Get-Console Review on the iPadJuly 5, 2012
I have used my iPad to console onto Cisco routers and switches for about 2 years now. I started using the Flex-Serial cable on my jailbroken iPad and iPhone, with the iSSH app and a ported version of Minicom (earlier blog post). Amidst some minor bugs and irritations this worked well and was considerably more convenient than carrying a laptop around the data centers. Earlier this year I ordered the RedPark RS232 cable from Get-Console.com, since the Flex-Serial cable was not available anymore. (It’s easy to notice to wear on my Flex-Serial cable). I have used the Get-Console solution ever since and will share the other reasons why I switched and give a product review. If you been thinking of getting this, it might be in your best interested to read this post.
The Redpark cable
Let me first compare the RedPark and the Flex-Serial cables.
The Flex serial cable (left) has the 30-pin Apple connector at one end and a RS-232 DB 9-pin connector at the other end, which requires a rollover cable to connect into a switch or a router. The RedPark cable (right) has a 30-pin Apple connector on the one end going directly to a RJ45 connector at the other end. This means no rollover cable is required. I found this very convenient. Price wise, $90 for the Flex-Serial (not available anymore) vs. $60 for the Redpark cable. For those of you thinking $60 is expensive, you should honestly reconsider how much use and convenience this $60 will offer to your everyday work. Additionally I managed to get a $10 discount for the Routing-Bits readers on the RedPark cable. So keep reading.
Lets talk about the Get-Console app. The app is the product of a fellow network engineer Simon Hope from New Zealand (CCIE# 8738). The original purpose that Simon had in mind was the ability to use an iPad to console onto Cisco devices without requiring a jailbreak, plus the ability to use SSH and Telnet. Get-Console was originally developed to do that and it does it well. The interface layout is intuitive, very easy to use and dead simple to setup when compared to my original iSSH/Minicom setup. Get-Console does the basic items really well. But so did the iSSH/Minicom setup. Both iSSH and Get-Console have a password manager and quick function keys specific to the session-type, like Cisco, Linux, Sun etc.
The Get-Console app
The Get-Console app however had a serious mind for innovation driving it along with continuous development (I was told a great deal of it came from user requests) and has thus evolved into a smart, slick, feature rich terminal app. After I bought Get-Console and started using it, I quickly came to appreciate these extras. I found the following features particularly value-adding:
- Better copy and paste integration than iSSH. This is was one of the biggest annoyances with iSSH. Highlighting specific portions of text was a real pain, with almost no clipboard support. Although still room for improvement, Get-Console is by far better at this. Most of these improvements, I was told are coming in the next 2-3 releases.
- Sessions logging and the option to export the logs. This is my personal favorite, the ability to go through the logs afterwards and archive it.
- The ability to download files into Get-Console over the air from Dropbox, provides true mobility when a copy of your diffirent config templates are in one Dropbox folder.
- Command Scripting. iSSH has the ability to do single commands similar to Get-Console, but Get-Console takes this further offering ample options with their multi-action scripts. This makes logging onto devices and performing repetitive sets of commands a real pleasure.
- Remote Terminal access for field engineers. This is very handy. I have used this a few times, and I can definitely recommend the benefit in having eyes off-site when a field engineer is deploying config via a secure connection.
From a normal SSH/Telnet perspective, Get-Console will do everything any other normal terminal client can do from customizing terminal behavior to adding private SSH keys. The one thing I noticed missing was the ability to do SSH key forwarding. Personally I use this often and as a result requested the feature to be added. I was told it will be available in one of the next updates.
Now to use the RedPark cable you have to buy the Get-Console app and vice versa. The Redpark cable does not work with the iSSH/minicom combination, nor does the Flex-Serial cable work with the Get-Console app. Initially this was a deterrent for me, but I’ll be honest, moving from iSSH to Get-Console, was the best move, with nothing lost and ample functionality gained. The app is $9.99 and compared to most other apps some might argue this is expensive. But consider the following. Firstly it is the same price as iSSH, it supports all the same features plus a lot more including the ability to console. Secondly consider the convenience of using your iPad to console. Thirdly a laptop USB-to-RS232 cable is only a little cheaper.
In the last 2+ years I have tested almost every terminal app available in the Apple ecosystem. There are only two worth talking about and after using both for an extended period, only one worth buying. That is the Get-Console app and the Redpark cable. Despite some small features I have requested, as a network engineer, you owe it to yourself to pay a small price for minimizing your time spend on trivial things like carrying around a laptop for the simple things. I would highly recommend this app, not just for the console ability but for the normal SSH/Telnet connectivity and other feature mentioned.
Ordering and Discount
To get the RedPark cable:
Visit the www.get-console.com website and place your order. Routing-Bits readers will receive a 10% discount on the Redpark cable if the following voucher code: RBITS2012 is entered on the checkout page.
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