Oct 162008

Tech post warning!

There is nothing below about travel, foreign cultures, new experiences, or even nightlife.

How unlike me 😉

Being a Computer Engineer, nearly every facet of my life is controlled in some way via my PC. Somewhere down the line, everything syncs up from one source computer – my music collection, photo collection, movie collection, address books, calendars, homework, professional work, finances, study material, and of course journal (which you’re currently reading!). All my phone messages are e-mailed to me and archived, and every time I dispose of an old cellphone it gets backed up to the PC. Even the old photos from when I was a child and my original college notebooks have been digitized (well, the ones I thought would be useful) – so they’ll never be lost and can be accessed from anywhere.

It may sound like an insane hassle to keep all this crap organized, and while it definitely does eat up a bit of time, you’d be surprised at how useful it is to have everything available at your fingertips, anytime anywhere. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve saved hours of online research by being able to pull up some old 3D math notes while trying to solve an obscure coding problem from abroad. In today’s world, and especially given my lifestyle, it’s no longer necessary to move around with bulky hard-copies of everything. Nor is it necessary to file away old memories in some deteriorating cardboard box in the attic. 100% of what I need can be put into a single 2.5″ drive. Welcome to the digital age!

This system, however, does lead itself to two potential problems: security and redundancy. If my computer is lost it would be a nightmare for someone else to get their hands on all that personal information – just as it would be if I were to suddenly lose access to it myself. I’ve therefore implemented several solutions to both: for the former, hardware passwords on my drives along with full EFS on all sensitive data, making it very difficult for anyone who isn’t extremely motivated to steal those embarrassing pictures of me as a baby. And for the latter, I keep three full copies of everything – one on my main laptop, one at my dad’s house in Los Angeles, and one on a small portable drive that I keep with me while traveling (but in a different place from the laptop itself).

Why am I blabbing about all this? Actually, all I originally wanted to do was give a quick recognition to perhaps the most useful piece of remote administration software I’ve ever come across: LogMeIn. Previously, I’d been using Microsoft RDC along with No-IP to login to and remote control my main PC back in Los Angeles. But this has lots of problems, not the least of which is the need to ensure that the proper ports are always forwarded across any and all routers between the computer you want to control and the Internet. Power surge wipe out the router’s settings while you’re away? Addition of a new computer change around the dynamic IPs on your little network? You’d better hope there’s someone there to fix it!

I’ve also tried Symantec PCAnywhere and a handful of other solutions, each of which were overpriced and had enough pitfalls to lead me back to MS RDC. That is, until I found LogMeIn.

The basic version of LogMeIn is FREE. You create a free account on their website and install the server software on whichever computer(s) you want to be able to control. Whenever any of these systems come online, they announce themselves to the LogMeIn service. Then, when you want to control a computer, just login to your account on the LogMeIn site. It lists which are online and available, you click “connect,” and that’s it – full control right from within your web browser. I haven’t tried it from IE but with the Firefox plugin it’s lightning fast, offering all the options of RDC and more – without the hassle of port-configuration, remember IP addresses, or even installing client software. And unlike RDC, you can use the remote computer at the same time as someone sitting at it locally, making it tremendously useful for problem-solving. I’ve used it countless times to help my dad resolve technical issues at work or at home. It’s been an absolute lifesaver.

LogMeIn – along with Vonage – virtually eliminates the need to be physically located in the US in order to do a job that happens to be based there** 🙂

  11 Responses to “LogMeIn”

  1. what a techie 😛 i always say i will back up my stuff, but i never do. even though my desktop died on me a few years ago and this laptop is getting into the early stages of retirement, i just never have time to back stuff up. 😳

  2. You know it, baby 😉

    My backups are never more than a week out-of-date. If I worked for even a week and my drive crashed, it would be quite a financial loss – not to mention the irreplaceable memories such as photos.

    It is a major pain the first time, but once you have a good system in place doing regular incremental backups really isn’t that bad – and it’s saved my ass countless times. I’ve got it down to just a few folders that contain EVERYTHING of importance, including data/settings for commonly-used programs (i.e. Outlook, Firefox, Google Earth, iTunes, FileZilla, etc – I wrote a few .reg files that I use whenever I reformat Windows to setup these programs to store their config data under a common directory).

    Backing up is then a simple matter of diffing these few directories and moving over any changes since the last backup. If you ever have a crash, it’s now a cinch to get back to where you were!

    (I would’ve been MAJORLY pissed if I hadn’t done this for my Windows Mobile phone – the loss of the phone itself sucked big time, but at least I had a copy of all its data/configuration on my PC, so when I do get around to replacing it, setup will be a matter of hours rather than a matter of days!)

  3. Cool….I’ll have to check that out

  4. yeah, seeing as how your work requires a computer, that makes sense.

    i gotta say, i wish i had a job that allowed me to work from basically any corner of the Earth (as long as there was internet)! got any projects you need an extra pair of hands/extra set of eyes for? 😛

  5. I wish…I wish I had more paying projects myself! 😛

  6. ugh. really?

  7. Yeah, I have been using LogMeIn for a few years now. I constantly used it during law school from school do email myself a file I forgot to bring, or something like that. There is even a way to use it to remotely control a pc using an iPhone.

  8. Well why didn’t you tell me about it?! You knew I’d been using crappy RDC for years! 😛

  9. Teamviewer ist quite similar, without the need to install anything and since the connection is initiated by the “customer”, it gets through all firewalls. What do you use for encryption, Truecrypt?

  10. Hmm, sounds interesting. The only problem is that it seems like Teamviewer requires a “customer” to be present at the other end to establish a connection – but I need to be able to connect on my own.

    For example, when my dad has a problem with his computer at work he’ll often just leave it (or any other affected systems) on and drop me an email. Then, whenever I’m available (here in a different time zone) I can login, solve the problem, and shut down the PC. No intervention needed on the other side 🙂

    I just use Microsoft EFS for encryption. I realize there may be some problems with it, but the convenience of having everything I need built right into Windows seemed worth it (especially since I’m using NTFS on all my drives anyway). All I have to do is backup my one security certificate and I’m good to go – no additional software/setup required. What advantages does TrueCrypt offer that ur aware of? 🙂

  11. Damnit…after writing this article I thought it might be a cool idea to setup a VPN to connect to my home PC (rather than using FTP).

    …Until I realized that stupid Linksys for some reason completely disabled the GRE protocol in the WRT54Gv8 router, which is the router behind which my PC is connected. I could of course solve the problem by installing dd-wrt, but it’s not something I really want to (or can?) try over a remote connection…because if something gets screwed up, there won’t be anyone there to fix it 😡

    What do you think of THAT, Jeff? 😆

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