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** 🙂