by Jeff Smith
There are lots of reasons why a person might want to access their computer remotely. Perhaps you are traveling out of town and you left your driving directions at home on your desktop. Or perhaps you forgot to start downloading the next episode of Dexter before you left and you want to watch it as soon as you get home. Or perhaps you're running low on computer monitors and you want to make a headless server that you can control via another computer on your network. The possible reasons for remote controlling your computer are diverse and numerous.
Fortunately, the means to do so are also diverse and numerous.
Remote controlling your computer can take many paths and varying levels of complexity. There are solutions that require you to have software installed on both machines, such as VNC or PC Anywhere. These are about the best experience for usability because they are both relatively lightweight and don't take a lot of system resources to run. If you are an Ubuntu user, you already have VNC installed. You'll find it under System>Preferences>Remote Desktop.
Either of these two programs will allow you to control your mouse and keyboard on the remote machine as though you were sitting in front of it. You will be able to see the desktop and any programs you have up. Take note that you cannot watch video from the remote machine across this, nor can you hear sounds or music. 3D games are off-limits as well. But you can open documents, change settings, and do normal every day stuff as though you were sitting in front of your home machine.
The same rules apply when using the QnextMyPC feature of Qnext. This application is just about an internet Swiss Army Knife. Combining instant messaging using 5 major networks, file transfers of unlimited size as well as Java based remote control features, this program has got something for you. Its a little heavy on the resources, but if you can run it, the QnextMyPC feature will enable you to control your desktop from any Java enabled web browser. Even on some phones! This one is the easiest to set up, and the most readily accessed. You don't need to install any software on the controller end, just browse to Qnext.com and log into your desktop at home.
Microsoft also has a remote desktop service built into Windows, and you can send control requests via MS Messenger. Personally I've never used this one. It may be really easy, I wouldn't know. Between my inherent distrust of all things Microsoft, and the fact that I hardly know anyone on Microsoft's messenger network, I just never needed it.
Of all of these, my favorite is VNC. VNC stands out to me because there are versions for Windows and for Linux. And they are interoperable... you can control one from the other, both ways. On the Linux side its even possible to make it so that the remote control starts at the right edge of your screen. This makes it possible to have a Windows machine and a Linux machine side by side and control both via one mouse and keyboard. You just move your mouse from one screen to the other. Yeah. Its just that cool.
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