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VNC software suggestions

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I'm looking into VNC software and have a bunch of ????'s. I've never used VNC before, but I'm thinking about using it for helping distant family members with their Macs and possibly for work purposes (PC's). Is this a tricky thing to set up? (I'm an advanced user, but networking stuff can sometimes get more geeky than I'm comfortable with).

 

Will I have to set up my relatives mac's first and then install the client on my end? What do people recommend? Finally, would it allow me to log into a PC and run I.E.? I need certain "features" of IE for work and my office will soon be getting rid of Citrix which I currently use to remotely log in.

 

Thanks in advance.

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The vnc server is actually built into OS X. It's what the screen sharing is based on in Leopard, but it's exists in Tiger too (called remote desktop in tiger). If you're wanting to connect to a PC, you'll need to install a VNC server on the PC I used to use RealVNC (I think it was called that) - haven't used VNC on windows since I got an Intel Mac.

 

To connect, you have the choice of using the built in screen sharing (if you're on leopard) by choosing connect to server and typing in vnc://the-ip-address-you-want-to-connect-to-here

 

If you're on Tiger (or on Leopard and don't like the built in screen sharing like me) there's also chicken of the VNC that can be used as a VNC client.

 

The only difficult thing to set up usually is the port forwarding and the NAT.

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The vnc server is actually built into OS X. It's what the screen sharing is based on in Leopard, but it's exists in Tiger too (called remote desktop in tiger).

 

I and my family members are all on Tiger. I have Leopard at work where I'd need to connect to a PC. My understanding was that remote desktop was something you had to purchase and was mainly for IT personnel to perform updates and that sort of thing (basically more than what I'd need it for). If we enable remote desktop on my family's macs, can I use something like Chicken of the VNC to connect to them? Or is that unnecessary since it sounds like you're saying it's already built into the OS?

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Only the remote desktop Client was something that you had to purchase (for way too much money IMO), but the server is enabled by the sharing pane. However, I wouldnt recommend going that way as the built in server on Tiger is really slow, slow slow slow slow......slow. Even on using it on a local network its painful, nevermind using it over the internet (and if one of them have dialup, forget it)...did I mention its slow?

 

For a server for Tiger I would recommend Vine (formally OSXVNC). Its pretty easy to setup (pretty much just has to be running with a password assigned.) and its alot faster.

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So if I understand this correctly, a VNC setup requires a server (the machine being remotely accessed) and a client (software to see/control the server). Activating OS X's remote desktop will act as the server, and then using something like Chicken of the VNC will allow someone to view the remote machine. I checked out vine and I'm kinda confused why they would include a server app if this is already built into OS X? Is it just faster? Wouldn't remote desktop in the system prefs need to be activated anyway to get through the firewall?

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When Vine was first made, there wasnt a built in server, and theyve just continued development.

And its not just a little bit faster, the built in server is horrendously slow in Tiger (its pretty good in leopard though). The built in server over broadband feels like Vine over dialup, and the built in server over dialup feels like using a pentium 133mhz with Vista, whereas its not too bad with Vine.

 

As for the firewall, Apple Remote Desktop doesnt need to be activated for Vine to go through, but you would need to check the Apple Remote Desktop in the firewall tab, or add a new entry for VNC (should be a premade one in the Port Name drop down menu after you hit New in the firewall tab, or make one with TCP and UDP Port 5900.)

 

Also about Vine and why they continue their own server is because its more customizable then the built in server (not too important for your uses probably, but good for geeks) and it has alot more features when used with their pay for VNC client.

Edited by ithonicfury

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The only difficult thing to set up usually is the port forwarding and the NAT.

 

You're absolutely right about the port forwarding. This is where I've gotten stuck. I opened a vnc port in the firewall and set up a static IP on my mom's mac, but I just can't figure out how to do the port forwarding.

 

Vine instructions for setting up port forwarding says, "For most routers, you can find the configurations by copying your external IP address from the Vine Server window and pasting it into a web browser (as a URL)." When I do this, I'm asked to supply a user name and password. I've tried the computer's login name and password and the login/password according to these instructions: http://portforward.com/english/routers/por...501b/OSXvnc.htm

Neither work.

 

I'm sure that if I could just get to the router setup page I'd be able to make this work, but so far no dice. Part of me says that there has to be an easier way to do this. Like at a system prefs level that doesn't involve urls to virtual servers. Any thoughts or suggestions on what to do? Thanks.

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The only way to really go about it without port forwarding is to use a VPN like Hamachi otherwise you will need to need get through the port forwarding.

 

As to getting the password, make sure that on portforward.com that you're looking at the directions for the right kind of router, or try googling for the default password of the router if the one on portforward.com doesnt work (and try some of the common default passwords like; default, password, *blank*, admin, etc.)

