US 6256635 Method and apparatus for configuring a computer using scripting

ABSTRACT – A method and apparatus for configuring a computer. One embodiment of the invention combines all of the prior art control panels related to networking into a consolidated Network Setup Control Panel. In addition, the invention provides for computer configuration by scripting. The configuration may be for a type of system setting or for network configurations and protocols. Through scripting, a computer may be configured locally or remotely on a network. One embodiment of the invention provides for a centralized database or Configuration Library consisting of collected data relating to available configuration settings. This database is not limited to configuration information and can be used as a general database containing information the user desires to store. To modify a configuration by scripting, the invention provides for a Scripting Interface consisting of a Scripting Server and Scripting Plug-In. The Scripting Server receives the script forwarded from a user or network administrator, parses the script and determines the appropriate Scripting Plug-In to forward the desired action to. The Scripting Plug-In receives the commands and executes the appropriate actions to modify the configuration as directed.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to the field of computer software, and, more specifically, to network protocols and configuration.

Portions of the disclosure of this patent document contain material that is subject to copyright protection. The copyright owner has no objection to the facsimile reproduction by anyone of the patent document or the patent disclosure as it appears in the Patent and Trademark Office file or records, but otherwise reserves all copyright rights whatsoever. Apple, Macintosh, AppleTalk, AppleScript, and all Apple-based trademarks and logos are trademarks or registered trademarks of Apple Computer, Inc. in the United States and other countries.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

In modern computing environments, it is commonplace to employ multiple computers or workstations linked together in a network to communicate between, and share data with, network users. A network also may include resources, such as printers, modems, file servers, etc., and may also include services, such as electronic mail.

A network can be a small system that is physically connected by cables (a local area network or “LAN”), or several separate networks can be connected together to form a larger network (a wide area network or “WAN”). Other types of networks include the internet, tel-com networks, the World Wide Web, intranets, extranets, wireless networks, and other networks over which electronic, digital, and/or analog data may be communicated. Individual computers often use various ports to physically connect to a network. For example, if you need to dial into a network using the phone lines and a modem, the modem port may be utilized. Other ports that may be used include a Printer Port, Ethernet, Infrared, and Remote Access.

To enable the computers on a network to communicate with each other, a set of standardized rules for exchanging the information between the computers, referred to as a “protocol”, is utilized. Protocols generally specify the data format, timing, sequencing, and error checking of data transmissions. Numerous protocols are used in the networking environment. For example, transmission control protocol/internet protocols (“TCP/IP”) are the protocols used on the internet and on many multiplatform networks, and AppleTalk is the network protocol built into every Macintosh computer.

To enable individual computers to utilize a specific protocol, numerous computer settings, including the settings for the desired protocol, must be properly configured. Several software applications for controlling the settings, referred to here as “utilities” may be utilized to control the configuration and modification of a protocol to enable network capabilities. For example, in a Macintosh environment, the following “control panel” user interface utilities may be utilized to configure a computer for various types of network access: AppleTalk, TCP/IP, OT/PPP (Open Transport/Point-to-Point), Infrared, Dial Assist, and Modem. Further, the information and data relating to each protocol are stored independently from other protocols in individual files. These files are accessible to one user at a time. If two users desire to access the configuration file, the first user to open the file with the information is permitted access and the second user is denied access. Some prior art methods permit multiple users to read a file at the same time. However, these methods do not provide any protection for those users should the file be modified by another user while they are reading it.

In some situations, if one of the protocols is configured in a certain manner, one of the other protocols does not operate. For example, if two configurations or devices try and use the same non-sharable port, the user may not be allowed to use the desired port until the conflicting device is deactivated (e.g., a printer can’t be activated if it shares the same port as “modem settings”). To deactivate the conflicting device, the user has to search numerous control panels to locate the conflicting device and deactivate or delete the conflicting configuration by adjusting the settings. Thus, the use of an individual control panel for each protocol forces the user to make adjustments and modifications in numerous control panels in order to properly configure the computer. For example, if a user desires to enable multiple networking protocols (e.g., one TCP/IP protocol with a static IP address (IP addresses are discussed below), one TCP/IP protocol with a dynamic IP address, and one AppleTalk protocol), numerous control panels for each protocol must be accessed and configured properly. In addition, if a user desires to connect to the internet, but has a protocol other than TCP/IP active (e.g., AppleTalk), the connection cannot be processed. The user may have to deactivate the active protocol (e.g., AppleTalk) using that protocol’s control panel, and then activate the TCP/IP protocol using the TCP/IP control panel.

