To start off, we would like to thank Bjango for making such a nice application and for allowing us to take it for a test drive. We think they have a real winner here that could be of use to many people for different purposes. Those who manage servers day to day will be glad to have a nicely presented and easy to use view of their servers statistics on the device they already carry around every day (you DO carry an iPhone everywhere you go just like us, right?). While the server daemon is OS X only right now, Bjango tells us that a Windows and Linux server daemon are a definite possibility for the future, and we think their success with this app will skyrocket once a Linux daemon is available since many IT admins use Linux on the back end.
The kind folks over at Macminicolo were nice enough to setup a test server for us to use for the review, but of course being the geeks we are, we have been using iStat to monitor this very server, a dual G5 PowerMac, since the day it was released on the App Store. It has been invaluable for us to be able to see network, disk and performance problems quickly, rather than hear about it hours later. While we have not seen much mention of it on the Bjango site, the server daemon runs perfectly on PPC Macs like this server as well as newer Intel macs. This is of course to be expected since Apples Universal Binary architecture works so well, but some developers give more attention to the Intel side of things or just make new applications Intel only from the start, so kudos to the Bjango developers for making things function smoothly regardless of the architecture of your Mac.
Of course there are many other situations that iStat will be invaluable. For instance, many users like to leave their Mac encoding video or compiling while out and about, and iStat allows users to make sure their Macs fans are still working, or make sure local disks aren’t running out of space. If there is in fact a problem, users can connect via SSH or VNC with a number of applications on the App Store to prevent damage to the machine by stopping processes or simply turning off the machine.
One of the best uses for iStat is one that we hadn’t thought of and discovered by accident. Bjangos Mac software arm iSlayer makes a number of other donationware applications for monitoring a local system. We have been quite fond of iStat Pro for a while now, and recently fell in love with iStat Menus as well. So it was a natural extension of our previous iStat use on the Mac when we stuck our devices in the universal dock next to our screens and discovered just how nice it is to have those iStat graphs on a beautiful, dedicated display, available no matter what you are doing on the Mac.
Below is our rundown of installing the server, connecting to it and using the iPhone app to monitor various macs. The screenshots are thumbnails, you can see larger versions by clicking each one.
The installer on the Mac side is brief and effective, a single small window with one button requests admin permission to install the daemon as a startup item. Once the daemon is installed, it runs in the background even after the configuration window is closed. It also starts up upon reboot and in general gets out of your way, acting exactly as one would expect a daemon to act.
The server configuration is equally simple and easy to use, just a single window showing the access code at the top and a list of connected devices, along with buttons to change the code, de-authorize devices, and view the daemon log. This configuration app does not need to continue running for your device to be able to connect to the machine, it can be closed and forgotten until you need to change the access code or view the log.
This is the home screen, what you will see when you first start the app. Notice that already it has found my Mac Mini because Bonjour is being used. There are no IPs to find and remember, no digging through preference panes or opening the terminal. It just works. The app will ask you for the access code which you can find in the configuration app, once you enter it into your iPhone it won’t ask for it again.
This is the iPod stats screen, it shows memory usage, the amount of storage space you have left, your current IP address, along with your iPods “uptime”, a measure of the time since the last reboot. Also shown is the system load, which among other things gives you some idea of the CPU usage. CPU usage for the iPhone itself is apparently not something that can be accessed with the SDK, though it works for remote Macs.