CD-ROM & Installer Program Creation

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Many organizations that provide a method for connecting to the Internet and that have a growing user base find themselves trying to support more people than their limted support staff can handle. One method that has been found to be quite effective is the creation of customized installer programs for your environment that help your users to get connected. Along with these installation programs documentation with the steps clearly outlined (lots of pictures are quite useful) are a huge help. Finally, providing all of this material on a CD-ROM that your users can checkout, buy, or keep can give you a method to get them connected without having to visit them on-site, or provide long support sessions on the phone. Many users appreciate the opportunity to solve their technical problems when support organizations become too busy to respond to requests immediately.

Below are some discussions of packages to create installation programs, methods for creating CD-ROMs, and how you might get multiple copies of a CD-ROM duplicated. These are based on e-mails received and some of our responses. This discussion reads informally and will be added to as we hear back from users and gain additional information.

(This article is available in Serbo-Croatian. Translation by Anja Skrba from Webhostinggeeks.com.)

Topics

Creating a CD-ROM to Get Users Connected to the Internet [Return to Top]

Several groups have created CD's that help them to get their clients connected to the Internet. At the University of Oregon we have been doing this since 1996. The CD-ROM project is called "The Duckware CD-ROM" in honor of the University's mascot, a Duck. You can see the Duckware pages at http://micro.uoregon.edu/duckware. Below we discuss the various steps for creating such a CD and several different methods you can take to complete such a project.

A CD That Walks the User Through Using the Internet [Return to Top]

There are always several ways to attack this type of problem. One is you can get as fancy as you want, or you can use tools already available and maybe be a bit less fancy. For instance, you can use the Macromedia Director product to create an interactive walkthrough of using the Internet for the first time, or you could use HTML or PDF documents on the CD with instructions for using the Internet for new users. The Macromedia solution will cost a bit more money and take quite a bit more time to format and get working correctly. It will, however, look quite nice, but it will also be specialized and might require more effort to update in the future.

Autostarting a CD & Program Execution from Inside a Browser [Return to Top]

Generally if you use HTML stored on the CD and then a web browser to view their contents this works well for giving people documentation and instructions. The hard part of getting a CD with instructions and installers to work comes if you want an interface that starts up automatically and that can start the installers from inside the interface. This sounds deceptively simple, but it's really quite a trick to get it to work correctly.

You may ask why is this so important? All of this has to do with scale and the size of your support staff. Imagine that you have 2 or 3 people who can answer the phone and you have a thousand, two thousand, or more users.If you give these users a CD that does nothing when inserted you will very likely receive hundreds of phone calls asking how to use the CD. Once they have you on the phone they'll probably ask you to step them through the whole install process. Now you've defeated a large part of the reason for giving them the CD in the first place. You can, of course, include some instructions with the CD about getting it to work, but it sure is nice if you can just give someone a CD and nothing else.

Indiana University CD-ROM Kit [Return to Top]

So far, we have only found one method that works reliably for autostarting a CD-ROM with a web-based interface and that will run installers as well from within the Web browser. This is a package of utilities from Indiana University called the IUCD. The package lets you run Microsoft's Internet Explorer version 2.x in a standalone mode from the CD and it lets you execute external programs and folders from within the web pages you create. There are other methods to do this, but none of them will work without installing and configuring the user's machine first, and none of them will work as reliably.

The IUCD kit comes with instructions and software that allows you to create a CD that will automatically start when inserted in a Windows 95/98/2000/NT box, or in a Macintosh. The CD will start with version 2 of Internet Explorer. The version of IE can run under Windows 3.1 as well if you wish, however we strongly recommend against encouraging Windows 3.1 use at this time due to severe problems with dates after December 31, 1999. The IUCD kit includes software that allows you to run external programs from within IE without having to define MIME types for specific external programs. This is actually quite a neat trick and saves you from having to update Registry entries under Windows 95/8/NT/2000. Another interesting side affect is that running external programs from Netscape causes temporary files to be written to a TEMP directory under Windows and on the Desktop on a Macintosh. This is not a desirable feature and Netscape has never responded to queries about resolving this problem.

For full information on obtaining the IUCD kit please see their Web pages:

http://intel.ucs.indiana.edu/development_x86/iuware_cd/default.html Low Tech Method [Return to Top]

The low tech method for doing the same thing is to simply autostart an HTML document on the CD. Almost all newer machines, and any machine after Windows 95a should have a Web browser installed. If you autostart a document of type ".html" on a machine with a Web browser this will start the user's Web browser with the document already loaded. The part that fails in this scheme is that you won't be able to run external programs (such as installers) from inside the Web browser. Still, you can simply tell the client where the appropriate installer resides on the CD and have them start the program as needed.

