Supporting Mobile SMS Clients Just Got (a little) Easier

by Dana Daugherty

This article is based on the recent Hot Fix for Q article Q281107 and 2 tools from SMS 2.0 Support Tools (Clitravl.exe and Site4c.exe). It highlights my organization's use of these tools and the application of the hot fix. Initially, SMS 2.0 provided little support for traveling and home based users. Hopefully this article will make your life a little easier.

This article highlights my organization's use of two new tools from the SMS 2.0 Support Tools site and the application of a recently released hot fix. Initially, SMS 2.0 provided little support for traveling and home based users. Hopefully this article will make your life a little easier.

Our corporate infrastructure and behavior, pertinent to this article, looks like this: 

  • 5 US and 4 European SMS locations (9 SMS sites)
  • 50% of our 1200 employees use a laptop.
  • 100+ work from home.
  • Roughly 20% travel to other sites at least once per year.

Here is some basic information on supporting traveling and home based SMS clients.

Traveling Clients - This would include any system that has has an SMS Client installed, that is logged on to a network that is not included in the site boundaries list at the system's installed site. The traveling user does return to his\her installed site. Support issues include keeping clients installed and reporting to the correct sites.

Home Based User (AKA Clients connected via slow link) - This user works from home or from a location that does not have an SMS site server. Support issues include those mentioned for Traveling Clients plus installation issues. The client is too large for dial-up. The client must be logged on to a network listed in the Site Boundary list for the Site it wants to join. Another facet of this group would be VPN clients.

The automatic uninstall "feature"- The nature of the SMS client is to immediately de-install itself if it 1) is logged on to a network that is not defined in the boundary of it's Installed site. 2) and can still contact it's Installed Site's CAP. Also, a client will de-install itself after 60 days if it 1) is logged on to a network that is not defined in the boundary of it's Installed site. 2) and can not contact it's Installed Site's CAP. 

Travel Mode - Travel Mode is built into the architecture of the SMS client. If you go to the General Tab of the SMS client applet you will see a check box to turn Travel Mode on or off. Travel Mode alone is not a big help. Unfortunately, simply using this check box causes dialog boxes to appear to users as they logon at a new SMS sites. The dialogs basically asks users if they want to be assigned to the new site, if not do they want to continue being assigned to the old site. In my opinion this is unacceptable. What support staff in their right mind would rely on a user to answer properly to such a question? Inadequate as it may be, the Travel Mode capability left room form future improvements.

Enter Clitravl.exe. This gem allows for the customization of Travel Mode, including turning off those dialog boxes. This tool is located in the SMS 2.0 Support Tools and can be found on the SP2 CD or at the Microsoft SMS Home Page. 

Run Clitravl.exe at a command line from a client. Here is the syntax: clitravl.exe /Travel=On /Travel=Off /Prompt=On /Prompt=Off. To find the current status of Travel Mode; run Clitravel.exe with no switches.

Site4c.exe (catchy huh?) is used to force a client to report to a specific site. There is virtually no Microsoft documentation regarding this tool. I've seen it mentioned in Q281107 but there are no instructions on it's use, I've never even heard anything from the field on it. It's very valuable to my organization. This tool adds the Force Site value to hklm\software\Ms\sms\clients\sites then populates it according to the syntax used. One thing the tool is missing is the ability to remove a Site from the Site List, this would be its installed site. Site List is a value in the same registry key. What occurs is, the Site you are forcing it to is added to the current installed site giving you 2 installed sites. I use an SMS Installer script that clears the Site List value then call Site4c with the appropriate switches. Email me if you would like the script.

Syntax is as follows: Site4c.exe 

/D Site Name removes this Site from the Forced Sites list

/D* Removes all Sites from the Forced Sites list

Site Name adds this Site to the Forced Sites list

Prior to Site4c.exe, to change the installed site of a client (the site it reports to), the existing client had to be removed. While the machine was logged on to the LAN at the new site the client had to be installed. With this tool an admin can install a client at one SMS Site then force it to report to another site.

The Server Side of Things - Until the release of hot fix Q281107 last week the SMS Primary Site Server didn't quite know how to handle data from clients that were not assigned to their installed site or Traveling Clients. Traveling clients that sent a discovery records back to their installed sites would be automatically unassigned from the sites and their hardware and software inventory data would be deleted. This caused continual resync requests and obviously inaccurate data. With a high percentage of traveling users, this issue caused a "world of hurt" to our SMS implementation. We're much happier now.

My "real world" application - the following outlines my procedure for installing and configuring the SMS client for traveling\home based users at my organization.

Using SMS Installer I created a script that calls SMSMan.exe and waits until it completes. It then calls Clitravl.exe /travel=on /prompt=off.

Currently, I use Site4c.exe for home based employees. This user group doesn't make it to the office where they need to be assigned very often. If they visit any of our offices they can install the client, run Site4c and be forced to their assigned office. The steps I use are  be as follows.

  1. Install the client, in my case, using a script that calls Clitravl.exe /travel=on /prompt=off. Wait 10 minutes to be sure the client has actually been assigned.
  2. Run a script that calls Site4c.exe site name.
  3. Delete the client out of the collection I just added it to.
  4. Go to Control Panel, Systems Management, from the Sites tab select the Update Configuration button. Press and hold for a few seconds. The current date and time should appear on the right. It may take a few seconds and a second or third try. The client is contacting the site it's being forced to.
  5. Run any local BDC\netlogon\smsls.bat. It will run silently. Wait 5-10 minutes. Update the collection you are forcing this client to join. Then refresh it. It should appear.

The client will be forced to report to this site until you clear the forced sites registry value or uninstall\reinstall the client.

Hopefully after reading this article you have gained some insight into mobile\slow link client support and maybe have some new ideas that will make your SMS implementation more effective.

For more information on Clitravl.exe, Qarticle referenced above or mobile support in general click these links.

Using Clitravl.exe

Hotfix Q281107



This article was originally published on May 1, 2001
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