The parent’s computer is a special case. Kids have their friends and a lifetime of computer use. Friends have their network of friends and IT contacts. But parents…they just have you for IT needs.
Added on March 11th: A friend suggested the free version of LogMeIn.
Also, every time I examine dad’s computer something random has been installed, an Internet Explorer off-brand toolbar here, a weird card game there…or whatever. Also, my dad does not have a system to keep track of passwords, so fixing an e-mail account includes some investigative work.
None of this is a problem per se, but it takes time and when I’m visiting them, I’d prefer to talk and hang out and not plow through a bun of IT baloney.
KeePassX – keeping track of passwords
I use KeePassX to store authentication. I use long, weird passwords that I have no hope of remembering, so it saves my butt every single day. I keep my KeePassX database file in Dropbox, so I always have the current iteration of it handy.
When I learn one of dad’s passwords, it now goes straight into KeePassX! I now have a group called Dad – perfect.
TightVNC – remote control
TightVNC is free and works great. VNC is a standard and works across platforms, so I can use a client on my Mac or Ubuntu box, controlling my Dad’s Windows 7 machine. Easy breezy.
It was a snap to download and install on dad’s computer as a service.
Problem 1: an IP address
The problem is not installing or using VNC. It is getting access to the computer. As is common, dad’s computer is on a cable modem and has an IP address that is subject to change. So, I cannot just use the I address, because it will change when ever he reboots his cable modem.
The solution to this is to use a dynamic DNS system. This provides a URL like “dadscomputer.dyndns.tv” which points to his current address. To get this set up I used the Free Dynamic DNS service at www.dyndns.com to get a URL for his computer. I then set up a program to update that whenever th IP address changes. I installed their DynDNS Updater for Windows.
The above results in a usable URL to access dad’s computer and the IP address is automatically updated to the dynamic DNS service when the address changes.
Problem 2: getting through the router
One of the valuable services a typical consumer router provides is protection from nasties. Thus, we cannot access the computer beyond the router. The answer to this is port forwarding. Some help with port forwarding can be found at http://portforward.com/. Some Googling found some instructions for my dad’s specific router. I needed to forward port 5900 to my dad’s computer. Some more details about this can be found at:
Problem 3: getting through the firewall
I just sort of hacked my way through allowing port 5900 through the Windows 7 firewall. Just now, I Googled it and found a pretty good guide at:
You need to allow port 5900 with TCP through. TightVNC will now guard that port instead of the Firewall.
You can use the service at http://www.gotomyvnc.com/ to test your port forwarding and potential VNC connection. It gives some feedback on what works and what doesn’t.
Then, use a VNC client to connect to your new VNC server.