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Educational Software Thread, Self-extracting exe package - is this a problem? in Technical; Would any of you envisage any problems with running an exe file on a typical school set-up but where the ...
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    Self-extracting exe package - is this a problem?

    Would any of you envisage any problems with running an exe file on a typical school set-up but where the exe in question is a self-extracting package (ie. made with iexpress)?

    It works fine on all my computers, but I thought I'd better check it with the experts.

    FYI the exe is a program aimed at teaching languages in primary schools. The installation is very straightforward. The exe that is installed to users' computers is a self-extractor.

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    jamesreedersmith's Avatar
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    Why not make it a deployable MSI and make us all a lot happier!

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    To clarify, the exe file will be deployed by msi. But once installed, the exe itself contains various components packaged so that they self-extract (into a temporary folder, I guess?) at runtime. The reason for this is so that the files that accompany the exe file (the content files, if you like) can't be *easily* copied and redistributed.

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    jamesreedersmith's Avatar
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    So a techie wouldnt right click and then extract them using his favourite compression utillty and drop them in a sensible folder and set permissions appropriatly and run the application as any other application rather than a convoluted mixture that will need tweaking in each environment beacase of each persons permissions etc.

    I would do it properly and as disigned in the first place.

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    So you're saying there IS a problem with what I wanted to do?

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    jamesreedersmith's Avatar
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    Potentially yes and most technicians would therfore circumvent your way and do as i have discribed anyway - you may as well therfore do it that way in the first place and make us all like you and comment on a well designed and produced app and deployment.

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    mlapworth (3rd October 2011)

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    OK. Thanks for the time taken to reply. I'm a little disappointed as I was trying to protect audio files from being freely distributed. I wouldn't mind a 2nd opinion...

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    Quote Originally Posted by mlapworth View Post
    OK. Thanks for the time taken to reply. I'm a little disappointed as I was trying to protect audio files from being freely distributed. I wouldn't mind a 2nd opinion...
    The better method would be for it all to be HTML (5) and packaged in a SCORM file for use on a Virtual Learning Environment. This way no-one will see the audio files as they are hidden on the webserver, and it only needs installing once, thus is a cleaner install method for deploying to 1000's of clients. It will also work on Mac's linuxes, ipads, androids and most other equipment that lurk around in schools - and be accessible for teachers at home to plan lessons. But I guess your stuck with windows exe's.

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    mlapworth (3rd October 2011)

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    Quote Originally Posted by mlapworth View Post
    To clarify, the exe file will be deployed by MSI. But once installed, the exe itself contains various components packaged so that they self-extract (into a temporary folder, I guess?) at runtime.
    Please don't do this.

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    mlapworth (3rd October 2011)

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    SYNACK's Avatar
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    I agree with both comments to an extent, for the MSI option just have it act like a normal program, a self extracting program could have all sorts of issues with permissions and space for the extraction along with making it slower to start up. Most schools have a bunch of junky PCs as well and something that has to run a pointless exctract at startup is not endearing.

    If you want to lock away the audio a bit you could do something like writing your own RAW blob to the filesystem, basiclly all the audio files binary data end to end in one large file with an index either separatly encrypted or in your app itself that has the start and end positions. Nice and easy to read from a data point of view and difficult to seporate out easily without the index. A lot more discouraging than the extract method which is trivial to bypass.

    TBH package it properly as an MSI with adm and admx files for any configuration. Make it sensible, only writing to user accessable areas and reg keys so that it can run as a limited user and you will be leagues ahead of the competition. If it just works nicely then it is unlikely to be cracked open as there would be no need to fix anything and the less annoying it is the less malace and so less chance there is of piracy anyway.

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    mlapworth (3rd October 2011)

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    Thanks everyone for your replies. I guess it's not the news I wanted, but I'm glad I asked. I'd rather not end up with problems further down the line.

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    AngryTechnician's Avatar
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    As SYNACK mentioned, if you are trying to prevent audio files from being too simple to copy, you could embed them into a resource file. I don't know what development environment you're using, but Visual Studio has built-in support for storing and retrieving data in a resource file.

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    mlapworth (4th October 2011)

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    Thanks for your reply. There are already resources embedded in the main exe. What I was trying to do here was to include about 50MB of mainly audio files (but lots of other smaller ones as well) in a self-extractor of about 20MB. It all works fine if I leave them as separate from the main exe. But I wanted to make the exe smaller and simpler to distribute, as well as making it harder to copy and distribute the extra files.

    I presumed that using the iexpress tool which is part of Windows (type iexpress in the run or search box of the start menu if you're not familiar with it) would create a self-extractor that would work in most (Windows) environments without complications...

    The link on this page downloads an exe that has been packaged in this way (by me). It's a free sample program. It doesn't have an installer - the downloaded file is a self-extracting exe that should run from anywhere. Would this really be a problem on school computers?:
    ”Es posible! - Michel Thomas Spanish course for schools - free sample download - taskmagic's posterous

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    jamesreedersmith's Avatar
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    Fails instantly on my locked down pupil profile - tries to write to a random location!

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    mlapworth (4th October 2011)

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    Thanks for having a look. It works beautifully on my xp and win7 computers. It looks like I'll have to go back to leaving the content unpacked.

    Here's an example of how it looks when left unpacked. Again, no installer for this sample. (There will be for the main program.) You can run the exe from anywhere as long as you (a) have unzipped it and (b) maintain the file/folder structure
    TaskMagic3 Spanish Sample Unit - En la cafeterķa - Free download - taskmagic's posterous



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