"Change is the only constant in life. Ones ability to adapt to those changes will determine your success in life." -Benjamin Franklin
This quote rings very true, especially if you are a sysadmin struggling to keep up with the endless onslaught of changes you constantly have to deal with. Just look how much has changed, especially in the tech industry, in the last 30 years. We went from basically no internet to "Let's put everything on the internet!" We went from brick-like cell phones to super sleek portable computers that fit in our pockets (RIP Nokia 3310). And social media is literally changing the way humans communicate — for better or worse.
While these are a few blockbuster-sized examples, there are smaller changes happening all the time. For example, many vendors have changed the way administrators manage their products. Microsoft and Adobe made pretty extensive changes several years ago, and now Autodesk is following suit. But do the changes make it easier or more difficult to manage Autodesk deployments? Let's find out.
Creating the installer
The first thing we need to do is create an installer with the applications and configuration information for our deployment. This process can be completed on Autodesk's website, www.autodesk.com. Once you've logged in, click on your profile icon in the upper right-hand corner of the screen and then click on Products and services.
The Products and Services page lists all the products you have access to. This page is also where we will begin building our installer. The only product I have access to is Revit, so that's what this guide will use, though the process should be similar for other Autodesk products. Keep in mind that if you have access to multiple Autodesk products, you might want to build each application separately instead of combining them to avoid massive file sizes.
With the "All Products and Services" page open, click on the Custom Install link in the menu on the left side of the screen.
Click on the Create new button to begin creating the custom installer.
Select the products you want to add. Again, we'll be using Revit for this guide.
Select the latest version of the product, or you can choose a specific version.
Set your content path locations. You can also configure this information in a custom ini file which can be added in a later step.
Select the optional components you want to include. To reduce the file size, you may want to unselect language packs that you don't need.
If you are using a Revit Server, you can enter the server's information in the Accelerator IP address or Name field.
Enter your custom Revit.ini file in the Custom Revit ini file name field. Make sure you add your ini file to the deployment image folder once the deployment image has been downloaded.
Expand the Extensions and Content sections and select the components you want to add to the package. Again, the more components you add, the larger the installation size will be.
When you are finished customizing the package, click Next. This will bring you to the install settings panel.
Give your package a name.
In the Deployment image path: field, enter the location to your UNC path to your PDQ Deploy repository. By default, the repository location is \\pdq-servername\repository\, and once we create a Revit folder in the repository, we'll use the path \\pdq-servername\repository\revit\.
Next, click on Advanced options.
Once you click download, an EXE file should download onto your computer. Copy this file onto your PDQ Deploy server that contains your repository, and then we'll begin building our deployment package.
Building the Revit package in PDQ Deploy
Before we can build our deployment package, we need to download the Revit contents into our repository. Once you've copied that EXE file to your server, double-click it and accept any UAC prompts. This will download the contents for the installation in your repository. This process can take a very long time. Ensure you have sufficient storage space where your repository resides because the Revit package alone will be close to 15GB.
Once the contents are downloaded to the repository, you'll find an image folder, a log folder, an installer batch file, and a summary file.
The last thing we need to do before we can build our deploy package is modify the Install Revit.bat file. Right-click on that file and click Edit. Now, remove rem from in front of the path under Install the deployment silently section, and add rem in front of the path under Install the deployment with basic UI section. This is what the end result should look like.
Once you save the changes to this batch file, we can begin building our package in PDQ Deploy.
Launch PDQ Deploy.
Click New Package.
Name the package.
Click New Step > Install.
Next to the Install File field, click the ellipses button [...] and navigate to the Install Revit.bat file and click Open.
Click the Options tab.
Next to Run As, select Deploy User (Interactive).
Click Save to save your deployment package.
At this point, your package should be ready to deploy. If you are concerned about existing instances of Revit running when you deploy this package, consider starting your package with a reboot step or CMD / PowerShell step to kill existing processes. If you want to learn more about the taskkill command or its PowerShell equivalent, check out our blog post, where we cover the topic in depth.
Not everybody likes change, but that doesn't mean that change is inherently bad. Often it just means getting used to something new. In this case, the new process for building and deploying Autodesk packages may be simpler than ever before, though your mileage may vary.