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OU Software Installation and Use

Introduction and disclaimer

The OU Software for FirstClass and Internet Access is well supported and documented. What is written on this and the supporting pages is our own experiences and is not intended to replace in any way the documentation supplied with any of the OU software. Any problems and hints often relate to particular configurations - we have Windows 95 (OSR2) and 98 SE and run Internet Explorer 5.5 on the main machines and Internet Explorer 4.01 on the laptop and we have chosen particular directory structures so programs are not always loaded into default directories.

This page covers the most important points and provides links to the remaining support pages.

Logs of System and Application Software Installation.

It is essential to keep a record of all the software installed and its configuration in case of problems and for disaster recovery. We have Disaster Recovery Plans and extreme views on the importance of Backup and Archiving both of which which we believe is essential for a robust system.

We are prepared to share with you, as examples, the System Development Log for our new Toshiba Libretto 50CT Laptop and our OU and Related Software Installation Log covering both machines. The entries are with the last day at the top but activities are in order within each day. The entries are short unless we have had problems or exceptions from previous experience. Your notes may need to be more comprehensive if they are to be useful for disaster recovery as other documentation supports our logs. In our case the various parts of Diary of a Home Page give a full story of the development of our site and all the software evaluated and installed. In addition many of the installations such as Dial Up Networking have dedicated pages in my Howto Technical Articles.

If you expect the worst when documenting and backing up your system you may get some pleasant surprises but remember a Pessimist is an Optimist with experience.

Installing Software without Side Effects

It is important to understand your existing software before installing new software even from the OU. Existing software will have set up "Associations" between file types and the software. We, for example, use the WinZip utility for file compression and expansion and loading the similar OU provided Stuffit did exactly that to our existing setup! Often the only way out of such problems is to reinstall the original software which can lose all your configuration. Keep a note of the configuration and details of the associations of similar software before loading new software and make a backup before loading the new software. Further Information on Installing Software and Associations - which we advise you to read before loading any new software and our Backup and Archiving Philosophy are covered in our series of technical Howto articles.

FirstClass and FirstClass Personal

The efficient use of FirstClass - which means using the offline capability in FirstClass Personal is so important that there is a separate page for The FirstClass Client and FirstClass Personal.

Virus Checking - Keeping what We both Have

It is inexcusable to send any document files or executable files over the Internet, by Email attachment or into FirstClass until you have a Virus Checker working on your machine.

Microsoft Word Files are still a common source of viruses.

We run a Virus Checker on our machine and update the data files monthly. We have used McAfee Virus Scanners since we got the machines, initially as free evaluation editions but then licenced. Evaluation copies are available for download from CompuServe and possibly the McAfee web site - see below. McAfee scored as the best buy in Secure Computing magazine in the 1998 set of annual tests, narrowly overtaking Dr Solomon's which is generally accepted to be the standard against which all other virus checker should be judged. They were joint rated Best Buy. The OU also provides a Virus Checker for Students via a support conference. More recently Network Associates have bought McAfee and Dr Solomons and combined the best features of both - the result was again best buy in Secure Computing's 1999 tests alongside Norton AntiVirus.

Virus checkers need to be kept up to date. We used to load new data files at least every month but now try to do it weekly - typically another 250 viruses are included every month. We also run tests to ensure that it is configured correctly and detects test viruses - see Validation of Virus checker operation/detection using the EICAR standard test virus.

Compressing Attachments - Saving us all Money

Utilities exist which will compress the size of files before sending as EMail attachments. The most common format is as Zip files (with filenames ending in .zip). Word processor files will compress many fold and should always be compressed before sending. We receive much of EMail via a Mobile phone with a slow modem. This costs us approximately ten times what it costs you to send them so please compress them.

We use WinZip which is an excellent package and integrates seamlessly into Windows. It comes up on a right click on most menus in Windows 95/98 as well as being associated automatically with all the formats it handles. It can be downloaded (circa 850KB) from the WinZip site and is in 16 and 32 bit versions. It is shareware and after a month one should licence it which costs a fairly nominal sum and covers upgrades. It is the next most important utility to obtain after a virus checker. We have added more information including examples of how to use WinZip to our series of Technical "Howto" articles

Getting Information from Us

Please Contact us by Email at pcurtis@corinna1.freeserve.co.uk to give feedback on what you would like to see or do not understand and we will see what we can do.

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The views here are entirely our own and are not endorsed in any way by the Open University. What is written on these pages is our own experiences and is not intended to replace in any way the documentation supplied with any of the Open University software.

Copyright © Peter and Pauline Curtis
Most recent revision: 12th August, 2001