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Author Topic: System tray notification of remote computer status  (Read 1343 times)

javadecaf

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System tray notification of remote computer status
« on: April 27, 2016, 01:11:57 PM »
Here is my situation. We have a small office, and the girl who prints the checks uses a shared network printer. Sometimes someone else will send a print job through while she is in the middle of doing this, with the check on the manual sheet feeder,  and the check will be ruined. The printer will not allow anyone to direct a job to a specific tray. If a sheet is in the manual feeder, it WILL be used in the print job.

I would like for there to be a way for everyone in their separate office, to be able to see whether she is at her desk or not, as she can't very well print checks otherwise. :). Would like to have a little icon in the notification tray that turns green when she's gone, red when she's there. When she's there she will have reserved use of the printer, and I'll have everyone send their printouts to our other office printer. I would like to install a utility that would do this on every computer in our office. The principle is sort of similar to how you show presence in instant messaging, I guess; it would need to sense there has been no keyboard/mouse activity for X number of minutes and send the appropriate notification to all connected computers on the network.

How difficult would it be to write a utility like this? Thanks!

c.gingerich

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Re: System tray notification of remote computer status
« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2016, 02:02:10 PM »
I think I can make something like that for you.  :Thmbsup: I'll get back to you in a day or so, will that work?

Both the Server app (running on her system) and the Client app (running from the other systems) will need to be run/accessed from the same server location (something like F:\Apps\Network Notification). Will that be an issue?
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« Last Edit: April 27, 2016, 02:08:14 PM by c.gingerich »

javadecaf

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Re: System tray notification of remote computer status
« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2016, 02:47:17 PM »
Sorry, are we talking about using a third computer as a server where the program is run, or using only two computers, the monitoring computers and the monitored one? Either way, it doesn't sound like it would be an issue to me, thanks.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2016, 03:18:40 PM by javadecaf »

IainB

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Re: System tray notification of remote computer status
« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2016, 03:25:04 PM »
Speaking as someone who has had to manage and audit accounting office practices (e.g., when I was acting in the role of Chief Accountant or Auditor) some years back, this opening post literally made my hair curl.

From memory, SAP (Standard Accounting Practice) for secure handling of cheques used to include rules about security and processing of MICR pre-printed computer-stationery blank cheques. Printing of these cheques was to be done in a secure area and in tightly-controlled batches (even the one-off ones), and were to use a printer that was dedicated to the task of cheque printing and inaccessible to anyone not involved in the production process, whilst cheque printing was in progress.
This would be an audit requirement also.
So the notion of using a network shared printer in an open office area probably wouldn't cut it.

The main purpose in this was prudent financial security, but in today's privacy-conscious times, there would be the added legal obligation to ensure confidentiality.
This would be an audit requirement also.
So, again, the notion of using a network shared printer in an open office area probably wouldn't cut it.

The Chief Accountant or someone with formally delegated management responsibility was to supervise cheque-printing and control processes and be accountable  for operation of same - including sign-off on the day's batch controls. These controls recorded the cheque numbers used - and spoiled - and the payee and amounts actually printed, and had the actual spoiled cheques attached for verification.
This would be an audit requirement also.

Sometimes, rules and procedures might further stipulate that this batch control must take place before the cheques left the print area for envelope stuffing and being mailed out.
This would then become an audit requirement also.

The OP seems to describe a cheque-printing process where it could be well-nigh impossible for the Chief Accountant, or someone with formally delegated management responsibility, to supervise cheque-printing and control processes, and be accountable for operation of same - including sign-off on the day's batch controls. The responsibility would seem to rest by default on "the girl who prints the checks".

Then there's this:
Quote
I would like for there to be a way for everyone in their separate office, to be able to see whether she is at her desk or not, as she can't very well print checks otherwise. :). Would like to have a little icon in the notification tray that turns green when she's gone, red when she's there.

It would probably be obvious now, therefore, that, given the above and from a financial security and confidentiality perspective, the last thing in the world you would want to enable is for "everyone ... to see whether she is at her desk or not".
Thus, having "a little icon in the notification tray that turns green when she's gone, red when she's there." would not be such a good idea - which is putting it mildly.
Thus, from the perspective of ensuring continuing job security, I wouldn't recommend it, though, on the other hand, from the perspective of better enabling a potential fraud, it could be a useful idea.

