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If you're away on business, working from home, or you've simply forgotten an important file, there's no need to wish you had access to your office PC when remote access technology can help you control it from afar. Windows Middle East explains all.

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By  Matthew Wade Published  August 5, 2004

|~|September-workshop-main-ima.gif|~|There are several products available that make remote usage a relatively simple matter.|~|Remote access simply refers to the ability to log on to a computer or network from a distant location using the internet. This location could be anywhere with an internet ready computer, whether at home, a second desk or office, or a hotel on a far away continent. There are several reasons why you might want to access your main PC from elsewhere. If you are a working parent for instance and your child gets sick, you might previously have had to take a day off and subsequently got behind at work. Remote access allows you to play nursemaid and fit in some work too, without the hassle of not having your files and contacts to hand. Alternatively, if you're away on business, you needn't copy all your crucial files to your notebook before setting off. So long as you'll have internet access at your destination, you can continue your projects without missing a trick. Or maybe your employer has given the green light to your working at home half of the week. Even when you've just forgotten an important file, how convenient would it be to log on to your work PC, find the file, copy it and carry on? The one slight drawback of remote access is its speed as your PC use will be slower than if you were physically sat in front of your main (or 'host') PC. This is because of the time it takes to transfer a keystroke or a mouse move over a standard internet connection. The slower your net connection, the more time lag you will experience. This isn't a huge drawback though and is far outweighed by the potential benefits of computing effectively from afar. There are several products available that make remote usage a relatively simple matter. We'll cover two in this workshop. For users running Windows XP Professional, we'll look at using the operating system's built-in 'Remote Desktop' function, while for users of older versions, we'll check out one of many third party software titles in the form of VNC 4. VNC, which stands for Virtual Network Computing, is a no-frills piece of software and while it doesn't allow you to remotely transfer files, it does let you copy and paste text from documents across the remote link and best of all it's completely free to download. ||**|||~|September-workshop-XP-remot.gif|~|Enable XP Professional's Remote Desktop by heading for the Remote tab in System Properties (Control Panel/System).|~|1: About Remote Desktop If the computer you want to access remotely (your 'host' PC) is running Windows XP Professional, you will soon be able to access it from any remote ('client') PC running Windows 95 or later. Microsoft's Remote Desktop server software lets you log into your host PC using your standard normal Windows username and password. If your client PC is running Windows 95, 98 or ME, you'll be able to access the desktop and all files on the host PC. While you'll be able to edit and work on files across your remote connection, you won't be able to transfer files between host and client PCs. However, if your client PC is running Windows XP or 2000, then the news is better. The drives on the host PC will become available as network shared files on the client, allowing you to drag and drop files between computers. This is obviously convenient, though file transfers will be slow depending on your internet connection. Your PC’s clipboard memory also becomes shared between the two PCs (meaning it's possible to cut and paste information inside files between two or more computers). It's also possible to send documents held on your host PC to a printer attached to your client, as when a remote desktop session starts, the relevant local printer drives are automatically installed on the host PC. You can even listen to audio files stored on your host machine from your client PC, so you need never crave your favourite song again. 2: Remote Desktop set-up If you want to enable access to your PC from elsewhere in your office building or over your employer's domain (network), then enable Remote Desktop by heading for the Remote tab in System Properties (Control Panel/System) and check the box named 'Allow users to connect remotely to this computer' (see image A above). Then select the users you want to give access to your PC by clicking ‘Select Remote Users’. Select the location of the domain (network) or host PC you want to use. If you select your company's domain, then all the users on that domain will be listed, allowing you to enable access to your PC from that of another colleague. If the local user you want to give access to isn't shown, click Add and under Advanced, hit ‘Find Now’ to search for them. If however you are intending to access your PC from outside your firm's network, leave this setting as it will auto-default to your host PC's location. If your client PC is running an older version of Windows, you must install XP's remote desktop client connection software on it. This is on the Windows XP CD. Once you've slotted in the CD, choose ‘Perform Additional Tasks’ from the first menu shown and click 'Set-up remote desktop connection' (see image B above). Then go to Programs/Accessories/ Communications/Remote Desktop Connections, Select the host machine and choose ‘Connect’. 