The iPad represents a truly unique computer interaction experience for the IT Professional, especially for Network and System Administrators as well as Help Desk Professionals and even programmers. For the adventurous technologists who attempted to control desktops or query and manage servers from their 320x480 resolution iPhones, the iPad’s 1024x768 screen is like moving from an office cubicle to a warehouse. Even so, iPad applications have to be optimally designed to maximize this screen size so that the interactive resources are as available and intuitive to interact with as possible.
Desktop Connect ($11.99, app2.me/2515) follows just such a design methodology. Supporting both Windows Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) and Virtual Network Computing (VNC) protocols, Desktop Connect can connect and control all major platforms running these protocols, including Windows, Mac and Linux computers. Its user interface takes advantage of the iPad’s screen and attractively displays the previously saved desktop connections for fast re-connections.
For those who don’t need the support of both protocols, HLW offers separate versions for RDP, iTap RDP Client ($11.99, app2.me/2518) and VNC, iTap VNC Client ($11.99, app2.me/2519). Each does its job as advertised, but they were developed for the iPhone. They work well on the iPad, but have not yet been updated to take advantage of the iPad’s larger display. However, if you have both an iPhone and an iPad, you can purchase a single app and install it on both platforms.
(Note: Because iPhone apps generally run on the iPad, vendors will sometimes have separate listings for the program in the App Store: One as an “iPhone App” and one as an “iPad App.” This does not always mean that the app has been optimized for the iPad. To confirm that it has, go to the full app description and look for the words “optimized” or “updated” for the iPad, or something similar. The words “iPad ready” do not necessarily mean that the app has been optimized for the iPad. )
Finally, for those who need just Windows RDC functionality, Carter Harrison’s WinAdmin, iPad Edition ($8.99, app2.me/2516) offers the best user interface, complete with OpenGL transition effects, auto resizing of the client desktop connection to the full portrait or landscape view and resolution of the iPad, and an attractive listing of previously saved Windows client connections. If you’re looking to garner some Windows administrator and help desk iPad envy, WinAdmin is a must-have application.
Not to be outdone by their Windows counterparts, Mac OSX Server administrators have an attractive, Universal (iPad and iPhone-compatible) application that leverages the effective screen real estate on both devices. Harlekins’ Server Admin Remote ($11.99, app2.me/2517) not only lists and beautifully displays monitored services running on a Mac OSX server, it also graphs useful statistics such as CPU load, disk capacity, and more. Additionally, logs can be reviewed and services can be turned on or off via onscreen toggle switches. Server Admin Remote should be one of the first applications any iPad-owning, Mac OSX server administrator should buy.
Linux/Unix OS administrators have an app as well. Zinger-Soft has released an update to their iSSH ($9.99, app2.me/2520) SSH/VNC console iPhone program that has been rewritten as a Universal application that takes advantage of the larger iPad screen (such as split screen sessions). Zinger-Soft has come up with an interesting way to get around the lack of Arrow/Home/Page Up/Page Down keys on the iPhone/iPad’s soft keyboard via a translucent pop-up key wheel overlay that can be accessed by holding down a finger on the SSH-connected screen for a few seconds. iSSH is a definite necessity for anyone who needs remote SSH connection functionality.
Network Administrators haven’t been left out of the iPad ecosystem either. Developer Edwin Lam has created MyRouters Pro for iPad ($4.99, app2.me/2521) to allow those who manage network routers to SSH or Telnet to connect to the target router’s Command Line Interface (CLI) as well as ping and trace route (with support for reverse DNS lookup), into a managed list of Cisco or Juniper equipment. MyRouters Pro also has a built-in Web browser with direct links to Cisco’s website to reference CLI commands and specific router configuration documentation.
Any IT professionals that manage network and server infrastructures also manage the security of the passwords needed to gain access to those resources. Agile Web Solutions 1Password for iPad ($6.99, app2.me/2522) was one of the first high-grade, AES hardware-accelerated. encryption password managers designed specifically for the iPad’s larger screen. 1Password deconstructs categories into Logins, Accounts, Identities, Notes, Software Licenses and Wallet (credit card, bank account info). Of these, the Logins, Accounts, Notes and Software categories will get the most use. 1Password’s designers provide forms that capture all the essential details. For example, the Software License page includes fields for everything from version and license key to publisher’s support e-mail and retail price. The Accounts tab has pre-built fields for Amazon S3, Database, Email, FTP, IM, Internet, MobileMe, AirPort Extreme, Server, and iTunes as well as a generic Username/Password/Notes form capture. Anyone managing secure information will be able to sleep better at night knowing that their most valuable details are under 1Password’s digital lock and key.
Even Web developers and those SysAdmins who have to occasionally tweak their company’s websites have an app. HTML Edit ($6.99, app2.me/2523) supplies a rudimentary, HTML syntax-highlighted code editor for those quick fixes and Web page updates. While the app is no Dreamweaver, it can be used to prototype ideas, make simple changes to existing Web pages via FTP and supplies bare-bones preview and editing capabilities. While the soft keyboard is adequate for small edits and brief HTML document tests, Apple’s keyboard dock or Bluetooth keyboard is a must for anyone who desires to use HTML Edit for more than 10 lines or HTML code.
Finally, both hardware and software IT pros can express their ideas, create and refine change management and workflow documentation, author UML diagrams, network maps, org charts and more with The Omni Group’s extremely versatile and absolutely stunning Omnigraffle ($49.99, app2.me/2524).
One of the most expensive programs available on Apple’s iPad App Store, Omnigraffle is also one of the most highly sought after. In addition to bringing over the key characteristics that made its Mac OS version so appealing, Omnigraffle truly takes advantage of every screen interaction model that the iPad promises. Touch the drawer icon to open and drag pre-made shapes and symbols to the drawing area (or simply draw your own freehand-style). You can resize objects by touching and dragging their control points, enhance and embellish diagrams with different font and fill styles, colors, 3D shading visual effects, and more. Guides help keep boxes, lines and other vector-based elements in perfect alignment, and a ‘lay out now’ feature automatically arranges elements into best-guess on-screen positions. Omnigraffle documents can then be sent as a PDF e-mail attachment or exported as images to be displayed in the iPad’s Photos library. It’s hard to describe just how easy and fluid it is to create diagrams using Omnigraffle. Fortunately, The Omni Group has a video posted on their website (www.omnigroup.com/products/omnigraffle-ipad/videos) that demonstrates how intuitive and effortless diagramming can be on the iPad. IT pros that document their processes have to get this app—it’s worth every penny.
And as a “P.S.” bonus for those IT Pros that may have to occasionally do screen casts or technical presentations, Bombing Brain Interactive’s Teleprompt+ for iPad ($9.99, app2.me/2525) offers an intuitive and inexpensive way to say on camera exactly what you wanted to communicate to an audience. The interface isn’t as attractive as other iPad applications, but the program gets the job done with a minimum of fuss. Of course, if the first-gen iPad had a forward-facing camera, Teleprompt+ would be the perfect solution for videoconferences and technical sales presentations. Until future iPad iterations receive this much requested hardware addition, Teleprompt+ users need to keep the iPad in close proximity to a video camera (via an upright stand or even an off-camera operator holding the iPad) to elevate the application’s intentions.
Mobile IT management
These initial applications available for the iPad since launch day provide outstanding value to the IT professional and represent a tantalizing glimpse of the future potential of mobile IT systems management using the iPad platform.