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Roughly Drafted
Daniel Eran

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The Apple Wishlist: Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard
3. Remote control and management: Idea 3

Idea 3: Master remote control
Apple needs to release a local version of Server Admin for managing non-server installations. In other words, exposing the ability to remotely configure machines, using the same interface, so that users familiar with Apple's consumer products are naturally familiar with their server products. The sharing could go both directions, and this would also serve to foster loyalty among Apple's customers.

This is almost just an expansion of my Remote Desktop Express idea; imagine Server Admin, with a listing of Bonjour discovered and manually defined Macs. Like ARD and Server Admin, a user would authenticate to the remote Mac to add it to the network listing of configurable machines.

Click the disclosure triangle to reveal the services available to configure, just like Server Admin. On a workstation Mac, you'd have a list of System Preferences (prefpanes) on the remote system, which you could use to remotely set up printers, shared services, networking, perform software updates, and so on. Click on the computer name itself, and you'd gain access to System Profiler information as well: hardware info, logs, installed software.

Back to the Airport, Apple could simply add base stations as a hardware device that drops into the list of units to configure in Remote Desktop Express. Rather than providing one application for Airport, another for servers, and leave a desperate gap for remote Mac configuration, Apple should just ship a master remote control. (I didn't capitalize that, because I'm not particularly proud of that product name.)

This is one area that Apple could borrow an idea from Windows. The Microsoft Management Console interface is plainly unlovable, but it does provide extensible access to a variety of information, and its tools work remotely. Well, sometimes; it's up to the snap-in.

Essentially, MMC is a Windows management application that vendors can extend by writing a "snap-in." MMC provides a framework interface so that configuring various services inherit the same basic interface. It's unfortunate that the interface is ugly, but well, it's Windows.

One example is Computer Management, which displays the Event Viewer (Console logs), Device Manager (System Profiler hardware information), Disk Management (functions similar to Disk Utility), and also provides access to features without a Mac OS X equivalent: Services (Launch Control in my Wishlist), Performance Logs (part of my Notification Services idea), Local Users and Groups (something like a local workstation version of Apple's Workgroup Manager), and Shared Folders (more Workgroup Manager).

My description of MMC might make it sound like Apple doesn't have anything similar; actually, Apple's Server Admin application is like a pretty MMC with more features, and it is similarly extensible by third parties, although I don't know of any examples of outside plug-ins for it.

What Apple needs to deliver is the functional analog of their server tools, particularly Server Admin and Workgroup Manager, in the workstation version of Mac OS X. In particular, the capacity for remotely managing and accessing information. Since Apple already knows how to provide secure remote management services, its just a matter of delivering it to Leopard users.

But wait, won't providing Server Admin tools on workstations eat into Apple's fledgling market for Xserve hardware? No, I'd argue just the opposite. In delivering easy to use remote management features, Apple will enable users to find new reasons to buy Apple hardware, particularly in the area of personal network devices like the Airport, and a new set of products Apple needs to offer: personal servers.

I'll close my article on remote administration and control by introducing the idea for two new Apple hardware products (which I'll describe in more detail in my next article): The Xserve mini and Xserve mini RAID.

Suffice it to say for now that I think Apple has a number of ways to sell personal server gear. Visualize a Mac mini with a real hard drive and an accompanying small RAID appliance for additional storage. Why users need these products will be covered in my next article in the Leopard Wishlist:

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Part 4 - New Workgroup Services.


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