Sick of juggling apps on biz PCs? This install tool will save your sanity

And how I got to buy the author a beer too


Sysadmin blog I've spent most of the past week in the San Francisco bay area. I've visited Nerd Mecca (Xerox PARC), various universities and Big Tech campuses. I've seen the Golden Gate Bridge, cursed San Francisco drivers, and discovered why Americans loathe AT&T. I've had a fantastic time down here, but the highlight of the trip has been meeting Sascha Kuzins: co-founder and lead developer of software installation utility Ninite.

For those of you who don't know about Ninite, it's one of those little "best kept secrets" kind of tools. There are two versions on offer: free and pro. The free version is available simply by going to the main site; you select a list of free applications you want to install (or update) on your computer, click "get installer" and download a single executable.

The executable is a customised install wrapper for the applications in question. It will go out and download the latest version of each application you have selected. It strips out toolbars and other undesirables from the install process and silently installs them. If it encounters an older version of the selected apps, it updates them to the newest.

How many of us have written scripts of various sorts to automate the installation of apps on our networks? Deployment through Active Directory doesn't always work as well as it should, and you often require tweaking of the installers every few versions anyways. Tedious and time consuming. So time consuming that I have often wondered exactly how the folks behind Ninite found the time to provide this service to the systems administrator community.

This is where Ninite Pro comes in. Ninite Pro offers a raft of features that are worth paying for.

The most obvious item is a background updater agent. Ninite Pro will check for updates to any Ninite-supported application located on the system and update it regularly. It is an absolute godsend for those of us saddled with fixing Aunt Tilly's Best Buy special, or who have a large customer base of small businesses without Active Directory and $10,000 worth of endpoint management gear.

Ninite Pro can cache downloads on a share, turning a designated PC into a poor man's third-party-app update server. There are decent command line options, the ability to lock an app's version (almost always Java) and more besides.

Enterprise demand for this tool has trebled: due to popular demand, instructions exist for integration with many popular remote management and monitoring tools. Ninite Pro supports remote network discovery, monitoring and updating. An example of Ninite Pro's power is installing/updating Flash on all computers in a particular organisation. It is as simple as:

NiniteOne /remote ad:OU=ou1,DC=domain,DC=com /select Flash /silent report.csv

Ninite has saved me thousands of hours over the past few years. I'm glad I got to buy Kuzins a beer and thank him for that in person. I got the better end of the deal: he took the time to explain to me the ins and outs of Ninite Pro, and Aunt Tilly's machine may finally, mercifully stay flash/java/pdf/browser-delivered virus free. ®

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