TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Apple Remote Desktop 3

Volume Number: 22 (2006)
Issue Number: 6
Column Tag: Focus Review

Apple Remote Desktop 3

The latest and greatest in remote control for Macs in the lab or the enterprise

by Michael R. Harvey

Apple Remote Desktop has always been a great, and useful tool, even back to it's ANAT days. Back in the mid 90's, the Apple Network Administrator's Toolkit was mainly a window sharing, observation and control tool best suited for school lab environments. It grew into Apple Remote Desktop, adding features and usefulness to more and larger labs, as well as adding features that made it more attractive to business installations.

It's here!

Version 2.2 had a great feature set; sending Unix commands and getting the results back, installation of .pkg and .mpkg installers, and a myriad of other goodies, some of which even worked. With the release of version 3, Apple has stepped it up again. Improvements to the GUI, layout of the tools, better command and control, and reporting that even works!

New and improved

The interface of ARD 3 is, we think, a great improvement over 2.2. The one thing that might catch you is the smaller size of the text. If you're squinting now to read the screen, it's time to up the prescription. Figure 1 below shows the old ARD 2.2 interface, figure 2 shows the ARD 3 window.

One of the great things about the main window of Remote Desktop 3 is the amount of information available. At a glance, you get a better snapshot of the state of your client systems. Much better than what the 2.2 GUI showed you.

Another enhancement is the listing of scheduled, active, and past actions taken. In 2.2, actively running tasks and the history were displayed in a pane of the main window below the client list. When you clicked on the Saved Tasks icon, the main window was completely replaced with that listing. Now, those



Figure 1: ARD 2.2 main window

features are listed in the left column (the bottom pane of the main window is gone altogether now) in hierarchical lists. In 2.2, the history would clear every time the program was quit and



Figure 2: ARD 3 main window

relaunched, but now you can set, in the preferences, how many and/or for how long the history will preserve.

Yes, you can actually know what's there

With ARD 2.2, there was the potential for some great reporting tools. They didn't happen to actually work, however. Some admins were able to get reports back, some of the time. Most were not. You had to resort to shooting out various Unix commands and deciphering the results to glean useful inventory and other data from client machines. Now, however, reporting actually works reliably.

There are a myriad of reports you can query the client systems on, gather and hold that data in a SQL database. That database can live either on the administrator's workstation, or on a Task Server (see below). Also, because the database is standard SQL, you can run custom queries, scripts, and reports against it, exporting that data for use in other applications.

All the usual reports are there. Versions, system overviews, hardware, and software differences, among others. A new feature in ARD 3 is the ability to use Spotlight to query for specific files and folders, the information updating as changes occur on the client systems.

Task Master

New to version 3.0 is the Task Server. What this feature boils down to is the ability to off-load scheduled tasks (reporting, installations, etc.) to another copy of ARD running on a server. This lets you free up an administrator workstation, lets multiple admins run various task from a single location, and lets you consolidate your inventory and reporting data. By running



Figure 3: Setting up a memory report



Figure 4: Gathering the report data

all of that from a Task Server, you have everything residing in a single SQL database.

It's scriptable

The Remote Desktop application now has a fairly extensive AppleScript library attached to it. You can control and command ARD for most things using AppleScript, although it does lack in a few areas, such as reporting and application preferences. Apple includes a fairly long list of prebuilt Automator actions that make use of the AppleScript dictionary. MacTech columnist John Welch has good coverage of the AppleScript integration, as well as several example scripts up on his web site, <www.bynkii.com>. Look in the April archives. You can get a look at the Apple included Automator functions by opening the up the app's contents, then navigating through the Library, to the Automator directory (Figure 5). We're willing to bet that AppleScript and Automator support are going to be the new features, along with the Task Server, that will really make a difference for admins as time goes on.



Figure 5: The location of the included Automator actions in ARD

Complete copy

Added in Remote Desktop 3 are more options for copying files to client machines. Before, it was copy replace, and little more. Now, as you can see in Figure 6 below, there are several more options provided, most notable being the ability to encrypt the data as it is streamed over the network. This can be particularly useful for transmitting sensitive data over open networks. The encryption of copies, as well as commands, lets you send out password data without having to worry about it being sniffed out, compromising your systems.

