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Remote Access  
Contents  

How to find your computer IP address

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Hamachi VPN

Microsoft NetMeeting

VNC Software (KVM)

Remote Access through a server (Logmein)

Virtual KM Switch (or how to integrate two monitors from two different computers)

Port Forwarding

A few words...

We are increasingly more mobile. In this page you will find some tips to work remotely, nevertheless, the basic assumption is that the reader knows some basics of safety and networking, e.g., create a user, share a folder, set up connections, etc.

Please remember that when you open one of your computer ports or share a folder, you are always increasing the risk of unauthorized access to your computer -- hackers, virus, Trojan horses, etc.

Basically, tips are for Windows operating systems.

How to find your computer IP address

Go to Start > Run and type CMD. Once you get the black window with the "DOS" prompt, type ipconfig (see number 1 below).

Number 2 shows the computer IP address
A computer can have more than one Network Card. This one has two: the first one, wireless (3), connected. The second, wired (4), disconnected.

Some ranges of IP numbers are reserved for intranets. They are:

10.0.0.0 to 10.255.255.255
172.16.0.0 to 172.31.255.255
192.168.0.0 to 192.168.255.255

In the example above, the computer's IP is 192.168.0.4; that means the computer is part of an intranet, and it is not connected directly to the Internet. The computer is connected to the Internet through a router or a proxy server. To find the router's or proxy server's IP, you should open the associated control/properties window. See its manual for more info.

Static and Dynamic IP

Static IP is an IP address that never changes. You can disconnect your computer for as long as you want, and when you turn it on, the IP will be the same. As you can imagine, big servers use static IPs.

Dynamic IP is an IP that changes. Dial-up connections generally use dynamic IPs. That means that every time you connect to an ISP through dial-up, your computer receives a new IP. xDSL and cable connections generally use dynamic IPs, but generally speaking, for your computer to get a new IP, it would have to be disconcerted for a considerable amount of time (3+ days).

To access your computer from a remote location, you will need a couple of things: 1) to know the IP address of the computer being accessed; and 2) to leave that computer ON. Your computer probably has a dynamic IP address, so check its IP to be sure you have the right one. The IP you need is the INTERNET one -- that is, you need the IP address given by your ISP, and not the one given by your router or proxy server. An INTERNET IP address will be out of the ranges shown above. If your computer is directly connected to the Internet, check the IP as explained before. If your computer is connected through a router or proxy server, you have to check the router or proxy server for its IP.


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Virtual Private Network (VPN)

If you have a small network in your house, you know how easy it is to access other computers from your own, or how convenient it is to access files from a shared directory, avoiding copying files back and forth. A VPN allows you the same convenient and easy access, but through the Internet. That is, you in a pristine beach, accessing files from your office through the Internet. Windows (2000 & XP) allows one VPN connection to your computer. This is more than enough for me. If you need more that that, you need to install a VPN server.

HOW TO DO IT:

SERVER SIDE (the computer that will receive your connection), This computer should be left on to receive connections:

      1. Go to Network Connections > Make new connection, This will open the Network Connection Wizard. Press Next to continue.
      2. Select Accept Incoming Connection and press Next.
      3. Select the port that is connected to the Internet and press Next.
      4. Select Allow virtual private connections and press Next.
      5. Select the users allowed to use this connection. For security reasons, restrict as much as possible. Click Next.
      6. Select protocols (TCP/IP, NetBEUI, Client for Microsoft Windows, File and Printer Sharing --- you may not need all of them). Click Next.
      7. Type a name for this connection and press Finish.

CLIENT SIDE (the computer you will use to connect to you intranet/shared file):

      1. Go to Network Connections > Make new connection, This will open the Network Connection Wizard. Press Next to continue.
      2. Select Connect to a private network through the Internet and press Next.
      3. Select Do not dial the initial connection (I am assuming you are using a broadband connection. If this is not the case, select the connection you will use) and press Next.
      4. Type the IP address of the server. See topic above to know how to find your IP address. Press Next.
      5. Select who can use this specific connection in the computer you are working. Click Next.
      6. Type a connection name and click Finish.

