Ian McShane Rotating Header Image

July, 2007:

Remote Mac access, without VNC

As previously mentioned, I use a Mac Mini as a nice little media box for music and HD related goodness.
I’ve always struggled with remote managing it and ended up buying the wireless ‘Mighty’ mouse and keyboard combo so that I didn’t have to sit 2 ft from the TV if I needed to, for example, retag something in iTunes.
VNC always seems to be hit and miss.  I’ve tried RealVNC and TightVNC, both have their flaws and are too keen to drop the connection.  Even when i’m on the couch, 5ft away.

I’ve not even been able to set-up VNC for proper remote access, despite opening the firewall (both the HW firewall and the OS X firewall set to “allow all * to *”) and router to everything.  Looking at the firewall in real time I can see the packets being sent from the external interface through to the Mac IP internally but they never seemed to reach the Mini.  On the other hand, MSRDP has never failed me before coming through the same set up.
Then, don’t get me started on the enforced corporate VPN policy that effectively means I have to re-IP my network just to access device in my house when the VPN is active..

Anyway.  I’ve used the LogMeIn service to access Windows machines previously.  Last week (or maybe the week before) I saw a post somewhere (I thought i’d starred it in GReader but I can’t find it now) that mentioned a Beta version of the same technology for OS X.   BRILLIANT! 🙂

LogMeIn Free version for Mac (Preview)

As with most OS X apps, installation was SO easy;  Download, install, done.
It did a little auto-update once the install was finished (no reboot) and was ready to go.  No configuration needed other than specifying your LogMeIn username/password credentials.

I fired up a browser on my XP lappy (again, on the couch.  5ft away) and logged in.
After clicking the Remote Access button, it took about 20 secs to flash up a nice rendition of my OS X desktop in an IE browser window.
Security wise, it runs over HTTPS in the same manner as the PC versions.  LMI make quite a big deal about it being secure and easy.

The performance here is excellent.  By the looks of it, the connection is direct from my IE client window (There are a couple of ActiveX controls displayed through the add-ins menu in IE7) to the Mini, very much in the style of Webex.  Typing into finder via the LMI window sufferes only a marginally noticable delay.

Whether or not they’ve leveraged the Open Source angle of VNC to code their own flavour, I don’t know.  What I do know is that it is great, right down to the little details.
For example, using RealVNC or similar clients, a right click of a mouse on my XP machine whilst in a VNC session would bring up the Widgets layer – which over VNC, was slow as hell to render IN and then slow as hell to render OUT.
With LMI, a right click does EXACTLY what i’d expect it to, it brings up the context menu for the target.  Whilst bringing up the Widgets layer (when I want, using F12 🙂 ) in LMI it isn’t exactly lightening quick and smooth, it renders up in a 4 part mosaic, clockwise motion but it is infinitely quicker and better.

The better test will be tomorrow at work when I can give it a proper trial over the internet.  Hopefully it will be a bit quicker and easier to just FTP something from home to work via the UI than via SSH.

At the moment, for my needs at home it is a perfect replacement for VNC.