It might be useful if these points were raised with management as potential areas of concern, before implementing the little notification icon idea.
Just a thought.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2016, 03:34:03 PM by IainB, Reason: Minor corrections. »

javadecaf

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Re: System tray notification of remote computer status
« Reply #4 on: April 27, 2016, 04:22:36 PM »
IainB, thanks for sharing your concerns; those are definitely valid points ,and in a larger, corporate environment I can well see where such security would be necessary. Ours however is a small family business, and we know each other extremely well; I should have mentioned that the girl that prints the checks is in fact my sister. :) I did actually talk to the rest of the guys, and they seem to be OK with the idea. But thanks again for the input!

IainB

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Re: System tray notification of remote computer status
« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2016, 05:50:56 PM »
I had a very good friend and business partner whom I trusted implicitly and who was entrusted with sole responsibility for managing the bank (capital loan) accounts and reconciling them - a job I detested and was happy to assign to her, and I ignored SAPs (Standard Accounting Procedures).
I was thus more than a little surprised to discover some years later that said partner had apparently, over the first 20 months of the partnership, quietly misappropriated approx. $60,000 of capital. This had been done by the simple expedient of having all statements and correspondence from the bank sent to her personal address, and filing them in a "secure" filing cabinet offsite. She would occasionally ask me questions about what to do with certain transactions and would even insist that I make certain online transactions, presumably so that it would look as though I was in full knowledge/approval of what was going on. When I asked out of interest to see an account statement, it was always "locked up in the offsite safe for security" or something. So I never saw them.

The lesson I had to learn is one that banks are only too familiar with: That some otherwise seemingly quite good and honest people - whom you could have (say) even entrusted with your life - seem to be susceptible to temptation by easy access to pools of money, and it changes them and they become dishonest.
Since you can never know in advance who will be susceptible, the best approach is not to present them with temptation in the first place - hence the SAPs.

If it's your business, then you - like me - would be an idiot not to implement proper SAPs, knowing this.

It thus made me smile when you wrote:
Quote
...Ours however is a small family business, and we know each other extremely well; I should have mentioned that the girl that prints the checks is in fact my sister. ...
- as though what you wrote actually substantiated anything/something of what you were saying, but it doesn't, you see and it's irrational to think that it does. It is a logical fallacy, a non sequitur ("it does not follow"; or irrelevant conclusion).
« Last Edit: April 27, 2016, 06:00:47 PM by IainB »

Stoic Joker

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Re: System tray notification of remote computer status
« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2016, 06:39:54 AM »
The darker sides of human nature aside... It seems that there is already an existing issue with the check media being accidentally used for other print jobs. So being that I work for a rather large MPS (Managed Print Services) company, I've run across this type of thing before. Frequently with doctor's offices and narcotics prescription forms (you want to talk about "Tightly Controlled" forms..).

The industry standard solution to this is to have one drawer of a printer - frequently locked (as a nod to Iain) - that has it paper type set to something other than plain paper (preprinted forms usually). This prevents to printer from selecting media from that tray "accidentally" - usually because the other tray(s) have run out. Then a specific 'Special Form Printer' instance of the driver is installed with its - in printer preferences - paper type set to the media type that was configured on the target printers forms drawer.

That way only one preordained person has legitimate access to that print option eliminating the need for convoluted shenanigans that require people to remember to look for something before doing something...which is incredibly disruptive to everyone's workflow.

Just a Thought.. ;) :D

c.gingerich

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Re: System tray notification of remote computer status
« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2016, 10:39:56 AM »
It would be the first. Having a 3rd system that would be the server where the Server App (running on her system) and the Client App (running on the other systems) would be located.
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javadecaf

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Re: System tray notification of remote computer status
« Reply #8 on: April 28, 2016, 02:20:17 PM »
Thanks, Stoic Joker.  :) Totally agree that the  simple solution you suggested would be more  ideal. Did some experimenting with the printer; it prints great but configuration options are a bit lacking. If I send a job to the main paper tray, and a page is is in the manual feeder, it will print the first page of that job from the manual feeder, even if I've set the manual feeder size/type and the paper tray size/type to different sizes. It's such a good multi-function otherwise we hate to upgrade at this time. I suppose that's just the difference between the small office printer and the expensive printers you find in larger corporate settings.

javadecaf

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Re: System tray notification of remote computer status
« Reply #9 on: April 28, 2016, 02:33:36 PM »
As to the server, we do currently have a computer on the LAN we can use for that notification utility. It's running Windows 7 right now although I may want to upgrade it to 10 before long.

c.gingerich

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Re: System tray notification of remote computer status
« Reply #10 on: April 28, 2016, 03:42:16 PM »
Finished round 1 - http://cl.ly/0q3s1H0J2y2S

Here is a quick video showing how it works - http://cl.ly/1p0J0r3z0K39
This application is to notify users when the "server" (system running NNServer.exe) has been idle for "X" number of minutes. The default time is set to 15 minutes.