Roll your own

While it would be nice for either all third party vendors to provide their installers in .pkg format, or for Apple to include support for the myriad other installers available out there, it just isn't so. That's not the end of it, however. Package Maker has been a part of Xcode from day one, and with version 3, it is now included in the install of ARD (for both 10.3 and 10.4). We won't go into detail on Package Maker here (that's a whole separate article's worth of information), but suffice it to say, it's an incredibly useful tool for getting files, and updates out to the clients. There are also instructions, beginning on page 108 of the user manual, for what to do to get third party installers run on clients.

docs

There is a very thorough and complete manual provided in PDF format with Remote Desktop 3. At 184 pages, it is heftier than you would think it needs to be, but provides plenty of information for both new ARD admins, as well as old hands. It



Figure 6: The copy set up window.



Figure 7: Package Maker

covers areas including setting up admin access privileges using Directory Services (pgs. 62-65), VNC control set up and options (Chapter 7), and PostgreSQL Schema Samples (Appendix D), among many others. Making sure to keep TCP and UDP ports 3238 and 5900 open (mentioned several times in the manual) helped us out during testing.

Best of the Rest

Of course, there are tons more features in version 3 than just those listed above. Scheduling, messaging, locking out computers, computer smart lists (like those you'd find in iTunes), observing (one or more systems) and controlling, to name a few. Some are familiar to users of earlier versions, some are new, but all of them are useful, and make the program ever more valuable.



Figure 8: Observation of multiple client computers with status icons displayed

In Closing

At $499 for one admin seat that will control an unlimited number of clients, ARD is a steal. For $1000, you can set up a Task Server, have an admin workstation, and be able to manage, control, assist, update, and inventory any number of computers. Reporting that works, and AppleScript integration alone are more than worth the price of admission. Task Server is icing on the cake. If you manage any number of Macs, Apple Remote Desktop is quite simply a tool you cannot do without. We can't recommend it enough.


Michael Harvey is the Reviews Editor for MacTech Magazine. He is also the Senior Systems Administrator at the Ventura County Star newspaper, where he routinely breaks stuff to ensure you get a good review of new products. Since the December gift guide issue, he has received not one email guiding him to cool dive sites, and is very disappointed.

 
AAPL
$103.24
Apple Inc.
+0.74
MSFT
$44.90
Microsoft Corpora
-0.53
GOOG
$576.67
Google Inc.
+5.07

