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Remote Reboot X January 27, 2010

Posted by General Zod in Nifty Appz, Tech.
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Every once in a while, I encounter a tiny piece of software that I find noteworthy enough to talk about.  They’re usually small innocuous executables that don’t do much, but are helpful in a big way.  I like to call them “Nifty Appz”…

Today, I patched some of my development servers with the latest MS releases.  However, rather than logging into each server in turn… I decided to do it with Doug Zuckerman’s Remote Reboot X utility.

remote_reboot_x


You’ll have to excuse my doctoring of the above screenshot.  I always find it best to eliminate any references to hostnames, IP addresses, and user credentials from my screenshots.

The application is fairly simple in design (as it’s only designed to automate a few tasks) and is fairly instinctive.  Mind you, it’s not a very elegant GUI design and the code behind it is probably a bit haphazard as well… but it definitely works.  It does what it’s designed to do… and you can’t ask for too much more than that.

Well… technically, I could ask for more… and I will (see below).  However, don’t take this as a slight against Doug’s software.  As a free utility, it’s great!  However, if he were to make a few additions and alterations, then it might one day be worth even slapping down a few dollars for official licensing.

But before I get into all that, let’s hear from the author.  Here’s a few blurbs from his site where he discusses his software and the inspiration behind it:

Remote Reboot X is an application that I initially created to reboot a large number of remote computers simultaneously, while being able to monitor their statuses in real-time.  However, I soon added functionality to handle the installation of Microsoft’s Windows software updates on the remote computers as well. If you’re wondering what the X in Remote Reboot X means, it’s simply a way to signify the number of machines that are being rebooted.  When 22 hosts are added to the application, the title bar will display “Remote Reboot X22″ or Remote Reboot times 22, for example.

My original goal was simple… I wanted to learn .NET…. However, what kept me motivated throughout the learning process was the fact that I had a real goal in mind– to eventually make a monthly task at my job easier and less stressful. I work as a systems administrator for a software and consulting firm where I have a one-hour window once per month to install Microsoft’s Windows software updates on no less than 100 servers, reboot the servers, and then verify that they’ve come back online properly.  In order to handle so many servers in such a short period of time, the process simply had to be automated.  However, I couldn’t find an existing application to do what I wanted, so I decided to create my own.

Honestly, I wish more System Administrators would find themselves this inspired.  Most of my solutions are usually in the form of old school batch files and VBS scripts.  Sure, they get the job done, but they aren’t as easily adaptable as I’d like and lack a pretty GUI interface.  One of these days, I’m going to sit down and teach myself a better way.  So I say kudos to Doug…

Finally, while I’m talking about his product, I’d like to make a few suggestions to Doug for his future releases.  Some of these suggestions sound like rather small and useless changes, but I just feel that they’d make it a better product.

  • Add the ability to remotely run WUAUCLT /DETECTNOW to the menu.
  • If possible, I wouldn’t mind seeing an additional column that indicates the number of updates that have been downloaded and are available for installation.
  • After loading a target Host into the utility, it’d be nice if it automatically reached out to retrieve the Last Boot Time and Number of Updates Available without having to tell it to do so.
  • Start pinging a Host automatically when a remote reboot is requested.
  • After the Host has been Timing Out (for say 5 or so attempts) and then comes back online… then delay for about 10+ seconds to allow the OS to finish loading, and then auto-launch another WUAUCLT /DETECTNOW, and retrieve updated information on Last Boot Time and Number of Updates Available.
  • Also, when the Host becomes accessible after a reboot, then how about updating the Reboot Result column with new information, like a bit of text indicating “Reboot Completed” or “Server Online” or whatever.  (You could probably cheat a little on the confirmation by checking to see if the Last Boot Time is less than 1 minute ago.)  See… leaving that column set at “Reboot Initiated Successfully” really isn’t a clear indication of the status.  At a glance, I would have to wonder… “Has the server rebooted?… Or is it about to?”

Give me a little of time, and I’m sure I can come up with something else.

Again… thanks, Doug.

Comments»

1. Doug Zuckerman - February 3, 2010

Thanks for the nod, General Zod. Your suggestions are greatly appreciated, and I’m working on adding a whole bunch of functionality including what you’ve suggested.

Note, the software does automatically start pinging when you initiate a reboot. I wonder if you don’t have the most recent version from my site?

Thanks again for the kudos and the thoughtful post. I particularly like your comment about the haphazard code. 🙂

It’s been an interesting process creating this app. In particular, one of the most challenging aspects (surprisingly) is making a slick GUI that satisfies everyone who uses the software. Sometimes you end up with a great idea for functionality but it can be difficult to implement effectively in a GUI so that it is intuitive to use. This of course is still a work in progress, so do expect a better product in the not too distant future.

Thanks again,

Doug Zuckerman

2. General Zod - February 4, 2010

Maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention when I was evaluating the app, so I could be mistaken about that auto-ping bit. Anything’s possible. I’m doing another maintenance window tonight, so I’ll check it out again. Regardless, I’ll keep an eye out for future releases.

As for the GUI interface… the way I figure it, you’ve kept your app as freeware so the only person you really need to satisfy is yourself. Everything else is merely constructive criticism.

Finally, thanks again. Your work is appreciated.

3. Doug Zuckerman - February 4, 2010

General – I probably will charge a few bucks for it at some point, but not until I’ve added all the additional functionality that I have plans for, and not until it’s cleaned up and more polished for everyone. Your comments, of course, will always be welcomed. It gets quite a few downloads right now, and I think overall people are pretty happy with it since it fills a void. It’d be nice if I can at least make enough money on it in the future to cover my web hosting costs!🙂

-Doug


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