Commentary
6/18/2009
01:30 AM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry
Commentary

Remote Desktop On Your Mobile Phone

Sometimes you need access to your PC but that doesn't mean you have to carry your laptop with you on a short trip. You may be able to access your PC or servers right from your smartphone. Here are but a few ways to accomplish this.



Sometimes you need access to your PC but that doesn't mean you have to carry your laptop with you on a short trip. You may be able to access your PC or servers right from your smartphone. Here are but a few ways to accomplish this.Engadget had a post today on a VNC client (VNC stands for Virtual Network Computing) for the Palm Pre. Right now it is a lookie but no touchie version, but I am sure subsequent releases will allow you to do more than just look at your PC's desktop from the Pre's screen.

VNC and other remote access solutions exist for other smartphones as well. Some of the solutions I list are free and others cost money. With a little digging, you may be able to allow full remote access from your phone with no financial cost at all.

For the broadest support, VNC is the way to go. I think there are VNC servers and clients for just about every imaginable platform. You'll need a VNC Server for your PC so it can display your desktop and then process your mouse movements and text entries for you. RealVNC is a good place to start. They have three server versions with various features, starting at free for the Personal Edition. Note that once you have VNC on both the client and server, the platform really doesn't matter. you can control a Windows desktop from an iPhone or a Unix server from a Blackberry.

Now for client access. For iPhone and iPod Touch users, MochaSoft has a Lite version for free and a $5.99 client with more features. MochaSoft also has a Windows Mobile client, though it is a bit pricey at $20 for casual access. If you don't need all of the features of that version, the free .NET VNC Viewer might do.

If you have a Blackberry then VNC+ might be the ticket. It is $29.99, but doesn't yet work on the Storm. With a little digging or poking around on the Blackberry forums, you might be able to find a cheaper solution.

VNC isn't the only game in town. Many Windows desktops have Remote Desktop built in. It is included with Windows 2000 Server, 2003 and 2008, as well as Windows XP Pro, Vista Business, Vista Ultimate and similar flavors of Windows 7. It is the same technology as used by the Terminal Server service on Windows servers. The feature is usually off by default, but can be turned on easy enough. It uses Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol, or RDP. Any RDP client will hook up to it. Some Windows Mobile phones come with the client preinstalled. With a bit of Googling, you may find a downloadable version if your WinMo phone lacks it. There are other RDP solutions for other platforms too, like WinAdmin for the iPhone. RDP clients are great in Windows environments because you don't need to install any PC software on servers and upper level clients.

While you'd never have this on your PC, your servers may run Citrix. Citrix provides free clients for Windows Mobile devices, though you may need an additional license for your phone. Check with your system admin before hooking your WinMo device to your Citrix server. iPhone users can find Citrix Receiver for iPhone 1.0 in the App Store. Same rules apply - it is free, but your server might need another license.

So there you have it, just a few ways to log in and remotely access data or applications on your PC without having to carry a laptop with you. For long work sessions, it can be maddeningly frustrating to look at your big desktop through the portal of your phone's tiny screen, but for that quick login to email a file to yourself you left behind or to run a process on your company server, a remote solution for your phone can be a great alternative.

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