Wrench value from your Creo Investments Home Measure the benefits Simple Automation can bring Why
Automate?
A personal way to do PDM Peer to Peer
PDM
3D Drawings Model Based
Design
Smooth out unwanted sharp edges Other
Articles
www.proetoolbox.co.uk - Simple Automation made Simple

Setting up an Intranet Server

A question that almost everyone interested in Pro/Web.Link is "How do I distribute the apps to the users?". The answer is through your companies Intranet. There are many strategies to distribution and while I shall list a number out here, my strong preference is that companies install a web-server.

  • Put the apps on a user machine.
  • Copy apps directly to the users.
  • Put the apps on a network machine (server).
  • Put the apps on a network web-server.
  • What follows is a brief description of the above methods.

     

    Put Apps on a user machine

    This is typically the first step for most companies. It's even possible that this approach can work long-term for small to medium sized companies. In most cases the process is as follows:

  • Application developer sets up a 'Apps_Public' folder.
  • Rights are assigned on the folder such that users cannot delete it.
  • The existence of the folder is made public.
  • Users initially access the apps by navigating to the 'Apps_Public' Folder.
  • Users setup shortcuts to the Apps in their Pro/E browser.
  • I feel there are a couple of basic limitations with this approach. Firstly CAD Administrators are often NOT the people responsible for Windows File/Folder access rights. This means the chance that a user may delete / move / overwrite an application is still possible. Secondly pulling applications directly from a windows folder means you cannot leverage any 'Server-Side Scripting'. Probably the most annoying limitation is that the applications can only be accessible when the machine is powered on. If the CAD Administrator is out of the office and the machine is powered down, the users can't get to the apps.

     

    Copy Apps directly to the users machines

    This is usually a second step for companies. In general users don't properly use the applications that the Simple Automation developer produces because they have to go and find them. The typical reaction is for the application owner to then email the files to users who then are expected to put them into a directory of their choosing.

  • Application developer Emails the files.
  • Users extract the files and save to disk.
  • Users initially access the apps by navigating to their 'Apps' Folder.
  • Users setup shortcuts to the Apps in their Pro/E browser.
  • This method, while simple, is sub-optimal for a few key reasons. First any changes to the apps need to be re-sent out (and re-saved and so on). Second and perhaps more importantly, the apps are being ran from the local machine and are thus subject to the restrictions that Internet Explorer sets to the Local Machine Zone (I'm assuming that you run Pro/E on windows). Put simply it is quite possible with your build of Windows XP (or otherwise) that you cannot change the security settings such that you can disable the default "Allow Windows to Script an Unsafe ActiveX Control" dialog. According to Microsoft, the local machine is more unsafe than the Internet Zone and thus users are unable to change the permissions there! While you can overcome the limitation by tweaking registry files (see this Windows XP SP2 Article), generally it is far more pleasant an experience to allow the users themselves to change the Trusted Sites security settings to run applications from the Intranet.

     

    Put the apps on a network machine (server)

    The only difference between this and leaving the apps on a user machine is that the apps are located on a 'real' server (in this case simply a machine that is not used to run Pro/E).

  • Application developer sets up a 'Apps_Public' folder.
  • Rights are assigned on the folder such that users cannot delete it.
  • The existence of the folder is made public.
  • Users initially access the apps by navigating to the 'Apps_Public' Folder.
  • Users setup shortcuts to the Apps in their Pro/E browser.
  • Placing the apps on a server does two things, first it centralises the apps location. This seperation of production from prototype storage areas typically results in the only apps the users sees being the production worthy ones. Secondly servers are generally left on overnight. The risk of the server being switched off when the user wants to access the app is very much reduced.

     

    Put the apps on a network web-server.

    Installing the apps on a web-server allows your apps to leverage dynamic web technologies. Put simply your apps can be enhanced to either pull or push additional information (e.g. log user Pro/E activity in a database) in an enterprises business systems.

  • Application developer sets up a 'Apps_Public' folder on the web-server.
  • Rights are assigned on the folder such that users cannot access it.
  • A Pro/E Homepage is setup, with Apps being available directly from it.
  • Users config.pro files are changed such that the Pro/E hompage displays on startup.
  • Users can additionally if desired setup shortcuts to the Apps in their Pro/E browser.
  • The downsides to this approach are that you first have to install a web-server and second have to write a Homepage for your CAD department. I'm completely biased and cannot understand why anyone would not spend 2 hours to utilise this architecture.

     

    Conclusion

    Having a web-server provides a professional method of Application distribution. All updates to apps are instantaneously available to users in a controlled manner. Adding advanced dynamic functionalities to the server such as PHP and MySQL allows Simple Automation applications to add value beyond client-only situations. A web-server can easily run on a cheap machine and installation literally takes minutes.