Setting up ASTER

To successfully start additional workstations, you must first configure the system: assign a monitor, keyboard, mouse and, if necessary, a sound device to each workplace.

Before proceeding with the setup of ASTER, remember the following important information:

  • Most of the changes in the ASTER settings are stored in the program memory (temporarily) and will not be written to disk until you click the “Apply” button.
  • Some settings changes take effect only after the computer restarts. The indication of this is the appearance of the “Restart System” button in the lower-left corner of the program window.
  • When you close ASTER, a reminder window pops up and asks if you want to save the changes and, if necessary, restart the system.
  • ASTER starts automatically when the first (main) workplace logs on to the windows and reaches Desktop if the workstations are not already configured. Otherwise, it will be minimized to the system tray (notification area).
  • When you close the ASTER window on the first workplace, the program does not exist. It will minimize the system tray. To exit the program, click the “Exit” or “Finish” button from the context menu of the program icon in the system tray.

After starting the program, a window opens in which the ASTER is configured. Controls like icons, buttons, lists, etc. are provided with hints in the style of “What is it?”. You can call this prompt in the following ways, in case there is any doubt about the purpose of this or that element:

  • Press Shift and F1 keys on the keyboard simultaneously (the simplest option);
  • Open the context menu (right mouse click) and select the “What is it?” option;
  • If the title of the window contains the “?” icon, click on this icon, and then on the required element.

On the “Work Places” tab a graphical view of workplaces and devices are represented.

Each workplace is shown in the form of a window filled with devices. The “System” area contains a list of available devices that can be distributed among the workplaces. The context menu of the system unit icons contains menu items for various system-wide settings. Then, there are three buttons “Spare parts”, “General”, and “Inventory” :

  • The “Spare parts” panel contains all free devices, i.e. those that are not currently assigned to any workplace.
  • The “General” panel contains all the shared devices, i.e. which are used by all workplaces and do not appear in the windows of workplaces, so as to not clutter them.
  • The “Inventory” panel contains all PC devices that can be redistributed between workplaces.

The scale of the image can be changed by standard keyboard combinations:- Simultaneous pressing of the Ctrl keys and the '+' (plus) keys enlarge the images and pressing Ctrl and '-' - reduces the size. In this case, the area that is scaled depends on the current position of the mouse pointer, if the pointer is in the “System” area, the images in the “Spare parts”, “General” and “Inventory” panels are scaled. Otherwise, the work area is scaled.

The “Inventory” button (and its corresponding panel) is hidden by default. In order for it to show them, you need to select the item “Customize the Workplaces panel” from the context menu, and in the dialog that opens, check the “Inventory” item check box:

In the “Workplaces” tab, you can choose which windows to display and hide (can not be hidden if the workplaces have devices assigned). Also, pay attention to the checkmark next to the item “Displays without monitors” in this dialog, as well as to translucent (“off”) images of displays.

The images of the displays represent the video outputs of the video cards, which can be connected to monitors. The translucence of the display image reflects, that a monitor is not connected to the video output.

The item “Displays without monitors” determines whether such outputs are displayed or not. By default, this checkbox is not checked, and translucent displays are not displayed.

The display can be semi-transparent even if the monitor is physically connected to the video output and connected to the network, but not included in the Windows desktop (in extended mode).

In this regard, when you first set up ASTER, it is highly recommended that you connect and put all the monitors in extended mode, and also set the desired screen resolutions and refresh rates for them.

This way, the number of translucent (“off”) displays can be minimized and more monitors are listed to distribute between workplaces in a simple visual way.

You can expand the desktop and set the operating modes of the monitors by using the “Screen” item in the Windows Control Panel (Control Panel “Display” Adjusting Screen Settings). This control panel element can be opened directly from the ASTER by selecting the “Desktop settings” item from the context menu of the system unit. There are also other options you can use from.

Desktop Settings

Some devices are displayed specially: - in an image behind the bars. These are so-called “devices on an inaccessible workplace” - devices assigned to workplaces that are currently unavailable because the number of the workplace exceeds the number of your licenses. This situation can occur, for example, after the end of the trial period, when all 12 jobs were available. The number of the workstation to which the device is assigned (shown in parentheses after the device name) can be seen by pointing the mouse at it. You can leave the device in this “unavailable” state in order to keep a binding to the workplace in the future or assign it to the available workplace.

Devices on an inaccessible workplace are displayed in a image behind the bars

Assigning Monitors

You have to assign monitors to each workplace before you enable the additional workplace. The rest of the devices can be assigned later.

