NIH agency applies First Aid
- By Bill Murray
- Apr 06, 1998
Timothy Barnes bought First Aid for home use last year and liked it so much that he
volunteered to beta-test a network version of the PC repair package.
Barnes, chief of the Intramural Technical Systems Branch at the National Institute of
Allergy and Infectious Diseases, last fall began testing the CyberMedia Support Server
(CSS) Repair Engine for Workgroups 1.0 from CyberMedia Inc. of Santa Monica, Calif.
In the first two weeks of trials by fewer than 20 users in January, Barnes said, CSS
1.0's Crash Protector saved files during Microsoft Windows general protection fault
He has configured the repair engine to work with Microsoft Internet Information Server
on an intranet that serves the division's 1,100 users at four research laboratories in
Maryland and Montana.
Configuration took him a few hours, he said.
"I wanted to give our users as little chance to screw up as they can. I wanted to
put something on their machine and forget it," he said. The software installs during
reboots, "and that's all they see," Barnes said.
Barnes also considered Microsoft Systems Management Server but found it too cumbersome.
"There was no Windows 95 support. It was more trouble than it was worth," he
Barnes, a user of Windows NT since Version 3.1, prior to the TCP/IP support in NT 3.51,
now plans to roll out CSS 1.0 to all of NIAID's intramural division users by the end of
About 60 percent of the division's systems are Power Macintosh computers, because most
DNA sequencers and molecular dynamics programs are written for the Mac. The rest are
Pentium PCs, mostly from Dell Computer Corp.
Barnes installed CSS 1.0 on a 166-MHz Dell PowerEdge SP5166 server with 128M RAM, an 8G
SCSI-2 hard drive and running NT Server 4.0.
Once the enterprise version of CSS is released, Barnes plans to dedicate a server to
He said in future versions he would like to see more customizable support such as
software distribution features.
"I want to automate the process of getting Microsoft Office 97 installed and
configured on all the stations without having to go physically to each one," he said.
Barnes would prefer to set preferences on the network and have CSS put in Dynamic Link
Library files, start menu files and record Windows Registry information at each station.
Barnes tailors support to each user profile. CSS 1.0 carries out the configuration
management chores such as checking printer drivers, hardware conflicts, network settings,
performance and hard-drive scans, he said.
He can schedule the scans and receive notification when CSS 1.0 runs into problems. The
most common problems are missing .dll files, drivers, Object Linking and Embedding files,
and start-up applications.
When a few NIAID users downloaded Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 from the Internet,
the new browser conflicted with settings on their PCs. "CSS 1.0 could have restored
the old settings," Barnes said.
NIAID, one of 21 organizations at the National Institutes of Health, researches better
ways to diagnose, prevent and treat AIDS, cerebral palsy, Lyme disease, muscular
dystrophy, parasitic infestations and other infectious, immunologic and allergic diseases.
CSS 1.0 starts at $90 per seat. It requires NT Server 4.0 with Service Pack 3 or a
higher version, and it works with Windows 3.1, Win95 and NT 4.0.
CyberMedia has other users at the Defense Logistics Agency, Navy, and Health and Human
Services Department. The company's General Services Administration schedule contract
holders are Data Procurement Corp. of Rockville, Md., and Government Technology Services
Inc. of Chantilly, Va.