I need a specific type of VNC client
September 10, 2008 10:13 AM   Subscribe

I need to find a (preferably) open-source/free VNC client that meets a specific requirement of mine.

I run an IT business and I'm rapidly taking on remote clients. I used PCAnywhere for some of them (who are willing to pay for a license) but for those who aren't willing to pay, I'd love to have a VNC solution that's cheap and easy.

I've used (and still use, occasionally) RealVNC Free, but that doesn't meet my main requirement, which is:

I want the user to be able to "request" help from me with the VNC client, and everything will be automatically taken care of connection-wise, so that I don't have to reconfigure port forwarding on routers and install dynamic DNS software type stuff on their end.

So, a chain of events might be as follows: User has a problem. User calls me, describes problem, I tell them I'll take care of it remotely. I tell them to launch the VNC program (either after downloading it or it's already been installed), then either through them typing in a code or pressing a few buttons, it connects to the viewer/client on my end (I don't mind configuring router stuff on my end; I just don't want to repeatedly do it for customers) and then I'm able to connect and control their computer.

Something free/open-source would be great, otherwise, I suppose I'll have to just invest in something proprietary. Also, if it's something they can just download whenever they need to and run the exe, I'm fine with that, too.

Does anyone know of anything like this, or is there something similar that I could modify easily? I can program, just not very much, but I'd be willing to learn some in order to get this.

Thanks in advance!
posted by omnipotentq to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You could just use LogMeIn. It is free and doesn't require any configuration of routers. You simply install a client on the computer and then you login to a website and it gives you a list of the connected computers. Connect to that computer and it pops up their desktop.
posted by kasperj74 at 10:30 AM on September 10, 2008

Best answer: I believe UltraVNC does what you are looking for, specifically the SingleClick addon.
posted by jenkinsEar at 10:32 AM on September 10, 2008

What about Teamviewer? I use it for all my family help-desk duties.
posted by MagicEightBall at 11:24 AM on September 10, 2008

Lifehacker talked about a setup similar to this a while back. I don't have time to look at all the entries right now, but here are all the VNC articles. I'll try to look at them this evening.
posted by cdmwebs at 11:50 AM on September 10, 2008

CrossLoop, FTW. Both a tech-support contact of mine and Lifehacker recommend this.
posted by noahv at 11:51 AM on September 10, 2008

You can do this with UltraVNC. They have a tutorial on their site.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 12:01 PM on September 10, 2008

Singleclick options from ultravnc will do this. The idea is that you open a hole in your firewall and they just initiate the connection. Essentially, they run a vnc server from a small .exe which contacts your computer. Nothing to install.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:23 PM on September 10, 2008

This is not a VNC-specific solution, but you might want to check out gotoassist. It works sort of like logmein. You log into the site using an application on your end. The system then generates a Support Key. The client goes to the gotoassist website with their browser, types in the key, and the connection is made. Configuring ports is not necessary, though a browser add-in is installed on the client's browser the first time it is run.

The nice thing about it is it's still in beta, and you can try it for free.
posted by SteveInMaine at 1:30 PM on September 10, 2008

Response by poster: UltraVNC SC looks perfect! That's exactly what I needed, down to the smallest detail. Thanks!
posted by omnipotentq at 2:04 PM on September 10, 2008

Another commercial option is FogCreek's Copilot. I haven't had a chance to compare it with anything else in this thread. However, Copilot's main advantages are
  • Usability: The entire process, from downloading the client to making the connection is really, really easy and very well thought out. Neither you nor they have to start with anything installed.
  • Works with any network: (encrypted) traffic is bounced off of the service's servers, meaning both you and the person you're helping are on the client side of the client/server connection. I've had it work with no configuration where I was behind a firewall that blocked incoming connections, and the person I was helping was behind two layers of NAT (don't ask).
They have free weekends if you want to give them a try.
posted by Asymptote at 3:16 PM on September 10, 2008

WCityMike, keep in mind that the VNC protocol itself is unencrypted. You may want to tunnel over SSH. In that case, you would forward whatever port the SSH is going over (22 by default) instead of the VNC protocol's port.
posted by Asymptote at 4:47 PM on September 14, 2008

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