03 August 2005

UImport, iImport, We All Import

No, the title doesn't mean I'm in the import business. Running a business is the last thing I have on mind.

I'm a LAN Account Administrator at a major financial company. My department is responsible for creating network accounts and updating their various properties, e.g. add to groups, change account expiration date, etc. Lest you think I'm in a managerial position, make that "Me and my fellow grunts" instead of "My department."

Half of the company's network runs on Novell Netware. Amazingly, in these days of LDAP, LDIF, and long filename, UImport is still the most frequently used tool in my arsenal against Tedious Thaddeus - my personification of boring, repetitive tasks. I have nothing against people named Thad, "Tedious Thaddeus" just has a nice ring to it.

Today is a historical day in the Annals of Scripting. For a while now, all my NDS scripts are limited to running against users in the same containers. For example, if I have 1,000 people to modify, but 500 are in one container, 200 somewhere else, yet another 100 in yet another container, 125 somewhere again, and the rest in yet some other container, I would have to run my scripts 5 times. Sometimes the user population is so fragmented, i.e. bunched into too many different containers, that it's almost not worthwhile to run scripts against them. All that will change! Today my colleague Monika told me about a special feature of UImport that allows embedding the user context into the UImport's data file. Instead of specifying the user context once in the UImport control file and be stuck with it for the rest of the script run, I now have the option of specifying the user context on the fly. Mucho gracias, Monika!

Very powerful stuff, unfortunately, given my crazy work atmosphere, I'll have to wait until Saturday to test it out. I work Monday thru Wednesday, off Thursday, then work Friday and Saturday. It's nice to have a day off during the week and it's good to have a weekend work day, when I can actually do some work that requires thinking. During the week, I'm frequently interrupted by instant messages, phone calls, and in-cubicle consultation. I'm sure it's the same everywhere in Corporate America.

In case you wonder why I mentioned scripting in the same breath with UImport: UImport by itself is basically a command line tool. You prepare the control file and the data file, then you run it by typing uimport control.txt data.txt. Preparing the control file and the data file take some knowledge that most of my colleagues lack, not to mention tedious and error-prone. What I have done is wrap a KiXtart script around UImport so that all it takes to run UImport is to specify the context in a text file, the list of usernames, and just one more text file having the data to apply to the users. e.g. groups to add users into or expiry for account password. Double-click a .cmd file and off you go - no DOS box, no fiddling with control file, no having to save the data file as comma-separated value file.

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