Installation (4)

What are the basic considerations for hardware requirements with Auto Shop Writer ?

When choosing computers for workstations there are several considerations.  Please remember that Auto Shop Writer, like most business packages, is a forms based application.  That means you fill in the blanks, make selections, and save the information.  Your computer choices must handle this well.  You are seeking a business machine, not a gaming machine, and there is a significant difference.

Your main issues will be storage, memory, speed, and networking.   Workstations do not need a lot of storage, except for the computer you use to store all the data ( the server ).  Thus minimum sized hard drives are usually acceptable, though larger ones may be required for other applications you might install.

We suggest that a minimum of 4 GB of RAM be installed if you are buying a new computer.  This will enhance your local performance.  The systems will operate with less, but it is usually not recommended.

Although it is possible to run workstations wirelessly, the speeds will be significantly slower.  We suggest you be sure there is a direct connect cable port rated at 1 Ghz.

There are a lot of options for CPU\’s ( processors ) and the speed difference can make a big difference in performance.  They come in single core, dual core, and quad core configurations.  Take a demo machine into a real program and see how it performs.  ( If the store says they have no applications loaded, go elsewhere.  Browsing the internet is not the best indicator.  Try opening a word processor and typing a document. )

There are also a lot of computer types, including desktops ( which usually sit on the floor ), notebooks, and tablets.   If you are considering a destop, take a look at the All In One units.  They use very little space, and likely you will use few cables.  You can also use a notebook computer, but make sure you get one with nothing smaller than a 15 inch monitor.  Larger ones are available.  Also be sure you get one with a bright display because lighting conditions do make an impact.  Tablets under Windows 8 will be useable, but usually for special tasks like starting a workorder while interviewing a client at their vehicle, checking stock interactively, or reviewing tickets in the bays with the mechanics.  Tablets must be full computers ( they are called slates in the the Microsoft world ).

We are sometimes asked if Apple products can be used.  The answer should be yes for the iMac and MacBook Pro.  You would have to install a program called Parallels ( or an equivalent ) that allows you to run a Windows program in the Apple OS.  That would also require you install a version of Windows.  iPads and iPhones use an operating system that is not compatible and they could not be used.

Still hae questions ?  Email Support@MasterLinkSoftware.com and we\’ll give you a personal response.


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How do I install ASW on a new workstation ?

On your server, there is an ASW9s folder that holds all of the data, configurations, and installation files.  In that main folder, there is a subfolder called MLS.  From the new computer, use the Windows Explorer to connect across the network to the server, then find the ASW9s folder, click on it, and then click on the MLS subfolder.  You will now see a list of files.

Find the ASW92c.exe file ( the .exe may not be showing, but the file type is Application ) and double click on it.  It will now start the installation program on your new machine.  Answer each of the prompts as they come up.  In most cases, the defaults provided are quite sufficient.

When the installation finishes, there will be an ASW9 icon on the desktop.  Double click on it.  It will tell you the path cannot be found.  It then shows you a dialog box where you can browse across to the server, and find / highlight the ASW9s folder.  If you prefer, you can type the path into the box in the format:

Be sure to put in the actual name of your server, and don\’t forget that last \\

Next you will be asked if you are running Local or Client server.  If you have the Advantage Database Server installed, then select Client Server.  Otherwise, leave it as Local server.

Your program should now run on the new computer.

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What is a network ?

You hear this term a lot.  In business, it means connecting with other people who can help you make your own operation successful.  With computers, it is the method by which the computers in your shop are all tied together, and connect to the Internet.

There are two \”domains\” in your network.  The first is the Wide Area Network ( WAN ) which is the outside world.  It is commonly known as the Internet.  It connects to your system through a modem, which takes the signal from a phone line ( DSL ), or cable connection.  It translates it to a form that can communicate to a computer.

The output of the modem could be connected to a computer, but usually it is connected to a Router.  This little device is where all of the computers plug in.  It allows them to connect with each other, and with the WAN.  When several computers are hooked together through a router, it is a Local Area Network ( LAN ).

One computer may hold a lot of data in storage, and share it with all of the other computers.  This computer is called the Server.  The ones that access it are called Clients, although they are also termed to be workstations.

The key to good performance between the computers is the speed of the network.  Some use cables to connect the computers to the router, and these are fastest.  Routers are rated 10/100, or 10/100/1000.  Computers have network cards, or chips, that determine the speed it can accomodate.  They are also 10/100 or 10/100/1000.  Those that support the Gigabit ( 1000 mbs ) give the best performance.

