Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Working remotely on your computer

I think everyone knows Remote Desktop. In Windows it allows you to remotely access another Windows machine. All you need to connect is to know password of local user or have your domain user added to Remote Users Group. You connect by IP address or computer name, so your computers must "see" each other on the network.
But what if...
If the computer you want to connect to is behind firewall that cuts off RDP? Or it is inside of private network, and you're currently outside of it? Like when that time you wanted to connect to your work computer from home?

There are some tools, that let you connect to your PC from anywhere via web browser. This way you can connect inside private network and you bypass firewalls (connection is made via HTTP).

This company provides free and universal tool to connect to computer with web browser. You need to register you account on their website, install client app on remote computer and then, when the app is running you can see it in your browser. You can connect to this PC by simply clicking it in the browser.

BTW, this company makes another product, Hamachi, which makes it really easy to create VPN between two computers. I think it's mostly used by gamers, who want to connect several computers anywhere on internet into private network and play, but can have also commercial applications.

Windows Live Mesh
This application is part of Windows Live essentials (or I'd say suite). You need your WindowsLiveID to login. One purpose of Mesh is to synchronize folders on different machines. It uses your SkyDrive space to store data in The Cloud.

But also, you can use Mesh to remotely control your PC. First add your machine by either clicking "Add this computer" in, or using the Mesh console. Then, in your Windows Live Mesh console go to "Remote" and click on "Allow remote connections to this computer".
Now when you go to, you'll see all your devices and some will have link "Connect to this computer". Click it and connect.

Comparing the two
With Mesh, you are allowed to only use The Chosen One, i.e. you need to use Internet Explorer 6 or later (32-bit version only). LogMeIn will let you use any browser, so you can connect even from iPad or different OS.
LogMeIn lets you choose resolution and color scheme for your connection, so in case of slow connection you can work comfortably. In Mesh you will be working with native resolution of your host. It has however a panel, where you can zoom in and out an pan your screen.
LogMeIn will let you connect even to the computer, where you currently work, and so you may see your remote screen within your screen within your screen etc. (looks funny, but not useful). Mesh will give you a warning.
Both programs can be used for free. LogMeIn has several plans, both free and pro. Mesh is included in Windows Live Essential, so chances are that you already have it in your computer.

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