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MIS Systems Thread, SIMS & MSI in Technical; I am still very unclear as to why having an MSI wrapper for SIMS deployment is considered to be so ...
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    SIMS & MSI

    I am still very unclear as to why having an MSI wrapper for SIMS deployment is considered to be so necessary by some on this forum but it really has hardly hit the radar on our SupportNet site which is really well used by schools. I know some of you wags have said that is because we have worn them down but I have strong evidence to suggest that our standard routines for upgrades are working well in thousands of schools.

    Over 2000 schools will download an upgrade automatically within 24 hours of a release (we have a web service which monitors the success or otherwise of upgrades). Taking upgrades like this would not happen if those schools experienced problems.

    •Primary schools are doing unattended upgrades using our standard deployment. I understand that doing it via MSI would require technical knowledge beyond many of these school's reach.

    •A posting on the last thread suggested that upgrades hadn’t really been a problem for 18 months and even then the problem had been caused by someone pressing cancel.


    One issue is the time it takes to do a client upgrade on a low bandwidth wireless LAN. We are researching to see if possible to move to a more incremental approach and do have some ideas.

    An argument for an MSI wrapper was allowing the administrator to chose the time of the upgrade however unless machines are left switched on overnight I don’t see how that helps. If the database has been altered the client must be upgraded before a teacher can use SIMS. SIMS is in use throughout the working day.

    A standard install is so simple these days, so I am not certain how MSI would save a huge amount of time.

    I would really appreciate constructive help as without a clear understanding I cannot justify diverting resources to this project and away from what our school consultation groups have told us to concentrate on.

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    ajbritton's Avatar
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    re: SIMS & MSI

    Where to begin?!?

    With MSI, deployment/upgrades can be handled from a central point. No need to visit the desktop to install. Every app that cannot be deployed automatically is a PITA.

    MSI will allow upgrades to take place without granting a user local admin rights (or having to run SIMSPERM.BAT which almost amounts to the same thing).

    Other MSI benefits such as self repair, advertising.

    I honestly would not describe a standard install as simple. A simple install is either an assignment with Group Policy, or a double click on a shortcut to a silent installer. Anything more complex than that does not cut the mustard.

    To be honest, you don't need to provide an MSI, just installers that will work reliably in 'silent' mode. Installations can then be done using startup scripts or MSI wrappers which we can take care of ourselves. By all means wrap up all the 3rd party bits with a GUI for an attended install, but document the contents and give us access to the individual bits so that we can deploy them in the most efficient and reliable manner.

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    tosca925's Avatar
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    re: SIMS & MSI

    Move to CMiS, you dont have all this trouble then.

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    re: SIMS & MSI

    Quote Originally Posted by PhilNeal
    An argument for an MSI wrapper was allowing the administrator to chose the time of the upgrade however unless machines are left switched on overnight I don’t see how that helps.
    It helps because:
    1) An MSI can be set to install as the PC turns on, so assigning it to the PC at the end of one day and then using wake-on-lan to bring the PC up an hour before the users come in the next day means that every PC will have the new version when it is required.
    2) Some users have neither the time nor the patience to wait while an installation happens (and I don't have the time or patience to speak to 50+ people demanding to know "when their PC will work again").

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    re: SIMS & MSI

    Primary schools are doing unattended upgrades using our standard deployment. I understand that doing it via MSI would require technical knowledge beyond many of these school's reach.
    Thats fair enough, but with no disrepect to primary schools nor their staff, do they have 300+ clients to upgrade in a very short space of time?

    •A posting on the last thread suggested that upgrades hadn’t really been a problem for 18 months and even then the problem had been caused by someone pressing cancel.
    But why should this be a reason not to consider MSIs? Surely there should be a 100% guaranteed way without any need for ICT staff to attend clients? No matter how many times teaching staff are told, there is always going be the odd impatient one who inevitably "cripples" the machine.

    ...and dont get me started on simsperm.bat!

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    re: SIMS & MSI

    I think the issue here is not updating, as such, but it is initial deployment + any weird little patches that have to be ran.

    We have ~40 computers running SIMS.net in school, 30 of which have been replaced in the last year. These machines each have different software requirements except for Office and SIMS.net. Office is easy, as it can be centrally deployed from MSI but SIMS.net is a pain - it has to manually be installed.

    Take into account things like moving SIMS.net to a new server and you have another issue - you have to alter the SIMS.ini file else it won't update. This could be solved with MSI's.

    Add in the fact that local admin rights are needed to run updates (which is a security nightmare), and that they can take 20 minutes to run sometimes (and this usually occurs when access to SIMS.net is actually needed for registration or something similar) and the need for MSI's becomes even more apparent.

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    re: SIMS & MSI

    Quote Originally Posted by PhilNeal
    I am still very unclear as to why having an MSI wrapper for SIMS deployment is considered to be so necessary by some on this forum but it really has hardly hit the radar on our SupportNet site which is really well used by schools.
    I myself made several postings on the SUpportnet forums over a month ago and have recently noticed many more people doing the same thing, granted they weren't so much as asking Capita to provide an MSI as they were enquiring as to how each authority was dealing with it and if anyone themselves had managed to make a fully automated MSI package to be deployed via AD.

