First Looks

Install .NET Apps

InstallAnywhere.NET 3.0 helps you create setup kits based on the Windows Installer technology. It enables you to design, configure, and test a wide array of installer options.

InstallAnywhere.NET 3.0 is a professional development environment for creating setup kits based on the Windows Installer technology. Its interface is a cohesive tool for designing, configuring, and testing a bewildering array of installer options.

The wizards are useful starting points for simple and complex installers. The Project Wizard creates a basic framework and leaves you at the Project Explorer, where you select and refine settings and actions. A dedicated wizard for Visual Studio .NET projects, the .NET Project Import Wizard, filters out files automatically that shouldn't be redistributed and tracks dependencies.

If you're the type who knows what you want only when you see it, you'll appreciate the many lists of options and settings. For example, the Launch Conditions page displays Windows versions back to Windows 95. It's easy to select your supported operating systems and create failure messages for the rest. The Condition Builder lets you AND and OR custom conditions based on variables ranging from the computer name, the .NET version, and the amount of virtual memory.

The InstallAnywhere.NET package is especially useful for creating ASP.NET setups that configure Internet Information Services (IIS). For example, the installer might disallow anonymous access, set the default document to index.aspx, and map the VSM extension to your HTTP handler.

The custom actions section has useful features with intuitive dialogs. A built-in function submits user or registration data to a Web site and displays a response during the installation, and you can document an installation as you go by completing the convenient Comments areas.

The product's context-sensitive documentation is professional and readable but could be beefed up in areas. For instance, it barely mentions the debugger utility and omits significant index words such as Alerts (validation errors).

If you move from machine to machine or work on a team, the software license is tied to one computer and one individual. The license document warns a "transparent validation procedure" might disable the software if it detects a license violation.

I found a couple other oddities in the screens: One urges "extreme caution" because misuse of some advanced features could "render your installation inoperable." To me, an enterprise-level tool should detect and protect developers from making blunders in the user interface designer. Another screams, "DO NOT ALLOW INSTALLER TO MAKE ANY CHANGES TO MY SYSTEM!!!" Within two hours, Zero G's developer support replied to my e-mail query saying this was nothing more than a safe way to preview dialog boxes during development.

Despite the odd warnings and unusual licensing, InstallAnywhere.NET is a capable product that will appeal to a range of developers, from relative newcomers to setup kit specialists.

InstallAnywhere.NET 3.0
Zero G Software
Web:
www.zerog.com
Phone: 415-512-7771
Price: $1,199
Quick Facts: Integrated development environment for building pure Windows Installer setups for Windows and .NET applications.
Pros: Many features for all skill levels; includes valuable custom actions including Web installations; enhanced functions for .NET downloads, assemblies, and dependencies; professional documentation.
Cons: Some overblown and unnecessary warnings; license tied to one machine and one user; product might enforce licensing by disabling itself.


Manage Multiple Databases
by Andy Clark

Computer Associates' (CA's) Unicenter SQL-Station 7.0 provides the tools you need to create and maintain database objects on SQL Server, Oracle, and DB2. Its tools for browsing databases enable you to view data, users, privileges, and table definitions, as well as SQL components. Within the table definitions, you'll not only see column names and types, but also primary keys, foreign keys, triggers, indices, and all table constraints. It also supports SQL components for stored procedures, views, triggers, and Oracle functions (see Figure 1). In other words, SQL-Station brings together the information you normally use during database application development.

SQL-Station provides a number of tools to help you develop on SQL. You can set bookmarks, collapse procedures, and execute code directly within the editor as well as use the normal editing features. The editor is fully integrated with a SQL debugger that supports breakpoints (including conditional breakpoints), and it shows all variables in a separate display. The debugger also can display the call stack and dependency tries.

SQL-Station includes wizards for creating database objects, such as queries and indexes within a graphical environment; a SQL profiler; and Oracle-specific tools for tuning Oracle SQL. It also provides several tools for generating and querying XML documents.

I found CA's customer support knowledgeable and helpful, but a little on the slow side to respond. I encountered a few problems while using SQL-Station. The installation procedure was unforgiving when I attempted to set up my initial connections, but I had no problem creating those connections later. Also, I was unable to view tables with some SQL Server data types within the SQL-Station data browser. However, I don't consider either problem a major limitation.

Note that the pricing for this product varies depending on the configuration you use. I reviewed the full suite, which starts at $5,000 and goes up to $8,000 with a three-year maintenance contract. The base installation is $695 and doesn't include maintenance or debugging options.

SQL-Station is a powerful tool for developers working on multiple databases. While it doesn't do everything a database administrator (DBA) requires, such as handle backup and restore procedures, maintenance plans, tablespace management, or other DBA functions, it does have everything you need to develop and tune SQL. I'll also note that it was a bit sluggish on my 2.7 GHz Celeron processor, so I recommend installing it on a powerful workstation. However, all in all, if you find yourself developing for more than one database platform, SQL-Station might be the ideal tool for you.

Unicenter SQL-Station 7.0
Computer Associates
Web:
www.ca.com
Phone: 888-423-1000; 631-342-6000
Price: $695-$8,000
Quick Facts: Provides a single environment for managing and developing with SQL Server and Oracle databases.
Pros: Great tool for the developer working with multiple platforms.
Cons: Installations and error messages not completely intuitive.

About the Author

Ken Cox is a Canadian .NET programming writer and the author of "ASP.NET 3.5 for Dummies" (Wiley).

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