Getting a User Connected to the Internet [Return to Top]

The author of this document has written numerous installers that do just this for Windows 3.1/95/98 and NT. I've even done this for the Mac as well, but I'm guessing this will be a low to non-existant priority. Our general method has been to create a document that explains in detail how to setup Windows 95/98/NT for an Internet connection. This document includes images with step-by-step instructions for installing the correct network protocols, dialup networking, and a modem, if necessary. Once the components are installed steps for creating a dialin document are included. You can see an example of these documents at http://micro.uoregon.edu/getconnected

The major issue with getting a user of Windows 95 connected to the Internet is that by default TCP/IP is not installed. In Windows 98 TCP/IP is installed by default, which makes things much easier. In addition the user may need to install Dial-Up Networking and a modem as well. Creating your own installation program to install TCP/IP or Dial-Up networking is not practical due to the number of Registry entries that must be modified. These entries may vary between the three versions of Windows 95 (Windows 95a, b, and c as they are commonly called). Your best bet is to get the user good instructions for doing this.

It is, however, possible to check for a modem and call the Modem Control Panel if necessary. You can also create dialin documents, include settings for TCP/IP (if needed), and install any customized network applications you may wish. A critical piece of this whole operation is that the user will need their original Windows 95 diskette set (Windows 95a only), or CD-ROM in many cases, unless the Windows CAB files are already installed on their hard drive. This point should be stressed in your documentation.

Tools for CD-ROM and Installer Creation [Return to Top]

Below is a list of some of the tools we have used for CD-ROM and Installer creation as well as additional tools you might choose to use. After this list we include comments on each of the items listed.

Software [Return to Top]

  • WISE InstallMaster system or InstallShield
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer version 2.0
  • Indiana University CD-ROM Kit
  • Various Web page and Graphic design tools Including Photoshop Dreamweaver, EditPlus.
  • Microsoft Visual Studio
  • WarFTPD or FTP Serv-U
  • Adaptec CD Creator/Copier software

Hardware [Return to Top]

  • Plextor 8x, SCSI, CD-R Drives
  • TDK CD-R Media
  • Standard PC running Windows 95/98

WISE InstallMaster/InstallBuilder [Return to Top]

There are a number of packages available to create installers, but the one that's really become a standard for folks who want to do installers and not pay thousands of dollars for the software is from WISE Systems. They offer multiple versions of their Installer software, but the two you would want to consider are InstallBuilder and InstallMaster. InstallBuilder retails for US $399 and InstallMaster for US $799. They do give some discounts to non-profits and education as well. In a nutshell here are the fundamental features of InstallBuilder and InstallMaster that count when creating installation routines:

InstallBuilder [Return to Top]

This is the first product in their line that lets you edit an installation script line-by-line with all their scripting commands. All their other products generate a script for you based on a graphical interface to build an installer. For the type of installer you wish to create this is not sufficent, you must be able to edit the scripts directly.

InstallMaster [Return to Top]

The major feature that may be worth the extra US $400 is the ability to be able to start InstallMaster, start another installer, and then monitor the entire install process and capture the whole process directly into a WISE script. We've used this repeatedly to figure out what installers are doing, and we've even been able to copy and past some lines of code directly - this has proven to be invaluable.

Both products let you update Registry settings as needed, register DLL files, edit files directly, install DLL's based on versions, etc. Both these products have ways to support multiple languages in a single installer as well.

While in Luanda, Angola I sat down with some of their support staff and had them create a couple of basic installer scripts. This took us one afternoon and the part of the next day to do.

You can purchase and read about WISE products on their Web site at http://www.glbs.com.

InstallShield [Return to Top]

This is the other popular installation program. It uses a different principle in that the user chooses the language of their choice, generally Visual C++ or Visual Basic, and InstallShield generates code to create the installation routines wanted. This is actually a much more powerful method in the end, but will require considerably more work as you must edit code directly once the skeleton code is generated by the InstallShield program.

If you plan to do extremely complicated installations, such as the creation of dialin documents, scripting a dialup connection to get a user signed up with your service first, etc., then this may be the product you need. You can read about InstallShield in more depth at http://www.installshield.com.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 2.0/IUCD Kit [Return to Top]

IE 2.0 is part of the Inidana University CD-ROM kit. You're probably asking why use Internet Explorer version 2.0. Let me explain as this may shape some of your thinking about a possible CD interface. Our goal was to make our CD remove as many steps as possible from our users to get them up and running with a remote access connection to the University of Oregon. Our CD contains many other installers and documents, but we know from experience that 90% of our users just want "on the Internet." Since we did not have a large budget, but we do want a pretty interface to the CD we decided that using a Web interface (HTML pages on the CD) made sense. As we quickly discovered many others have come to this same conclusion. Your other standard option for creating a nice graphical interface for a CD is to use Macromedia Director. This is nice, but if the goal of the CD is to get people on-line it's nice to already have an open Web Browsers.

