Remote Desktop – Sights AND Sounds

February 10, 2005


Remote desktop support is nothing new. I’ve used remote desktop tools for PC support for a number of years. But the tools are becoming more readily available. If you are using Mac OS/X or Linux (or event Windows) then you should actively consider VNC. It is freely available for most platforms.

But my main system is a Windows XP Professional installation. So I’ve been running the Microsoft RDP system rather than VNC. Don’t get me wrong. I love VNC and its capabilities. But I’ve already paid for the Windows XP license. And since the client is freely available on all Windows XP systems, this became the easiest means to provide remote desktop capability to both myself and Cindy.

Setup is easy.

  1. Turn the service on. From the sytems Properties function, you will find a Remote tab. On that tab, you can select the checkbox that enables the service.
  2. Configure the Windows firewall on your system. If you have a different firewall, make sure you configure it to allow TCP port 3389. BTW, if you don’t have a firewall on your system, shame on you! Please see the teacher for a remedial lesson on basic PC security.
  3. Configure your broadband router to forward the relevant ports. This is a relatively simple task – depending upon your broadband router. I have a Linksys WRT54G (running HyperWRT 2.0). I simply added TCP port 3389 to my port forwarding list. Of course, I forward it to a fixed IP address. But the details to set that up are discussed elsewhere.

So why did I even spend the time to write this stuff down? After all, I have had this stuff going for over six months. Well, I was logged on at home and heard the alarm for incoming email. So I launched Thunderbird and checked my email at home. Then I realized something. I _heard_ the mail notice. I was very curious whether all sounds get passed through the RDP connection – by default. So I launched iTunes at home. I picked a song. I then hit “Play.” To my minor surprise, I started to hear the music wafting through the speakers on my laptop. I have no idea how many network links exist between “here” and “there.” But I am sure that there are quite a few.

Bottom Line: Networking is great. And it is becoming thoroughly transparent (i.e., commoditized). With no special gear, I am managing my home PC and getting sounds as well as sights. I have no intention of using this feature. After all, it’s not my bandwidth to burn. And I also have an iPod Shuffle. So I carry some of my music with me. But this is still quite cool!



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