Troubleshoot and repair Mac issues using an iPad

Erik Eckel continues to make his case for the iPad as a serious remote administration tool -- not just a toy. Here, he concentrates on how the iPad makes administering Macs easier.

Haters claim the iPad is nothing but a toy. Mac administrators know the truth. Apple's popular tablet PC -- love it or hate it -- sold three million of the devices in just 80 days. It is an incredibly powerful tool you can use to administer not only Windows workstations and servers, but Mac computers, too. Several options exist. Just how it really works is a question many ponder. Wonder no more.

Desktop Connect 2.1

Antacea's iPad application costs just $11.99. The encrypted connection, which leverages RDP technology, enables connecting to Mac OS X systems. Here's how it works.

  1. Open Desktop Connect.
  2. The Computers pane will appear. Local Mac systems shared on the local network will appear. You can also connect using an IP address (vnc:// or a friendly name (Accounting-Mac-mini.local). Click on the system you wish to control.
  3. A new window will appear showing the Mac computer's name. Two options will be available: Settings (Touchscreen mode, view only, etc. are among the customizable options) and Connect. Tap the green Connect icon.
  4. A password window will appear. Enter the VNC Screen Sharing password set on the Mac system and tap OK. You now have control of the remote Mac.
  5. To end a session, just tap the X disconnect icon.

It's that simple. The only catch is that you have to have already enabled the Mac system to accept remote VNC connections. Fortunately, that step is easy, too:

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Click Sharing within the Internet & Wireless console.
  3. Check the box for Screen Sharing.
  4. Click the Computer Settings button.
  5. Check the box that reads VNC viewers may control screen with password.
  6. Supply the password.
  7. Click the OK button.

Other VNC tools use much the same process. While the steps might differ slightly, the overall approach is much the same. Enable secure VNC access (set a screen sharing password on the target Mac system), select and install a viable VNC app on the iPad (in this case Desktop Connect), and make the connection.

LogMeIn Ignition

LogMeIn applications are a favorite of IT professionals and for good reason: they work. Ignition is no exception. The $29.99 app makes easy work of connecting to Macs already having LogMeIn installed:

  1. Open LogMeIn Ignition.
  2. Enter the email address associated with the LogMeIn account.
  3. Supply the password associated with the LogMeIn account and tap the LogMeIn button.
  4. The Computers screen will display, showing all  the LogMeIn Free and LogMeIn Pro computers associated with the LogMeIn account. Click the Mac you wish to control remotely.
  5. Enter the User name and Password required to log on to the Mac system and click the Log In icon.
  6. Remote Control Hints, which remind users that you should pinch to zoom in or out, use three-fingers simultaneously to switch monitors, etc., appear. Tap the Continue To Computer button. Now you can control the remote Mac system, troubleshoot issues, perform repairs and address other problems.
  7. To disconnect a session, tap the X disconnect icon, then tap the End Session button.

Real world remote administration

I no longer carry a laptop computer. That's saying something, especially as I work as a consultant, visiting as many as six clients a day. Despite being out of the office, and on the road, I frequently receive requests for emergency service or assistance.

Using Desktop Connect, LogMeIn, and other VNC apps (and a combination of hundreds of client locations offering Wi-Fi access, not too mention McDonald's, Starbuck's and other ubiquitous national chains because I was too cheap to purchase the Wi-Fi model iPad), I'm able to quickly and efficiently log in remotely to Mac clients and servers and perform a wide variety of actions, from disabling users to checking disk space to confirming DNS and IP settings.