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iPhone/iPad Apps for Coders and Sysadmins

iPhone/iPad Apps for Coders and Sysadmins

It wasn’t that long ago that I scoffed at the idea of the iPad, or at least thought it would never have any place in my tech toolkit. I finally broke down and got one, and it’s changed the way I work, largely because of the number of fantastic apps out there.

We’re finally at a point where someone who spends a reasonable amount of time at a server command line can actually get real work done, and I gotta say, it’s pretty cool. Just last night I was discussing an obscure Apache config issue with a friend at a bar, and rather than working from memory, I busted out the iPad and my Bluetooth keyboard, and 5 minutes later, the configuration issue was solved.

Having the freedom to go to the park to read for a bit but knowing I have the ability to handle an emergency should it come up is very freeing. Yes, I have become that douchebag at Starbucks – and you know what? I fucking love it.

Anyway. Point is, the iPad (or iPhone) can be used for more than just porn now (which is good, because the folks at Starbucks get surprisingly upset when you try adding your own “cream” to your latte), and I’ve spent some time and money to try out some of the most promising apps in the app store that allow you to do actual work, and edge the iPad closer to being a viable option for a netbook replacement.

I didn’t address any design/mockup/mindmapping apps in this list, but that may be a topic for another post sometime. This list isn’t meant to be all-inclusive, and doesn’t reflect the totality of what is available in the app store – it’s a short list of personal recommendations of products I actually use and like.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are hooked into the iTunes affiliate program so that I might get a penny or two if you decide to buy, however the recommendations are legit, and I wouldn’t recommend something unless I had used it. Click through on the affiliate links or don’t – but do leave me a comment if you’ve fallen in love with something I haven’t mentioned here.

Code Editors/FTP

There are quite a few nice code editors for iPad in the app store, but I won’t consider any that only offer FTP instead of SFTP and neither should you. I am just as likely to use vi in an SSH app on my iPad as I am to use a code editor, but for handling multiple open files at one time, sometimes an editor is kinda nice. Unfortunately, 90% of the code editors in the app store are complete and utterly shit-tastic garbage. Seriously. Even if you don’t pick one of my recommendations, make sure you read the comments on the code editor apps before you buy so you don’t get burned.

Textastic

I think Textastic might be my new favorite code editor for iPad. The interface is very clean, it supports FTP and SFTP, integrates with Dropbox and WebDav (if you’re into that sort of thing) and comes with syntax highlighting for around 80 different languages. It’s a little pricier than some of the other options, but I think it’s well worth the investment. I want to make sweet ASCII love to it all the time.
In iTunes: Buy Now ($9.99)
Developer: Alexander Blach

Gusto

Gusto is pretty sexy and has come pretty far in a short time. (When it first appeared in the app store, there was no SFTP support.) It supports projects, one-touch uploading, background processing so your state doesn’t get lost when you have to switch apps, pretty Coda-like site thumbnails, tabbed editing, and remove and local preview support. Three obvious features that are missing are syntax highlighting, line-wrapping and public-key authentication, but it’s a great start and a solid option for busting out quick changes on the road.
In iTunes: Buy Now ($6.99)
Developer: Horse and the Rook

An alternative to Gusto that’s an app to watch would be Markup for iPad, but I’ve heard such crap things (crashy, no SFTP) about it that I haven’t tried it. Sounds like it’s worth keeping an eye on, but not ready for prime time yet and not worth the $10 pricetag until it’s a bit more stable and can handle SFTP.

FTP on the Go (Pro)

Feature-packed FTPS app. Honestly, too many spiffy features to list – the best FTP app I’ve come across so far. Comes with a built in FTP Server and Web Server allow viewing and adding files to the iPhone or iPod touch. Browse files on your iPhone from your computer with a web browser. Madness. Madness, I say!
In iTunes: Buy Now ($9.99)
Developer: Headlight Software

MySQL

MySQL Database Client

Small, simple MySQL client for iPad and iPhone. Supports stored profiles and custom queries, but don’t go too nuts. It can handle basic queries, but more complicated stuff like JOINS will return unpredictable results. Still, it’s $0.99, and is worth at least that much, contrary to the cheesedick who “wants a refund” in the reviews. Seriously. It’s a buck. Get over it, kid.
In iTunes: Buy it Now ($0.99)
Developer: Kyle Hankinson

MySQL Editor Pro

A much more full-featured app with a price tag that reflects it, MySQL Editor Pro is the real deal. If the cost doesn’t scare you off, this is well worth the month for such a strong db admin app.
In iTunes: Buy it Now ($14.99)
Developer: Pasha Topchiyev

SSH/VNC

Prompt

That Apache configuration issue I was having? Solved in 5 minutes using Prompt. It’s made by the same folks that make the super-sexy Coda code editing app for Mac. The UI is pretty nice, and it supports special characters and keystrokes like CTRL which one ends up using frequently in a shell. Prompt supports DSA/RSA keys, automagically remembers your frequently used commands, runs in the background so screen-switching won’t disconnect you, and you can map commonly used keystrokes easily for speedy access. An added bonus – it’s a universal app, so you buy it once and it works on your iPhone and your iPad. (Given my horrible typing on the iPhone and the iPhones even more horrible auto-correction, I don’t know that I’d want to use it on my phone much, but it’s nice to know it’s an option.
In iTunes: Buy it Now ($4.99)
Developer: Panic, Inc.

