Friday, August 2, 2013

OH NO! A REBOOT! ... Never fear - SysTray's here

Rebooting a computer automatically or without interacting with the desktop is quite important to the regular maintenance or health and well-being provided by Managed Service Providers.  In GFIMAX RemoteManagement this can be accomplished several ways, both automatic and "immediate" from the dashboard.

But what happens when this scares the pants off the end user???

There are several uses for the System Tray feature in GFIMAX:

  • Hyperlink to an online help source (like your website)
  • Send an email to an online help source (like your support email address)
    • Even send a screen shot (Print-Screen) PNG file as an attachment!
  • Display a help message as just text
  • Launch a local file (got a help document you want distributed?)
Launching that local file can be very helpful, because now any file present on the computer can be opened by the end-user. 

How does that dovetail to our ability to schedule reboots on the machine remotely?

As we tend to do at GFIMAX, we keep things pretty simple.  We don't reinvent wheels that are pretty well round(ed). For instance, every copy of Windows on the planet has a tool that will reboot the computer without having to click on the Start - oops, Windows - menu button.  That tool?  SHUTDOWN.EXE.  The list of options on this command-line program has grown over the years, but basically it can be used to repeat any of the commands off the menu:
  • Shut down the computer
  • Log off the current user
  • Restart (reboot) the computer
  • Place the computer into hibernation
It can set a configurable delay of XX seconds for all these commands (with a default of 30 seconds), so that any (remote) user is warned before the action is taken.  It can even open a GUI window so you could add multiple remote computers to a list to receive the commands!  

So at MAX, we didn't try to write a new program that could do the same thing SHUTDOWN does.  We augmented it to provide a 5 minute (that's 600 seconds for those in Rio Linda) delay and ensure pop up windows appear to any and all users on the system.  We show one at the onset of the timer, and again at 2 minutes to go.

Why is this important? 

Because if we use the "standard" command to reboot a computer, the standard command to abort the delay can be used!  In this case, that's simply the "/a" handle.

In the past, some folks have created an icon for the All Users Desktop that is a simple batch file.  With our new System Tray Feature, we can add the command without having to download/copy a file: even if a System Tray is already present, simply adding the command will update all devices the next time they check in & logoff/on.

When a reboot is requested for any reason in our dashboard, the command is sent to the machine (SHUTDOWN /R /F /T:600) and results in the view they’ve seen before.

Add the “abort” command this way to the System Tray feature:

The end-user sees this option this way (highlight added):

When clicked, logoff is aborted and the end-user is notified.

This work-around requires a little bit of end-user training, but no more than the System Tray icon would require for any of the other items that may be present.  This can really help provide some empowerment to your clients in the future which will lead to improved service .  I hope it can be of some use.