You can also connect to some routers wirelessly.  This is a slower connection than cable, but may be needed from some locations in the business.  Usually laptops and all-in-ones have wireless connectivity built in, but a cable can also be used.  the speeds are b/g/n with n being the fastest.  New standards are emerging that are even quicker.


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What is the best OS for Auto Shop Writer ?

Auto Shop Writer has always run on a wide range of Windows operating systems, including the latest releases.  If your current computers have Windows XP Professional ( not Home ), then it will run.  Of course it also runs on all of the later versions including the upcoming release of Windows 8.

We suggest you will get the best performance now on Windows 7.  Make sure you have the Business version or Ultimate.

Microsoft Windows 8 will bring some wonderful additions to your Auto Shop Writer system.  First, it will expand the window and dialogs to fit the full size of the monitor.  For those who have problems seeing the smaller text, a new monitor will totally resolve the issue.  In addition, Windows 8 has made connecting computers easy, and setup less complex.

It is also important to remember that Microsoft will stop supporting older versions of its Windows operating system.  All versions prior to XP have reached their end of life status, and XP is slated to be so classified in the near future.

While it is possible to upgrade computers to Windows 8 for a realtively inexpensive fee, it will be necessary to be sure the hardware will support it.  Microsoft supplies a utility to test for compatibility at their Windows 8 website.  Generally, any computer that ran Vista or Windows 7 will be easily upgradeable.

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Utilities (2)

How do I delete an appointment

On the Day View, find the appointment to remove.  Click to highlight it.

Move the cursor to the left side of the entry, and you will see it change to a large plus with arrows on each tip.

When this occurs, press the Delete button on the keyboard.  You will be asked to confirm if you wish to delete the entry.

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Why is my system not automatically updating

Sometimes people are getting a message when signing into Auto Shop Writer that indicates the system is not updating properly. Please read this carefully. This is NOT a bug in ASW. This means that you have a conflict in Windows which has stopped the auto update program from running on the server. Please read this carefully so you can understand the basis for the problem.

When you start your server, a program called MLS9aus.exe  will begin on that computer. It connects with the MasterLink central servers, and downloads current keyfile and version information. If an update is available, it also downloads it, and unpacks it on your computer. In addition, this important program performs a daily backup, uploads the Carfax and CustomerLink data, and more. The program runs silently on the server 24/7/365 unless another program interferes and stops it, or your Windows operating system is not setup properly.

On any Workstation, you can see how well the program is running by selecting Process Log from the Tools menu in ASW 9. Every three hours the program will cycle. You can see the date and time for each event. They include:

  • Authorization key updated – You will see this each cycle. It means your keyfile was updated. We do this to handle rentals, DPP payments, version authorizations, etc.
  • Version File Downloaded – This is a very small file that says what current version is available on the server for updating. The update program will compare this version to the one you last had downloaded, and if it is newer, you will get the following step.
  • Update file downloaded 9.xx.xx : The xx.xx is the version info. This means that the update zip file has been received on your server.
  • Updates unpacked : This entry is saved when the file is unzipped and the new .exe files ( Datamanager and ASW9 ) are saved in the ASW9s folder. The ASW9.exe is then copied to the workstations when you first start the program on each one.
  • Backup 172 files ( or perhaps more ): This occurs each day at the first cycle after midnight. The backup is made to the \\ASW9s\\autobackup folder unless you went into Datamanager and specified an alternate drive.
  • Carfax data file uploaded & Carfax files updated: This will occur about once a week when the data is saved for Carfax
  • CustomerLink connection established ; data uploaded: These messages will appear for CustomerLink clients about every five days.

The MLS9aus program will continue to run unless it is blocked. Here are the common reasons we found that it stopped:

  • An external USB drive was specified for the backup files, and since that time it was removed or turned off.
  • A firewall / antivirus / malware prevention program is running that is denying access to ASWUpdate
  • Your server is a Vista or Windows 7 machine, and you did not change the ASWUpdate.exe to ASWaus.exe as instructed months ago in a bulletin.
  • Your security settings are preventing the downloaded file, when unpacking, to overwrite the existing files. Thus, no update takes place.

Check the above items if you have a problem. If you don’t understand what they involve, its time to bring in your hardware person to check your settings. The external drive is very common. People unplug it and forget they did that, or someone turns off the power switch. Otherwise the most likely cause is a block to the program by your anti-malware software.

When the program completes a cycle, it records the date in one of the configuration files. If the program stopped running, then the date is not updated. After 5 days, you get the alert. Your version may be current, but nothing else is ( backup, etc. ) because the program is not running. The version may have been downloaded weeks before ASWUpdate stopped running.

You can restart the program by going to your server, click on the Start button, select All Programs, look for the Startup folder, and then double click on ASWUpdate.

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