When assigning monitors to workplaces, the following options are possible:

  • With only one graphic card, all monitors connected to it can only be used separately to run additional workstations. Thus, several jobs can be run on monitors connected to a single graphic card.
  • If there are several graphics cards, you can assign workplaces to individual graphic cards with all their monitors. Thus, each workstation can use its own separate graphic card (this scheme is recommended to achieve better performance for graphic applications, including games).
  • If there are several graphic cards with the ability to connect two or more monitors to separate graphic cards. All connected monitors can be used individually or in groups to run additional workplaces, provided that workplaces with multiple monitors are assigned their own separate graphic cards (in other words, a workplace with multiple monitors cannot share any of its graphic cards with another workplace).

When you first run the “ASTER Control Panel”, all monitors are assigned to the first workplace. Assignment of a monitor (and any other equipment) to a workplace is easy, just Drag & Drop the monitor icon to the desired workplace. Do not forget that you can expand the “System” panel to see all the devices.

Not all devices can be assigned to the workplaces since there are conflicting configurations that will prevent them from being assigned. In the simplest cases, the restriction is illustrated when you try to drag a device by a change in the mouse pointer (a prohibiting sign will appear, a crossed circle).

In the case of monitors, it is very easy to get a conflict and it is not easy to avoid or resolve it. Therefore, for monitors, the conflicts are resolved automatically.

When dragging a monitor to the workplace area, the configuration is validated, and if conflicts are found, the situation will be transformed into a conflict-free one according to certain rules set in the program. In this case, monitors that are removed from the workplace in order to resolve the conflict are placed in the Spare parts panel (and this panel will be opened if it was closed).

In addition to the drag and drop method, the device can be assigned through its context menu, namely from the window “Appointment to the workplace”. A dialog will appear, the appearance of which depends on whether the device allows sharing or not:

You can share speakersDo not share monitors

In the first case, you can check in front of several numbers, disconnect the device from all workplaces (send it to “Spare parts”, selecting the item “None”), or assign “All” (put in “General”).

In the second case, the device can be assigned only to one workstation or sent to the “Spare parts”.

Starting Workplaces

After the monitors have been assigned to the workstations, you need to enable ASTER (the “Enable ASTER and reboot the PC” button) and run additional workplaces. The program will ask you to confirm the restart, and if the answer is yes, the computer will be immediately rebooted:

Main ASTER Window

After enabling ASTER and restarting the PC, the workstations will start automatically or manually - depending on the selected startup method. On additional monitors, the Windows Welcome screen will display.

There are three options for starting workplaces:

  1. Start Manually by clicking the “Run ASTER Workplaces” button. This option should be selected for the first test run of the workplaces. If the button “Start ASTER” is not available for clicking (inactive), most likely, this means that the settings made by the monitors are not suitable for starting additional workplace (or monitors were not assigned to the workplace). In this case, try to make another adjustment to the monitors, apply it and reboot the PC.
  2. “When a system starts up”. This will start all start workplaces simultaneously once computers boot up.
  3. When user logins on workplace 1. This option (as well as the first one) can be useful, for example, when using “Display Link” monitors are used, which are not ready for use when the computer start.

Workplaces that do not have a monitor at startup will not be started, but after connecting (ready to use) the monitor, they can be started “Start workplace” from the context menu of the workplace on the “General settings” tab. With the button “Run ASTER workplaces” you can start all the places at once. For workplaces that are already working (except for Workplace 1), the Force Relogin“ command will be available, which force log out from the system followed by an automatic login. Automatic logon is only performed if it was configured, otherwise, you will see the login screen.

Assigning keyboard and mouse

Keyboards and mice can be assigned to workstations after they successfully launch or can be assigned during the configuration of ASTER at the start.

The easiest way to do assign keyboard and mouse is the Drag-and-Drop technique or through the “Workplace appointment” item in the context menu of the device, as described above. If (when ASTER is on) the assignment of the keyboards and mice was not done correctly, and after setting it once, using the computer is difficult. So, you can reset the assignment by pressing CTRL + F12. You may need to press CTRL + F12 several times until all keyboards and mice are automatically assigned to the 1st workplace. After this, you can assign them correctly.

This hotkey is used rarely since the keyboard/mouse assignment rarely is incorrect. Some programs (for example, Adobe products) can use this keyboard combination (“CTRL + F12”) which can be inconvenient since the ASTER driver intercepts it before other programs.

