Automating Repetitive III Jobs

from/on PC and Macintosh

 

There have been a fair amount of discussions in regard to automating routine and common tasks on III system by employing Unix utilities EXPECT and CRON. The EXPECT scripts control interactive applications and CRON serves as a scheduler allowing you to execute a series of actions unattended at any time and interval you specify. By these, you are able to solve problems that you never would have even considered before. It also saves you hours and days of drudgery. There is one limiting factor to many libraries though, thatís the requirement of Unix expertise.

 

This page discusses PC/Mac approaches to achieve the same goal of automation. A couple of sample scripts are provided. Although they are written for specific tasks (Verify and Initialization of tape backup), the concepts and methods can easily be applied to automating a much broader range of work.†† With proper tools, you can have your PC/Mac do pretty much every repetitive job you can think of, regardless the application takes place on a remote server machine or on your own desktop, regardless itís a text-based or a graphics- and mouse-oriented application. You will find automation from/on your PC/Mac actually more straightforward and economic than you previously thought. You will be surprised how quickly you will be able to boost your productivity level through automation.

 

For Windows users

Sample 1:

iii_backup_verify_12.ttl

Please read documentation inside the script file.You certainly need to make a little modification. At the minimum level, you must put in your serverís ip or domain name, username, and password.

 

Sample 2:

iii_backup_init_11.ttl

Please read documentation inside the script file and make modification.

 

Software required:

1. Tera Term 2.3

This free and under-appreciated Telnet program supports a suite of powerful Macro functions on which the sample scripts are based.The scripts run well on Windows 9x and later.

 

2. Scheduled Tasks

This is a utility included in Windows 2000 and XP. Iím not sure if Windows 98 has it.Itís the counterpart of Unix Cron, only itís graphics based, and easier to use.You donít need the scheduler if you would rather manually kick off the script by a hot-key or something like that.

To use Scheduled Tasks Ė

Start -> All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Scheduled Tasks

Also see the documentation inside the sample script file.

 

Other automation software:

There are a number of scripting/Macro tools around. You can either write scripts on your own (wizard-type help available, so not too daunting) or use ďcaptureĒ/ďrecordĒ feature to have the software generate a script file while you perform a particular job, and later run the script to ďplay backĒ every keystroke and mouse event you made.The automated task can be something as simple as inserting current date or your address in a word processor file, to as complex as launching IIIís Millennium all the way to generate a specific list, open up spreadsheet for cut-and-paste and other manipulation, then close Millennium and spreadsheet. The whole process does not require knowledge of programming, These software tools are priced at from $30 Ė $1000+. I found one package that is perfectly capable of running Millennium sells for $39.95.

 

 

For Machintosh users

Sample

I have a script which works but is too quick-and-dirty to appear here. If you are interested in using or improving it, please contact me.

 

Software required:

1. BetterTelnet Fat††

This is an improved version of NCSA Telnet.Free.To use its automation functions, you need to first have AppleScript.

 

2. AppleScript††

It comes with System 7.5 and later.If you donít have it, click the above line. AppleScript allows you to instruct Better Telnet to perform a task, not very glamorous but it works.

 

3. scheduler

There is a Mac shareware CRON for $10.

 

 

A word of caution

While automation is wonderful, these ďno-brainerĒ tools all have their limitation. You donít use them unless the job is sort of mindless and recurring in nature. Few tools can completely substitute human judgment. Even you are able to embed logics in the script to add a degree of intelligence to it, there are always unforeseeable situations which only live human can deal with. Plus most people donít want to automate themselves out of job anyway.

 

 

 

Last edited:1/17/2008