3: Remote Desktop requirements To access your host PC from a completely remote (non-networked) location, your company must have a VPN (virtual private network) set-up. Check this first, though it will probably be the case if you are being permitted to work remotely. Put simply, a VPN allows you to access your firm's network (and thus your PC) via the internet, in other words from anywhere in the world. If your firm employs a leased line internet connection then this will use a public IP address, in which case it's a simple process. First set-up a new network connection using the ‘New Connection Wizard’ in Programs/Accessories/ Communications. Then when prompted, choose 'Connect to the network at my workplace', followed by 'Virtual private network connection'. Then just add your company name and your firm's leased line IP address. Now when you go to Programs/Accessories/ Communications/Remote Desktop Connection, you will be able to select the host machine and click ‘Connect’ (see image C). If your employer uses an ADSL or ISDN connection, this will employ a dynamic (or constantly changing) IP address. In this case dynamic IP software must be installed and configured before your firm sets up its VPN, in order to provide a single domain name that will route directly to your company's dynamic IP address (whatever that may be), therefore avoiding the problem of this IP address constantly changing. Dynip is one example software package that’s freely available online. Once installed, your company (or you) will need to choose a domain name (likely to be along the lines of yourname.dynip.com). You'll then need to enter this domain when configuring your remote PC's VPN connection (i.e. when creating a new connection in Network Connections). Then it's just one more step to head to Programs/ Accessories/Communications/Remote Desktop Connections (see image C) and connect to your host PC. 4: Setting up VNC Firstly, download the VNC executable or zip file from www. realvnc.com onto your host PC. VNC offers two versions of its software for each platform; its 726k executable file includes both server (i.e. host) and viewer programmes (for use on either your host or client PC), while the 268k viewer program is for use only on client machines. Be sure to download the server version onto your host PC. The latest version of VNC (version 4) includes a simple web server, which allows client users to connect to the host using a Java enabled web browser rather than having to install the viewer software on each client computer. Once VNC is installed on your host PC, head through Start/Programs/realVNC and select 'run VNC server'. The one element of security you are offered is a VNC password setting. Click on the VNC icon on the taskbar and under the Authen-tication tab, choose 'VNC 3.3 Authentication, no Encryption' (see image E) and choose your password. Next make a note of your host and client PCs' IP (internet protocol) addresses. If both PCs use a dial-up connection to connect to the internet, go to Start/Settings/Network Connections on each, right-click the connection icon, highlight Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) and click Properties before making a note of each PC's IP address. If using an ADSL or ISDN connection however, the issue of dynamic IP addresses must again be tackled. Refer to the VNP requirements and info detailed in Step 3. 5: Configuring VNC Once VNC Viewer is on your client PC, go to Start/Programs and open VNC Viewer. Your first task will then be to input the IP address of your host (see image D), if using a dial-up connection, which you noted down previously (note: the IP address of the computer running the VNC server can also be found by hovering your mouse cursor over the VNC tray icon in the system tray). If using a VPN, instead enter the host PC's name rather than a static IP address. Next click ‘OK’ and you'll then be asked for the password you supplied when you set-up VNC on your host. If you think you might prefer to use your web browser to access your host PC, rather than VNC Viewer, here's how. VNC servers contain a small web server. If you connect to this server using a web browser, you'll be able to download a Java version of the viewer. This will enable you to view your host PC's desktop from any Java-enabled browser (except for users who connect to the net via a proxy server). The VNC web server listens for HTTP connections on port 5800+display number (this display number auto defaults to 0 when using Windows and Mac platforms), so to view display 0 on a host machine called 'mypc', you would point your web browser at http://mypc:5800/ Then it's just a case of entering your VNC password and your host PC's desktop will be shown. Remote Access Software VNC www.realvnc.com Pcanywhere www.symantec.com/pcanywhere WinShadow www.download.com I'm InTouch www.01com.com/ GoToMyPC www.citrixonline.com/ Dynamic IP software Dynip www.dynip.com||**||

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