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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Control Your Computer Remotely Using HTML5 With ThinVNC

connect remotely to my computerWe’ve covered numerous remote desktop applications before, and they each do a great job of sharing your desktop at work, home or on the go. For Windows, built in remote desktop works great but you need a client to connect, and if you use a VNC (RealVNC, UltraVNC, etc) you also need a client – either standalone or a java-based one built into a webpage. Every remote desktop application I’ve seen requires some sort of browser plugin – until now.

ThinVNC takes remote desktop to a whole other level. The “VNC” part of its name is a huge misnomer – it does not use the VNC protocol at all. What they have done is written their own remote desktop software from scratch that implements HTML5 as a front end – meaning that any web browser that supports HTML version 5, such as Chrome, IE, and Firefox; can display and interact with the remote computer.

It is open source and free for non-commercial use, and is available currently for Windows XP, Vista, 7 and Server 2003 / 2008. ThinVNC also has some unique features that I will go over below.
Downloading and installing ThinVNC is simple – just download the file and install. The service will launch itself into your toolbar and the basics are complete.
After setting it up, you will want to go into the settings as soon as possible and update at least one thing – the username and password to log in. Shut down the service in the File menu in order to change your settings. By default the login is set to ‘admin’ and ‘admin’ and this would be easy to guess by any attacker. Use something a little more secure that only you know about.

connect remotely to my computer 

If you look at the “HTTP” configuration tab, you can also change the ports the service lists on as well as the presentation server settings. I will go over the presentation features below.
The final result is your local computer available in any modern web browser, sans plugin. It is presented to the browser as shown below.

how to access computer remotely

Finally, in order to access your PC on anything other than the local network, you will need to “Port Forward” from your router to your local PC. Make sure to log in and forward to port 8080 on your local machine (the default port ThinVNC uses) or you won’t be able to access it from the outside. Do this only once you changed the default password.

The presentation server allows external users to “view” your screen only. When they connect they will see your screen in their web browser, and again as above no plugin is needed. This is pretty awesome when you consider that before with a WebEx or other desktop presentation engine the end user needed to install a special plugin and this is a roadblock for many, especially the technically challenged. The simplicity of this setup makes it easy for external viewers to see your screen (if they have the password).

connect remotely to my computer

To add a remote user, right click on the service and click “Manage Presentation“. This allows you to enter the remote viewer’s email address which creates a temporary username and password for them, and can generate the email with the “Invite” code.

I think ThinVNC is an excellent program if you need simple desktop access remotely without a plugin. The major feature it is lacking that something like the free LogMeIn or a true “VNC” solution has is file transfer. Also I did notice that the screen refresh rate isn’t as fast a LogMeIn, but it isn’t slow either. The bottom line is that if you need quick emergency access to your machine without installing a special client, ThinVNC is a great solution for you.

Let us know in the comments what you think about it and whether you think there is an easier alternative out there we should know about.


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