Down to business

Introduction

Hi-Resolution, the publisher of Mac Administrator, is a relatively small outfit in the wilds of the Kentish countryside. Despite its modest size, the company is producing software that’s making life easier for educators and businesses around the globe. OS X versions of the two programs reviewed here are just around the corner. MacPrefect is security software designed for schools or businesses to prevent users causing problems. Not so much an issue for businesses, but school-kid hackers are a constant thorn in the side of network administrators. MacPrefect is the only totally secure solution to keep meddling kids out of systems, and put a stop to hacking, cracking, ripping, and copying. It can do all this while allowing any legitimate use of a computer – and the user may not even know until they try something you don’t want them to do. In any environment where computers are shared, there’s a possibility of one user mucking things up for the next one. This isn’t necessarily a malicious thing – just a fact of life when sharing machines. People just like to customize settings and arrange folders to their own preferences. MacPrefect can lock-out (or just limit) this kind of activity. Chooser devices like printers can be disabled completely, or set to allow limited copies to be printed. This is ideal for schools and universities where students need to be able to print, but need some constraints on the amount. Folders can be locked individually, so you can give users’ access to their own files, while locking them out of system folders. You can also regulate which files can be copied, limiting the scope of software-pirates. Another anti-piracy feature is the ability to lock the CD drive. Access can be given to individual CDs, or you can block all audio or data CDs. You can even lock-down menu commands, leaving miscreants no way of restarting the machine, or deleting files. It really is customizable to the nth degree – just about anything is possible. If you’re reading this and are of a technical bent, you’re probably thinking: “I bet I could crack it”. My first thoughts were similar, but this software seems pretty watertight. Hi-Resolution has found a way to disable the shift key at start-up. This is the most obvious way to get around the software, because it would normally disable extensions. Other sneaky ways to gain control over the computer have also been foiled. In case of emergency, MacPrefect grants access to a locked machine – once the rigorous security has been passed. I could tell you how, but I’d have to kill you. If these features seem like something you need, but you’d like the ability to administer accounts remotely, there’s another solution. MacAdministrator 2.5 incorporates all of MacPrefect, but also sports tons of features to help keep all machines on your network up-to-date. MacAdministrator allows control over whole groups of computers with surprisingly little difficulty. Once the software is installed on the network, all machines can be administered remotely. This includes software-updating; machine-naming; the ability to set preferences; even the ability to heal software. By healing software, I mean that MacAdministrator can check that software and components are complete. If the software doesn’t match the server’s software-set, it can reinstall the complete software and any support components. So even if the network-gremlins dismantle your carefully crafted set-up, it’s easily fixed before the next class of little buggers angels arrives. Of course, the MacPrefect part of the software should stop this from happening in the first place. When the students (assuming an educational set-up) arrive at the computers, they’ll get a login screen (depending on how the system is set-up). Password or guest-access can be granted, with either individual or group settings for privileges. Users can access as much or as little of the machine’s capabilities as you wish to allow them. Passwords can be issued, and printing-privileges can be supplied from the administrator software. The most ingenious thing about MacAdministrator is that, although it gets authentication from a server or shared volume on a network, it carries on working if you take it off the network. You can set it to completely lock-down the system if it’s off the network, or only allow partial access. This is proving particularly popular in the US where kids are getting iBooks at school, and can take them home. No other solution has this capability, including Apple’s own software. This makes Hi-Resolution systems something of a gem in the education market for Apple. A quick look at the company’s Web site shows satisfied users from all over the globe, all speaking very highly of the support as well as of the products. It’s worth noting that although OS X isn’t currently supported, a
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