iSSH

Less sexy than Prompt but still one helluvan app is iSSH. iSSH boasts a pretty impressive feature set, including a tunneled VNC client, tunneled X server, the fact that SSH, telnet and VNC all work via EDGE, WiFi and 3G, transparent keyboard, Bluetooth keyboard mapping, RSA and DSA key generation and exchange, tons of keyboard customizations and holy shit a lot more. It’s a solid client, and a universal app, so you can buy it once and use it on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, etc. Even works with older iPhones running iOS 3.0.
In iTunes: Buy it Now ($9.99)
Developer: Zingersoft

Network Tools & Miscellaneous Hackery

IT Tools

Puts a whole handful of diagnostics just a tap or two away, with DNS, Ping, Route, ARP, active sockets and Interface tools. 45 supported DNS record types, including A, AAAA, CNAME, LOC, MX, NS, SRV, TXT – and it come with a database of MAC addresses so you can look up manufacturers of devices on your network. All of these things can be done through SSH if you’ve already got a terminal running, but this app makes it so much easier.
In iTunes: Buy it Now ($4.99)
Developer: Kevin Koltzau

Server Admin Remote (Mac OSX Server)

Called a Swiss army-knife for the mobile Mac OS X admin, with Server Admin Remote IT administrators can monitor the alive status of Mac OS X Server services, start/stop services and observe the services’ logs (Mac OS X Snow Leopard, Mac OS X Leopard Server and Mac OS X Tiger Server). Works on EDGE, WiFi and 3G connections. No further installation on your Mac OS X Server needed, since Server Admin Remote uses the same interface as Mac OS X Server Admin.
In iTunes: Buy it Now ($11.99)
Developer: Harlekins

Rackspace Cloud

If you’ve got a Rackspace Cloud Servers account, this app is the shit. Reboot, rename, resize, and rebuild your Cloud Servers, spin up a new server or delete an existing one, change your root password, bootstrap Cloud Servers with Chef from your Chef server or the Opscode Platform, open and manage Cloud Files assets and control your CDN settings for Cloud Files containers, play Cloud Files audio and video over Airplay to your Apple TV (iOS 4.3 and up) – a ton more. It’s not a complete replacement for their control panel, but you can do a heck of a lot with it.
In iTunes: Download Now (FREE)
Developer: Rackspace

Vtrace

Simple visual traceroute (or TracerT, if you’re this kid) that uses your current location to take you down the bunny trail to whatever IP or hostname you’re looking up.
In iTunes: Download Now (FREE)
Developer: Vlad Alexa

iAccess for Nagios

Mobile Nagios client that gives you direct access to the /nagios dashboard. (Obviously, you need a Nagios server configured for this to work.)
In iTunes: Buy Now ($3.99)
Developer: ASION IT Services

Flame for Bonjour

Flame is a browser for Bonjour network services. It lists the services advertised on your wireless network and you can browse them by server or by service type. When selecting a service, its advertised details are displayed. If an application on your iPhone or iPod touch can handle any of the advertised services, a command to open it right away is provided.
In iTunes: Download Now (FREE)
Developer: Tom Insam

Ping A Majig

Handy app that lets you check the ping status of multiple hostnames at one time. It’s a bit handier as a monitoring tool than the other apps that include ping as an available tool, since the at-a-glance view lets you see if any of your hosts are in trouble on one screen.
In iTunes: Buy Now ($0.99)
Developer: Pingysoft

RBL Status

Simple but effective Real Time Blacklist looker-upper.
In iTunes: Buy Now ($1.99)
Developer: Pavel Ahafonau

iPortscan Pro

iPortScan PRO is a port scanner for your IPhone or IPodTouch. It does not feature any network discovery; however, this tool is useful for sysadmins checking what services are listening on a known system. This is very handy for the system admin who can use this tool to quickly portscan all of their systems to make sure nothing is open that shouldn’t be.
In iTunes: Buy Now ($1.99)
Developer: Whiteside Solutions LLC

Default Logins

This app contains a database of over 300 common and uncommon manufactures and the usernames and passwords they pre-configure their devices with (which there are 1,000 + in the database). Can come in handy for more nefarious reasons (if you’re that kinda person), but also super useful for fixing a relative’s biffed router when they ask you to come over and fix their internets.
In iTunes: Buy Now ($1.99)
Developer: anthony lamantia

So that’s my list – for now. Did I miss any that you love? Leave me a note in the comments.

PS – yes, that’s a photo of my actual license plate at the top of the post. And yes, that makes me more awesome than you. :P

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About snipe

I’m a tech geek/dev/infosec-nerd/scuba diver/blacksmith/sword-fighter/crime fighter/ENTP/warcrafter/activist, and the former CTO and CSO at a business innovation agency in New York City. Tweet at me @snipeyhead or read more...
  • Anonymous

    iNet Pro from BananaGlue: Network scanner, bonjour browser, ping, portscan, wake on lan. you can save and e-mail results. Good tool. $5.99

    The wifi tracker i got on my iPod Touch 2G before Apple banned them still works on iPhone 4 :)

  • http://www.bynkii.com/ John C. Welch

    Does MySQL Editor Pro support connecting over SSH? I couldn’t (easily) find a definitive answer yea or nay

    • http://twitter.com/Japh Japh

      I’d like them to add that feature too. Hopefully they will sometime.

      • Pasha Topchiyev

        Yes, now it can connect over SSH

      • http://www.mobileappsdevelopmentteam.com/ Madt Team

        That’s what I am also looking for!