Over the last few weeks I’ve been looking into VNC systems in the ongoing effort to help me support my clients.
Just as a review, VNC stands for “Virtual Network Computing” as is just a fancy way of allowing remote control over a system. Literally a VNC client has control over the VNC hosts mouse and keyboard, and the video is sent from the host to the client. This allows me at my office to remote service a client anyway in the world. In an extreme example, I used the system when I was in Ghana West Africa to fix systems back here in Crossville. But on more day to day bases, I use it to service clients I have in Nashville, Knoxville, and Atlanta, without the need to spend 4 hours in a car to do a 2 hour on site job.
Now there are commercial paid VNC applications and there are free and/or open-source ones. For my part, I looked at 3 freely available VNC systems, RealVNC, UltraVNC, TightVNC.
Both TightVNC and UltraVNC have a file transfer system, which allows easy movement of files between the host and client computers. But I found both systems file transfer systems to be a bit klugy. You browsed a directory system that did not look or feel like a standard windows interface. The systems were also mutually excusive to send files from client to host, both had to be running the same VNC system, TightVNC Client could not send to UltraVNC host, or vice versa.
UltraVNC has a “chat” system with allows two people setting at either side of the VNC link to “chat” communicate. I however was not impressed by this feature because in my line of work I normally have the person on other end of the VNC link on the telephone.
Of the three I found RealVNC to be the fastest. Response times were much faster using RealVNC than either UltaVNC or TightVNC. I also found that the screens just looked better with RealVNC than they did with the other two.
All systems encrypt the password for authentication. But only UltraVNC has an option (an additional plug-in) that encrypts all traffic.
Of course all three system could interoperate with each other for the basic VNC functions, with are Video, Mouse, Keyboard. I found that all three could use the Linux VNC host. However, I could only get TightVNC to work with the native Apple Macintosh OS 10.5 (leopard) Desktop Sharing / Remote Desktop system which uses VNC. For my Macs I like to use Redstone Software’s Vine Server (a.k.a. osxvnc) for the VNC host.
All three systems do a “listing” mode for their client, and a “connect to client” mode for their host. This means that a person setting at the host computer can initiate a connection to a client. This is good for security, because it allows the host machine to ONLY allow connections when the user of that host machine specifically starts one. Also this is good for firewall purposes, most often in my line of work a host machine is behind a firewall and NAT. With this “reverse” connection I do not need to adjust the clients firewall when they need help. I simple have a rule in my firewall here at the office to allow incoming reverse connections.
Of the three systems, the interface for RealVNC seemed the most polished. TightVNC very much looks like a Windows 200 era application, and UltraVNC looks better than TightVNC, but not as good as RealVNC.
Side note on Macs: There are only two VNC clients I have found, Chicken of the VNC and Jollysfastvnc. Of the two I’m prone to Jollysfastvnc because it can do screen rendering to fit larger resolution hosts on a smaller resolution client.
In conclusion, I have opted to use 2 VNC systems. I will keep using RealVNC for the speed, but I will keep TightVNC on hand both for the Macintosh Leopard compatibility, and the file transfer ability, which might have some use, despite it’s difficult user interface.
Both Systems can be downloaded via the Software section of the website.