Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Flexibility and accomdating clients

Last entry I covered the differences between flexible and static methods of deployment and the conclusion at the end was a mix of the two. It has been my experience that the best way to mix the two is ensure all variable information is gathered from the start. This does two things:

1) Eliminates technician wait time in that you shouldn't have to wait for a task to "catch up" till you can respond to it
2) Removes pauses that can extend the length of time an unsupervised process

To accomplish this we need ways of storing data from the client when they order the machine and a system of pulling the data out and configuring the machine.


Data can be stored in various fashions, a text-file is the fashion I use the most as it's simple, quick, and easy to parse. To generate a text file from a user's response we can use a simple batch script:
set /p NAME=What is your name?
set /p OFFICE=Do you want MS OFFICE [y/n]?

ECHO %NAME% > "%userprofile%\desktop\responses.txt"
ECHO OFFICE-%OFFICE% >> "%userprofile%\desktop\responses.txt"

This will generate a text file that we can parse. The text file should look like this:


We've now recorded some essential information to store for later when the time is required to utilize those responses.

To parse the file we can use tools such as find.exe the command FOR or IF.

cd /d "%userprofile%\desktop"
for /f "tokens=*" %A IN (responses.txt) DO ECHO %A

This will bring two responses:
ECHO Trentent

If we parse the file for known static "headers" (such as OFFICE) we can set variables for the stored responses.

FOR /F "TOKENS=* DELIMS= EOL=" %A IN ('findstr.exe /I "OFFICE" "%userprofile%\desktop\responses.txt"') DO SET OFFICE=%A

Now we can compare that value to determine if Office should be installed:
if /i '%OFFICE%' == 'OFFICE-y' (
ECHO Found Office
) ELSE (
ECHO Office NOT found

So if Office is found we can install it via a silent install command line.

So this lesson taught us to store reponses to be retrieved later. Stored responses can happen at any time -- when a user configures a system off a website, off a spreadsheet. These responses need to be stored in a known location such as a file share, in a database or downloaded off a webpage (wget.exe).

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