Monday, January 27, 2014

Remote Desktop Access and Computer Control Made User-Friendly

For the past couple of years, my tech unit has been using remote desktop software called TeamViewer.  They describe their software this way:  "Remote control any computer or Mac over the internet within seconds or use TeamViewer for online meetings"

You can check it at There is a free version you can download for private use, and I'd suggest installing it on your computer at home and on your office computer.  You can connect one to the other and learn a lot about how it works.

Why use this when Windows has its own remote desktop client that can be run with a mere master's degree in computing, plus a few weeks of study in the official Microsloth Certified Monk Retreat, devoting your time to esoteric remote desktop studies?  Well, the ridiculous question reveals the answer: mere human beings can actually USE TeamViewer without spending a week learning how to use it! 

The user interface is very friendly, and it allows you to assign a name to every computer which has it installed and see that list of computers.  Assuming control of any computer (whether or not someone is already logged into it) is as simple as a double-click.

When you install it, you get this intro screen which orients you to some of the functions:

But the real fun starts when you get into commercial use and add more computers to the account.  Here's a look at the TeamViewer program showing part of our computer list:

This bears some explanation.

In the left side panel, you see an area labeled "Allow Remote Control."  This is information you can give to anyone who is running TeamViewer that will let them login to you computer and run it.  This is very powerful, as it gives you a way to do tech support in just seconds when there is a request.  The customer can download and install TeamViewer, give you their ID and password numbers over the phone, and you can connect to their computer.

Finally, click on the top of the pop-up screen where it says "Meeting" and you can initiate a web-based videoconference.

In reviewing the pop-up screen, you can see that you can schedule a meeting and see a list of meetings.  You can set up each meeting to use online (web) audio or to use a standard phone bridge.

I started an instant meeting and turned my video camera on, which opened this control bar to run the conference. The desktop can be shared, and there is even a whiteboard function. 

To have full access to a list of computers you work with, plus having a videoconference function built in, is powerful!

Although this is free for personal use, if you want to run your classroom computers with this, it's going to cost you. Our current contract is $2500 per year for installation on an unlimited number of computers, and we can have up to three live remote sessions taking place at any time. Don't forget that those remote sessions can be running on any computer anywhere on the Internet!  A student across the US from you can call with a problem and you can help them. Given the power of the tool, it has been well worthwhile for us.

Why don't you download it on a couple of computers, run it and try it out?  I think you'll like it.

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