Remote Access using VNC

March 13, 2009

Control Your ComputerIt’s 6 p.m. and that automated test script is still running on your test platform. It’s time to go home, but if the test stops for some reason when you’ve left for the night, you’ll have to start all over in the morning. What do you do? Well, if you’ve planned ahead, you can remotely access your test platform using any of a number of remote access/remote control software products.

One of the oldest and most popular remote control programs is VNC. VNC (Virtual Network Computing) provide two small applications, the server (which runs on the target machine) and the viewer (which runs on your local platform), which transmit the keyboard and mouse input from the viewer and return the display from the server as if you were sitting in front of the computer. There are several benefits to VNC:

  • It is is GPL’d software, many versions of which are available for free, including RealVNC, TightVNC, and UltraVNC.
  • It’s been ported to a wide variety of platforms, from Windows to the iPhone and everything in between.
  • Many operating systems use VNC protocols for their remote control (such as Mac OS X’s Remote Desktop and Ubuntu’s Remote Desktop), so you don’t even need to install the server on those platforms
  • VNC Viewer doesn’t require an installation, so you can run it from a USB stick. Plus many VNC servers provide a web interface as well so you should be able to get access from any web browser

However, VNC is not by definition a secure protocol (don’t forget to at least set a password), and is best used through a VPN or SSH connection for security purposes.  In addition, it will also typically require you to open a port in your firewall for access, usually port 5900.

But the benefit of being able to see/control your platform remotely can’t be measured.

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