Types of Reports
Remote Desktop includes a large number of report types, most of which can be customized to capture either very specific pieces of information or a very broad overview of the Macs within your network. Below is a list of all the reports along with information about what can be included in them and some of their best uses.
System Overview Report
The System Overview report can be considered the mother lode of all Remote Desktop reports. It can give you information about virtually every aspect of a Mac’s configuration, both hardware and software. You can choose to include up to 88 difference system attributes (including the four administrator-defined fields of the Remote Desktop client), organized into the following 13 categories:
- Computer: Offers 19 choices of information about the machine model and all motherboard components (such as active processors, Boot ROM version, bus and CPU speed, serial number, and a variety of information about installed RAM).
- Software: Offers two options: the kernel and Mac OS X system versions running on the computer.
- Storage: Offers you the option of how much total and free disk space is available, as well as the disk space used for items in the Trash.
- Airport: Offers you 10 different pieces of information about the computer’s AirPort configuration, including whether AirPort is installed and active, the MAC address of the AirPort card, and information about the current or available AirPort networks.
- Modem: Offers you information about the modem model, interface, driver, and firmware versions—as well as the country in which the modem was designed to operate.
- Network: Offers you 11 choices of information about the computer’s primary network interface, including MAC and IP address, whether the computer started up using NetBoot, and network performance statistics.
- Display: Offers you information about the display settings for the primary and secondary display (if one is connected).
- Devices: Offers you the option of the number of ATA, FireWire, SCSI, and USB devices attached to the computer (although not detailed information about them); as well as whether a mouse and keyboard are connected to the computer and the type of optical drive installed (CD, DVD, Combo, or SuperDrive).
- AppleTalk: Offers you information about the computer’s AppleTalk configuration, including whether AppleTalk is active, and which network and zone the computer is using along with its AppleTalk node information.
- Sharing: Offers you information about the computers file sharing name and hostname, as well as which personal file-sharing methods are active (AFP; FTP; Remote Apple Events; Remote Login, aka SSH; web sharing; and Windows/SMB).
- Preferences: – Offers you the energy saver settings of the computer.
- Printing: Offers you information about the computer’s printing configuration, including printer name, type, driver version, and whether the printer is being shared.
- Remote Desktop: Offers the four administrator-defined fields included in the Remote Desktop client.
Needless to say, the System Overview report is perfect for any manner of detailed inventory use. You will probably never use all the reporting options in a single report because you probably will never need all the information at once (not to mention that the report would be too large and unwieldy to be easily used), but you can easily select the options you need for inventory management.
You can also use one or two options to generate a report that gives you information for specific tasks. A teacher might use the storage section’s option for trash size to determine whether computers in a classroom need to have their trash emptied, for example. You could also use scheduled reports for hardware information as a sort of trip-wire system for identifying theft or unauthorized changes to a computer’s configuration.
Likewise, the network-reporting options can be used as a basic method for ensuring that all computers in a given area are connected to the proper segments of a network (this can be particularly helpful if your network includes multiple VLANs). You can use the Sharing and Printing sections to ensure that personal file and print sharing or other network access to a computer is not being used if it is not appropriate in your environment. The options are virtually endless, and the ease of scheduling reports and tying them together with other tasks using Mac OS X’s Automator actions truly make this report incredibly powerful for administrators.
File Search Report
The File Search report is somewhere between being an actual report and a search tool for remote computers. It was introduced in the first version of Remote Desktop before Remote Desktop 3’s inclusion of Spotlight search capabilities. It enables you to search remote computers using a number of common search criteria, but does not offer the ease of use and speed of Spotlight (although it does offer some advanced criteria such as file owner and lock status that Spotlight searching does not). Typically, you do not need to run a File Search report with the Rebuild Data For Report option to get meaningful results.
Software Version Report
The Software Version report enables you to compare the version of up to 10 applications installed on both the computer from which the report is run and the target computers. This can be a helpful tool for determining which version of various pieces of software each computer is running. This is useful both from an inventory perspective and as a way of finding out which computers might need to have their installed applications updated (and therefore, how many licenses of an upgrade to purchase). The limitations of this report, however, are that you can compare a list of only 10 pieces of software at a time and that all the applications you want to retrieve information about must be installed on the computer that you are using to generate the report.
