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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