VNC and DynDNS for Remote Desktop Support

Connecting Remotely with VNC

One of my favorite software tools to use at Tech DC is VNC. If I have a client in Maryland, D.C. or elsewhere in the world when I am in Virginia, I can use VNC to take control of their computer in order to remotely diagnose problems or provide user training.

VNC stands for Virtual Network Computing. It was originally developed by AT&T Labs in Cambridge, England. It is open source and free. There are many “flavors” of VNC that use the VNC protocol. My favorite for Windows is UltraVNC because it has the added feature of allowing file transfers between the two machines. VNC exists for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

VNC has two parts. There is the VNC Server which serves up the image. And there is the VNC Viewer which views and controls the server computer.

One limitation is that VNC requires a static IP. This is where helps. Most home internet connections have a dynamic IP address, meaning that the IP address changes occasionally. creates an address such as “” that is always mapped to your latest IP address, so it is as if you have a static home IP address.

UltraVNC’s Single Click

It takes extra time to setup, but Single Click is a great tool that can be built at UltraVNC. It is a small executable file that someone can click on in order for you to take over their computer. This makes it simple for the person you are connecting to. It also has the added benefit of not needing to configure their router to forward port 5900 to their computer. Single Click is only available for Windows computers.

All Free

VNC is free and DynDNS has a free service that is all you need. You can purchase other remote connection tools that are sometimes easier to set up such as GoToMyPC.  But if you can configure them, VNC and DynDNS should provide everything you need to connect to remote computers.

Tiny Laptops

Small (2-3 lbs) and cheap ($300-400) laptops, also known as netbooks, have been the largest growing computer segment over the last year due to Asus’ Eee PC. These haven’t needed to be powerful computers because they can run Linux, with the Eee PC running the Xandros distribution of Linux.

Recently Asus has been joined by many other manufacturers in this market. Asus has lost some of limelight by making their newer machines slightly larger and more expensive.

The current model that most people are excited about is the MSI Wind. This and the many of the current crop of Eee PC’s run the Intel Atom chipset which is inexpensive and uses less power than similar class chips. Via will also be coming out with the Nano chipset which will outperform Intel.

Dell will likely also become a big player in next couple of months with their expected line of laptops. Lenovo (formerly IBM) is also rumored to have a cheap small laptop in that time.

With more power in this current group of laptops, they can run Windows XP or be hacked to run OS X as people have already done with the MSI Wind. Although Apple wouldn’t be happy about it, a cheap OS X laptop might be easier to achieve in the next few months as these devices become more ubiquitous. Of course, Apple is always rumored to be coming out with their own small laptop or tablet too.

Another reason to be excited about these laptops is the forthcoming Ubuntu Notebook Remix, using the most popular Linux distribution of Ubuntu but tuned and designed for small laptops and able to take special advantage of the Atom chipset.

Microsoft has had difficutly in this market because Windows Vista is not meant for low power laptops with small screens. So despite wanting to kill off XP, Microsoft has had to make an exception for this segment of laptops and continue to sell XP for it.

For more on these tiny laptops see the sites:
Asus Eee News Mods and Hacks
Eee User

iPhone 3G corporate discounts?

We’ve been researching the possibility of corporate and AAA discounts with the new iPhone 3G. Because the iPhone 3G does not have a profit sharing arrangement between AT&T and Apple like the original iPhone did, it should be treated as other phones offered by AT&T. And there are online reports backing up claims that AT&T is offering discounts. One source showed me his ordered Family plan that he got a 23% discount through his corporation. This applies only to the service, not the phone itself. But when calling AT&T directly, we were told that no discounts are possible.

So what’s the real deal? We’ll continue to investigate.

UPDATE: It is possible to get corporate discounts from AT&T for iPhone plans. The discount applies to the main line, and you still pay $9.99 for each additional line.