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I've been wanting to set up remote access to my three Macs (and I mean from anywhere beyond my wireless range) for ages. This topic and the fact I'll be away from home (and the Elgato EyeTV services which each Mac runs for me) for a quite while soon inspired me to try again and to my surprise and utter joy I found a way of doing it. (Well, to one so far at least.) Like the topic-starter I've got a touch of advanced geek about me but try as I might - until this flash of light - I just couldn't work out what to do. Yes, there are lots of resources out there, but none really got me quite where I needed to be - inevitable, you'd think given all the possible hardware configurations, but a shame when you consider that I've tried to keep things simple with as much Apple gear as can be. So, whilst I realise my setup may not be much like anyone else's, I'll tell you what I have and how I managed to achieve at least part of my goal.

 

I have an ADSL Nation X-Modem M3 plugged into the Ethernet port of an AirPort Express unit and via those my Macs can see each other and, via my Broadband service which my modem is also connected to, the big wide world. To enable access to the Macs from that big wide world I needed to establish the IP address which my ISP assigned to my Broadband service - easy, really, as I got a static one from them for free. Of course not everyone has such an option - my mother, for example, who lives several hundred kilometres away - she being someone I need to support via VNC. (She also, thankfully, only has an ADSL Nation X-Modem M3 plugged into the Ethernet port of a Mac and so there's one less bit of kit to worry about.) In her case I set up her modem (which has the facility built in) to send her IP address, each time it changed, to DynDNS via their free and excellent Dynamic DNS service - that providing me with a static one to use each time I wanted to connect to her Mac - about which more later. In the event you don't have such a modem - be it that model or one which links to DynDNS - then you can get an "Update Client" from them which will, er, update your account with the new IP address each time it changes.

 

The next step - in my case only (and not my mum’s) given that I have an AirPort Express to deal with - was to pass any VNC requests which come in to my IP address to the relevant Mac – a place they would be authorised before access to that was granted. I'd long thought, mistakenly, that this was actually two steps in one with me having to use the port forwarding service in my modem and the same in my AirPort Express. In fact I only needed to use the latter and via AirPort Admin Utility I used the "Port Mapping" option to create a suitable entry. In that the Public and Private Ports were set to 5900 - the first of several normally used for VNC - with the Private IP Address being set to that of one of the Macs I wanted to reach so. That Mac - like all on my network - has a manually-assigned IP address so that the Port Mapping setting is always valid. Setting such up is simple enough but I won't go on about it here - anyone who needs to know but is unable to find out elsewhere (and you should try) being welcome to ask here at a push.

 

VNC requests are all well and good so long as you both allow them into your (or someone else's) Mac and they are ones you are happy with - i.e. they are not a hacker's. Now there are at least two choices available to you here if you are on Tiger or later – otherwise (i.e. you're running Panther) you’ve just the one – at least as far as I know and I don't know everything. Users of Tiger and later can use the built-in VNC service which Apple Remote Desktop offers. To do so first of all go into System Preferences -> Sharing - > Services and put a tick by Apple Remote Desktop. On doing so a big window will be presented and in that you need to put a tick in the box before “VNC viewers…” and then a password in the box after it. (It’s this password which you will need later when you try to access the computer with a VNC client.) Now choose “OK” and authenticate the setting when you are asked to – as you will be – hence you’ll need to know an Admin user name and password for that Mac. The alternative to this service – which is slow on Tiger but much improved in Leopard I gather – is to use a third party server such as Vine Server. It’s this which has been mentioned above – one which will run on Panther too - and which I’ve tried and can recommend. (There are others but I know nothing of them and so can’t comment.) When such is used - and I’ll come on to the installation of it shortly - the OS X Firewall needs to be appropriately opened up. (That's been covered in a previous post but I'll go over it again here to keep it all together.) Quite simply one goes into System Preferences -> Sharing - > Firewall (which ought to be on) in which one chooses "New..." and, from the available list, "VNC" followed by "OK" before then closing System Preferences. Now you need to install (the free) Vine Server – a task which is relatively simple but which I won’t cover here as the documentation for it is your best bet – though there are other VNC servers out there if you look for them. Just make sure in that case that you set up a suitable password for both the Desktop and System Server services whether you use them or not – and I recommend you use the System Server only if you are supporting someone remotely. I say this since there is a big difference between the way each service works and the System Server is much more suited to remote support – for example if you use the Desktop Server service and log out you’ll not get back in again unless you utilise the System Server. You are also advised to take a look at the posts here – especially the ones I made today – as there is what appears to be a howling bug in the System Server. (According to an entry I saw on the producer's forum a new version will be out soon and as that was made a month ago it should be any day now - hopefully with that bug fixed.) Having said this I recommend you try the Apple Remote Desktop option first, if you can, and then step up to this if you need to.

