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Consistent Software Installations on a Large Graphics Network
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by Kass Johns (August 1994, for %%timeout The journal of IDIA)
My network consists of over 90 Macs across twelve creative departments, including three art departments, a prepress department and two writing departments. The first thing I did as Mac manager, was to set some policies. All the software and hardware for the network is registered in my name. Only I can order any Mac hardware or software for the network. This allows me to keep an accurate inventory and all announcements, upgrades and updates come only to one person (where they are logged, fulfilled and/or filed).
I created a corporate standard for creative software (matching the industry standards). We add to the standard as dictated by need. If one person in the department needs a new application, then we buy it for all in that department. When one person or department needs to upgrade, we all upgrade. I test all software (especially upgrades) through my Mac. If it breaks my Mac, nobody gets it on the net. For this reason, my users rarely see a software crash. On my network, my users may see only one crash every eight or nine months. Nobody is allowed to load software other than myself or my designate. No games allowed, and absolutely no piracy will be tolerated.
Perhaps the most visible means of my organization comes with the use of SyQuest drives as a corporate standard for each system. I once timed my install using my "EZLoad" method (pre-Sys7). I was able to install a Mac IIci--new, from out-of-the-box; reformat & partition the hard drive; install System 6, DiskTop, AfterDark, SAM, Tempo, ATM, Suitcase, Microsoft Word (v5), Illustrator (v3), FreeHand (v3), QuarkXPress (v3), Photoshop (v2), Painter (v2) and 600 merged and harmonized PostScript fonts--printing across the network in under 23 minutes! (Remember how long it takes just to install Word 5 from diskettes? Try over half an hour!)
My first SyQuest drive was one of those horrible 25/25 pin Ehman drives. I quickly learned my lesson and switched manufacturers. As soon as the 50/50 pin drives started to become available, I started buying them for each design station I have. I allotted enough money that year to outfit all the existing stations with a drive and then each new station came with a drive as standard configuration (as defined by me). By the time the 88MB drives were introduced to the industry, I was very much ensconced into the 44 format with hundreds of cartridges. I did not see the 88s as a significant enough jump in capacity to justify that transition.
I pre-install all my applications to a SyQuest cartridge I named "EZLoad." I created three folders, "Everyone Gets This" "Artists Only" and "Writers Only." In those folders, I placed all the "master" copies of each application and utility for the network.
I preset all defaults and customization where I can by installing everything to my system, then when it is all prepared, I copy each application (and any necessary INITS, extensions or preferences) to the correct folder on the EZLoad cartridge. I now have several EZLoad cartridges since we moved to System Seven, and have serialized software. I pre-install all serialized software to my Mac (I can do 40 copies of XPress in one afternoon) which minimalizes the user's down time for an upgrade. With this method, I only have to remember to turn off/on my own viral utility (my users don't have unlocking access). I can sit in my office and install one application right after the other while I am busy on the phone or working on my personal PowerBook. I get into an installing "rhythm" and can really crank them out. I always investigate each new version of an application when it first arrives in to see whether it installs invisible resources or is the installer merely a de-compressor? What all does it install--and where? What un-needed parts can be tossed out from the install? (Hint: one of them starts with Teach and ends with Text!)
Each of my network stations has it's own unique station number (department name and number: ART1, ART2, ART3, ADV1, ADV2, ADV3, etc.). After I install the serialized applications, I rename the application itself with the app name, version #, and station number (QXP3.2 ART1, QXP3.2 ART2, etc.). I keep only one copy of the application's complete folder with all it's needed parts (including custom preferences or data files) on each cartridge along with the multiple station copies of the application itself. If necessary, depending on the app, other folders or parts are on the cartridge for placement in the System Folder or where needed by the app. When "installing" the app at the individual station, all I need to do is to drag/copy the proper station-numbered app and the application's common folder to the station's hard drive. Once there, drop the loose app into it's folder. All it took was a couple of minutes and we are loaded! No floppy disk shuffle, no settings to setup, no decompressing, and, almost no down time for the user.
When we (I now have help) install a new system, we first reformat and partition the drive with our hard disk utility. Then, install the Operating System from an EZLoad OS cartridge (all disks from the Apple installer set are disk-copied to the cartridge and the installer will call to them as if they were diskettes--without the hassle of floppy disk shuffle!). This enables us to easily install to our old Mac IIs with no high density drives. After the OS, from the same cartridge, install the 3rd party ethernet card drivers (they require resources from the installer). If it is a Mac II class machine, we next install the Rocket drivers (I have 40 Radius Rockets). Now, we are ready to drag/copy all the EZLoad cartridge software. Marquee-select the two folders appropriate to the station being installed (the Everyone folder and either the Artist or Writer folder).
If an Artist station, insert the Art Apps EZLoad cartridge and copy the appropriate applications to the hard disk's Applications folder. Also, select the correct EZLoad QXP and/or EZLoad FH4 cartridge for that station--I now have five SQ44s with just my serialized QuarkXPress apps and will have five for FreeHand 4. After the copying is done, go through and set memory caches, rip out any TrueType or bitmap-only fonts the installer placed and set the default Finder preferences. After everything is on the hard drive, just move the folders and their contents from the EZLoad cartridges to their new home folders. All the Macs on my network have the same base folders: System, Applications, Utilities, Fonts and Working. The user can only keep their data files in the Working folder (or partition if applicable). The other four base folders and their contents are mine to manage. With consistency comes ease of management.
I keep all my software inventoried in a spreadsheet listed by: application name, version, station number, date purchased, date upgraded and comments. For installation purposes, I re-sort the spreadsheet by station number so that all the software for each station is grouped together. Using the inventory as a checklist for the installation prevents confusion. I greatly prefer the Adobe method for serialization. It enables me to continue to keep one master "virgin" (non-personalized) copy of the application on my Art Apps EZLoad cartridge. After the application has been drag-copied to the hard disk, a quick reference of the inventory spreadsheet gives me that station's serial number. Launch the Adobe application, personalize it, quit--done.
By keeping my master applications on SyQuest cartridges, re-installs are quick and clean (they are never launched from the cartridges, and therefore maintained as "virgin" copies). When I need to apply a patch to the applications, I have clean un-used copies to apply the patch. Remember the great Quark Zapper fiasco a couple of years ago? It was finally realized that it worked best if the Zapper patch was applied to a clean un-used copy of QuarkXpress. I always watch the DTPForum on CompuServe for update/upgrade complaints and concerns before I ever consider installing my updates/upgrades. Let someone with a smaller installation learn the lessons first--not me! I knew when it was OK to jump into the update and I ended up applying it to the clean copies on my cartridges as recommended--thus avoiding the "Zapper trap!"
I may have many seemingly strict policies for my network, but it is the only way to ensure consistency, which, in turn, helps guarantee high productivity. On a network this size--it has to be that way!
© Copyright 1996-2001 by Kass Johns, all rights reserved world wide.
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