For the past few years, it seems that sharing is the way to go on the Internet. Everyone has at least one thing to share, be it music, video, pictures, software, documentation opinions and whatnot. Users have even come to share their computers. Well, not with others, but administer their computer remotely. This activity comes in very handy when your home computer has to finish a task and you got to go to work. Just set up the connection and control your home computer from the "comfort" of your office chair.
Windows XP Professional comes with Remote Desktop Connection allowing you to connect to a remote computer and use it with complete control over it. There is no big deal configuring it and the effort is minimum from the user. But it fails to carry out the job unless the two computers are running Professional editions of XP or an older Windows platform.
No biggie, the Internet is a reliable source for providing quality software at acceptable prices. In the case of remote handling of computers, the Web makes a pleasant surprise as it shelters freewares just waiting to assist you. UltraVNC for instance has been available for ages and incorporates all you need so that you can control a computer from the distance.
It does not have an interface of its own as the remote computer's desktop screen substitutes it, but it can be configured to get the best image quality and connection you need. The 1.8MB installer will unfold two applications on your computer: a server and a viewer. I imagine you already figured out that the server has to be launched on the remote computer so you can view it locally via viewer application.
Both "server" and "viewer" are easy to configure and contain the most varied of settings. There are no bells and whistles available in either page and all the options are intuitive enough for any type of user.
Server Property page is split into several sections, dealing with incoming connections, options for actions to be taken when the last client disconnects, authentication, file transfer options, plugin management etc.
Incoming Connections section lets you accept socket connections, set the number of ports to be used and the number of connections to be displayed, enable JavaViewer
, allow loopback connections and enable loopback only (outside connections are not allowed).
UltraVNC supports multiple clients and the user can configure the server to start an action the moment the last client disconnects. The server can sit still and do nothing, in case someone needs to connect to it again, lock the workstation (option available for Windows 2000) or logoff the workstation. This option comes in handy when multiple viewers are connected to the server and after the last one disconnects you no longer want them snooping around. Although these options are pretty good, I wish there was an option to turn off the computer or restart it.
Keyboard and Mouse settings let you disable local and viewer inputs. Disabling Viewers Inputs removes all access for the remote user and only viewing options are enabled. This way, there is no remote control, only remote viewing.
As for mult-viewer support
, UltraVNC comes
prepared with a list of options permitting you to ban a new connection or all of them, keep the existing connections or disconnect all of them. This set of settings is linked to "Query on incoming connections" which lets you choose if a new viewer should be granted access or not.Authentication
of the connection is a password allocated to each machine and it is mandatory for viewing the remote desktop. MS Logon requires the computer and the user to be in the same domain and you can configure three groups, the first two with full access and the third with authorization only for viewing the remote computer's desktop. New MS Logon allows cross-domain authentication and the configuration window is the standard Windows Security Property page.
The miscellaneous set of options is designed to polish a little the viewing of the remote computer. You can disable wallpaper for viewers, enable blank monitor when the viewer requests it, capture alpha-blending, disable the system tray icon, forbid the users to close WinVNC from system tray (but the process can be terminated from Task Manager) and set the default server screen scale (default is 1:1).
Viewer's options let you configure the bandwidth settings for the best compromise between speed of transfer and quality of the image. The alternatives made available are Auto (UltraVNC makes all the settings automatically, although it is not the best of choices), Ultra (> 2Mb), LAN (>1Mb), Medium (128-256 Kb, 256 colors), Modem (19-128 Kb, 64 colors) and Slow (