RealTime IT News

Apple Updates Remote Controls

Apple Computer is a week away from releasing its second-generation Remote Desktop software for centrally managing Mac OS X systems.

The release, which sports some 50 new features, will correspond with the Macintosh maker's annual developer's conference in San Francisco.

The software lets administrators distribute and install software, copy files, gather asset-management information and remotely control system settings over the network.

Among the new version 2 features include thorough hardware and software reports based on more than 200 different system criterion. Another significant enhancement is the addition of built-in, real-time screen sharing. This allows help-desk folks observe and control the desktops of any remote Mac or Virtual Network Computing (VNC)-enabled computer, including Windows and Linux systems.

The updated desktop management software also includes new command-line tools for setting network, energy saver, date, and time system preferences.

"If there is something that you can think of that we haven't, you can do it as long as you can script it in a UNIX shell," Tom Goguen, director of server software in Apple's Worldwide Product Marketing group, told internetnews.com.

Since its introduction a few years ago, Goguen said Apple has conducted several studies on what types of administrators are using its Remote Desktop product.

"Our initial demand came from the education department, but an overwhelming use of the product these days is IT management," he said. "We're seeing a lot of traction in this area. We heard from our server administrators communities that they wanted the software to be functional from both interface options -- command line and GUI."

Some of the other improvements to Remote Desktop include Network Scanners to simplify the discovery of Mac OS X systems on the network using Apple's Rendezvous wireless technology; Offline Reporting that lets administrators include mobile systems in hardware and software inventory reports, even when not connected to the network; a new User Access Mode that allows administrators to delegate a subset of Apple Remote Desktop tasks to non-administrative users; and a Remote Boot Disk Selection that sets the local startup disk or specifies a network startup disk when used in conjunction with the NetBoot and Network Installation features built into Mac OS X Server.

While Apple is shy about giving away actual user numbers, the company has seen an increase in the use of its products in the enterprise beyond its standard bread and butter of media, entertainment, imaging and education customers.

Goguen said he and a host of other Apple managers are preparing to enlighten developers and IT administrators on the benefits of Remote Desktop on its Xserve server hardware and Apple's storage products and related software -- XRAID and XSAN.

Already, Goguen said Apple has organizations and customers lined up and eager to update to version 2.

To run the new Remote Desktop software, you need a Mac connected via Ethernet or Apple's AirPort network software running on a PowerPC G3 or better and Xserve or Xserve G5, running Mac OS X v10.2.8 or later.

The software will retail for $299 for overseeing up to 10 systems. A flat fee of $499 will let you manage an unlimited number of systems. Education users will also get special discounts.

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