In the context menu of the system unit, on the “Workplaces” tab there is a menu item “Keyboard/Mice switch hotkey”, which allows you to reassign a new key combination or even to disable it altogether.

After selecting this menu item a dialog will appear:

Setting hotkeys for switching input devices

To change the hotkey, click the mouse in the input field at the bottom of the dialog and press the key you want to use in conjunction with the Ctrl key. Some common combinations (for example, Ctrl-F4, Ctrl-C, Ctrl-S, Ctrl-V, etc.) are forbidden to use for this purpose. To cancel this combination altogether, click the Reset button.

The new assignment will only be applied once the computer restarts.

Assigning Audio Devices

Sound devices (sound cards) can be assigned to individual workplaces or shared with all.

Assigning sound devices as well as other devices is done on the “Workplaces” tab. Each individual sound card can be represented as a set of sound devices of various types, which can be assigned to workplaces separately. Unlike other devices assigned strictly to one workstation, the sound device can be shared for several places and stored in the “General” tab.

New assignments of audio devices take effect immediately after you click the “Apply” button. However, to account for changes, you may need to restart any application in use when audio devices were assigned.

Assign USB-Hubs

A USB hub can be assigned to a workplace and then all the devices connected to that USB hub will be automatically assigned to that workplace - this only applied to devices that can be assigned in the usual ways, like Keyboard, mouse, sound devices, web camera, game controllers, USB monitor, as well as additional USB hubs chained to it (along with the devices connected to the chained hub). USB hub simplifies the process of assigning devices, and also allows you to replace any equipment without changing ASTER settings, which is convenient with a large number of workstations and devices.

Assigning USB hubs to workplaces allows auto-assigning devices and also performs restrictive functions:
- Prevents all workplaces (except the workplace for which the USB hub is assigned) access to optical (CD\DVD) drives and disks connected to the designated USB hub.
- Disks and Optical disks (CD\DVD) drives connected to the USB hubs are displayed in the explorer only at the workplace for which the hub is assigned, but only if the “Hide empty disks” and “Do not show hidden files and folder” options are enabled.

These restrictive functions are enabled by default, to disable them, apply a special setting disableFSF

USB hubs are displayed in the Settings in the form of icons (a screen with notches) with red notches- the more notches the larger the depth of nesting in the USB tree, the root hub has no notches. Dragging into places usually requires the deepest hubs - it's better and more convenient to do this from the USB tree window (USB Screen of the tree). To assign all the hubs from one branch of the USB tree is enough to assign the parent(main) hub.

The icons reflect the type of hub:

Root Hub- Root Hub

USB-3.0 (SuperSpeed) hub- USB-3.0 (SuperSpeed) hub

USB-2.0 hub- USB-2.0 hub

USB 3.0 hub may not be seen as a single hub by the system, instead is seen as 2 hub - USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 hubs so when dragging done, two hubs will be dragged to the workplace, in this case, a dialog box will open to choose the hub to assign to the workplace:

Dialog box will open to choose the hub to assign to the workplace

By default, it is better to leave both hubs to the workplace (i.e. both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 USB hub) since both hubs are from the same hub, but if you want, you can un-check the undesired hub from the dialog box.

The hub can be dragged either to the workplace or to the “Spares” panel. When dragging to “Spares”, devices connected to the hubs will be assigned to the workplace that was previously explicitly set for these devices (by default or by explicitly setting to the workplace).

After the hub is assigned to the workplace, the devices connected to it cannot be dragged to another workplace (or “Spares” panel). From this point on, devices can only be dragged by dragging the hub to which they are connected. Dragging a hub into the “General” panel breaks this hard link, after which the connected devices receive an explicit assignment to the places specified by them earlier (that is, as it was before the hubs were assigned) and again it becomes possible to drag the devices to other workplaces.

There is one important exception to this “hard” rule, and this is the USB hub. That is, a hub connected to the designated hub can still be dragged to another workplace, or to the “Shared” panel. This allows you to organize a cascade connection to USB devices to different workplaces. For example, we assign a hub to a workplace, connect a second hub to it, which we assign to another workplace. This creates a chain of hubs. This allows you to bypass the limits on the number of USB ports available in the computer and saves on the length and quality of USB cables. However, it is better not to use many chains, as this will affect the stability of the connected USB devices and their performance.

Indicating Devices

One of the questions that arise when assigning monitors (and other devices) to workstations: “How to compare the real computer equipment and the equipment image in ASTER?”