To route messages and communicate between computers using a TCP/IP protocol, each individual computer must be identified with a unique identifier or address. The unique identifier is referred to as an internet address or Internet Protocol (IP) address. An individual computer can be assigned a static IP address that does not change. An individual computer can also maintain a dynamic IP address such that whenever it connects to the network, the computer is assigned an IP address. In this manner, each time the individual computer connects to the network, a different IP address may be assigned to the computer.

It is often beyond the scope of the user’s knowledge to configure a networking protocol. For example, an employee that solely performs word processing is not likely to have the knowledge to configure his/her computer for network access and operation. Thus, it is desirable for a network administrator to be able to configure a user’s computer from the administrator’s or another’s computer (referred to as “remote configuration”).

To enable a computer to execute a sequence of instructions or commands, a computer program is utilized. One type of computer program that provides for the automation of a task or a series of tasks is called a script. A script can be used to perform simple tasks such as a file back-up , or more complex tasks such as adding capability to a program or presentation. A scripting language is used to create a script.

Two common methods are utilized in scripting languages: (1) Event Scripting; and (2) Semantic Scripting. Event scripting consists of mimicking a user’s actions and events as they are performed in a user interface. For example, copying the user’s actions entailed in moving a mouse over a screen location containing a checkbox for activating sound and depressing the mouse button. Semantic scripting consists of function specific commands that perform specific actions. For example, the execution of a command to activate sound. In the Macintosh environment, one type of semantic scripting language that is often utilized is called AppleScript.

To enable network configuration, one prior art method referred to as “Location Manager”) allows users to assign specific settings to a “location” for a variety of capabilities including networking, printers, time zone, file sharing, sound, and frequently used applications. Once a location is set up, a user can select that location and the computer system recognizes the user’s preferences for that environment. For example, a home location and an office location may be set up for the various printers and networks available at the user’s home and office. However, it is not possible for a network administrator to remotely configure a computer or adjust network settings.

Another prior art method used to configure a network referred to as “NetInfo” provides for a centralized database that contains the available configurations. When a user wants to configure his/her computer for network capabilities, the user accesses the centralized database to determine what options are available. However, it is not possible for a network administrator to remotely configure a user’s computer or adjust network settings. This prior art method is more fully described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,410,691 entitled “Method and Apparatus for Providing a Network Configuration Database” issued on Apr. 25, 1995 and U.S. Pat. No. 5,459,863 entitled “Method of Maintaining Integrity in a Network Database” issued on Oct. 17, 1995.

Another prior art method provides the ability to swap various configuration files in order to configure a computer. However, the system is not notified when the file swapping occurs and does not recognize the new configuration. To enable the system to recognize the new configuration, the computer must be restarted or one of the control panels must be manually adjusted.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention provides for the configuration of a computer. One embodiment of the invention combines the prior art control panels related to networking into a consolidated Network Setup Control Panel. In addition, the invention provides for computer configuration by scripting. The configuration may be for any type of system setting or for network configurations and protocols. Through scripting, a computer may be configured locally or remotely on a network.

One embodiment of the invention provides for a centralized database consisting of the collected data relating to available configuration settings. This database is not limited to configuration information and can be used as a general database containing any type of information the user desires to store. The database may be accessed by an administrator desiring to configure a computer. When configuring a computer for network accessibility, the database may be modified directly using the Network Setup Control Panel. One embodiment of the invention provides for modification of the database and computer configuration through scripting.

To modify a configuration by scripting, the invention provides for a Scripting Interface consisting of a Scripting Server and Scripting Plug-In. The Scripting Server is programmed with the general knowledge of the structure and type of objects representing configurations stored in the database. The Scripting Server receives the script forwarded from a user or network administrator, parses the script and determines the appropriate Scripting Plug-In to forward the desired action to (by accessing the general knowledge the Scripting Server maintains). The Scripting Plug-In is programmed to maintain knowledge of the specific fields and methods of the objects stored in the database. Thus, the Scripting Plug-In receives the commands and executes the appropriate actions to modify the configuration as directed.

To create a script, one embodiment of the invention provides for the use of a dictionary containing available commands and objects that may be modified. After creating a script, the administrator merely executes the script on a copy of the Scripting Server that is run either remotely or locally. In this manner, a computer may be configured using scripting.

In addition, one embodiment of the invention provides for backwards compatibility with prior art configuration settings (using the file formats that existed in the prior art). The backwards compatibility method includes exporting and importing various configuration settings into the consolidated database.

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