Remote Desktop Software

There are a variety of reasons that you would want to use remote desktop software to control an e:cue server, and there are different tools to suit different needs. I tend to use 3 different peices of software depending on the situation. All of them will display a window with the desktop of the host computer, allowing you to interact with it as if it were your computer.

1) VNC

VNC stands for Virtual Network Computing. It is an open protocol with many implementations. My favorite as of late is called TightVNC. It is small, light, and easy to install and use. You can find a guide on how to use it here.

VNC is great for use within a local network. I would say that on a local network, this is the solution I use the majority of the time. It can be set up for use over the internet, but there are several issues that keep this from being a less than ideal solution in this case:
  • Figuring out all of the firewall rules and router settings that need to be set in order to allow access to the whole internet is somewhat difficult.
  • The image compression used isn’t optimal for less than perfect connections.
  • If the client computer is behind a firewall or proxy server it may not be possible to reach the host.
  • While you can specify an encrypted connection, VNC is a well known protocol and something that hackers are likely to be looking for.

2) Windows Remote Desktop (RDP)

(aka Remote Desktop Services or Terminal Services depending on your version of windows)

While VNC essentially takes a series of snapshots and sends them to you, the built-in windows remote desktop software works at a deeper level. The server actually logs you in using the windows username and password and creating a new session rather than user-created credentials as with VNC. You can find setup instructions here.

RDP has the advantage of being a more efficient protocol in terms of dealing with graphics, giving a generally snappier performance. It also allows you to to (with some setup) easily copy and paste files between the hosts. There are, again, some disadvantages to using this solution:

  • Like VNC, it can be set up for use over the internet but the same issues apply regarding firewalls and router settings.
  • Because of it’s graphics subsystem, most versions of RDP can cause errors in software trying to display DirectX video, causing issues when you try to use it in conjunction with multimedia functions in the e:cue software.
  • Connections between different versions of windows have been known to cause problems because of differing security protocols between them.

In general I stay away from RDP unless the speed difference between VNC and RDP (which depends on conection quality, network specifics, etc.) gives me a significant advantage.

3) TeamViewer

TeamViewer is a proprietary program that has quickly become one of my favorite all-time peices of software. TeamViewer has a free, noncommercial license which you can use to try it out for yourself (it’s not limited in any way) as well as paid options. It can be used to run locally, giving all of the advantages of VNC and RDP, but it’s real power lies in it’s ease of use over the internet.

Unlike both RDP and VNC, TeamViewer works through a third party server hosted by the company. What this means is that you don’t have to worry about setting up either the host or the client computer to have direct access to each other. As long as both can access, you should be able to ke a connection.

In addition to easy connections, the protocol has a couple of major advantages:

  • You can create an account which keeps a list of saved hosts, making remote support of multiple systems quick and easy.
  • The protocol can self-adjust quality based on connection speeds, so you almost always get the best quality possible while maintaining reasonable responsiveness.
  • The protocol allows you to easily deal with multiple monitors on the host.
  • File sharing is straightforward and a easy to deal with.
  • The setup process is dead simple.
  • You can change resolution on the fly to match the client’s screen size (one my favorite aspects).

Since I’ve come across it, I’ve used TeamVewer an any project that I can so I can easily log in and check the status of a server as well as for providing remote support. The software can either be installed permanently or a “quick support” version can be downloaded for providing tech support on a one-time basis when it starts you will be given an ID number for your computer and a one-time password that you use to connect to the server. This process is easy to describe over the phone for someone who is not extremely computer literate which comes in extremely handy at times.

With the installed version, you can set a permanent password and allow it to start when windows does so that access is possible at any time.

You can find guides to help you through different levels of setup here.

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