VNC for Dummies
August 10, 2005 7:00 PM   Subscribe

I need to demo computer programs for clients (many of whom are not computer-savvy), but they're behind a firewall and I'm behind a firewall. They're also on a variety of platforms, and I'm on Linux. I need suggestions on how to set up a remote demonstration (where we can both control the mouse) so that we can both access it.

I could set up a hole in my firewall and serve VNC off of my box or an intermediate box, but there's the issue of walking them through the set up of the VNC client. I could use the Armadillo Project, but I'm on linux (and dont' want to reboot to windoze every time I need to do a demo...), and my clients are on all three big OSes, including Mac, Linux, and Windows.

What would be really cool is if I could package up a really small VNC client for each of the OSes that my clients use that would include the configuration settings, and then we could both connect to a server in a DMZ on my network. But among all the flack of other demonstration programs that are on the market that partially do what I want, I can't find one that will do exactly what I want... or even come close enough to it to be acceptable.
Getting them set up without a lot of "No, now click on the 'IP Address' menu option" is the main priority, followed by security on my end.
posted by SpecialK to Technology (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think Webex will do this. Used to use it at a former job, and I think it uses all http and affiliated ports, so the firewall is okay with it. There's a shared application feature.
posted by theora55 at 7:25 PM on August 10, 2005

I second WebEx. It's relatively platform independent (provided you have the JRE installed) and operates through most major browsers (I've used Firefox, Mozilla and Internet Explorer) and it will pretty much do everything you're looking for.

It operates over port 80, so firewall changes are unlikely. You can establish a session (either presentation or support) and direct them to a page, have them type in the support ID number and your off. You can pass control of the keyboard and mouse back and forth once you're in the session, share up specific applications (rather than the entire desktop) and if I'm not mistaken, you can either pay-per-use (Credit card) or sign-up for a yearly contract.

Oh, apparently the entire session is encrypted as well. According to my contact at WebEx, the US DoD is a major customer of theirs for over-sea support so security consideration is pretty much a given.
posted by purephase at 7:34 PM on August 10, 2005

Fog Creek's newly released Copilot product does this as well.
posted by ldenneau at 7:40 PM on August 10, 2005

WebEx's major competitor is the former Placeware, now Microsoft LiveMeeting.

I've used both LiveMeeting & WebEx, both are very good, stable products. Both are brain-dead easy to use from the client end. They get an email with a URL, they click, then the goodness starts. Very easy.
posted by GuyZero at 7:43 PM on August 10, 2005

I hear that Synergy works well, but I haven't used it myself.
posted by ijoshua at 7:43 PM on August 10, 2005

In addition to WebEx, there is MacroMedia Breezelive which works off of Flash. I am currently in charge of a project to evaluate moving my company from WebEx to Breezelive. From what I've seen so far it is very fast, very simple and requires no installation from the attendee side.
posted by spicynuts at 8:08 PM on August 10, 2005

Does Breeze allow screen/IO sharing? I've installed it in the past, but I thought it was just a presentation tool (specifically, publishing PowerPoint in Flash format).

Please correct me if I'm wrong.
posted by purephase at 8:24 PM on August 10, 2005

I've set up something just like that using TightVNC. It's cross-platform, it has a java interface over HTTP, and it's perfectly comfortable being run over SSH tunnels.

You don't even need to package anything up for your clients, you can just point them at the web interface and they'll see everything just fine (including sharing control of the mouse pointer, using the Java applet, if you so desire).
posted by cmonkey at 8:33 PM on August 10, 2005

Yeah, I wonder if Copilot could do this well.
posted by delmoi at 10:10 PM on August 10, 2005

CoPilot is live.

I have a beta key you can use to try it out that should still work for the next 36~46 hours.
email is in the profile.
posted by blasdelf at 12:00 AM on August 11, 2005

Gotomypc does this very well. It is cross platform (Java based, I believe) and no configuration necessary.

You install it on you computer and set up an account. Then you can email your clients an invitation to view your computer. Your clients open the email, click a link that downloads the remote viewer and automatically connects to your computer.

Works through firewalls and everything.
posted by gus at 8:13 AM on August 11, 2005

CoPilot is Windows 98+ only. I had specified in my request that the tool be cross-platform. (Would AskMe people stop reccomending 37Signals and Fog Creek products for every single anwer? It's annoying and doesn't help anyone, and they're rarely great tools to use. Basecamp sucks goat choad for engineering-style programming tasks, and FogCreek consistently ignores cross-platform markets.)

All the rest are great reccomendations, and I hadn't heard of TightVNC or Gotomypc before. Thanks!
posted by SpecialK at 9:58 AM on August 11, 2005

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