If you need to support Windows 3.1, then you need a 16-bit interface. Internet Explorer 2.0 will run under Windows 3.1/95/98/NT, and even the Mac, which is critical at the UO.

Finally, we positively did not want to have to install any files on the user's hard drive in order for our CD to run. It turns out that all versions of Netscape must use a temporary directory on the hard drive to run. Also, running Netscape can reset the user's default Browser. Internet Explorer 3.x and above also must use a temporary directory, needs some additional files, and can reset the user's default Browser. Using Internet Explorer 2.0 in conjunction with the Indiana University CD-ROM kit we can run IE 2.0 completely standalone off the CD and we can execute external files from within web pages without having to create a new MIME type for every file we want to run. This made this solution very appealing. Also note that IE 2.0 uses very little memory, loads quickly, and as configured can be made to look as though it's not a Browser.

In the end we discovered that multiple other Universities in the United States use this solution as well (Indiana, Michigan, USC, Chico State, etc.). OK, so that's basically how you can get a decent looking GUI on a CD that runs on multiple platforms and is totally self-contained. Once again, an example of a CD created using these tools can be viewed at http://micro.uoregon.edu/duckware.

Photoshop [Return to Top]

To make graphics look pretty and professional this is easily the best tool. It is, however, somewhat expensive. You can find multiple shareware and freeware options by going to sites like http://www.tucows.com. Still, none of these products will compare to Photoshop's capabilities. All of the graphics on our CD projects were created using Photoshop. Photoshop is an Adobe product (http://www.adobe.com).

Dreamweaver [Return to Top]

This is an HTML editing tool that will display pages in WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) format. The major benefits of Dreamweaver include that it does not change your HTML code when it loads files, and that it generates very clean code as compared to most other similiar products. Dreamweaver is made by Macromedia (http://www.macromedia.com).

EditPlus [Return to Top]

This is one of many text editing programs. Once again you can find many shareware and freeware programs at http://www.tucows.com. We have found EditPlus to be a very powerful text editor on the PC. For Macintosh users you have the advantage of being able to use the premier PC-based text editor, BBEdit (http://www.barebones.com). EditPlus can be found at http://www.editplus.com.

Microsoft Visual Studio [Return to Top]

If you need to edit a program resource under Windows 95/98/NT you will need a tool like the Resource Editor that comes with Microsoft Visual Studio, Visual C++, or Visual Basic. These are all expensive products, but somewhat common anywhere programming is done under Windows. The resource editor allows you to change the default startup screen when using the IUCD kit. It also allows you to turn off CD-ROM expiration variables.

WarFTPD or FTP Serv-U [Return to Top]

These are both FTP Server programs that run under Windows 95/98/NT. WarFTPD is free, but quite difficult to configure. FTP Serv-U costs around $30.00, but is very easy to configure and quite stable. You can find additional FTP Server programs by going, once again, to http://www.tucows.com. We found FTP servers to be invaluable when CD content is created on multiple machines and you want to be able to update the CD interface from multiple locations. For instance, you can use an FTP server to make it very easy to update the CD interface (if it's done using HTML pages) when using Dreamweaver.

You can find FTP Serv-U at http://www.ftpserv-u.com, and WarFTPD at http://home.sol.no/jgaa/tftpd.htm.

Adaptec CD Creator/Copier software [Return to Top]

This is the actual program used to "burn" the CD-ROM copies. In our case we used a large duplication plant to press thousands of additional copies of our CD-ROM from our original burned CD-R master. If your organization only needs 50, 100, maybe up to 300 CD-R's, then you can probably do this using your own equipment. If you need hundreds, or more CD's, then you will probably need to find a facility capable of pressing CD's from a master. This may involve shipping a CD-R master to a facility out of country and then paying for shipping to get the copies back.

The Adaptec CD Creator software comes with many CD-R drives. We strongly recommend using this software as it is well known and has the features that you will need to create your CD. If you happen to be creating hybrid PC/Mac CD's then you will need the Adaptec Toast software on the Mac and you will need to burn your final CD on the Mac as well. You can get more information on the Adaptec CD-ROM creation software at htp://www.adaptec.com.

