By Jeff Frownfelter.
My name is Jeff Frownfelter, and I am the Technology Coordinator for Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. I was employed here in 2003 for the purpose of deploying and supporting new technology for use by the students and faculty. I have worked in the IT field since 1985, supporting and managing within various types of organizations, including primarily Health Care and technology-related publications. My experience is balanced between technology and software development, although I started out as a hard-core programmer like many during the technology rush of the mid 80’s.
Established in 1847, The Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired is accredited by state and national certifying organizations. The school, which has an enrollment of approximately 179 students, offers pre-school through high school programs and related services, free of charge on a residential or day school basis, to the young people of Indiana who are blind and visually impaired.
The school provides students with instruction in the same coursework required of all school-aged children in Indiana. Specialized classes include orientation and mobility, adaptive physical education, independent living skills, vocational education, music instruction, Braille and specially adapted computer technology. Also available are experiences and opportunities to participate in recreational activities, on and off campus jobs, band, chorus, piano, scouting, creative dance, and ham radio, as well as involvement in competitive speech, track and field, wrestling, cheerleading and swimming.
After graduation, students enter the work force or continue their education at colleges or technical schools. Graduates of ISBVI are involved in such careers as law, education, computer technology, business sales, manufacturing, supportive employment and health services.
The Challenge – Life Before Macro Scheduler
Software, networked computers, and other devices here must be accessible, suited for students with varying levels of vision and other conditions. Computers here are initially installed from an image, but they must quickly be customized to suit the special needs of individuals or groups in terms of software. Re-imaging to perform installs and updates does not work well here for that reason, as that type of process AND the wide ratio of support personnel to devices is too unmanageable and creates more disruption than what is simply accomplished through updates.
The challenge is that much of the specialized software used here does not support unattended / quiet / over-the-network installations. It was originally necessary to manually install the software at each workstation. This was a huge time burner of course.
The Solution – Life After Macro Scheduler
Using Macro Scheduler and its compiler, I have been able to produce scripts and executables that I can include OVER needy software installations. These executables are applied to the standard startup scripts, and they are able to execute without logging into the workstation. Some of these OVER-installs use Macro Scheduler’s robust scripting to go as far as validate a proper installation, re-stage a retry after reboot (if needed), and even enter the application after install in order to modify the defaults directly.
We are also using Macro Scheduler to help facilitate the transition of our email systems from Groupware to Microsoft Exchange. Scripts manage the changes that need to be made to the email profiles. We even have Macro Scheduler scripts which collect POP3 email, parse the emails, make changes to the headers and insert them into the new email system. These scripts are very powerful and extremely reliable and run without problems continuously for days on end.
The Benefits of Macro Scheduler
A good example of how Macro Scheduler makes a positive impact on time here â€¦ So many bridges that otherwise would have been difficult (or impossible) to build during a major deployment this past summer, involving numerous software updates / additions AND user assistance upon first-time use â€“- Within a few weeks, a temporary tech was able to complete the deployment on all of our workstations. Prior to the automation courtesy of Macro Scheduler, 2 extra months or sets of hands would have been necessary. Likewise, this possibly would have been the case when staff returned from summer break. Difficulties were anticipated to be far greater without Macro Scheduler. Processes and wizards created with Macro Scheduler helped many users self-start with email and other applications that were affected.