ImageIf a server is setup correctly, clinic you can hopefully walk away and it will run fine without interaction for a long time. Digital Sentry will help you get a little closer to that goal.

“Digital Sentry monitors your system for specific events, and then can perform a vast array of unique actions in response. Watch for such system events as waking from sleep, program launches, closes, or switches, file modifications, incorrect password attempts, mouse and keyboard input, and many more. Then, perform any number of tasks like sending an e-mail, shutting down the computer, starting a simulated self-destruct, pinging a web URL, taking a web cam shot, taking a screenshot, playing a multimedia file, speaking some text, executing a shell script… the list goes on!”

The interface is nice and easy to setup. The cost is $19.95 and comes with a free trial. Download it here.

ImageiStat Menus and iStat Pro is very popular Mac software to watch the inner workings of your Mac. These applications keep an eye on things like CPU and RAM usage.

Just recently, the same company that develops these apps has announced iStat for the iPhone. It’s an incredibly good looking app that will let you watch the resources on your Mac. It includes views of RAM, CPU, network, uptime, temps, etc. It also offers great implementations of pinging and traceroutes to servers. Incredibly useful if you are running a remote Mac server.

This app will also let you take a look of the stats of your iPhone like memory usage, disk space, etc.

This app has been submitted to Apple for review and should be on the App Store soon.

And it gets even better for Macminicolo customers. In an exclusive deal with Bjango, all Macminicolo customers can receive free copies of the application. See here for more details and screenshots.

ImageI have yet to find a really good application to monitor all traffic coming to/leaving from a Mac, sales but this one is close.

With Net Monitor Sidekick you just start the application, choose your network interface, and watch the traffic flow. The program offers a few preferences, but pretty much does as expected out of the box.

Right now, the program is in beta and can be downloaded free. Though there is a warning that the beta will expire on Mar 31, 2009.

You can down the application here.

ImageIf you’re reading this blog, you probably have a Mac server setup somewhere that requires your attention occasionally. For those of you with an iPhone, I hope to help you out.

Over on the Macminicolo.net site, I’ve put together a list of seven iPhone applications that I use every day to work with the Mac servers and IT work in general. You can read it here.

ImageEvery once and a while, I’ll get an email asking if we can take a load balancer in our cage. Load balancing is a technique to spread work between two or more computers. So naturally, a load balancer is hardware that makes this possible. The idea is to have multiple Mac minis to host a website so it continues to perform well for high traffic. Since our network and racks are tailored specific for Mac minis, we don’t install load balancers. But, we recommend a much better and less expensive way to do load balancing. We suggest DNS, or more specifically, round robin DNS.

Round robin DNS is a way for one domain to be spread between multiple machines. This way, each time the domain name is called, the request will be forwarded to a different machine. Below is an example of what it might look like courtesy of DNSMadeEasy.com)

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So in this case, half of the requests would be sent to 192.168.1.2 and the other half would go to 10.2.54.4. Now each machine only handles 50% of the load. You can easily use up to 13 different ip addresses to really spread the load.

As you can imagine, there are some nice benefits to using Round Robin DNS:

  • No extra hardware to purchase. (Load Balancers can cost thousands.)
  • When used with DNS Failover, you could have one Mac mini go down and not have it apparent to the end users. It just gets dropped from thr Round Robin until it comes back online.
  • Rather than using just one Xserve, you can use five or six Mac minis. Place them on different power strips, attached to different switches, and behind different routers. This way, should any of hardware fail (XServe, power, switch or router), there are still machines available.
  • It’s easy to setup, and to add additional machines later. When your budget allows for another machine, just put it in the circle.

We have a few customers doing this now and it’s worked great. If it’s something that might help your company, we’d love to work with you. Just let us know.

The other day, I had a server that would turn on and immediately start pushing 80+Mb/s. Needless to say, something was wrong.

I didn’t want to compromise the network, so I turned to ipfw to create a bandwidth limited pipe to apply to the port. This hint on MacOSXhints.com explains it nicely.

Advanced OS X users know that Darwin comes with ipfw, which can be used to set up a custom firewall. This same service however can be used to also limit bandwidth on specific ports.

Example:
sudo ipfw pipe 1 config bw 15KByte/s
creates a pipe that only allows up to 15KB/s to go through.

Then:
sudo ipfw add 1 pipe 1 src-port 80
will attach that pipe to the outgoing traffic on port 80, effectively limiting the outgoing traffic of the web server.
sudo ipfw delete 1
will remove the pipe from the port.

Of course, you can also find a GUI interface to this in WaterRoof.

ImageThe whole reason I had a jailbroken iPhone was to run VNSea. This let me control all of the Macs in our data center.

But when iPhone version 2.0 came out, I updated despite losing the VNSea client.

So you can imagine how happy I was to see VNC Mocha lite. It is a very well done VNC client that let’s you store multiple connections to control both Macs and PCs. It has a real nice interface that let’s you scroll around the remote screen, use a mouse cursor, and pop up a QWERTY keyboard for use. Just set up your Mac server for Screen Sharing and off you go.

And it is also free. (They’ll be releasing a $5.99 version later that has a few more options.)

To learn more about the app, visit here. Or you can drop straight to the iTunes App Store to download it here. (iTunes Link)

ImageNagios is an open source program that can be installed on a server to check on other servers. For instance, you could have it check that sites are up, services are running, an machines are pinging. And if it doesn’t find those things, it can send an email or an SMS so you know about it.

Macworld just posted a great article on this Nagios called, “Installing Nagios on Mac OS X 10.5 Server.”

They also pointed to a nice community where plug-ins are shared called Nagios Exchange.

You can download Nagios here.

ImageAs with all things Google does, Google Analytics is an incredible useful tool that is easy to use and is free.

Google Analytics has been re-designed to help you learn even more about where your visitors come from and how they interact with your site. It’s done by simply adding a little bit of code to your web pages.

You can learn more (and get started) on the official Google Analytics site.

ImageNetBarrier X5 is a very powerful way to protect your Mac while it’s connected to the internet. Some of the most interesting features are:

  • Blocks hacker and vandal attacks
  • Blocks ads from websites
  • alerting you of any application that tries to create a network connection, or “phone home”
  • filters all outgoing data to ensure that no sensitive information leaves your computer
  • see your network traffic in real time

The interface is nice and straight-forward. The purchase page is a bit overwhelming, but as far as I can tell it is $50 for a one seat license. You can find out more on the developer’s website.

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