Several methods are implemented to make it easy to find out the devices:

  • When you hover your mouse over the device image, a tooltip with the device name pops up. For monitors, this is a monitor model (if it can be determined) and also mentions which video output it is connected to, as well as the video adapter model. This method is not very useful if many video cards from the same manufacturer are used on the system.
  • Some equipment (like keyboard, mouse, speakers) are able to indicate their activity. For example, when you press keys or move the mouse, images of the corresponding devices are surrounded by a blue frame which indicates their activity.
  • Some devices allow you to set the device self-indicating device. If the context menu of the device contains the item “Indicate Device”, then this indicates that the device is self-indicating. When selecting “Indicate Device” from the context menu of the device icon, the indication of the corresponding physical device turns on for a few seconds. The method of indication depends on the type of device. For example, for monitors, the indication is performed as follows: on the corresponding real monitor, the monitor number will be highlighted (This is one or two numbers, the first of which is the serial number of the video card, the second is the video output number of this card). By the monitor number, you can easily compare the real device and its image to ASTER. Indication of audio playback devices (speakers) is performed by playing a small melody through the corresponding audio output.

Indicate Device from the context menu

  • Another way to map the image and real equipment is the “disconnect / connect” method. If the device allows a “Plug n Play” connection (for example, a USB device), you can disconnect (remove) the device and after a while connect it back (insert). In ASTER, the newly connected device will be surrounded with a flashing purple frame, and if necessary, the corresponding panels of the “System” area will be opened, and the “Workplaces” tab will be scrolled so that the device image is visible on the screen:

Indication of the new connected keyboard

From the context menu of monitors, you can switch the workplace to use “Hardware cursor”.

It appears only for video cards that have several monitors connected to them (for multiple workplaces). This switch allows you to specify which type of pointer to use for this monitor. If the icon representing the pointer is highlighted in gray, then the hardware cursor is used, otherwise - the software cursor is used. When you click on this item it changes the settings to the next:

Hardware cursor is used

The software pointers of the mouse are completely independent of each other, but they can interact incorrectly with graphic-intensive applications (they can sometimes leave traces when moving or disappear completely from the screen).

However, hardware pointers do not interact with graphic in applications (and does not leave traces or disappear from the screen), but on monitors connected to one graphics card, the mouse pointers cannot have different shapes.

Hardware mouse pointers are better suited for games and full-screen graphic applications, where a clear drawing of the pointer is more important than its shape. For other applications, the software pointers are better suited. Different monitors of the same graphic card can use different types of the mouse pointers (for example, the monitor of the “gaming” workplace can use the hardware, and the rest - software pointers).

You can customize the workplaces (from the “General Settings” tab) to automatically log on with the credentials of a specific user.

To do this, you must specify a user name and password that will be used to automatically log on to the system. To open the account setup dialog box, click the button in the “Account” column next to the selected workplace.

Example of setting up automatic logon with a local account type

You can use both the local account for automatic login and (if the computer is connected to the domain) the domain account by selecting the appropriate option in the “Account type” switch. To configure automatic logon with a local account type, select the desired account from the drop-down list and enter the password in the password and confirm password fields. Selecting “Show login dialog” cancels automatic logon to the system from this workplace. The “Accounts” button opens the “User Accounts” system window where you can view and, if you have sufficient rights, add and edit accounts:

 User Choice

To configure automatic logon with the domain type of the account, you must enter the domain name, account name, and password with confirmation if the account has a password.

Example of setting up automatic logon with a domain account type

Click the “OK” button to accept or the “Cancel” button to discard the changes. To save changes permanently, do not forget to click the “Apply” button in the main window of the ASTER Control Panel.

On the “General Settings” tab, you can also selectively specify which workplace will be enabled and which ones will not. To do this, in the “Status” column next to the corresponding workplace, you must select the item “Enabled” or “Disabled” from the list (the first place cannot be disabled).

To prevent simultaneous logins on workstations by the same users, apply a special setting sameuser0

For some network applications (including network games), you may need to assign separate IP addresses for them to work properly. You can do this from the “Extended Settings” tab on the “ASTER Control Panel”. Click the button next to the Workplace number in the IP Address column.

In most cases, it's enough to leave the value [Not assigned] in the IP address field.

“ASTER Control Panel” -  “Extended Settings” tab
Configuring the IP address for the workstation

Select the appropriate IP address from the list of available IP addresses on the computer, which includes all static (permanent) IP addresses assigned to the system's network adapters. If the number of available IP addresses is less than necessary, you need to add IP addresses to the network adapter or install a virtual adapter and then add a required number of IP addresses.

