UltraVNC remote control freeware boosts cross-platform administration

Freeware called UltraVNC lets anyone access a remote PC, see its desktop and work with it as if it were a local computer. UltraVNC is useful for cross-platform system administration, since it runs on multiple platforms (Windows, Mac OS X and Linux are all natively supported) as well as any platform that can run Java.

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Back in January, I wrote about TightVNC, an implementation of the open source, cross-platform virtual network computing (VNC) remote control software, which offers administrators features that other VNC packages do not. Several readers responded by informing me about another implementation of VNC: UltraVNC.

The basics of this freeware are the same as other editions of VNC: When run on a remote computer with network access, anyone else running a copy of VNC can access that computer, see its desktop and work with it as if it were a local computer. UltraVNC is useful for cross-platform system administration, since it runs on multiple platforms (Windows, Mac OS X and Linux are all natively supported) as well as any platform that can run Java. Note: The Java version does not have some of the functionality of the native binaries, but is still quite useful.

Some of the features that UltraVNC provides that other editions of VNC do not are:

  • Mirror driver. On supported platforms (Windows, mainly), the user can install a driver that hooks into the video subsystem to provide much faster rendering of on-screen elements. This also reduces CPU load, since the video card's framebuffer is being accessed directly, instead of being re-rendered.
  • Microsoft Windows native authentication. A user can log on to the VNC server by supplying domain credentials set up in VNC itself intead of a password. It requires some configuration to make it work, but it makes it a good deal easier for multiple users to access the same desktop if necessary.
  • Optional data encryption. Users worried about data security can use an externally developed plug-in that uses MSRC4 encryption. Other plug-ins, such as OpenSSL, are being developed as well.
  • Chat and file transfer. VNC users can text-chat with each other in real time and exchange files.
  • Remote control via a Java applet. If you want to access VNC on a remote computer but do not need the host application, you can connect to the VNC server with a Web browser and use a remotely loaded Java applet to run most of VNC's functions. The Java applet supports (among other things) file transfers and Microsoft authentication, so you get most of VNC's functionality without having to install anything.
  • Repeater. This optional add-on lets you use VNC through a NAT to NAT connector. One computer running VNC can provide VNC access to multiple machines behind a firewall.
  • SingleClick packager. Deploying VNC gives you a customized, self-contained program that comes packaged in a single file, and you can run it without having to install anything. It's a great way to try it out or to provide someone with emergency remote-control support.

Fast guide: Remote control software

  Introduction
  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!


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This was first published in March 2006

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