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August 10, 1999

How To Automate Boring NT Admin Tasks

SEBASTOPOL, CA -- Anyone faced with the task of setting up and managing a large number of workstations quickly learns the limitations of a graphical user interface. Ashley Meggitt and Matthew Lavy manage the LAN at Jesus College, Cambridge, where they've developed a number of scripts and techniques to bypass the GUI limitations and administer the workstations centrally. The result is the just-released Windows NT Workstation Configuration and Maintenance, the only book on the market to focus on automating the management tasks you perform daily to keep a large workstation farm up and running.

"Few things in life are as boring as maintaining and configuring a fleet of NT workstations. Management of a reasonable sized network can be extremely interesting-optimizing protocols, exploring new technologies, examining network speeds, these can all be very rewarding. But if there is a system administrator anywhere who doesn't groan at the prospect of cleaning up hard disks, reconfiguring workstations so they can be moved, or tidying up oversized registries, I haven't met them," says Meggitt. "Imagine this scenario, instead. When a workstation boots up, or at some predetermined time of day, a script will run.

The script may carry out basic maintenance tasks like clearing temporary directories, archiving event logs, or tidying the registry. Or it may consult a server-based database, and note that the workstation on which it was running was due to be moved to new offices, and in preparation for the move, the script will change the machine's network identity, reconfigure IP, and change various security parameters. If problems arise, the sys admin will be notified by automatic email. Finally, (or perhaps, initially) the script will check with a network server to make sure that it is not obsolete. If it is, it will install a replacement, and kill itself without complaint. This can be achieved remarkably painlessly. "

Instead of trying to provide one-size-fits-all solutions to what are in reality site-specific kinds of problems, Lavy and Meggitt concentrate on the techniques you need to master to keep your workstations under control. "We demonstrate how a tiny script running automatically on each workstation can load more substantial scripts from a network server, which in turn can be used to carry out virtually any administration task you can think of. There are literally thousands of administration tasks that could be automated by scripting," says Lavy. This new book's step-by-step approach shows you how to implement Perl scripts to take care of your particular problems. Topics include:

  • Running scripts without user intervention
  • Remote script installation
  • Controlling services and drivers
  • Machine-specific settings
  • Changing network identity
  • Perl modules and functions
  • Developing custom Perl modules

Windows NT Workstation Configuration and Maintenance is an indispensable tool for the busy NT system administrator.

Chapter 5, Chapter 5 Controlling Services and Drivers, is available free online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/ntmaint/chapter/ch05.html

For more information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author bio, and a sample chapter, see: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/ntmaint/

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Windows NT Workstation Configuration and Maintenance: Automated Workstation Management
By Matthew M. Lavy & Ashley J. Meggitt
1st Edition August 1999
1-56592-613-7, 164 pages, $24.95 (US$)

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