Software Difference Report
The Software Difference report is a companion to the Software Version report and is a little bit more helpful for inventory purposes. It enables you to determine which of the applications, fonts, and packages (application and Mac OS X update packages as well as packages for file and application installation) installed on the computer generating the report are also installed on the target computers. Unlike the Software Version report, the comparison is not limited to 10 applications and includes all items that you elect to compare. You can choose to compare any or all of the three options, and you can elect to limit the search for the installed applications to the Applications folder on the startup drive of the remote computers (or an alternate folder location). In addition to being useful for general inventory purposes, this report can be used to determine whether unauthorized items have been installed on a computer or whether items have been deleted.
By comparing installed packages, it can also help you determine which computers need to have Mac OS X or application updates installed on them. You can then use the Install Packages command (which is covered in the next article in this series) to deploy those updates. You can even combine those actions into an Automator workflow that can be scheduled to check computers in your network and deploy needed updates automatically (a topic covered in the final piece of this series).
The Storage report expands on the limited storage information available in the System Overview report. It offers you 29 different pieces of information about the drives installed in or connected to a computer, grouped into the following four categories:
- Hardware: Offers information about the manufacturer, model, protocol, serial number, and type of drive or drives (removable media and whether it is considered detachable from the computer).
- Volume: Offers you information about the logical volumes created on the installed drives, including the create date, name, and Unix mount point of the volumes; as well as counts of files and folders, total and available space, and whether or not the volume is an active startup disk.
- File System: Offers you additional information about how each volume is formatted, including the type of format, the owner and group assigned to the volume, the type of permissions used on the volume and the permissions themselves, the last time the volume was modified, and how the format of the disk response to upper- and lowercase letters in file names.
- Backup: Offers you information about whether volumes are formatted using a journal format, whether journaling is available, the last time the volume was backed up, and the last time the backup was checked.
Like the System Overview report, the Storage report can be helpful for inventory purposes. It can also be helpful for determining how hard drives and Mac OS X installs are configured throughout your network. Although many of these options won’t be used for sizing up large groups of workstations, they can be useful for working with problem computers or servers.
USB Devices Report and FireWire Devices Report
Both the USB Devices and FireWire Devices reports give you information on external peripherals connected to a computer. The USB Devices report offers you the name, product, and vendor names and IDs; device speed; and amount of USB bus power used for each connected USB device. Similarly, the FireWire Devices report offers you manufacturer and model name, device speed, software or driver version, and device’s firmware version. As with other hard reports, they can be excellent for inventory purposes and they can be automated for use as a trip-wire system to determine whether devices are removed from the computer.
The Memory report provides information about each RAM module installed in a computer. It can be used in determining not just how much memory is installed but also the actual configuration—which might be needed before purchasing additional RAM for upgrades so that you have the appropriate modules for the number of available slots (or if there are no available slots to replace existing modules. You can elect to include which slots being used, the type of RAM installed, and the speed and size of each module.
PCI Cards Report
Like most of the other hardware reports, the PCI Cards report provides additional information beyond what is available in the System Overview report. You can include the name ,type, vendor, and device ID of each installed PCI cards; along with the amount of memory on the card (primarily used for graphics cards), the revision of the card itself and its ROM or firmware, and the name of the slot in which each card is installed.
Network Interfaces Report
The Network Interfaces report can deliver up to 60 different pieces of information about the network connections of each computer. Much of the available information includes network statistics for specific interfaces, but some of it is more general information that can be helpful for determining network configuration, troubleshooting, and network planning. The optional information is organized into the following five categories:
- Network Overview: Offers you the name of each network interface or port, which ones are currently active, which is the primary interface, the MAC addresses of the network interfaces, the device interface name (en0 instead of simply Ethernet), how the port was configured to receive network address information, and any flags or alerts about the interface.
- Active Interface: Offers information about the network configuration of each active interface, including IP address, DNS servers, default router, subnet mask, broadcast address, and domain.
- Network Statistics: Offers information about network packets transmitted, errors, and detected packet collisions.