How to:
Put the NNClient.exe and the NNServer.exe in the same location somewhere on a server on a network accessible by anyone that needs notified and the user that will be running the NNServer.exe.

For example, the server is set to the drive letter F:. Put the EXE files somewhere like F:\NNApps. Make sure the folder is properly mapped on each system that will need access to the EXE files.

Run NNServer.exe on the user’s system that will be the "server" for the notifications.

Run NNClient.exe on any system that needs to be notified. When the server has been idle for the set amount of time, the RED dot in the system tray will change to GREEN.
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javadecaf

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Re: System tray notification of remote computer status
« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2016, 03:48:37 PM »
Can't believe you cooked that up so quickly AND made a video! :Thmbsup: Thanks a bunch and will get back to you after I try it out!

javadecaf

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Re: System tray notification of remote computer status
« Reply #12 on: April 29, 2016, 06:45:13 PM »
And it's working...it's working.. :-[ this is going to be really helpful, thanks a lot! I do have a couple of questions about it; I'd like to send you a private message if that's OK.

mouser

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Re: System tray notification of remote computer status
« Reply #13 on: April 29, 2016, 06:58:28 PM »
I LOVE reading threads like this -- it's wonderful to see someone get some help and a new utility created.

Allow me a brief annoying reminder to everyone that part of what this site is about is sending a little donation to people whose work you want to encourage.  That goes for anyone reading this thread -- if you like to see things like this continue, then send a few bucks c.gingerich's direction by clicking on the $ beneath his name above!  :Thmbsup:

c.gingerich

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Re: System tray notification of remote computer status
« Reply #14 on: April 29, 2016, 07:11:35 PM »
Thanks mouser  :D Was fun making it.

@javadecaf Yes, you sure can send me a private message. I'll answer any questions to the best of my ability.
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Stoic Joker

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Re: System tray notification of remote computer status
« Reply #15 on: April 30, 2016, 08:24:08 AM »
Thanks, Stoic Joker.  :) Totally agree that the  simple solution you suggested would be more  ideal. Did some experimenting with the printer; it prints great but configuration options are a bit lacking. If I send a job to the main paper tray, and a page is is in the manual feeder, it will print the first page of that job from the manual feeder, even if I've set the manual feeder size/type and the paper tray size/type to different sizes. It's such a good multi-function otherwise we hate to upgrade at this time. I suppose that's just the difference between the small office printer and the expensive printers you find in larger corporate settings.

Well... Good News, Bad News.

It's not a device class/cost issue.

It's an almost universal device behavior issue.

The manual Feed tray is also - almost universally - known as the bypass tray. Which means that the default behavior is to ignore it when it is closed, and to bypass all other trays when it is open and allow (virtually) anything to be pulled from it.

So the solution I was proposing requires an additional regular paper tray because the - usually but not always tray 1 - manual feed tray has a habit (again universally) of either not allowing the media type to be set, or of clearing the setting when it is closed.

I don't know what brand/model you're working with, so I've no idea if it allows for/has available an additional tray. But if it doesn't you might consider getting a small/cheap/disposable class laser printer for her to keep on her desk that can be dedicated to low volume check printing. This would most likely pay for itself rather quickly by not requiring a rather workflow disruptive step for everyone else in the office remembering to check what color an icon was before they hit print. TBH - User space one-liners aside...I could easily see myself screwing that one up.

Something like this perhaps: HP Factory Recertified Laserjet Pro P1102W $83.99 at Newegg.

javadecaf

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Re: System tray notification of remote computer status
« Reply #16 on: April 30, 2016, 12:08:26 PM »
Thanks for the link; that's a fairly decent price on a printer. Our color printer is an HP and I like it a lot. I actually have a little black and white laser similar to that in storage, but the checks were all misaligned coming out of that  printer, so after fooling with it for a while, I gave up on that and am trying to use this Canon instead. Prints checks well, but there is the sharing issue which has been under discussion. :) So, I'd like to see if I can make a tray-feeder work; just seems easier to align the checks correctly.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2016, 12:21:59 PM by javadecaf »