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automated software installation

By gah ·
The company I work for is developing a project labor tracking system for one of our clients using barcoding and batch memory scanners. Some of our client's field techs do not return to base at night so we need to come up with a way for them to download the data to their home computers (assumed to be Windows PCs of varying makes and vintages) and transmit it back to base for processing. I have been tasked with automating the software installations required to make this happen for distribution via CD or USB key. Essentially I will need to:
1) Install a driver for the batch memory scanners (USB) and determine the COM port designation they get.
2) Install the .NET Framework 2.0 for use by our app.
3) Install our our app for pulling the data off the memory scanners and set parameters.

The plan at present is to have the techs email the file generated by our app to base but FTP could be the transport - this is not part of the automated process I am trying to develop at present.

I am just the IT guy and have very little experience with scripted installations and software packaging but my initial research indicates I may want to use the Windows Scripting Host and VBscript since they are free and are likely to be present on the techs' PCs.

I am hoping those with more experience might be able to tell me if I am even on the right track with WSH / VBscript or recommend specific tools or methods to accomplish what I need to do or point me toward online or printed resources that may aid me in accomplishing the stated objectives. There is no budget for for what I am doing so any software tools will hopefully be free or very inexpensive. Our inhouse developers work primarily with a Pick-based database and most Windows development (such as the app for retrieving the data from the memory scanners) is farmed out so I don't have a lot of in-house support for the project. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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Question

by shasca In reply to automated software instal ...

Your Developers developed an application that does not have an installer configured into it?

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Actually, no

by gah In reply to Question

That portion is the least of my worries, because it a single executable file - the installation will be to create a folder, place the executable in there, and drop a shortcut to it on the desktop / start menu. I don't know how to script that either though so while it is the least of my worries it is still part of my worries!

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AD

by shasca In reply to Actually, no

Do you have an Active Directory environment? GPO has the ability to distribute application MSI's. Dot Net is a Windows update that can be deployed through a WSUS Server also. That would just leave the need to script a folder creation on ech PC which could (once created) also be deployed through Active Directory.
Do you have any of these available resources to work with?

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not where I need it

by gah In reply to AD

We and the client have AD, but I need to get the software onto the field techs' home PCs which are not part of anyone's AD. That's why I was hoping to create some kind of automated CD-based installer that would respond to the prompts and answer the hard questions for them. These are not computer techs but landscaping techs so their computing skills are questionable at best. I think I would rather drive to each of their homes and install the blasted thing for them than try to create a document that they could follow given the unknown nature of their PCs!

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hmm

by shasca In reply to not where I need it

That does make it way more complicated. You would be able to download Dotnet of course, and add the company app to the CD. The rest is not my area. I don't know enough scripting to help there. But I do read alot about it here.
There are some script here that you can download and maybe tweak abit to do what you want. If you are interested in learning scripting.
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/scriptcenter/default.mspx

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I am interested...

by gah In reply to hmm

I have wanted to learn so scripting to help automate some of the many tweaks I do to end-user PCs when they come in and for other repetitive tasks for some time but have never really known where to start. Your link is about the best starting place I've seen - thanks!

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Re: automated software installation

While your requirement of needing to place this on your end users' home PC's does present a bit more of a challenge, I would suggest the following:

Use the 30 day eval of Acresso's Admin Studio(http://www.acresso.com/downloads.htm). This suite has a handy tool called the Stand Alone Repackager that will allow you to install the application once on a test machine (clean machine, with just the OS and updates installed), configure it just the way you want, and then take a "snapshot" of the installation. It will then build that snapshot into a Windows Installer package (MSI) for you.

One of the benefits of doing things this way is your requirement for .Net and COM port designations. There is a setting when you create the MSI to require a certain .Net framework (1.1, 2.0, 2.0SP1, 3.5). By setting this, the installation will scan the machine, and if .Net is missing, it will automatically install it for you. Also, if the COM designations are not going to change from machine to machine, whatever you designate in the snapshot will carry over to each installation.

Once the MSI is completed, you can distribute it in a variety of ways. I have found, for situations such as yours, if your company has an external facing website or FTP site you can place it there. The end users can then be instructed on the URL they need to go to via email. The biggest benefit to this is you know that each installation will be uniform, with no chance of the wrong option being installed or the right one missing. Only what you want in the package will be there.

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This sounds like what I was hoping to find...

by gah In reply to Re: automated software in ...

This sounds like it could work for me as it addresses some of the key "unknowns" in the process that I had. I just got back from having the flu and have equipment piled up all over the office for other projects so I don't know how soon I'll get to try it out - I guess that depends on where the developers are in their work and how my boss wants to prioritize projects. Your recommendation sounds like my best shot at getting this done in any kind of practical way - thanks!

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