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Observing Multiple Computers

One of the advantages that Apple Remote Desktop offers that makes it stand out among other remote control or observation tools is that you can observe multiple computers at the same time. You do this by selecting more than one computer in a computer list (by pressing the Shift and/or Command keys to make your selection and then clicking the Observe button. This opens a multiple observe window that displays scaled-down versions of the screens of all the computers that you selected. If you selected more computers than can fit onscreen at a time, Remote Desktop will cycle through multiple pages of screens every few seconds.

The multiple observe window (shown in Figure 3) also includes the same toolbar as Remote Desktop’s main window, making it easy to select one of the observed computers and initiate any tasks that you would initiate from a computer list. It also includes a button to cycle backward or forward through multiple pages of screens and a View Options button. The View Options button bring up a dialog box that enables you to customize the multiple observe window. With this dialog box, you can specify how long each page of screens is displayed (anywhere from two seconds to one minute), the number of computers whose screens are displayed on each page, the color depth of the displayed screens, and whether or not to include additional information about the computers in the observe window.

Figure 3

Figure 3 Multiple observe window with computer status displayed

You can also specify what information is displayed about each computer. The choices include what title is given (file sharing name, IP address, or hostname), whether or not the user’s Mac OS X account picture is included (primarily of use for local accounts), and the computer status information (which you can choose to display using varying shaped icons in addition to the colors automatically used). If you choose to display computer information, the current user is always displayed along with whatever title you choose to specify.

If you choose to display computer status, an icon will indicate when the computer is using a low, moderate, or high level of system resources. This is indicated by a green, yellow, or red circle, respectively (or if you choose to display shapes, a green circle, yellow triangle, or red square). Clicking on the status icon will display more detailed information about the monitored resources, which include hard drive usage, free memory, and CPU activity—each of which is also indicated by a colored icon. Clicking the icon for each type of resource will display the percentage of disk usage, free memory, or CPU activity.

What constitutes low, moderate, or high activity varies depending on the resource. For hard drive usage, up to 90 percent is considered low, between 90 percent and 95 percent is considered moderate and above 95 percent is considered high. For free memory, low is when less than 80 percent of the installed RAM is in active use, moderate is between 85 percent and 90 percent in use, and high is above 90 percent. For CPU activity, low is considered less than 60 percent, moderate is between 60 percent and 85 percent , and high is above 85 percent. If any one of the three monitored resources reaches moderate or high use, the general resource icon will display as moderate or high, respectively.

When observing multiple computers, you can elect to observe or control any specific computer by selecting it in the window and then clicking the appropriate button in the toolbar. A new window will open for the observe or control session, leaving the multiple observe window available as well. This gives you the ability to continue to monitor a number of computers while giving one or more additional attention or interaction—a useful feature for teachers or lab monitors in a school or college.

In fact, school or college classrooms or labs are an excellent use of the multiple observe function. It enables teachers or monitors to keep an eye on what students are doing. This can be helpful in the sense that it enables them to easily observe student works in progress without needing to walk around the room to do so. It also offers the ability to ensure that students are working the appropriate projects at a given time and to ensure that they are not engaging in inappropriate activities. The feature can also be used in other environments, particularly in situations in which you suspect that one or more computers within a network are being used inappropriately.

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