Soft Power Management

Freeze! You need Automation Studio for “soft power” IT management!

It’s not always right to chuck your users in GPO Jail for everything….

(..and why the best Administrators usher them in calmly, and leave the cell door open)

It’s tough being an I.T. Systems Admin. On the one hand, you need to ensure that you assemble some form of order from the chaos that unfolds daily, but on the other, you don’t want to come across as the Dirty Harry of ‘GPO-PD’:

“Sandra in accounts…take your hands off the keyboard, step away from your computer and assume the position!”

When I think back to my own heady days as an I.T. Manager – I can easily remember the most badly received ‘policy’ that I decided to spring on my unwitting users one morning. Using Group Policy I decided that the entire company was going to have my choice of desktop wallpaper, and as we were a computer manufacturer – how about a nice picture of a computer? One that I designed, of course. Which won an award. Yes, perhaps it was a just little self-promotional and my ego was a little oversized, but in my opinion, this was so much better for your desktop than a photo of Kylie Minogue in a t shirt.

But I was soon to discover, apparently not!

And so there was an office revolt, a humiliating climb-down and before you could say ‘I could be so lucky’, Kylie was again emblazoned across the desktops in corporate sales.

And so how refreshing was it, when Nathan Cunningham, IT systems analyst, emailed in a request asking if it was possible to use Automation Studio to change the desktop wallpaper of his users. But he wanted this to happen…. only once.

Only once? Now fancy that. What a great idea.

Here is an IT administrator, I thought, that fully understands how to wield ‘soft power’ in I.T. Yes you change everyone’s desktop wall paper, but folks, if you don’t like it, go ahead and change it to something else. And because users know that they can change it if they want to… most of them probably won’t.


So then – how do we roll this out?

Out of the box Automation Studio does let you set desktop wallpaper through the GUI, but doing it this way, it’s a set change for everyone and will be ‘enforced’. However as with many things, Automation Studio really comes into its own when you start playing with custom scripts. So to achieve Nathans requirement, all that was needed was the addition of a single line of custom script:

If UserOnce Wallpaper Then SetWallPaper WallPaper.jpg

And that’s it. As long as the file ‘Wallpaper.jpg’ is in your FastTracks /fshbin, you’re done.

So the point of this blog entry is, the ‘UserOnce’ and associate ‘UserOnceASecond/Minute/Hour/Day/Week/Month’ commands are a great illustration of how simple, yet smart Automation Studio commands can help you run not just tighter IT…

….but nicer IT too!


Rating: 5 out of 5

"Use this as a replacement for VBScript and PowerShell"

"It's easy to include attractive GUI elements in FastTrack scripts, beyond the basic dialog boxes and text input that VBScript offers ... Another powerful feature is the ability to distribute scripts as Windows Installer (.msi) or standard .exe files. Although interesting in its own right, this ability results in a much more intriguing capability: to repackage -- or wrap -- software installers as .msi files without using snapshots. If you've ever created an .msi installer file from before-and-after system snapshots, for use with a software distribution system such as Group Policy or SCCM, then you know how hit-and-miss the results can be."

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Rating: 8 out of 10

"Faster than the rest"

"We found the FastTrack syntax to be more transparent and easier to learn than Microsoft's PowerShell – the editor in particular provided good support in this regard. the Script Editor offers a large number of options from the command set through to simple output of graphical elements, which cannot be achieved at all with PowerShell or other solutions or only with a significantly greater level of effort."

"Anyone wanting to tackle the many hurdles in everyday admin and especially anyone for whom logon scripts and client automation is a priority will benefit from the variety of functions offered by FastTrack."

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