 

All we need now is a VNC client – i.e. an application to run on the computer (Mac or otherwise) which will allow you to connect to the remote computer – and the connection parameters covered above. (I’ll stick with Macs here since that’s what most readers of this topic will have – though PC users can readily apply some of this to applications such as RealVNC and TightVNC.) Chicken Of The VNC is probably the best free one but if you want a bit more functionality you might go for the paid-for Vine Viewer – though you’ll really need to be running Vine Server to get the best out of that. Whatever you choose you’ll need to enter the Broadband IP address where the computer you wish to connect to lives and the password you set up – as simple as that – or at least that’s the theory. (You can, of course, use VNC to connect to a computer on your home network - in which case you simply need to enter its IP address and the password.) However you connect do remember that the speed of what you see depends not only on the VNC client but also the line speed from end to end – hence you’ll be lucky to see anything like what you might "enjoy" on a local network.

 

Last, and certainly not least, although I covered security in respect of the connection password that’s not the be all and end all of the matter – though I’m afraid that’s as much as I can offer – so anyone else out there who can chip in (not least on things like SSH in this context) please do so. I'd certainly like to know more about this even though I managed to do what I think was needed via Vine Viewer and Server - the latter of which, by the way, has a known bug in it to do with the SSH settings which is due to be addressed on the next release. See this for details.

 

Finally, if anyone can tell me how to access my other Macs - without using the "Back To My Mac" service in .Mac - then, like Prince Charles, I'm all ears.

Edited by Harry_The_Bustard

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I've worked out the multiple Mac access method...

 

a. in Vine (System) Server on each Mac set a specific port - i.e. 5900, 5901, 5902 - plus a VNC password, et cetera, on each Mac

b. in Port Mapping on the AirPort Express set up a port map so each goes to a specific Mac

c. in Vine Viewer create connections for each Mac - i.e. specifying the ports and relevant passwords

 

It may be possible to do this with other routers, client & server software but I'm a happy man. Well, I will be when I figure out how to get an SSH-protected VNC link - it being something I've managed inside my wireless network but once I step outside that I'm stumped. I'll post a topic - i.e. cry for help - on the Redstone Software (Vine et cetera) forum site later today.

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I cracked it - albeit by doing what I did before - though this time, presumably, without any mistakes. (The biggest one was probably not re-booting the Macs along the way to be sure Vine Server was behaving itself - it seeming a bit flakey to me.) Once one has set up the additional parameters for SSH in Vine Viewer and set the SSH demand in Vine (System) Server these are the steps to take..

 

a. Enable "Remote Login" in System Preferences -> Sharing -> Services

b. Create a port map in Port Mapping on the AirPort Express such that port 22 is linked to each Mac - i.e. one map per Mac

 

It sounds simple enough but believe me I was banging my head on the wall after trying the above with every variant of SSH parameters under The Sun - and a few under The Moon.

Edited by Harry_The_Bustard

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I finally got through this over the weekend!

My problem was solved when I:

1. Realized that what I thought was the hub was actually the router. Duh!dry.gif

2. Turned the router upside down to see the login and password info on the bottom.

 

Once these "user errors" were overcome, the rest was easy.tongue.gif

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I'm glad to hear it. So, we're both happy (Easter) bunnies - as we say here. If you have the option (and you should) you ought to change the password on the modem/router as I understand these can be reached by outsiders who might guess it and so make life a misery for you. During my long battle this weekend past I was able to access mine (the ADSL Nation box) from outside my network - i.e. from the Internet - via a web browser and administer it once I'd entered my user name and password. However, somewhere along the line that stopped working (don't ask me how or where as I don't know) and whilst I'm not too concerned about that I'll see if I can fathom that out one day. It won't be this week as I'm about to move home - so goodbye Edinburgh and hello Sheffield or Weobley - one of which places I'll be legally registered at whilst I spend a while in Moscow. It was interesting to note that I couldn't do the same on my mum's (similar) modem/router - in that case I reaching the Personal Web Sharing area on her Mac. That service is turned on, of course, as it is on the Mac of mine which I could control from outside my place - though in the case of mine I couldn't reach it in the same way. I presumably need to map another port on the AirPort Express and whilst I know I could look this up I hope someone could tell me where only I've got to crack on with preparing for my move and really must stop "geeking" as my fiancee calls it. Please note that I want to know where to look it up rather than how to do it (i.e. the port number) since as much as I'm sure most MacCast members wouldn't dream of getting me to open up a port for hacking there may be one rogue (or fool) in the community - though I would hope if that happened the honest (or wiser) members would make that known and the rogue (or fool) would be brought to book. Not that I'm paranoid you understand - despite what people say about me behind my back!

Edited by Harry_The_Bustard

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