|The Traveling Workplace release 1.20
|- by Jon F. Kaminsky
his review is part two of Syntegration Inc.'s Workplace Security and Desktop Management package. The Secure Workplace was reviewed by this author in the July issue of OS/2 e-Zine!. Please note that the Traveling Workplace can be purchased and deployed as a standalone product or may be purchased at a discounted price as part of the Professional edition of the Secure Workplace v4.0.
What is The Traveling Workplace?
The Traveling Workplace (TWP) is a tool that can back up, restore, create, and otherwise manage OS/2 Workplace Shell environments.
One might be interested in this product if several users accessed the same workstation but each user preferred a certain look to their own Desktop. It can also provide a level of protection against permanently losing a carefully configured Desktop. If you ever suffer bouts with corrupted system .ini files, this product could offer a quick path to restoration after such a loss.
Of course, the system archiving utility built into OS/2 offers some protection against this, but it only can save the last three Desktops and if you are archiving Desktops that contain some unknown damage you may be out of luck when trying to restore from an earlier archive. In this case, many users resort to the original archive which was saved upon installation of OS/2. But what about the beautiful Desktop that evolved over (perhaps) a long period of time? It's history, usually.
The Traveling Workplace includes:
- Traveling Workplace application
- Object Editor
- Object Manager
- Traveling Workplace Manual (hardcopy)
- Traveling Workplace on-line manual
- Customizing the OS/2 Workplace on-line manual
- Traveling Workplace FAQ
What's new in v1.2
TWP v1.2 adds several improvements over earlier versions. In particular, a new restore procedure is implemented to attempt to reuse the archived Desktop slot if it is available (e.g., a name like "UserDesktop" will always occupy the "UserDesktop" slot in the list no matter how many times it is restored). This version of TWP now checks to see if the Workplace Shell is active before performing the restore operation. If the Workplace shell is inactive then the Desktop is put back in the same place using the same Desktop name. The included Object Editor is updated to import and export Desktop resource files (this is the same version as the Object Editor installed by the Secure Workplace v.4.0). Finally, new on-line references are included.
Installation help is available through the hardcopy manual and a readme file located on the installation floppy diskette. The user manual guides the user through the installation process adequately and there is also documentation provided for unattended installations. If you indicated you wanted objects built, the Traveling Workplace folder (GIF, 5.8k) is created on the Desktop. A system reset must be performed to initialize the program files. The install program can also be used to deinstall the product simply by running it from a command prompt with the /REMOVE parameter.
How it works
The TWP works with the three elements of the OS/2 Desktop: the user profile, the system Profile, and the Desktop directory, including its subdirectories. In a newly installed OS/2 system installed on the X: hard drive partition, the user profile is contained in the OS2.INI file located in the X:\OS2 directory, the system profile is contained in the X:\OS2\OS2SYS.INI file, and the Desktop directory is named X:\Desktop. These names are not required, however, and the particular user and system profiles that are actually used by OS/2 are set in config.sys using the USER_INI and SYSTEM_INI environmental variables. The Desktop directory name is defined in the system profile.
You can have as many Desktops resident on an OS/2 system as you have hard drive space to contain them. Two are originally set when you install OS/2: the main Desktop directory X:\Desktop, and the maintenance Desktop X:\Maintenance!!Desktop. What the TWP does is allow the user to define additional Desktops and easily switch from one to the other -- either from a limitless supply of archived Desktops or from one of 36 resident Desktops managed by the TWP by choosing new user and system profiles or by selecting from a list of on-line Workplaces.
Configuring the TWP
When you first start the TWP, the program opens to the main window (GIF, 9.7k). The main window shows what archived Desktops are available, what on-line Workplaces are available, and the various functions you can perform in those Workplaces. With these built-in functions, a user can:
Note that any directory can be used for holding archives, including floppy disks, and if the machine in question is used by several individuals, each person can have their own separate archive directory. Any archive can contain additional files such as config.sys, startup.cmd, autoexec.bat, and you can also add files that you especially want to protect such as the .ini file for a heavily configured application.
