How to save time with auto-configuration for laptops?
March 27, 2008 9:07 AM   Subscribe

How can I reduce the hassle of reconfiguring multiple applications in my Windows laptop when switching between networks (home, office, VPN, hotel, ...) ?

What options are people using for automatically (or as close to it) reconfiguring their laptops when switching between networks? This is not just the case of using DHCP (most places do nowadays) or changing IE proxy configs with registry changes. I'd like to automate as much as possible the following:
- proxy configuration for IE and Firefox
- connection settings on Miranda (IM)
- mounting or not mounting certain network shares
- choosing the default printer

So, for example, if I'm "home" there's direct access outbound and I can mount my home share, but if I turn on the VPN the share gets disconnected (because we don't use split tunneling). Now, at a "hotel" I may get direct access but not want to try to mount home shares.

Ideally, I'm looking for a tool that would monitor something (maybe the current default route) continuously and be able to trigger these configuration changes or commands based on location.

Any ideas? I thought about using Perl, but I'd much rather support some existing community project than start from scratch...
posted by fsmontenegro to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you setup multiple users accounts that share some information (like bookmarks/favorites and data), but also have some private settings? Then login to the laptop with an account based on your network situation.
posted by indigo4963 at 10:02 AM on March 27, 2008

Doing this in windows is difficult considering there is no global proxy setting and no location manager for network connection settings. Adding more user accounts wouldn't achieve this either. I believe Mac OS can do this better than anything else, although maybe not to the extent that you need and so can Linux, but that doesn't help you any...

The only thing that comes to mind would be virtualization, perhaps using VirtualBox to run different "instances" of windows on the same machine which all have individual settings for network and applications.

The advantages of this are that you could have a completely different Windows environment for different locations that don't overlap with your native windows environment and you can easily access data between these "instances" of windows.

The disadvantages are that you would have to install windows (and possibly the software you normally use) for each different instance and it could take a lot of hard drive space. However, if the requirements are to use a few applications and being able to print to different printers depending on the environment, this could work.

I'm interested in how you would do this with perl on windows, seems difficult.
posted by hellslinger at 10:42 AM on March 27, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far. I'm looking for a simple client that will allow these changes, as opposed to different instances of the operating system or different user accounts.

The typical scenario I envision is:
- when I turn on the laptop at home (undocked), it automatically connects to my home wireless network (it does this already) and it senses that it is home, so default printers, proxy settings, etc... are changed.
- when I get to the office and plug it into the LAN, same thing: it detects that I'm at the office and changes things for me.

I found a number of commercial offerings once I searched for the right terms (start with "net switch" and move from there) but I'd rather work with a community/open-source solution if one is available. I have no qualms about paying for software, but I'll do this as a last resort.
posted by fsmontenegro at 11:52 AM on March 27, 2008

I have a very limited version of what you speak- I have a pc at home that I use to VPN into my work network. But the VPN client, like yours, changes the routing tables so that my local network disappears. After googling, I found that I can change the routing table of the PC after connecting the VPN to reenable the local network.

My local network is 192.168.100.*. So I make a batch file with the following command that I double click after connecting up the VPN:

route delete

After that, it works.

Maybe you could build two batch files named HOME and WORK that add and delete the correct routes, as well as use this command to set the default printer depending on the network you're in.

I just typed:

cscript c:\windows\system32\prnmngr.vbs -g
and it listed the name of my default printer. Using that command to figure out the names of the printers and then set them in your batch files, along with some "NET USE Q: \\server\share" types of commands to map your drives should solve your problems.
posted by gjc at 4:33 PM on March 27, 2008

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