Recently I have been working on a little tool for myself. It sort of evolved from a tiny little executable with 5 buttons to a miniature control panel app that it is right now. It is basically a response to two different needs I had.
First off, I got tired having to jump through hoops when configuring newly re-imaged machines or troubleshooting computer issues. Windows has dozens of special folders that you sometimes need to check or clean out, and bunch of useful tools hidden away in various places. Some are in control panel, some are in the accessories menu, and etc.. Getting to these things is rather tedious but thankfully there is a shortcut for most of them. You just hit the windows key and R, and then type the name of your tool/folder into the Run dialog. You type in devmgmt.msc for the device manager, appwiz.cpl to get to the Add/Remove Programs app, minidump to open the folder where windows stores memory dump files left after BSOD crashes, %appdata% to get to the Application Data folder for the current user, and so on. And no, I didn’t look any of these up – I know these things by heart, which is why I got a crazy idea of putting shortcuts to all these things in a single folder for easy access. So I did that, and then decided that I could probably do much better – which is related to my second reason.
I getting tired of trying to talk users through simple troubleshooting diagnostics over the phone. Have you ever tried to get a user to ping your server over the phone? You would think that getting someone to spell a 4 letter word such as ping properly would be easy but I can’t tell you how often users type in something among the lines of:
Yes, F as in Peter, I as in Indiana, M as in Nancy, G and in George, space, google dot com. Honestly, I don’t know how can you get this wrong but I assume that since we are talking about technology, users assume that I’m using some moon language that defies laws of grammar and common sense. So I got a crazy idea of creating a visual tool that will let a user ping a server, run ipconfig, nslookup or traceroute by just pushing a button.
This idea combined with my first “shortcut folder” innovation gave birth to Setup Assistant:
Granted, this is as simplistic as tools go. It’s basically a step beyond a shortcut folder. There is a little bit of interesting code that grabs the system information, but the rest of it is basically “start a process and maybe capture output” type of a deal. But, a few people saw me using it and asked where they could download it, to which I usually replied “this thumbdrive”. So I figured, what the hell, I’m going to make it a bit prettier with some icons and then put it online.
I was about to dump it in Google Code but then I realized that:
- This app is basically just Process.Start repeated over and over again (except a few bits where it is not)
- It grew organically, with me adding new launchers and new features and never bothering to clean up the code
The code is simplistic, and at the same time incredibly ugly and unorganized because… Well, this was initially just a quick hack. So I opted to not release the code just yet – at least not until I have a chance to clean it up a bit. Unless of course someone wants it or wants to contribute.
For now, it is located here: Setup Assistant Home Page. There is a download link, and some more screen shots there and far less of my aimless rambling.
Hopefully some of you will find this tiny little tool useful. As usual, if you have any suggestions (especially what else I could put onto it) let me know in the comments.