The Mobile Mac

Apple Remote Desktop Easily Worth the Price

- 2006.08.10 - Tip Jar

A few months ago, Apple released a major update to Apple Remote Desktop, its remote control application. I read the glowing reviews and thought that the concept was great for large businesses - but not really worth the effort for a smaller operation like mine.

I wasn't quite correct.

My office has three Macs (soon to be four). Since we are all in a single 1,200 square foot office suite, moving to another Mac for maintenance or updates is not too big of a hassle. That said, I'm frequently called upon to look at something on another user's screen, to help them with a task, or just to get my opinion on something.

While moving to another Mac is fast, squeezing two people into one workspace is a bit annoying.

Then there are software updates. Apple is very good about promptly releasing security updates, feature enhancements, and bug fixes, many of which require a reboot. This is the kind of thing that's easier to do myself than to bother my staff to do. Apple Remote Desktop (ARD) to the rescue.

Flexibility

ARD is very easy to use, picking up all networked computers in its main screen, including many in adjacent offices that aren't mine. It also allows viewing and controlling of VNC-enabled computers running Windows and Linux, though I've not yet configured our sole Windows PC for this. It will be great to be able to run Windows on a real Windows PC within a window on my MacBook, however, so this is something that I am excited about.

What I like most about ARD is that it lets me take control of another computer and block out the screen from the user while I'm doing it or let that user watch what I'm doing. I can configure something with a password without any security risk using "Curtain Mode" or visually show a user how to do something with the screen unlocked.

That's terrific flexibility.

Perhaps my favorite feature is the ability to view miniature versions of multiple computer screens at the same time in a single window. I've not figured out a use for it yet, but it sure does look cool. I can just picture some corporate IT guy or gal sitting behind a 30" Cinema Display watching over the shoulders of tens or even hundreds of unsuspecting users as they do all sorts of non-corporate activities on company time. (This would be much less cool as an employee than an employer.)

What impresses me most about ARD is that it's so fast and easy. I can drag and drop files easily across computers, even do Spotlight searches on the hard drive of another user's machine. While not a proper instant messaging client, there is the ability to send and receive text messages between any user and the administrator.

What's impressive isn't the number of features, but how easy they are to use. There is no printed manual, and I didn't even look at the PDF one.

Full Value

ARD costs $300 for up to ten networked users, or $500 for an unlimited number. I have the 10-user version.

I've rarely purchased software and felt that I got full value for my money. There's a reason I don't own recent versions of Photoshop and haven't bought iWork; as good as those applications are, I just don't expect to get their cost out of them.

ARD is clearly an exception. Even if I don't need to help another user, it's a very simple, fast, and easy way to put the power of another computer to work without tying up my own. I can use the fast G5 iMac in the front office to encode a video without laying a finger on the machine. Even better, since I have ARD installed on my MacBook rather than one of the desktops I can use it when I get home to control the Power Mac in the den from anywhere in the house.

Remote control isn't new, but its never been this easy or integrated before. Good stuff. LEM

Andrew J Fishkin, Esq, is a laptop using attorney in Los Angeles, CA.

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