If troubleshooting Macs is the name of your game, you’ll certainly want to check out Netopia’s Timbuktu — if you’re not already a user.
Timbuktu users can connect any combination of Mac or Windows computers via a network, or over the Internet. Functions include full remote control, observe only, fast file exchange, text chat, instant messaging and voice intercom.
Carlos Garcia, the troubleshooter for a group of eight schools in the Norwalk La-Mirada School District south of Los Angeles, keeps an eye on between 800 and 900 computers, ranging from 90s-era PowerMac 5200s to the latest PowerMac G4s, in computer labs as far as 18 miles from his office. And he does it by himself, using Timbuktu, according to an
Apple article on Mac OS X applications. In fact, in the next year and a half, he’ll be responsible for an additional six schools, and the number of Macs under his watch will double.
Timbuktu is best known for its administrative features, but others find other, novel uses for the application. Wildlife biologist Bryan Osborne used it to share data from a nature area project, the Nature Area, near Sunnyvale, CA. The site serves as a local field trip destination for the sixth, seventh and eighth graders of Peterson Middle School, and hosts classes from the rest of the Santa Clara Unified School District. Osborne depends on a sophisticated computer setup to gather data and share it with the rest of the school community.
He has 10 Macs running Timbuktu in the Nature Area, displaying data such as oxygen and CO2 concentrations, and nitrate and phosphate levels in the water. He collects the readings on a PowerBook using environmental instruments from Oregon’s Vernier Software & Technology.
“We put a weather station up here,” Osborne told Apple. “It runs on a Mac. And I was looking for a way to share the weather station information, but the company said it couldn’t be done. I talked to their engineers, and they said it couldn’t be done. So I said to myself, the guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I used Timbuktu to do it.”
Osborne also uses Timbuktu to share pictures from a video camera trained on the Nature Area.
Paul Monroe, manager of information technology for the Berkeley (CA) Unified School District and his staff employ Timbuktu to administer roughly 3,000 computers, including desktop machines, 20 AppleShare servers, and 26 NT servers, spread throughout 17 schools.
“I run the entire district from my PowerBook G4 Titanium,” he told Apple. “I can access any of our servers or desktop machines from that one laptop. I use Timbuktu at least once an hour. It’s almost like using the phone, it’s just second nature. You just go into it and you use it. It’s easy, it’s secure, it’s fast.”
Both Garcia and Williams complement Timbuktu with Netopia’s netOctopus, which displays a variety of information and statistics about any number of remote machines. A Preview Release of Timbuktu for Mac OS X is available for purchase from Netopia, with special upgrade pricing for the final version due in late summer.
With the Preview Release, Timbukto Pro is distributed as a package, and can handle files, folders and packages appropriately within the Exchange function. Locally, Timbuktu Pro uses all folder and file permissions, based on the logged in user.
Timbuktu Pro’s new look mirrors the Mac OS X Aqua interface. Multi-gigabyte files can now be exchanged smoothly with Timbuktu. Mac OS X tooltips replace the old balloon help, and the entire help file is HTML-based. Scrambling the guest-to-host stream adds a new layer of security to your Timbuktu sessions.
A “Features” Preference Panel replaces Drop-In’s. Timbuktu’s sitekey is now embedded, better integrating the unique user permissions management system, according to Netopia. Force Quit can be sent to remote OS X machines.
You can get Timbuktu for US$29.95 from
Netopia’s online store.