I've written before about VNC for SearchWinSystems. This open source and non-platform-centric remote control mechanism allows you to control any computer from a distance that can run VNC -- regardless of which operating system it's using -- from any computer that can also run VNC. This would make it possible for a Windows machine to access an OS X system or vice versa.

The software is free under the GNU GPL license, which makes it a useful alternative to the Remote Desktop feature in Windows or (to a limited extent) Citrix in situations where it isn't possible to use those technologies.

Because VNC is open source, a number of allied and affiliated projects have sprung up around it, modifying it or creating custom versions of it for specific needs. The most powerful variant of VNC is TightVNC (1.3), which includes many third-party enhancements and changes to VNC while still keeping it stable, open source, protocol-compatible and compliant with the original licensing.

Features in TightVNC include:

  • File transfers between clients in the Windows edition. If both client and server are running VNC on Windows, files can be transferred between them without using a third-party application such as FTP.
  • Better cursor handling and compression. The algorithm used to send information between client and server has been heavily optimized for low-bandwidth environments. This lets you work in real time or near real time on something as slow as a 56 K dialup. Many platform-specific display optimizations have also been included to further speed things up.
  • Configurability. All of VNC's options, including those made accessible by third-party additions, are exposed through the program's interface and can be edited directly.
  • JPEG compression. If you're using VNC to access a desktop that has a lot of bitmap-rendered images, you can use JPEG compression to speed up the transfer of those bitmaps with little loss of quality.
  • Remote upgrades. A remote copy of TightVNC can be upgraded through VNC itself, although a reboot is required since the executables can't be replaced while they're running.

Fast guide: Remote control software

  Tip 1: VNC variant provides remote control boost
  Tip 2: A Remote Desktop alternative sheds its drawbacks
  Tip 3: Remote control freeware boosts cross-platform system administration
  Tip 4: Securing Remote Desktop

Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!

More information from SearchWinSystems.com

This tip originally appeared on SearchWinSystems.com.

This was first published in April 2006

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