Scripting for weary administrators

FastLane Integrated Network Application Language (FINAL) 6.0 from FastLane Technologies is a flexible scripting language that you can use for systems administration, logon script processing, remote site maintenance, and routine job execution under Windows NT. FINAL has a format and structure similar to Pascal and Visual Basic (VB), so individuals with VB experience can easily pick up the minor syntactical differences and begin writing scripts almost immediately. Each FINAL program conforms to a strict format that includes the script definition line to name the script, a variable declaration section, and the script program code. All these components reside within a BEGIN and END block.

FINAL includes the major features necessary in a scripting language and supports several types of variables, including integers, strings, and dates. As in VB, you declare variables at the beginning of the script, before the script executes any code. The software includes program control constructs, such as IF...ELSE, FOR...NEXT, and WHILE loops.

FINAL's true power lies in its many functions that provide access to NT features. Standard software functions include data conversion, data manipulation, Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE), and file I/O. Several GUI functions provide access to predefined activity bars and dialog, list, and combo boxes. The TCP/IP functions let you perform different actions on IP connections. Finally, the NT Network Library gives information about domains, event logs, users, and groups and provides access to NT-specific networking features, such as retrieving access control lists (ACLs) and Registry values.

Setup and Scripting
Installing FINAL was simple. I just inserted the software's distribution CD-ROM into my Digital Prioris HX 590 server, and after answering a few questions, I had the software up and running. The installation process created a program group with shortcuts to the different software components, which made accessing FINAL easy.

With FINAL, developing a script is a multistep process. First, you launch the FINAL Application Builder, an integrated development environment in which you code and execute your scripts to review their functionality. Screen 1 shows the Application Builder interface. Next, you use the built-in editor to create your FINAL script, which you save with an .fc file extension. After you're satisfied with your script, you compile it to create an intermediate binary file. Then, you execute the script within the IDE. When you're satisfied with the results, you use the Create Executable option, which takes the FINAL script and creates an executable program that you can distribute to remote systems for execution. You perform all these steps from the Application Builder interface.

One small problem with this product is it produces a lot of overhead: My 2KB script yielded an 800KB executable program. A bigger problem I had, however, was trying to find a function I needed among all the available programming options. Fortunately, the program includes several reference manuals. FastLane Technologies has clearly documented each function in alphabetical order with the syntax, a description, return code information, and a small code snippet showing how to use the function in a typical program.

Because FINAL includes so many functions, becoming completely proficient with and maximizing the benefits of this software takes some time. However, in the end, you can write almost any script you want.

The Cost of Doing Business
FINAL's benefits come with a high price tag. The software has a dual-layer pricing structure. You must purchase the base product (the Network Application Builder) and then add the cost for each NT Server account. However, if cost isn't an issue, FINAL might be your best NT scripting solution.

Contact: FastLane Technologies * 902-421-5353
Price: $995, plus $6 per account
System Requirements: Windows NT 3.51 or 4.0
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