Plextor 8x, SCSI, CD-R Drives [Return to Top]

As of Fall 1999 these are the preferred drives. We have used the external model with great success. These drives require a SCSI interface. Currently there are no 8x speed CD-R drives available using the IDE interface on the PC. The 8x interface allows you to burn a complete CD in considerably less time than 4x speed drives. This can be a huge timesaver while you develop the CD-ROM and when pressing multiple copies. Note that Plextor is considered to be one of the premier CD-ROM drive manufactures. You can see their products at http://www.plextor.com. To find hardware at good prices (in the United States) you can use the PriceWatch service at http://www.pricewatch.com.

TDK CD-R Media [Return to Top]

Over the past few years we have found that the TDK CD-R media to consistently outperform other brands. This can be important if you order 100's of CD-R disks. It's not surprising with less expensive brands to have 1 disk in 10 fail. This increases your cost considerably. Generally we have found TDK media at similiar prices to other brands.

Standard PC Running Windows 95/98 [Return to Top]

Generally a Pentium II 233 Mhz, or faster, with 64MB of RAM, and 2-4GB hard drive is the minimum you'll need to run the software mentioned and to reliably use hardware such as the Plextor 8x SCSI CD-R drives.

Creating Many CD-ROM Copies [Return to Top]

If you are interested in duplicating hundreds, or thousands of CD's at your local site, this can get expensive. Anything that's capable of any kind of capacity (say 100 or 200 a day) starts at $5,000 (U.S.) and goes on up. These burners do 1, maybe 3, CD's at a time. For a machine that does multiple CD's at once price really jumps, over $20,000 (U.S.). What we do is to create the master CD and then we give it to a big company who creates a glass etched master and stamps out real CD-ROM copies (not CD-R copies) for us. Some places require a minimum number of copies to do this.

The per CD cost for a large run (5,000 and up) is around 45 cents with a paper sleeve costing another 11 cents. This includes single color on the CD itself and the sleeve. If you stay with black and white the cost goes down a bit. So, if you were wanting to do, say 1,000 CD's, then the most cost effective measure might be to create the master CD, ship it off to somewhere like Cape Town or Paris (if you are in Africa) and have the copies made, and then get it shipped back. Granted the shipping would be expensive, but the cost of a CD-R duplicator that can deal with these types of numbers would be considerably more. One final note - If you do make CD-R copies some older CD-ROM drives cannot deal with these. Hopefully you would not be dealing with much of this. Any drive faster than a 4x speed should be able to read CD-R's without problems. If you do burn multiple CD-R's the best CD-R media to use are TDK. Most manufactures even list TDK as a recommend CD-R media for their drives.

If you need to create several hundred CD copies and want to do this on your own you will definitely want to invest in several CD-R drives. As these drives are mechanical in nature they will fail over time, especially if you create multiple CD copies.

All of the prices quotes on this page are current as of November, 1999, and will, obviously, change over time. Most likely these prices should go down.

A Few Tips when Burning a CD [Return to Top]

If you want to have long filenames on your CD, then you must use the "Joliet" extensions. Be sure these are enabled for the type of CD you are burning in your CD-ROM buring software. If you do this, then your CD will not be usable by Windows 3.1 machines and older Macs.

When burning a CD to be used in multiple machines be sure that you close the session and the disc. This is usually an option in most CD-R creation software. You can burn more than one session on a CD-R, but many older CD-ROM drives can only read the first session you burn.

The standard 8.3 filename convention on a CD is called ISO 9660. You can choose this if you want to guarrantee compatibility with Macs, DOS/Windows 3.1 machines, and UNIX platforms.

To automatically execute a program when the CD is inserted under Windows 95/98/NT/2000 you need to have a file called AUTORUN.INF located at the root level of the CD. This file will contain a line that points to the program or file to be run when the CD is inserted.

Summary [Return to Top]

Very quickly, here are the key points that you might want to remember when creating a CD-ROM that helps your users to connect to the Internet.

  • Choose your interface. HTML documents are easy and standard. Macromedia Director creates a fancier interface and requires considerably more work.
  • To run programs from inside a Web browser you must either define MIME types (usually requires a Registry update via an automatic installer when the CD is inserted - not generally recommended), or use a CD-ROM creation kit like the IUCD kit.
  • To create installation programs you can use tools like WISE InstallMaster or InstallShield.
  • Other useful tools include Photoshop, Dreamweaver, EditPlus, FTP Serv-U, WarFTPD, BBEdit, Adaptec CD Creation software, and Microsoft's resource editor packaged with their Visual products.
  • Useful hardware includes a good CD-R writer, such as the Plextor 8x, SCSI, external drives.
  • If you want to make many CD copies you may need to use a large production facility. The major cost will likely be shipping unless you are fortunate enough to have such a facility close by.

If you have specific questions about this process you can send email to nsrc@nsrc.org. Good luck with your project!