For a long time, I’ve been using the free version of RealVNC to provide remote control from my notebook to the other computers on my home network. This has been very convenient when doing updates. It was also a necessity with my home theater PC, as it was displaying to a large screen TV.
For years, that was an analog TV that simply didn’t have the resolution to display text clearly enough to be read at any distance. Now, though, the HTPC drives a 61-inch 1920×1080 resolution LED-DLP display. That’s plenty of resolution to make the text readable — but not from across the room.
RealVNC, like most remote control programs had two required programs — the client version and the Server version. The "client" version is the RealVNC Viewer program. The "server" version is the RealVNC Server program, which means that the PC could be remotely controlled from the RealVNC Viewer program.
RealVNC allowed me to see the computer’s display on my notebook screen and control it with my notebook keyboard and notebook mouse. Until Windows 7, that is. RealVNC, the company, has chosen not to update the Free Edition for Windows 7, which is version 4.1.3. Their web site says that VNC Server 4.5.1 and later support Windows 7.
With Windows 7, the free version works some of the time, but occasionally, for no reason I can determine, it decides that it does not want to work. It’s got to be on the server side, because I tried accessing it both from Windows XP clients and Windows 7 clients.
The free version of RealVNC has another problem with Windows 7 — well, you can view it as a problem or as a security control. For my use within my own home network, it’s a problem. RealVNC blocks the User Access Control controls and some other security controls, too. I have to switch back and forth from my notebook mouse and keyboard to the radio-frequency (RF) keyboard and mouse that are "connected" to home theater PC.
So, I finally decided that I needed to start looking for something else. RealVNC felt comfortable, since I had been using it for years. I seriously considered upgrading to the paid VNC® Personal Edition versions (which were upgraded for Windows 7), but that was going to cost $30 per computer that I wanted to control. The client version was still free, but the server version is $30 per computer, at least up the 4 copies I needed.
Read more in this week’s online newsletter, as I describe the free, open-source remote control software that I found and am now using…