- start a Workplace image backup
- restore a archived Workplace image
- restart the Workplace Shell and optionally select another Desktop
- Create a new Desktop from scratch
- delete an archived Workplace or on-line Desktop
- select a log file for auditing activities
- select a directory to place archived directories
- add additional files to backup and restore along with a Desktop
- customize preferences for the TWP
Customizing the TWP using preferences requires additional explanation. The preferences window (GIF, 9.8k) allows you to select options for backing up and restoring archived Desktops. In preferences, you can set:
- The maximum number of on-line Workplaces and archive generations allowed on a particular workstation. The maximum number of Workplaces is 36 (not including the current resident Workplace). TWP will remove the oldest archive when the maximum number is exceeded. This number of archive generations is not limited, but if set low, the TWP will remove the oldest archived files when the maximum allowable generations are exceeded.
- Whether the current OS/2 config.sys file is updated after restoring an archived Workplace. If this option is set, then the archive chosen will become the default Desktop upon restart and thereafter until another change is made. If this option is not set, (i.e., don't update config.sys), the Workplace restore will not remain active after the machine is shut down and
restarted. This would come in handy if you change your mind after a restore.
- Whether a cleanup operation is implemented to remove the old user and system profiles and the Desktop directory after restoring an archived Workplace.
- Whether the TWP is allowed to use the default names when a restore is performed. If the default files do exist for the selected default names, TWP will not overwrite them. If you have ever found multiple Desktop directories on your hard drive (e.g., Desktop1, Desktop2, etc.), this may come in handy in eradicating the spurious Desktops.
- Copy user and system application data which may be more current than the archived Desktop you wish to switch. For example, you might want to restore a certain Desktop but that Desktop does not reflect changes made to the .ini files as a result of some new software settings you might have changed in the interim, or perhaps some changes in Desktop colors that you especially want to preserve across the restore. Note that both these functions can be used to maintain portability when restoring Workplaces that were backed up on a different workstation.
Taking a Trip with the Traveling Workplace
I was curious to see the results of capturing my pet Desktop on my main work machine and transporting it to another machine in the office. But then I read the manual a little more closely (a rare occurrence for me), and it became apparent that that would not have been a very good idea. The TWP is not intended to be portable over two machines that have different versions of the OS/2 operating system (perhaps even FixPak levels), different display adapters, different installed fonts, different sound card drivers, different printer drivers, and different application software.
None of the machines in this office were able to meet all these criteria! The closest I could come was a Pentium 133 and dual-boot Pentium 90 (both Warp blue spine, no FixPaks) with the same video card. Neither had exactly the same fonts, one machine had a sound card, one didn't, and the application suite differed markedly between the two machines. Most of these differences have doable workarounds like pre-installing the same fonts on the target machine before the restore, or determining whether printer or video information in the target machine is stored only in config.sys or the user or system profiles. However, the killer for me was not having the same applications on both machines. In this case, the restored Desktop would contain a large number of objects that would point to nonexisting locations.
Bummer -- so instead, I decided to check out the multiuser aspects of the TWP. In this scenario, you can set up multiple Desktops for different users on the same workstation. Then all a user would have to do is restart the Workplace shell with his/her Workplace image and they would be able to get right to work in a familiar environment. I wanted to create a work profile for me, and a games profile for my son. My intent was to place the objects he would use out on the Desktop and hide or delete some of the objects he didn't need to be fooling around with, like System Setup and the Shredder.
Setting up multiple users on one workstation is, in a nutshell, a hassle, and one false move and you've created junk. I really tried hard to follow the directions outlined in the manual, but I guess my boots are just not made for walking. I really created a mess. Before I knew it, I had several archives, several Desktop folders, several folders called "Temporary Desktop", and multiple on-line Desktops that all did the same thing. Some of this was undoubtedly my fault, however, the documentation is a little weak in this area, and does not adequately explain the relationship between archives, on-line Workplaces, and what happens when you restore an archive with or without clean up, or what
happens when you restore an archive that cannot find its own Desktop folder (answer: OS/2 creates a "temporary Desktop").