For quick access to the Windows Control Panel snap-ins mentioned in these documents, you can use the “Device Manager” and “Network Connections” buttons in the “Extended Settings” tab.

Only add a virtual adapter if you do not have a physical adapter connected to the computer.

The IP address assigned to the workplace can be applied to all network applications or only to some of them. You can specify the IP address to an individual application or application folder. In the latter case, the IP address will be applied to any application running from the specified folder. At the bottom of the IP address, the configuration panel is a table with a list of applications and folders. Above this table are three mutually exclusive switches:

1. Apply to all programs and folders at the workplace: The IP address assigned to the workplace is applied to all network applications that are started in this workplace

2. Apply to only selected programs and folders: This option will set the IP address assigned to the workplaces to be used only for applications and folders added to the list below.

3. Apply to all but selected programs and folders: This option will set the IP address to all applications and folders on the computer, except to those programs and folders that are added to the list below.

On the left of each item on the list, there is a check box that allows you to temporarily exclude that item from the list without deleting it. If the checkbox is unchecked, the corresponding item will not be included in the list of applications and folders to which IP address assignments apply.

To permanently delete an item from the list, select this object in the table and click the “Remove from list” button.

To add an application or a folder to the selective IP address list, click the Add to List button and select the desired object in the folder and application directory:

Configuring selective use of IP address

An application from the list can be added to the list either in the form of the application itself or as a folder containing it. It can be done by clicking the “Add application” or “Add folder” buttons. Adding folders is only available from the root node “Computer”. To end the selection, click the Close button.

To save the settings once you have added or removed items from the list, click the “OK” button in the IP address settings panel. Now, click the “Apply” button in the “ASTER Control Panel”. The specified IP addresses will start working for any applications that are launched after saving the settings (pressing the “Apply” button).

When assigning separate IP addresses, you should keep in mind that this function prevents (selected) network applications from using all available IP addresses except for a single IP address assigned to that location and, therefore, binds network applications to a specific network adapter that has this IP address. For this reason, applications can not be accessed on networks connected through other network adapters or through dial-up connections (this is a common cause of difficulty in accessing the Internet when using separate IP addresses). You can provide applications with access to inaccessible networks by using additional routing tools (programs that route data between networks, in particular, the “Internet Connection Sharing Tool” included in the Windows operating system).

If the computer is connected to the Internet through a proxy server, there may be problems when activating the activation code/ trial period, deactivating, or sending a request to the support service from the program interface.

In this case, you need to configure the ASTER to connect to the Internet through the proxy server. To do this, click the “Proxy Setup” button on the Advanced Settings tab, and enter the required data in the window that opens:

Proxy settings

If you are already connected to a proxy server, the fields in this dialog will be filled with the available settings. Otherwise (or in the case of special settings), the settings must be filled in by yourself.

In the Type drop-down list, select the type of proxy server: HTTP or SOCKS5. You must also specify the name (or IP address) of the proxy server, the connection port. If the proxy server requires authentication when connecting, then you need to fill in the “User” and “Password” fields.

To refuse connection via a proxy, select the “No proxy” option in the list, the other fields, in this case, are not required to be filled and are inactive.

When all necessary fields are filled, it will be better to check the connection (click the “Test” button). During the check, the program will send an echo request to the ASTER license server, and in case of a proper response, a message will appear about the successful testing or error message in case of any problems. To save the settings, click the “Save” button. You can save the settings even if the connection test was not performed, or ended with an error, but, in this case, you will need to confirm to save the settings.

If after turning on ASTER or applying new settings of monitors there are problems with displaying the desktop or with the computer loading, you need to restart the computer in safe mode and disable ASTER using the button “Turn off the ASTER and reboot the PC. Now, ASTER is disabled (after a normal restart of the computer with ASTER disabled) make proper adjustments to monitors.

To boot the computer in safe mode, press the F8 key several times at the very beginning of the computer startup (until the Windows logo appears or “Start Windows”) and select the Safe mode option in the boot options menu. For more information on loading the OS in safe mode, see the FAQ.

It is strongly recommended to disable the ASTER before doing any updates or maintenance tasks like installing graphics cards, updating the drivers for graphics cards and other devices.

On the “About” tab, a link to check for updates is available when you start the “ASTER Control Panel” with administrative rights (Run as administrator). When you click on the link, the program will contact the license server ASTER, after which a pop-up window will display information about the latest available version of ASTER:

Check for updates