    Quote Originally Posted by PhilNeal
    I know some of you wags have said that is because we have worn them down but I have strong evidence to suggest that our standard routines for upgrades are working well in thousands of schools.
    Yes, the standard upgrades are working great at the moment, we have a fair few schools running solus automatically over the weekend. However this Infrastructure Update Utility is NOT a standard upgrade, and as such cannot be deployed through solus, this much everyone knows. But unless you installing SIMS .Net on a machine for the first time it means that you have to go out of your way to locate every machine that needs the utility running and then do so. The whole thing is a complete PITA.

    An unattended MSI or proper silent running executables would have made life oh so much simpler and easier.

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    webman's Avatar
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    re: SIMS & MSI

    We don't have problems with SIMS deployment, we have a CC3 MSI wrapper for the SIMS setup apps and it works fine. Connect.ini contains "Redirect=S:\SIMS" to the SIMS server, and SOLUS updates work under normal accounts who have permissions to run SIMS.

    We run a CC3 intergrated admin/curriculum network.

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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    re: SIMS & MSI

    IIRC I was the person that said that we had no problems for 18 months and the one problem we had was someone being impatient ... but yes, I would dearly love and MSI for initial install. Being able to apply it via machine would be a good thing and being able to do updates on startup would be nice too ...

    Having SIMS.net update when it is first used used to be ok, but now that we have so many people using it all the time it would be nice to be able to do it at startup instead.

    At our schools we have people come in at a variety of different times in the morning and so it would help spread it out during the initial burst ... as it is we try to tell staff 2 days in advance that we are going to do the update so they know in advance to be in and start things up early ... but when we have to do the emergency patching it is not so nice ... and having 45 teachers trying to do the update over wireless at the same time leads to a few frustrations.

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    re: SIMS & MSI

    I would be great if the installer could download the updates to the PC/laptop using BITS and then run the install in the background. This would help deployment on wired as well as wireless networks.

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    re: SIMS & MSI

    I would also put the vote in for an MSI based install for SIMS, most of the rest of our software can be installed remotely, but SIMS requires a visit to install/reinstall.

    We could get round this by having two clone images, one for students and one for staff build, but as soon as SIMS is in the clone it is out of date and so need to be updated before we ship the new machine out to a new member of staff.

    As to upgrades, the current process is that SIMS checks to see if there is an upgrade and applies it if needed. If we were able to roll these out in a more controller way that would be great - but then we may have problems if people with different SIMS client versions were accessing the same central database.

    Anyway - definatly a strong vote for an unattended or MSI based install routine for SIMS - upgrades might require a bit more thought.

    Thanks for asking though!

    Jonathan

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    re: SIMS & MSI

    Quote Originally Posted by PhilNeal
    •A posting on the last thread suggested that upgrades hadn’t really been a problem for 18 months and even then the problem had been caused by someone pressing cancel.
    18 months, you say. That sounds like around the time that RM started supplying CC3-ready MSIs of SIMS... I wonder if you're giving Capita undue credit there, Phil?

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    re: SIMS & MSI

    Quote Originally Posted by PhilNeal
    An argument for an MSI wrapper was allowing the administrator to chose the time of the upgrade however unless machines are left switched on overnight I don’t see how that helps. If the database has been altered the client must be upgraded before a teacher can use SIMS. SIMS is in use throughout the working day.

    A standard install is so simple these days, so I am not certain how MSI would save a huge amount of time.

    I would really appreciate constructive help as without a clear understanding I cannot justify diverting resources to this project and away from what our school consultation groups have told us to concentrate on.
    I think next year I'm about to come across a good argument for _something_ that will allow an automated upgrade to take place at the time of administrators choosing/schedule.

    I may be misunderstanding some things so feel free to dismiss if I am.

    We are highly likely to be using SIMS for electronic registration at the start of the next school year. As I understand it there is a legal/Health and Safety requirement to have the registers done withing a short time of registration period. Knowing when an update is released with an MSI we can make sure that the update is installed via MSI and remote resarts before the teacher get into class. Else the teacher will have to wait the few extra minutes for the upgrade to take place, which although not too long generally is a significant proportion of the time available to fulfil their legal/H&S requirements.

    When once a month a situation arises that a significant amount of teachers may fail these requirements ( even if it is only by 2 or 3 minutes ) due to an upgrade that only starts when they try to launch SIMS and takes up 5-20% of the available time ( dependent on when they launches SIMS )

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    re: SIMS & MSI

    If Capita are going to provide MSIs, then why not properly authored MSIs instead of wrappers? As mentioned above, you miss out on MSI self-repair funcationality etc if you just use a wrapper.

    The problem with the current update system is that the client updates when the user needs to run SIMS. This is inconvenient where a user has 10 minutes to register a class, when the update can take this long to run.

    I'm still not clear on why Capita haven't been producing MSI installers for years, as most other vendors seem to manage it.

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    re: SIMS & MSI

    I'm still not there - I'm really sorry.

    How will MSI get SIMS onto clients any faster than our upgrade system? Are teachers' machines switched on before going into registration?

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