Scott's Column
Client/Server Beats Intranet, Compressed Workstations, a Digital Camera

September 1, 1998
By Scott Lewis

In a past column I mentioned that I spent a significant amount of time building a new briefing for our client server application using the new version of the development tool from Oracle. We showed the new briefing to our project sponsor, and he decided it was such a big improvement that we are going to deploy it as an interim solution to move to an Intranet application.

Our ultimate goal it to let the browser be the client. But the current version of Oracle's web tools are still a little immature, and we would lose a lot of functionality that we can custom program into the client application.

The "new briefing," as it is being called, has a browser look and feel. This will make it easier to transition our users to a true browser client. I have program in the ability to save items in a "favorites" section, as well as designate web sites that we can launch. I save all the customization information to the users home drive on the network. This allows a users to run our system from different locations around the build, or country for that matter, and still run the way they are accustomed. By the way, we are currently running in 5 locations around the country, so this is a client server application running on a WAN.

Workstations Compressed

We had our workstations "compressed." Basically the furniture that makes up our cubicles has been swapped out for small furniture. They say I lost 6 inches. It feels like more, for a couple of reasons. 1) the portion of my desk that my main computer resides has an angle built into it. So I am forced to sit farther from my monitor (or move the monitor farther from the wall/partition). This means I have 6 inches and the angled section removed from my space.

It doesn't bother me much. I used the opportunity to throw away a bunch of stuff, so I don't really feel too cramped. However, three computers is a tight fit.

The three computers are:

  1. Pentium 166 with 64 MB RAM, 1.6 GB Hard Drive, 21 inch monitor, and 4 MB Video memory. I currently have the resolution set at 1152 x 882. This workstations is my primary assigned computer running Windows NT 4.0.
  2. Pentium 166 with 64 MB RAM, 1.2 GB Hard Drive, 2 MB Video memory, and a 17 inch monitor. This is an older machine before our company started leasing machines. I use it as a guinea pig machine to build software distributions. I try to run Windows 98 on it, but right not it is being use to build the loads for Windows NT 4.0 & Windows 95. I leave its resolution set at 1024 x 768.
  3. A Pentium 133 Laptop with 40 MB RAM, 2.0 GB Hard Drive, and 12.1 Active Matrix screen and 2 MB Video Memory. The active matrix screen has a fixed pixel resolution of 1024 x 768, which is fine for my eyes.

Building Loads

I have been working on building the software distributions that we will need to install our new client software to workstations. This is usually more fun, but this time I decided to do it by the book. By the book means that I am letting the area responsible for loading the operating systems do that for me. The problem is when they send technicians that know less about loading a workstation than I do. Yet they refuse to give my LAN ID privilege to load the operating system myself. It is taking about three times longer than when I would cheat and load it myself, even without access.

They have improved the actual load building processes. WinInstall used to be the only supported tool used. But it was so problematic that I starting using Wise. Wise is better, but WinInstall is still the only supported tool. One of the biggest problems we had with WinInstall was that it did not work properly with Win NT and Win 95 from the same load. WinInstall has since fixed this problem, but WinInstall is still unreliable when different version are used at different time to distribute applications to the same computer.

The version of WinInstall that my company settled on is the version before the fix to Win NT/95. But the Oracle Express Analyzer product that gets loaded to the client is different for Win 95 & Win NT. So I decided to give WinInstall another chance since I would have to build two loads anyway.

Another area built a complete wrapper around the WinInstall application to streamline the entire process of build a software distribution. Who ever wrote it did an excellent job. It made my life super easy. I was able to use WinInstall much easier than in the past, and I didn't have to deal with all the headaches in getting another product to build a load that conforms to our company's standards.

Digital Camera

I finally got around to borrowing a friends digital camera. He offered it to me months ago, but I was too lazy to remind him to bring it in. Well, I had a reason to use it. I bought a lithograph from Warner Bros. store. I wanted to try and take a picture of it to show you. I asked my friend for the camera. It just so happened that he had it at work, and he gave it to me. It did take him a while longer to get him to bring in the cable to download the pictures from the camera to my computer.

I will try to use it a little more. Next month I will tell you about it.

That about covers this month. I'll be able to tell you if our loads are successful next month. I will also let you know how the new client server application is progressing. We are expecting to role it out in mid October, so it better be near complete by the end of September (when next months column goes to press).