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Choosing Between the Report Types and Specifying Details

Following are the types of reports that you can run using Remote Desktop. Remember that you can change the specific attributes that are included in each report, meaning that you can exclude certain items that are included in the standard report to focus only on the information you need at any given moment, or you can often include additional information in each report to get additional details.

System Overview

The System Overview report, which is the most comprehensive report, can be used as a complete inventory system. In its default variation, the System Overview report includes the serial number, Mac model name, AppleShare name, motherboard bus speed, number of processors along with type and speed, hard drive space (total and free), amount of space used by items in the Trash, whether an AirPort card is installed and/or active, whether a modem is installed (and the model if one is), the MAC address of all installed network cards, the monitor model (if known), the monitor resolution, and color depth. It also includes the four administrator-defined fields, if used.

Beyond the standard report, you can include almost 100 system characteristics in a System Overview report, including detailed information about AirPort cards and connectivity, AppleTalk addressing, every potential motherboard component, the number of external devices of each peripheral connection type, information about additional monitors, additional network card information, Energy Saver settings, printer configuration, personal file sharing (of all available protocols), and Mac OS X version information. Needless to say, for inventory purposes, this can be a one-stop solution for a Mac-only network or it can be used as a quick and easy way to retrieve inventory information to be entered into a separate inventory system. Given the time and energy needed to gather all this information for every computer in even a mid-sized network (100+ workstations), you can see where the title for this article came from.

Working with Administrator-Defined Fields

The Remote Desktop client allows you to specify four text attributes on each workstation that can provide additional information for inventory purposes and are included in the standard System Overview report. These fields are part of the client setup (in the Access Privileges dialog box used to initially set up Remote Desktop access to a workstation). You can use these fields however you want (Remote Desktop lists them as "Computer Info #1–#4"). Some uses for these fields might be a description of the computer, its physical location, the purchase order number that accompanied the order, the name of the typical user, the date it was put into service, or an asset tag number.

File Search

The File Search report allows you to search for specific items on the hard drive(s) of the selected computer(s), much like the Finder’s Find File command. Data on whether a given file exists and its location are displayed. You can search using the typical Find File criteria, but you cannot search for invisible items. Although powerful, I don’t find this feature terribly helpful in everyday use. For one thing, it is truly effective only when using live data and has the potential to noticeably slow down the performance of the workstation and potentially impact network performance if run for multiple workstations.

Software Version

The Software Version report allows you to display the version number of applications on remote workstations, which can be very helpful for ensuring that all workstations have the most recent version of specific applications. Along with the version number, the report will include the path to where the application resides on the hard drive. You can specify up to ten applications in each report run. However, the application must reside on the administrator computer for you to be able to check the version on the remote computer. Also, you cannot use this report for command line tools or unbundled Java applications (.jar files).

Software Difference

The Software Difference report’s name is somewhat of a misnomer because the report can be used for fonts, applications, and installer packages. Like the Software Version report, the items must be installed or exist on the administrator computer to be used in the report. Using Packages allows you tell not only what applications are installed, but which Mac OS X updates have been installed (either manually or using Software Update).

Storage

The Storage report provides detailed information about the various hard drives that are installed in or attached to a computer. You can include specific model information about each drive, detailed information about how the drives are formatted, and detailed information about each volume available to the computer—as well as information about whether the drive has been backed up using standard backup tools.

USB Devices and FireWire Devices

These two reports provide detailed information on the USB and FireWire devices, respectively. They list all attached devices and can include information on device speed, manufacturer and model, and firmware version (if relevant). These reports can actually be used to determine that devices are still attached to a computer, meaning that they can be used as a trip-wire system for identifying theft. They can also be used to determine whether users are attaching personal devices to the computer (which may or may not be a policy issue in a workplace).

Memory

The Memory report can provide detailed information about not only the amount of RAM in a computer but also the type of RAM, which slots are used, and the speed for each installed module. Again, this report can be used as a tripwire system for detecting theft.

PCI Cards

The PCI Cards Report includes information about PCI and AGP cards installed in a computer. It can provide information about which slots are used as well as the types of cards, manufacturer and model name, revision information, and (for video cards) the amount of video RAM and ROM version.

Network Interfaces

The Network Interfaces report allows you to retrieve highly detailed information about each network card/port on selected computers. This report can provide basic information (port ID, name, status, and MAC address) as well as configuration information for active ports (IP address, router/gateway address, DNS servers, and so on). You can also query a large number of network statistics from each active connection, which can be useful for assessing network performance and network issues.

Network Test

The Network Test report is essentially a GUI interface to the ping command. Although it might seem to be a limited-use tool, the capability to compile response times from a large number of workstations into a report in a single step makes this tool (along with the Network Interfaces report capabilities) a powerful tool for assessing performance within your network. The report format makes it fairly easy to see the performance and congestion of varying subnets and can even help to quickly locate breaks in the network in the event of outages. This report won’t save your feet any effort, but it will save your fingers from a bit of work.

Administration Settings

The Administration Settings report is specifically for Remote Desktop itself. It allows you to query the Remote Desktop client settings on workstations including the privileges available to the user running the report, the reporting policy, the version of the Remote Desktop client, and the last time the workstation was accessed by Remote Desktop. This enables you to ensure that your Remote Desktop configuration is consistent across your network (and you can use the Remote Desktop Change Settings command to create a consistent configuration, if you need to). It can also give you some insight into how regularly Remote Desktop is being used within your network.

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