Remote Control

Saturday, 3 December, 2005

I regularly need to log back in to my broadband (1Mbit) system at home and have used a variety of different bits of software to do this. I’ve brought together a quick summary of the more useful ones:

  • UltraVNC (open source) - a very good development of the VNC product that allows you to “remote control” your system by viewing the remote desktop screen. Typical configuration involves the use of a server (on the remote machine) and client that you use to connect to it (although there are a variety of variations on this theme). Of all the VNC developments this is one of the fastest and has added extra developments including file transfer. Simple to set up as well.
  • Barracuda Drive (freeware) - a web based (both http and https) server that allows you to log in to your file system and upload, download or delete files. Very handy for quick access to files; it’s to simple install the server and then simply use a web browser to access it.
  • OpenVPN (open source) - VPNs are the most grown up solution to remote access. They require both a client and a server to allow you actually become part of the computer network on the remote machine, meaning you can access resources as if you were physically on the network. As a result they tend to be more expensive and require more knowledge to setup. OpenVPN is a robust open source VPN that works very well. Only really suited to combining disparate machines together (e.g. home and office) rather than access your home machine on the hoof.

It’s worth noting that if you have a “home” broadband connection you need to know the IP address of your connection and this is often prone to changing. A very good solution is to use a free service like DynDNS which can monitor changes in your IP address and dynamically map those changes to a fixed URL (e.g. myurl.domainname.com).