Charles Engelke's Blog

December 17, 2004

Oracle Web Conferencing with Windows XP SP 2

Filed under: How To — Charles Engelke @ 6:00 pm

Service Pack 2 is a security must-have for Windows XP users. But
it breaks a lot of things. In many cases, this breakage is just
a very conservative approach to functionality that could possibly
be misused. But if you need that functionality, and know you won’t
misuse it, you can still get it… with some additional work.

Oracle’s web conferencing tools no longer work right out of the
box if you have XP SP 2. But you can still run them. One way would
be to follow suggestions in an e-mail we got from their customer
support. That could be summarized as, “disable every single setting
you have that protects your PC from malware.” That’d do it, I
guess; I wouldn’t even try it out. It’s too dangerous. In this
post, I’ll tell you how to do it without dropping all your defenses.
I’ll use my company’s web conference server for the examples.

Caveats: These instructions were tested on an almost
brand new install of Windows XP, with all Microsoft security updates
and patches released through November 2004 installed on it and left
at their new default settings. Audio
conferencing was not tested, because we don’t use that on our
server. And, of course, all this was done using Internet Explorer.
That’s the only web browser that Oracle’s conferencing tool
supports, and it’s the only one affected directly by SP2. If you’ve
already adjusted your Internet security settings, you may find your
machine behaves a bit differently than described here.

In a nutshell, you’ll need to perform the following steps:

  1. Get Java. Having Java installed on
    your PC is a prerequisite for the tools.
    If you’ve been using your PC for a while, you probably already
    have this. If it’s a new install of Windows XP, you probably
    won’t have it. This is not a hard installation, but it takes
    several minutes, so we’ll check for it first.
  2. Trust the Web Conference Host. Joining a
    web conference requires letting the host site run some software
    on your PC. With Service Pack 2, Internet Explorer won’t allow
    all we need unless we make it a “trusted site”.
  3. Install a Plug-in. The conference tool uses
    a browser plug-in, which needs to be manually installed.
  4. Test your setup. There’s a link at the
    web site for this. Since you’ll have Java installed by now,
    told Internet Explorer to trust the conference web site,
    and have the plug-in, it should pass the test.

Getting Java

Java was generally preinstalled on earlier versions of Windows, but not on
XP. Let’s check to see if it’s already been installed on your PC.
Click the Start button, then Control Panel. From the resulting
window, double-click on “Add or Remove Programs”. You should see
a window like this:

Screen grab of Add or Remove Programs Applet

The “Change or Remove Programs” button on the upper left of the window
should be highlighted; click it if it isn’t. Look at the list of
“Currently installed programs”. Is Java there? It might be called
“Java 2 Runtime Environment”, or “Java 2 Software Development Kit”,
or variations on that. If there’s something starting with the
word “Java”, you have what you need, and can skip to the next step.
Otherwise, you’ll need to install Java. Either way, close this
window first.

To install Java, open Internet Explorer and enter the URL
http://www.java.com/en/download/windows_automatic.jsp.
When the web page opens, you’ll see a “Start Download” message asking you to
“Please wait a moment while we download Java software onto your machine.” (You
may also get a message about the web site trying to install a cookie
on your machine; you can allow it or not, and it won’t affect the
installation.)

Screen grab of Java download page

If you have XP SP 2, you’ll wait forever, because this
automatic download and installation functionality
is now blocked. But there’s an out: there should be an “information
bar” at the top of the web page that says something like
“This site might require the following ActiveX control: … Click
here to install…”. Go ahead and click on the information bar
and select “Install ActiveX Control” from the resulting drop-down menu.
Internet Explorer will pop up a warning, asking if you really
want to install this software. Click “Install”. Now you just have
to wait while the installer plug-in handles everything for you (but
there will be a point where you have to agree to the license
agreement to continue). Select “Typical Installation” when asked.
It took about 3 minutes on my PC.

When the installation finishes, your browser will display a page
saying “Java Software Installed”. You’re ready for the next
step.

Trust the Web Conference Host

For some reason, the web conferencing tools won’t run right unless you add the
web conferencing host site to your Internet Trusted sites list, so
we’ll do that first. This operation will reduce your PC’s defenses,
but only for the web conferencing site. This site won’t abuse that
trust. Open Internet Explorer, click on the Tools
menu, and select Internet Options. Click the Security tab of the
resulting dialog box:

Screen grab of Security tab.

Click on the Trusted sites icon, then click the Sites button. In
the resulting dialog box, uncheck the box for
“Require server verification (https:) for all sites in this zone”.
That would never let you trust a regular web site like the Web
Conferencing host. Then fill in the “Add this Web site to the zone:”
dialog box with “ocsapp.infotechfl.com”, and click Add, then OK.
Click OK one more time to close the Internet Options dialog box.

Screen grab of trusted sites dialog box.

Install the Conference Plug-in

Open Internet Explorer and go to the Oracle Conferencing Server
home page (at ocsapp.infotechfl.com
for the Info Tech server). You’ll be redirected to a welcome page:

Screen shot of welcome page.

Click on the link that says “New User”. Now you’re at the page where
you can get the needed software and then test your configuration:

Screen shot of New User page.

Click the “Download” link in the “Manual Download” section. A
warning dialog box will probably appear:

Screen grab of warning dialog box.

Go ahead and Run it. You may get even more warnings, like the one
below:

Screen grab of warning dialog box.

If you want
to use the web conferencing system (which is really not
a security risk, despite the warnings), dismiss the warnings and
make Windows run the program. You’ll be taken through a typical
installation wizard. Just leave everything at the default values
and keep clicking Next until you’re done. Click Finish to
exit.

Test Your Setup

Go back to the Oracle Conferencing Server
home page (at ocsapp.infotechfl.com)
and click on the New User tab or on the link that says “New User”,
if you aren’t already at the New User page.

Your PC should be ready to use the web conference tools. Click the
“Test” link to find out. You’ll may just get a blank page, except
for a bar along the top of the page announcing that a “pop up” has
been blocked (you may also get a dialog box in front of your browser
telling you about the “information bar” with this message). That
blocked pop-up is the testing tool, so you have to unblock
it. Click the information bar along the top of the page, and select
“Always Allow Pop-ups from the Site…”. You’ll see a dialog box
asking you to confirm that you want to run pop-ups from ocsapp.infotechfl.com;
click OK (you have to allow pop-ups on this site to run the
conferencing tools). You may get more warnings, such as one
telling you that your security settings may prevent the page
from displaying properly. That’s part of what we’re testing, so click OK
to any such warnings.

Next you may get a security warning screen asking if you want to
trust the signed applet from Oracle Corporation. (See below.)
Click “Yes”.

Screen grab of warning dialog box.

If a pop-up Window appears and displays a progress bar, then asks
you to confirm that audio is working (see below), you’re in
good shape. Click Yes to the audio question, even if you don’t
hear anything, because we don’t use that capability here.

Screen grab of console window.

The console should eventually run to completion and close, returning
you to the browser and a confirmation page:

Screen grab of confirmation window.

And you’re now finally ready to go. When the web conference starts,
follow the link you were sent via e-mail, enter the password (called
the Conference Key in the page) if there is one, and your PC should
start the conference tool and show the PC windows that the
presenter is sharing.

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