Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Want to access your PC remotely (or from another machine in your firewall)? Free?

You may have heard about tools like GoToMyPC, or PCAnywhere, or LapLink to be able to access one PC from another, but I just learned of a free tool that's cross-platform. You may want to access a machine remotely (like your home machine when you're on the road or in your office) or even just within your network (such as to access a Linux box from your Windows workstation, or vice-versa), or as in my case I simply wanted to be able to access my main workstation from my laptop within my home/office network. Of course, Windows XP also offers a Remote Desktop feature as well, but both machines have to be XP (I understand).

I just learned of RealVNC (also sometimes called WinVNC, but it's definitely for more than Windows). It's free, at realvnc.com, and it worked flawlessly. Since I'm only using it within my firewall, I'm not too worried about any security risks. It operates on its own port, and offers various forms of mild security who might choose to open that for access from out on the net. Of course, some may want to carefully review the docs about security and other settings.

But the bottom line is that within 2 minutes, I was able to install the server on the workstation and the "viewer" on the laptop, and I was reading email on the workstation's Outlook while sitting in front of the TV watching my Alma Mater in the NCAA tournament. Hurray! :-)

And if I wanted to setup a Linux box now, I could easily access it just as well. Or a Mac. And either of those can be clients, as can a Palm or WinCE client (see the diagram depicting this).

Here's an update on 3/26: take note that, for the downloads of the Windows Client at least, the exe offered is the real program, not an installer program. What I mean is that if you click on it to download/execute it, it will run but if you're not paying attention, when you close it (or restart your machine), you'll find that it's not installed anywhere on your machine! (It was executed out of a temporary directory on your machine.) You need to instead save it to someplace in your file system (like c:\program files), and then setup a shortcut in your Start Programs or desktop in order to run it again. Actually, the server is an installer and does do all that. Curious that they chose to not go that route for the client. There is a zip file offered as well, but it's got just the same executable so you have the same dilemma if you simply run the client program from within the zip file. Just trying to save you the hassle I experienced.

No comments: