Kick-off!

Sometimes Macs crash. It’s a fact of life, and there isn’t much you can do about it. With luck Mac OS X will reduce crashes, but they’ll still happen. They’re a pain, but when it’s a server that crashes, it can be even worse. It could mean a Web site is down, or a remote access is disconnected – conceivably until somebody gets back to the office. This can be damaging to a companies reputation – and bank balance. Sophisticated Circuits now has a widget that can act as a night watchman, making sure that a server never hangs indefinitely. It looks if everything is running correctly, and, if it isn’t, it will restart the machine so that it will be. The package consists of hardware, a Kick-off! power cable with a USB connection, and software to control it. The Kick-off! power cable connects to the power input of the Mac; the original power cable plugs into the back of that. The USB cable plugs into your USB port, and that controls the restart function. The software is a Control Panel and couldn’t be simpler to use. The first panel gives options to monitor for system crashes. If the system doesn’t respond for a set amount of time – anything from 1 minute to 60 minutes – the system will restart. In case of a crash while starting, Kick-off! will allow a set amount of time to complete the restart. If after that time the system is still not responding, Kick-off! will restart the machine again. Sometimes, an application will crash without bringing the whole system down. In this case, Kick-off! will attempt to restart the application. If that doesn’t work, then it will initiate a restart of the machine. When the machine has restarted, Kick-off! can then boot any applications that were running when it shut down. This is great for when a server is running a number of apps. Sometimes a machine needs restarting just to reset connections. For example, email servers can fall victim to hopeful spammers that leave connections open for days to bounce emails to their prey. Often the only way to break these connections is to restart the machine, though this is inconvenient during work hours. Kick-off! can schedule restarts to happen overnight, keeping the server free of spammers without inconveniencing the legitimate users. There’s a limit to how many retries Kick-off! will attempt – the maximum is five. Call me a pessimist, but I ‘d have it try more than that. Also, the logging feature is not quite as detailed as it should be. It doesn’t log restarts or shutdowns initiated by the user, which would be handy to know. Also, it doesn’t keep a log if restart attempts fail.

OUR VERDICT

If you need a machine that’s on 24 hours-a-day, I recommend this product. It can save a midnight trip to the office to restart a computer.

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