Friday, December 31, 2010

Using Hamachi for Remote Desktop Sharing

I, or more correctly one of my clients has used GoToMyPC before to share their PCs for support purposes. I am not in the PC support business so it isn't something I care too much about, but sometimes I do get curious about alternatives.

One alternative is LogMeIn. Definitely lower cost. If you are a gamer or non-profit, some of their products and services are provided without fees. That's actually something a few people and organizations I know of would benefit from.

The first free thing is the LogMeIn Free service. Even the Pro version is not at all pricey. LogMeIn Free gives you most of the interesting things of GoToMyPC, without the cost. If you still need to share files, you can always use DropBox or one of the other fine sharing services.

The second free thing is what would appeal to hobbyists, gamers, and some non-profit IT types: the Hamachi Virtual Private Network.  You download a little pop-up utility that lets you connect to another computer also running Hamachi, or host a connection.  They call it "mesh" network, but it is basically peer-to-peer networking.

One neat thing about Hamachi is that you can also use it to tunnel Windows Remote Desktop Connections or VNC connections. Create a network on one of the Hamachi clients and connect to it on the other client. After that you can use any RDC client to connect to a Microsoft Windows PC or VNC to connect to a Linux, Mac, or PC client, using the IP address that Hamachi shows in its pop-up.


Don't forget to grant access to Hamachi in your software firewall and through your router's firewall. Also, Windows users will have to enable RDC sharing and set a password for it in their control panel. 


 As I write this, I'm connected through Hamachi to my Lenovo T61, and running RDC to access the Windows desktop. It is on my local LAN, so performance is not representative, but it is neat that it can be done, effectively making it unnecessary to use LogMeIn or GoToMyPC at all for non-commercial purposes.
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