2004-05-10

WinVNC Remote Desktop

I reciently deployed remote desktop software. I've used it before at a previous job, but this was the first time I've set it up.

This a GPL software:
RealVNC - Download VNC 3.3.7

WINVNC or VNC - allows you to run a desktop server on your computer. The default action is to share out your current screen, so someone who uses a VNC client to connect to a VNC server then can share the mouse and keyboard of the server machine.

Why did I need this? Well, I have a friend who doesn't have use of her eyes. But she does very well on her computer with some commercial talker software called JAWS.
But like a normal home user, she comes across things that are hard to fix without an expert in the field. And sometimes things are just setup on a computer so that it really helps to look at what is going on on the screen - or know hwere to click the mouse. Like when AIM hides on the start tray - convienient if you can see - a pain in the butt if you can't. So I help her out when I can. But it can be hard to get over to her house very often to help.
As she just got DSL from Qwest She got a surprisingly good rate of $27/mo for about 6x dialup upstream and down with MSN as her ISP. (They have an even better rate if you want to roll-your-own email and skip the ISP.)
So I helped her setup DSL. This turned out to be a little harder than expected, as Qwest/MSN expect you to have W98SE or higher. She currently has only W98 1st edition. So I managed to get her system working manually. The DSL modem - now they call it a DSL Bridge - is pretty fancy. It is actually a multi-protocol DSL-HUB. It has NAT, 10/100 ethernet, a USB connection and 802.11b/g wireless. The wireless worked out well, as I was able to get online with my laptop at the same time as her desktop to help test VNC. As it was I had to do an advanced setup on her DSL bridge to forward the port for VNC, but it worked well.
Twice now, I've been able to log into her computer and help her with a bunch of settings, right from home. This way my kids weren't moving stuff around on her, and I didn't have to spend a bunch of time driving both ways to do some relatively simple fixes.

The good news is she has a windows 98 SE computer that I just have to spend a little on-site time to get running for her. But I wanted to get her working first with the system she was comfortable with.

One of the other exciting things about VNC, is there are versions for most of the platforms, so you can remote control Mac, Un*x and Windows.

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