So, the only thing to do was delete everything I created, hoping I wouldn't end up deleting my default .ini files. Then I went through the painstaking process of deleting Desktop folders from the command line (you cannot shred Desktop folders). I suspect one of the errors I had was caused by not entering correct information in one fields of the objects. I had to redo my setup three times before I got it right, and when I finally did, it was by accident. In all honesty though, it works very well once it's configured correctly. To change to another Desktop now, I just choose an on-line Workplace icon and I'm there in a few seconds. If I want to change to another person's Workplace, I choose their object and the system restarts the Workplace Shell using that user's profiles.
As mentioned, The TWP comes equipped with two fairly useful utilities: the object editor and the object manager. Both of these utilities offer ways to create, query, customize, save and otherwise update settings of Workplace Shell objects conveniently. These utilities can also be used to implement a rudimentary level of security to objects you might want to protect from careless or malicious users (but don't tell Syntegration I said this as I'm sure they would rather sell you the full Secure Workplace product!).
The Object Manager is a Workplace Shell class used to query, save, and update settings of any Workplace Shell object. You can also use it to destroy objects. It is activated by dropping another object on it to display the object's class, title, location, and settings. The Object Manager is intended for administrative use and should not be deployed for end users in a secure environment.
The Object Editor is an alternative to the interactive drag and drop method of object creation using templates. This utility can be used for bulk object creation. While the settings you can change are available to anyone with a working knowledge of the REXX SysCreateObject function, the Object Editor provides a much more convenient interface to object settings such as:
For example, if you had a file containing financial data, you could call that object up in the Object Editor and check off the "no delete" and "no move" which would not allow a user to delete or move the data file from its location. If you're the real sneaky type, for example, you could set a sensitive folder's "not visible" property and no one would ever know it was there (except for you, of course). It's a nice little utility.
- no copy
- no delete
- no rename
- no print
- no shadow
- no move
- no drag
- no drop
- no settings
- not visible
Summary and Suggested Improvements
The Traveling Workplace works as advertised, however just getting there can be a little cumbersome. There needs to be more in-depth documentation explaining the relationship between on-line Workplaces and archives. For example, I decided I didn't want a certain on-line Workplace anymore so I threw it away. However, an archive I didn't intend to delete somehow went with it.
There is also little advice for recovery measures to be taken when you misuse the product. Several times I had the machine boot to either a missing Desktop folder (which would automatically create another instance of the "Temporary Folder" in my root directory) or to a blank Desktop with no explanation as to why. Luckily, I was able to recover from these errors by rebooting to the command line (ALT+F1, press C), starting the TWP, and performing a restore of my original archive. Without that original, I would have been out of luck.
The multiuser creation procedure needs to be streamlined. It might be nice to just tear off a template for "log off", "Workplace Restore" and "User's Desktop".
The TWP does not seems to deal with Printer objects very well, and it also doesn't seem to restore Desktops with the original object arrangement preserved. When I set up my son's Desktop I did not want to give him a printer object, so I shredded it. I also carefully arranged all his toy and games objects in the middle of the Desktop where he could find them easily. Then I saved his Desktop. Upon restoring his Desktop, all the objects were rearranged to the top of the Desktop and the printer object reappeared.
In summary, the Traveling Workplace is a powerful tool, but the documentation is a bit cryptic for the average user. If you just want a couple of different looking Desktops from time to time, such functions are built into products like Stardock's Object Desktop. If you are a network administrator and you wish to configure a company Desktop and distribute it among users, The TWP would be a good tool. The TWP also works well for multiple users on one machine, although it's somewhat of a pain to set up.
And The TWP is a good tool for just saving archives; I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have wished I had a good backup to fix a corrupted environment. Currently, I use the OS/2 archive utility and a QIC-80 tape backup for my archiving. Neither of these are ideal, and once I found that every one of my three archives contained corrupted application information which was causing system problems. Using TWP is a much more convenient method to ensure the quality of your system and user profile backups. Hmmm. It's about time I did just that.
The Traveling Workplace v1.2
by Syntegration, Inc.
Upgrade MRSP: $29.95
Secure Workplace Professional edition MSRP:$120.00
Jon F. Kaminsky is principal hydrogeologist of Northwest Environmental Geoscience Co. in Tacoma, Washington and when not practicing geology, he indulges in writing shareware OS/2 utilities. He has written articles for scientific journals, and now, an on-line magazine.
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