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Dated: Aug. 13, 2004
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You get to work on a Monday morning, and realise that you've left the document you were presenting today back at home on your computer. How do you get it? Or maybe you have a friend that has problems with their computer, and you know how to fix it, but only if you can see it. There could be many more situations where you need to use a particular computer and you're not there. Enter the range of programs known as VNC.
VNC stands for Virtual Network Computing, and was originally created by a group of people from the AT&T Laboratories in Cambridge, UK. VNC makes it possible to use a computer when you are not in front of it, by giving you access to the mouse, keyboard, and monitor output. All you need is to be connected via a network - even the Internet. And, most versions of VNC are cross-platform compatible - meaning you can use a computer running Linux while you're on a computer running Windows, and of course vice versa.
So, just how does it work? The computer that is going to be accessed must be running a VNC server. Normally, a password is set on the server to prevent unauthorised access. Then, the computer that is going to access (the client) needs to run a VNC viewer. All you need to do is enter the host name (IP address, domain name, network name etc.) and password, and the client computer will show on its screen the contents of the server computer's screen. And, the client computer's mouse or keyboard will act as the server computer's mouse and keyboard.
Sound confusing? Try it for yourself! There are many varieties of the VNC program, and the best thing is that most of them are free.
The original and probably most widely used version is RealVNC, which can be downloaded free from www.realvnc.com. There are many other versions, all of which have the same idea but offer different features. A few of the most popular versions are:
- Ultr@VNC - Free - http://ultravnc.sourceforge.net/
- TightVNC - Free - http://www.tightvnc.com/
- TridiaVNC - Free - http://www.tridiavnc.com/
- TridiaVNC Pro - $49 - http://www.tridiavncpro.com/
Personally, I recommend RealVNC. It's what I use on all my computers, and it does its job well.
Using VNC In A Network
So, what if you have more than one computer that you wish to get access to through the Internet, and they are all on a local area network, with Internet access only through one machine? What can you do? RealVNC offers a great solution.
On each computer, install the RealVNC server (you can download it from www.realvnc.com). Right click on the VNC icon in the system tray/notification area (next to the clock), and select Properties. Uncheck the "Auto" checkbox next to the "Display Number" section, and enter a number from 0-99 to use as your display number. Make sure you enter a different number for each machine, and use any number higher than 99, otherwise you won't be able to connect.
What this does is changes the port that VNC runs on. By default, VNC runs on port 5900, which corresponds with display number 0. Display number 1 corresponds with port 5901, and so on, right up to 99 corresponding with 5999.
Now, open the VNC viewer on one of the computers on your network (it'll be in the Start Menu under RealVNC once you've installed it), and connect to another computer, using either its IP address or name. But, you need to tell the VNC viewer that you want to connect on a different port (display number), so you do this by entering a colon, followed by the display number. For example, if my computer is called "server" and it's running on display number 7, I'd connect to "server:7". What this is really doing is connecting on port 5907. Then, enter the password and you're connected!
So, each computer is now running its VNC server on a separate port. All you need to do now is forward ports from your router or directly connected computer, and then you'll be able to access each of those computers from the outside world! Just run the viewer, enter your IP address or domain name, followed by the correct display number.
And another little feature - if you can't install the VNC viewer on the computer you are at, just open up a web browser and navigate to http://your-ip:5800/ (notice we're now using the 5800 range, not the 5900 range). This will open up a java viewer for the computer running on display number 0. If you want display number 34, just go to http://your-ip:5834/. It couldn't be any easier!
This article has only outlined some of the features of VNC. There's many more - so get out there and explore them! And as always. We're here to help!
Now that you've gotten free know-how on this topic, try to grow your skills even faster with online video training. Then finally, put these skills to the test and make a name for yourself by offering these skills to others by becoming a freelancer. There are literally 2000+ new projects that are posted every single freakin' day, no lie!