HOW TO CONNECT:

      1. Be sure your server is on.
      2. With the client computer connected to the Internet (in a remote location, like Tahiti, Bahamas, etc.), go to Network Connections and double-click the icon of your VPN.
      3. Type the username and password of a user allowed to connect trough the VPN (Step 5 of Client Side instructions) and... you are connected!

TIP: Most routers allow a VPN connection as a default; nevertheless, if you need to configure it to allow a VPN connection, you should open port 1723. For more info about VPN connections, please click here.

Alternatively: Hamachi VPN

There is a new very secure VPN software. There is no need to configure ports or port forwarding. The software is not limited to 1 conection and it is easy to configure. Since I have found this little tools, I do not worry with any of the above items anymore. No worries about finding IP addresses, explaining friend how to do ite, etc. When used combined with a VNC software, you get a pretty efficient way to remote control your computer.

Best of all, it is a freeware: Hamachi.


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Microsoft NetMeeting

Microsoft Netmeeting is a handy application to get access to your computer remotely or to let other people to assist you remotely. Of course, one has to be very careful when allowing a third-party access one's computer. Basically, you can see and control one computer from another (remote) one.

To run NetMeeting under Windows 2000:
Start > Accessories > Communications > NetMeeting

To run NetMeeting under Windows XP:
Start > Run > type conf inside the "Open:" box.

NetMeeting can connect to another computer using the IP address of the computer you want to connect to, or through an ILS server. ILS servers are directories that will serve as a reference for the connection. It seems that most ILS servers in the internet are "porno" related. One can always use the option not to be listed/visible in the directory, but I try to avoid those directories. The ILS server I have been using is ils.seconix.com.

TIP: You can make up an e-mail address to place in the server. It does not have to be your real one. If the other party knows it, the other party will be able to connect. Your "e-mail address" will be visible while you have NetMeeting running AND if you opted to list it.

NetMeeting has many other useful functions: file transfer, etc. For more info, visit Microsoft NetMeeting's homepage.

If you have a firewall, the port configuration for NetMeeting can be quite challenging.

Other site with lots of info about NetMeeting is MeetingByWire.

If you have a router/firewall, port forwarding may be a challenge.


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VNC software (KVM)

Another way to connect to a computer remotely is using a VNC (Virtual Network Control) software. Those programs are not only handy for the remote access, but they can work as a virtual KVM switch. That is, it allows you to control another computer using your Keyboard, Video monitor, and Mouse. Firewall port forwarding is easier with these programs than it is with NetMeeting.

TightVNC

UltraVNC - It has more functions and it is a little bit more powerfull than TightVNC. My favorite.

VNC Central - VNC Central allows you to "manage" UltraVNC connections. If you are a VNC power user, this may help you.

Very easy to use in an intranet, a little bit more difficult to configure if you have a firewall. When used in conjuction with Hamachi, it can replace other Remote Access tools as NetMeeting, as you will be using it in an intranet.


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Remote access through a server

"Log me in." You have to install a software in the target computer, and you can access it from any browser. The great advantage of this method is that you do not leave any additional open door in your firewall. There is no port configuration and the access is very stable.

Remote Control through Logmein is free. Additional (and handy) features (e.g.: printing, sharing the clipboard, transfering files, etc.) is paid.

I have been using the free account and have found that it is enough for me. I am very impressed and satisfied with it. Actually, I have fount it more reliable and quick than VNC solutions.


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Virtual KM Switch (or how to integrate two monitors from two different computers)

From Synergy's page:

synergy: [noun] a mutually advantageous conjunction of distinct elements

Synergy lets you easily share a single mouse and keyboard between multiple computers with different operating systems, each with its own display, without special hardware. It's intended for users with multiple computers on their desk since each system uses its own monitor(s).

Redirecting the mouse and keyboard is as simple as moving the mouse off the edge of your screen. Synergy also merges the clipboards of all the systems into one, allowing cut-and-paste between systems. Furthermore, it synchronizes screen savers so they all start and stop together and, if screen locking is enabled, only one screen requires a password to unlock them all.

Visit Synergy's page at http://synergy2.sourceforge.net/.

Alternatively

There is Maxivista -- but it is not freeware.


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Port Forwarding

Port forwarding is always a challenge. This website is a good starting point to set up your router: www.portforward.com


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