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[Condor-users] Condor, Windows, and OLE automation.


First, a touch of background: at work we do a bunch of reporting that, joy of
joys, requires generating PowerPoint Presentations based on the data.  Fun as
this is to do by hand, when we can have three to ten hours of CPU time in a
single run, automation is much nicer.

Unfortunately, the only mechanism we presently have for doing this requires
OLE automation driving a visible instance of PowerPoint[1].

Now, this relates to condor in that we would like to move away from running
this in a manually triggered fashion, to running on a pool of Windows machines
in the back end.[2]

I know that the current stable release of Condor can provide access to the
"live" Windows session / desktop, as well as the service session / desktop, so
it seems likely that we can drive PowerPoint through OLE automation in a
Condor managed batch job.

Has anyone done this before, though?  Are we going to regret the decision, or
find that the process stalls out and causes grief to us?

Um, and the final question I have not found a completely satisfactory answer
to is:

In some cases the driver process dies, because PowerPoint via OLE automation
is not only slow and annoying, but excessively stupid and prone to throwing
fatal errors that are very, very difficult to recover from automatically.

Can Condor be configured to detect that the Perl script driving the process
has failed, and forcibly shut down the PowerPoint process?

This /might/ involve closing PowerPoint while a presentation is open and
modified, so triggering a dialog prompt for "save changes", if a normal close
of the software is attempted.

We can probably work around the last issue manually, by wrapping our process
in something that does brutally kill PowerPoint, but it would be nice if we
didn't have to. :)


[1]  So much so, in fact, that if you change focus in the instance things go
     wrong, and there is actually /no/ other way to achieve some of the
     outcomes we need.  Yay!

[2]  We also have a bunch of other Windows-hosted processing, but it is all
     traditional batch processing work, so I have no concerns about it running
     under Condor.

✣ Daniel Pittman            ✉ daniel@xxxxxxxxxxxx            ☎ +61 401 155 707
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