Looking up the latest sports scores, having a round of Foosball HD, or listening to your favorite NPR program is not the best business use case for your iPad. However, with a few taps, you can convert it from a toy to an ultra-mobile support tablet suitable for real data center work. Even Gartner agrees, noting in a recent blog post, "The iPad is delivering real value at personal, professional, organizational and executive levels, and is a leading indicator of future end-user device approaches."
That's right, for a few dollars from the App Store, your iPad can pay for itself by entering the hallowed security locks at your data center. A few swipes and taps bring you apps that connect to UNIX, Linux, Windows and Macs. Those apps, plus the trusty Safari web browser, provide you with everything you need to fully support a contemporary environment.
The iPad, now available from retail chain stores from $499 to $829, is a lightweight (1.5lb), 9.7-inch screen, fully capable computer. The only caveat is that you'll need a DHCP Server and Wi-Fi or 3G access within your data center to make it work, since the iPad is a 100-percent untethered device.
There are several SSH clients from which to choose, but the most versatile among them is iSSH by Zingersoft. At $9.99, it isn't the least expensive SSH client, but the inclusion of an SSH-tunneled VNC client, a telnet client and X server make it worth the price. When you connect to a remote host, your iPad's IP address automatically receives the X11 forwarding, so there's nothing for you to do except launch your favorite X application. Although you don't have to use X, the hosts that you connect to must have the line
X11Forwarding yes enabled in your remote system's
This application's best feature is that when you're connected simultaneously to multiple hosts, you can switch between them by swiping your finger to the next terminal window. The X server is also very handy.
Mochasoft develops some of the finest iPad remote connectivity applications available today, including RDP, VNC (next), TN5250 and TN3270. RDP is the Remote Desktop Protocol used to connect to Windows workstations and servers as a remote terminal, not remote control. The Lite version of Mochasoft's RDP is free and includes almost every feature of the commercial version for $5.99. The paid version offers more features related to mouse movement, extra keyboards and more connection profiles.
Although the documentation states you can connect only to workstation versions of Microsoft Windows, you can connect to the Server versions as well.
The most compelling feature of this RDP client is that there is a full screen mode that perfectly fits your iPad so you don't have to scroll the screen to locate applications or menus.
Mochasoft's VNC client is an optional program if you're already using iSSH for your VNC client. However, there's an advantage to using a separate VNC client like the one offered by Mochasoft: It has some additional features that the iSSH version doesn't have. One of them is the full screen mode. Another is the choice of display modes in 8- or 32-bit color.
A favorite feature of this application is that it has real mouse support, which means you can drag the mouse cursor around the desktop. Mouse support in iSSH requires you tap on the location where you want your mouse to be, and then you use the mouse applet to manage right and left clicks.
4. Dragon Dictation
This free application, brought to you by Nuance (Dragon Naturally Speaking), is a speech-to-text application that might change your mind about voice recognition software. The application needs no training to interpret your voice patterns into words, and that makes it the perfect companion for someone trapped in the data center without pen and paper. The app is simple to use for someone who would rather not fumble around with something complex while troubleshooting. Open the app, tap once to record and tap once to stop the recording. The app automatically saves your notes with no additional tapping required.
What's better than a free app from Nuance that provides you with a very accurate speech-to-text engine? How about one that allows you to post the contents to Facebook, Twitter or email.