If you’ve ever been interested in what goes on behind the scenes of a shiny new MacBook, you may be familiar with iStat Pro and iStat Menus. These two widgets for OS X allow you to monitor system performance and resources — either through Dashboard, or your menu bar.
A fairly new counterpart to these apps is iStat for iPhone, a tool that can remotely monitor your Mac’s performance in real time, or display information about your iPhone itself. Using your phone as a small display for reporting hardware performance of your Mac is not only useful — it looks incredibly cool.
Monitoring iPhone Stats
iStat for iPhone costs $1.99, and doesn’t require any setting up. After downloading and installing, you can immediately open the application to see statistics for iPhone memory, disk space, IP addresses, uptime and load averages:
The information displayed can be customized through the application settings, accessed via the cog icon towards the lower right of the screen. It’s also possible to email your iPhone identifier and MAC address automatically — useful if you need to authorize your phone when testing a new application.
iStat claims to be able to free up iPhone memory and speed up your device. I had mixed results with this process, and you need to be prepared to wait for quite a while as the memory clears. It didn’t seem to make any major change to the perceived speed of operation (the iPhone is already very snappy!), but it may be more useful if you regularly run memory-intensive apps.
Monitor Your Mac Remotely
Monitoring your iPhone is great, but if you’d like to use the iPhone to report on your Mac’s performance, you’ll need to install the iStat Server. This is a free download, and only takes a few seconds to set up.
After opening the server for the first time, you’ll be presented with an authorization code that can be used to set up an iPhone:
iStat can use either Bonjour or TCP/IP to connect to iStat Server. Bonjour works great when both devices are on the same wireless network. TCP/IP (either via hostname or IP address) may work in other cases. Providing a connection can be established, the iPhone should now display your Mac as an available iStat server.
Select your Mac, and enter the authorization code to establish a connection. Immediately after doing so, the display should update to show a real-time feed of your Mac’s inner workings.
This screen is showing a number of different things:
- CPU – A graph of CPU usage is displayed, updated every second to illustrate which type of processes are using the most processing power.
- Network – A graph displaying the current up/down activity of your network is updated regularly, and a peak value is held.
- Memory – Full memory stats, including wired, active, inactive, free, page ins/outs and swap size.
- Hard Disks – Free and used space on all internal and connected drives is displayed.
- Temps & Fans – Statistics for all the internal temperature sensors and fan speeds are available.
- Uptime – I’m always fascinated by how long my Mac has been running.
It’s possible to alter how these details are displayed through the app settings, and you can select to see only those that interest you if desired.
The fun doesn’t stop with monitoring, as iStat for iPhone also has a range of built-in network tools for performing ping and traceroute operations. These worked well when tested, and retain the look and feel you’d expect from an iPhone application.
The most recently used hostnames and IP addresses are stored in the app, so you can easily re-perform the same operation again if needed. Here is an example of a traceroute operation in action:
There are a number of things I really like about iStat for iPhone. Firstly is the fantastic design of the app — both on the iPhone, and also in the iStat Server application. It looks like something plucked straight from an episode of “24”. Second is the way in which statistics are updated in real time, allowing you to quickly see if a process is using too much memory.
There are a few areas where it would be great to see features added. I’d welcome the ability to drill down further into the information to, for example, view details of individual applications and processes. If I notice that something is using a great deal of processing power, it would be useful to know what, exactly, is causing the problem.
iStat for iPhone is a great little tool, comes in at a very affordable price ($1.99 at present, normally $2.99), and does actually have a few useful features. Whether you need the ability to perform ping and traceroute operations on the go, or just want to feel like James Bond, it’s worth giving the application a try.