Throughout my college years, there were often times when I wished I could set up remote computer access to the PC in my dorm room to email a particular homework file to my professor. Instead, I had to hike the treacherous 1.5 miles, through frigid snowdrifts and throngs of shivering college students, just to reprint and retrieve the homework I’d forgotten to bring with me that morning.
Of course, back then there were no such things as Internet-enabled Windows Mobile devices. In fact, at the time the Internet itself was only in its infancy. Today, there’s not only the Internet, but also these nifty little web-enabled mobile devices that let you do some pretty magical things over the Internet. Not the least of which is connecting and controlling your computer from anywhere in the world.
How to Set Up Remote Computer Access With Your Mobile Phone
Not long ago, the ability to whip out your trusty PocketPC and set up remote computer access to your desktop PC would all have sounded like science fiction. Today, it’s not only a reality, but it’s completely free.
Dave previously wrote about how to remotely control your mobile device with your desktop. There are a lot of reasons why that would be useful. However, the reverse is just as useful. Having the ability to set up remote computer access to your home PC from anywhere in the world has unlimited possibilities. But how exactly does it work?
First, it makes use of free VNC technology, mentioned previously in How to Spy On Your Spouse With Your Computer. You set up the VNC server on your home PC exactly as outlined in that article, but in order to connect to that VNC server, you need a VNC client that works on your Windows Mobile device. The best available client that I’ve found is the open source Windows Mobile .NET VNC Viewer created by Rocky Lo.
How To Set Up And Configure The .NET VNC Mobile Viewer
Rocky Lo wrote his mobile VNC client because there weren’t any other clients available that offered much in terms of functionality. This viewer is an impressive mobile version of the desktop version of the Real VNC client. Upon installing the software, you’ll find that it’s extremely easy to immediately establish a connection to the VNC service running on your Home PC.
Lo’s mobile version offers client-side scaling, full screen mode, and is highly configurable to update as often or as little as you would like. Lo fully tested his latest version on an HP 4150 with Windows Mobile 2003. For this article, I’ve tested it on a HTC/Cingular 8125 Smartphone running Windows Mobile 5.0.
You can even set up your mobile device to simply listen on a particular port for available VNC servers. But in my opinion, the most useful settings in this app are the display options.
You can enable full screen mode, set the orientation for portrait, upside down, or even rotate the computer screen clockwise or counter clockwise so that it shows up on your portable PocketPC screen in the wide format.
You can also change the pixel size from 8-bit to 16-bit, or you can allow the server to define your resolution. These are settings you can tweak if you find that the display updates slowly.
Of course, scaling is a cool method you can use to try to get as much of the computer screen to fit inside your little mobile screen. You can define the width and height, or just scale down the server-side size by as much as a fifth.
Finally, you can configure your mobile VNC client to either update the screen as fast as possible, or disable that feature and update manually. You can also configure it to view the PC screen only, but not manulate it (turning your mobile phone into another cool spy device).
Here, you can see what it looks like when I connect my 8125 SmartPhone to the VNC server running on my family desktop PC. I ran the client software while my phone was connected directly to my home Wi-Fi network. Sending commands to the PC acted instantaneously on the PC itself, but the screen refresh rate on the mobile end took at least 10 to 20 seconds. My settings could use a bit of tweaking.
Using the menu items at the bottom of your mobile screen, you can manually force a screen refresh – a helpful feature when you’re on a slow connection. Other options include sending special keys like control-alt-delete and other tasks typical of a normal VNC viewer.
How to Connect to Your PC While Not at Home
Now, while connecting to your PC remotely is cool when you’re sitting in a different room of your home – it’s astronomically more cool when you’re sitting on a train headed to work and you just remembered you forgot a file on your hard drive at home. How can you configure things so that you can connect your mobile phone through your router? It’s extremely simple.
First, get into your router settings and modify port forwarding. Within Linksys, this is typically under applications & gaming. For VNC, you want to define all requests for port 5900 (for example) to forward to the IP address for the PC that you’ve got running the VNC service in your house.
Then, using your connection with your mobile phone, you will connect to your router’s actual Internet IP address and specify the same port that you’ve just defined forwarding for.
In this screenshot, I’ve logged in from a local Wi-Fi hot spot about 20 miles from my house, and I’ve opened up Thunderbird on my home PC.
The most important thing to consider when setting up your mobile phone client is that data transfer speeds have a tremendous impact on performance. I’d never consider trying to connect to my home VNC servers over the cellphone network. While it would work, it would take ages to connect and update.
Instead, try to find local Wi-Fi hot spots to park yourself, have a cup of coffee, and remotely log into your home PC to download emails or initiate a few more Torrent downloads.
Either way, using this mobile software is yet another way you can stay fully connected even when you’re miles away from your home computer.
If you have any opinions, comments, problems setting this up, let us know in the comments.