Software auditing with ARD3
I recently upgraded to ARD3 from ARD2 and as far as I can see it still uses the same brain dead approach to building Application reports. This being that the Mac running ARD Administrator onhas to have the same user applications on (so it can do a comparison).
First a confession, I have not (yet) read the manual. My excuse is that it does not come with (a printed) manual.
Why is this approach brain dead? Let me list the reasons why.
1. Not every user will have the same set of applications, e.g. the marketing department might have a lot of Adobe software while the sales department would not, and of course the IT department (running ARD) would also have a different set. This means that in order to cover all bases, a special machine would have to be set up with all possible applications!
2. Setting up such a special machine with additional copies of all used software installed including possibly very expensive packages would result in an astronomical bill.
3. Such a machine would itself then need to be constantly kept up to date for all those applications.
4. If you have multiple ARD Administrators running ARD Administrator on multiple machines then the cost increases even more.
5. A single machine might not support all the different possible applications in use. For example an Intel based Mac will not support old Classic applications still in use, an Intel mini will not (officially) support Aperture and so on.
I have over the years tried many different software auditing tools, and without exception they are all awful. The biggest issue most of them have is that they will blindly consider all executables to be 'applications'. This includes self-extracting archives, and sub-components of larger applications (e.g. Microsoft's Equation Editor component of Microsoft Office). In order to produce a useable report, one would have to spend a huge amount of time defining filters (if the auditing tool has the ability to do so) to strip out this gunk.
Even in a pure Windows environment, Microsoft are the biggest culprites here. They more than any software developer scream about piracy and encourage you to use (their) tools to prevent this but they can't even build the intelligence in to their tool, on their operating system, to accurately identify their applications.
The big software developers should have long ago come up with a simple scheme for a tool to ask if for example an Adobe or Microsoft program was installed rather than blindly (and stupidly) searching for all .exe or .com (or .app for Mac OS X) type files.
Ironically, the Add/Remove Control Panel in Windows does a better job of listing applications than dedicated auditing tools!!!
PS. The main benefit I get from ARD is its excellent Remote Control facilities. It even does a good job of controlling PCs via VNC. In fact because it uses VNC, it is far, FAR better than Timbuktu which despite my notifying Netopia repeatedly since 2000, still does not correctly map keys between Mac and Windows on non US keyboard layouts.
As your answer indicates, there is no easy solution (no dispute from me there). However it is the BIG software developers who keep whinging that us poor helpless users should operate an effective software audit so we can buy a zillion licenses from them and be legal. I therefore feel that that BIG software developers should be providing a solution that better enables us to do this.
The same problems apply to Windows (of course), and here the situation gets even more silly (typical British understatement). In Windows, if you run the Add/Remove Software control panel, then it does give a fairly reasonable list of 'real' Applications that have been installed on your machine! For example MS Office is listed as MS Office and not as a host of minor components (e.g. Equation Editor). And yet most/all Windows auditing tools do not use this list, instead resorting to the same brain dead mechanism of (in this case) looking for .exe files etc.
Another approach would involve something like the [shudder!] Windows Registry, in that when an Application is installed it 'registers' itself, such a step could in theory be added to the standard installer programs (MSI for Windows or .pkg for Mac) but a standard data repository (e.g. the - yech - Registry) is needed.
On the Mac prior to Mac OS X we almost had something like this already. It was called the "Desktop database". Even now each Mac application is supposed to have a unique "Creator ID" registered with Apple.
While on the topic, other approaches would be -
1. The ability to filter the results of searches for Applications so as to exclude fluff like self-extracting-archives and 'components' of larger applications.
2. I believe one or two auditing tools use 'signatures' to identify major applications (the ones from these dreaded BIG software developers). This approach is very similar to the way many viruses are detected. If anti-virus software can uniquely identify over one hundred thousand viruses this way, then a mere few hundred or few thousand applications should be easy.
Matters are not helped by the fact that the same BIG software developers generally have software licensing schemes so complicated THAT THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND THEM THEMSELVES A while ago I spoke to three Microsoft employees about MS Office volume licenses for Mac and got FOUR different answers!
PowerBook G4 Mac OS X (10.4.6)