- Output Statistics: Offers information about packets transmitted from the computer over each active interface.
- Ethernet Statistics: Offers 31 different pieces of information about active Ethernet ports, including information on errors, collisions, timeouts, and other stats about how the Ethernet port communicates with the network.
Of all the information that you can generate in a Network Interfaces report, you’ll likely find yourself using only the information from the first two categories on any regular basis. They enable you to determine information about the various network interfaces available to computers (such as Ethernet, AirPort, or IP over FireWire) as well as the current configuration. Varying pieces of this information can be used for inventory; troubleshooting individual or groups of computers; and determining the network configuration of workstations, servers, and network hardware such as routers and switches.
Although the statistics categories can provide information useful for troubleshooting major network problems such as breaks, slow performance, and other issues, much of it will not provide general information for anyone other than network engineers or administrators.
Network Test Report
The Network Test report can be used to determine connectivity throughout your network. Unlike other reports, it does not rely on saved data on a task server. Instead, it works by pinging each of the target computer s with either 10, 20, 50, 100, 250, or 500 packets at intervals ranging from .005 to 5 seconds. You can also specify timeout intervals for packets.
The Network Test report can be very useful if you are trying to locate bottlenecks or breaks in your network. By using it to test computers on different network segments and from different points within your network, you can determine a very accurate picture of how well your network performs. This can be incredibly useful for planning network upgrades, determining where to locate servers or other network hardware, and locating failures.
Administration Settings Report
The Administration Settings report enables you to easily view the Remote Desktop client settings of multiple computers. You can generate a report that includes information on the Remote Desktop privileges enabled on a computer (if not the users associated with each privilege; the data-collection policy that the computer is using; and general information including the computer’s name, Remote Desktop client version, and the last time it was accessed using Remote Desktop). This can be helpful for getting a quick snapshot of the configuration of multiple computers (as opposed to using the Get Info command in Remote Desktop). It can also be paired with the Change Client Settings or Upgrade Client Software commands to quickly update the configuration of multiple computers.
Application Usage Report
The Application Usage Report is new in Apple Remote Desktop 3 and it enables you to see which applications are being used on a computer as well as how often they are being used and who is using them. The only option for generating the report is the date range that you want to view. For each selected computer, the report includes information about each application that was launched during the date range. Each time an application was launched is displayed separately, along with the date and time it was launched, the runtime for each use, how much of that time it was the frontmost application, the name of the user who launched it, and the current state of the application (whether it is still being used or not).
This report is interesting in that it provides a very clear picture of not only which applications are being used on which computers but also how heavily they are being used and who it using them. This information can be used in various ways, including determining future computer configurations based on applications that you know are not being used, working with users to understand why certain applications aren’t used, and monitoring unauthorized usage of certain applications.
The one problem is that the report gives you a lot of information for each computer, making it somewhat difficult to use to get a big picture of application use across a network. This makes using it more appropriate for use in small and targeted situations (for example, using it on a handful of computers to check for patterns of application use in specific offices or classrooms or using it when you suspect a computer is being used inappropriately).
User History Report
The User History report is also new and, like the Application Usage report, it can give you a picture of how computers are being used. Also, like the Application Usage report, the only selection options are the date range for the report. For each selected computer, the report lists every login made during the report’s date range. It includes the name of the user who logged in (using the user’s shortname, the type of login, the time that the user logged in and logged out, and the computer that the users logged in from if they logged in remotely.
In addition to being useful for determining which users are using which computers in your network, this report can be helpful because it includes information about remote logins (such as SSH sessions or Remote Desktop control sessions—both of which are listed as console logins). By including information about the computer that a remote connection was made from (referred to as the Remote Login Host), you can tell not only that computers are being accessed remotely but also from where. This can be useful for determining whether security of the computer has been compromised, making it a powerful tool for any IT staff. The report has other security implications as well because it can alert you about unusual usage patterns that might indicate that someone’s credentials have been stolen or about users accessing computers that they should not have authority to access. All these security considerations make this a great report for use with servers or workstations that contain confidential information as well as computers whose security you suspect has been compromised.