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

NetShade 6.0.2 - Browse privately using...
NetShade is an Internet security tool that conceals your IP address on the web. NetShade routes your Web connection through either a public anonymous proxy server, or one of NetShade's own dedicated... Read more
Mac DVDRipper Pro 5.0 - Copy, backup, an...
Mac DVDRipper Pro is the DVD backup solution that lets you protect your DVDs from scratches, save your batteries by reading your movies from your hard disk, manage your collection with just a few... Read more
pwSafe 3.1 - Secure password management...
pwSafe provides simple and secure password management across devices and computers. pwSafe uses iCloud to keep your password databases backed-up and synced between Macs and iOS devices. It is... Read more
StatsBar 1.8 - Monitor system processes...
StatsBar gives you a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the following areas of your Mac: CPU usage Memory usage Disk usage Network and bandwidth usage Battery power and health (MacBooks only)... Read more
Path Finder 6.5.5 - Powerful, award-winn...
Path Finder is a file browser that combines the familiar Finder interface with the powerful utilities and innovative features. Just a small selection of the Path Finder 6 feature set: Dual pane... Read more
QuarkXPress 10.2.1 - Desktop publishing...
With QuarkXPress, you can communicate in all the ways you need to -- and always look professional -- in print and digital media, all in a single tool. Features include: Easy to Use -- QuarkXPress is... Read more
Skype 6.19.0.450 - Voice-over-internet p...
Skype allows you to talk to friends, family and co-workers across the Internet without the inconvenience of long distance telephone charges. Using peer-to-peer data transmission technology, Skype... Read more
VueScan 9.4.41 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
Cloud 3.0.0 - File sharing from your men...
Cloud is simple file sharing for the Mac. Drag a file from your Mac to the CloudApp icon in the menubar and we take care of the rest. A link to the file will automatically be copied to your clipboard... Read more
LibreOffice 4.3.1.2 - Free Open Source o...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Alien Creeps TD Review
Alien Creeps TD Review By Jennifer Allen on September 2nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: EXPENSIVE DEFENSESUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Alien Creeps TD would be a fun if unremarkable Tower Defense game, but its heavy focus on... | Read more »
Function Space, a Social Network App for...
Function Space, a Social Network App for Science, Launches on iOS Posted by Ellis Spice on September 2nd, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Treasure Tombs: Ra Deal Coming from Bulk...
Treasure Tombs: Ra Deal Coming from Bulkypix and Dark Tonic This Fall Posted by Jessica Fisher on September 2nd, 2014 [ permalink ] Dark Tonic and | Read more »
Tiny Tower Vegas Review
Tiny Tower Vegas Review By Jennifer Allen on September 2nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: STEADY DEVELOPMENTUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Build a huge tower again but Vegas-style in Tiny Tower Vegas.   | Read more »
The Manhattan Project Review
The Manhattan Project Review By Andrew Fisher on September 2nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: ROCKET SCIENCEUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad The Manhattan Project offers a great Euro-style gameplay experience, but it is totally... | Read more »
Rhonna Designs Magic (Photography)
Rhonna Designs Magic 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Photography Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Want to sprinkle *magic* on your photos? With RD Magic, you can add colors, filters, light leaks, bokeh, edges,... | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: August 25-29, 2014
Shiny Happy App Reviews   | Read more »
Qube Kingdom – Tips, Tricks, Strategies,...
Qube Kingdom is a tower defense game from DeNA. You rally your troops – magicians, archers, knights, barbarians, and others – and fight against an evil menace looking to dominate your kingdom of tiny squares. Planning a war isn’t easy, so here are a... | Read more »
Qube Kingdom Review
Qube Kingdom Review By Nadia Oxford on August 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: KIND OF A SQUARE KINGDOMUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Qube Kingdom has cute visuals, but it’s a pretty basic tower defense game at heart.   | Read more »
Fire in the Hole Review
Fire in the Hole Review By Rob Thomas on August 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: WALK THE PLANKUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Seafoam’s Fire in the Hole looks like a bright, 8-bit throwback, but there’s not enough booty to... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple refurbished iPads available for up to $...
Apple is offering Certified Refurbished iPad Airs for up to $140 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free. Stock tends to come and go with some of these... Read more
Are We Now In The Post-Post-PC Era?
A longtime and thoroughgoing laptop aficionado, I was more than a little dismayed by Steve Jobs’s declaration back in 2010 when he sprang the iPad on an unsuspecting world. that we’d entered a “post-... Read more
PC Outlook Improves, But 2014 Shipments Still...
According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, worldwide PC shipments are expected to fall by -3.7 percent in 2014. To hat’s actually an improvement from the... Read more
IDC Lowers Tablet Sales Projections for 2014...
Following a second consecutive quarter of softer than expected demand, International Data Corporation (IDC) has lowered its worldwide tablet plus 2-in-1 forecast for 2014 to 233.1 million units. The... Read more
Apple now offering refurbished 21-inch 1.4GHz...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 21″ 1.4GHz iMacs for $929 including free shipping plus Apple’s standard one-year warranty. Their price is $170 off the cost of new models,... Read more
Save $50 on the 2.5GHz Mac mini, on sale for...
B&H Photo has the 2.5GHz Mac mini on sale for $549.99 including free shipping. That’s $50 off MSRP, and B&H will also include a free copy of Parallels Desktop software. NY sales tax only. Read more
Save up to $300 on an iMac with Apple refurbi...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs available for up to $300 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. These are the best prices on... Read more
The Rise of Phablets
Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group, a businesses and technology consulting firm focused solely on the financial services industry, has released an infographic depicting the convergence of... Read more
Bad Driver Database App Allows Good Drivers t...
Bad Driver Database 1.4 by Facile Group is a new iOS and Android app that lets users instantly input and see how many times a careless, reckless or just plain stupid driver has been added to the... Read more
Eddy – Cloud Music Player for iPhone/iPad Fre...
Ukraine based CapableBits announces the release of Eddy, its tiny, but smart and powerful cloud music player for iPhone and iPad that allows users to stream or download music directly from cloud... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.