this function, you must set the Use option to Yes (by default, it’s set to No), and you must provide a path for the log file with the File option.

The AdministratorMessage section can be used to inform the users what is happening. Everything after the Message= will be displayed to the user.

If the ClientLocalInstall section is used, the LocalInstall option must be set to Yes (by default, it is also set to No), and a LocalDirectory must be provided. This option will copy the client files to the local workstation and then cause the installation to run locally rather than be pulled across the network. If the DeleteLocalInstall option is set to Yes (the default value is set to No), the files that were copied locally will be deleted after the installation.

Once you have configured ACU.INI appropriately for your environment, save the file.

Creating a login script
The final piece of the puzzle is the login script. For the purpose of this example, I chose to create a container login script. Figure F shows a sample login script.

Figure F
You should create a login script for ACU.

Time to try out the ACU
Now that you have completed the ACU configuration, it’s time to try it out. I would ensure that everything is working by trying it out on a select number of Windows 2000 workstations, such as the ones in your office. Once you have determined that everything is working correctly, you can add the users to the ACU group and sit back and relax while the Novell client software is upgraded as the users log in.
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