Go to my PC

Well, when I say “my” PC, I mean, your PC. That’s right – you in the blue shirt. Quick! Everybody! Over to that guy’s PC!!! NOW!!! … *ahem* um, sorry, got a bit carried away there.

One of the mildly annoying things about Virgin Radio is the adverts they run. They’ve been repeating one a lot recently for a website – GoToMyPC. Basically, the idea is that you can access your PC (work or home) from anywhere with an internet connection and a web browser. On the advert, they have Peter Jones (of Dragon’s Den fame) talking about how it makes life easier if you’re on the move – you don’t have to worry about carrying around USB keys with loads of stuff on etc.

There are two things that annoy me about this advert.

The first thing is, remote access software is hardly a new idea! They present it (on the advert at least) as if it’s an amazing new thing. Well, Remote Desktop has been built into Windows now since Windows XP, Terminal Services before – in other words, quite a long time. VNC has been around for… oh, years and years.

Ok, so someone has made a website to hook up Citrix remote access so you don’t have to worry about NAT and such like. Fantastic. Except that you have to pay for it, and the same technology is readily available – for free – if you’d just spend ten minutes getting it set up. I remember using an in-web-browser version of Windows Remote Desktop a few years ago – the technology is there!

In the advert, they also don’t mention a few of the other caveats of the system:

1. The computer you want to access must be switched on and connected to the internet while you’re away;
2. You need to be on a pretty decent connection to get it working well. I’ve used a variety of remote access systems (PCAnywhere, Citrix, RDP, VNC) and all of them sucked on slow connections. I know these are days of ubiquitious broadband, but I think the advert leads people to believe that they can use their home PCs as well as if they were sitting at it. Not always the case, even these days.

This brings me to my second point: they’re taking advantage of people’s technophobia. I admit that it’s quite a good idea in the sense of getting rid of hassle, but by the time you’ve downloaded the software and installed it (and paid around £12 per month for the privilege), is it really much quicker than setting up Remote Desktop access? Or asking someone more knowledgeable to set it up? People just aren’t aware that there IS another way, which is kind of the problem.

One of the biggest issues in IT today is lack of education: people need to know about viruses, malware, scamming, firewalls – all of stuff, if they are to be safe on the internet. It seems to me that setting up remote desktop would be an ideal way to learn about some of it.

Setting up a website where you can just download some software and it “just works” seems to me to be exacerbating the problem. Why bother learning when you can just pay for someone else to do it for you?

Hmmm, well, I guess that’s the way capitalism works. Still… if anyone wants a hand getting remote desktop set up (if you’re using Windows), or getting VNC set up (if you’re using Linux), give me a shout, it will save you some money 😉

5 thoughts on “Go to my PC

  1. Absolutely. I’ve been using VNC for several years now, both on PC and Mac (both ways), and it has indeed made my life a lot easier in some cases. Having access to my own programs when I was at uni made certain things much easier for me, and with a VNC client small enough to fit on a floppy disk (remember those?) it was easy to do on any PC around. And it isn’t hard to set up, really, just takes a little initiative and a little reading of forums or a good tutorial so you can get your network set up appropriately.

    I can see where you’re going with the whole ‘educate the nation’ thing, Phill, but many people just don’t have the time or inclination to know about stuff they don’t need to know about. To be honest, I would prefer them NOT to use GoToMyPc or VNC in most cases, because of the potential risks it opens up. Verification is done by a username and password, so if someone else gets hold of that they can easily log into your computer while you’re away. And it means leaving the computer on all the time, connected to the internet, so a good firewall and anti-virus setup is essential. I think the importance of security on the net is more crucial here than convenience!

  2. I think the importance of security on the net is more crucial here than convenience!

    Well, you would need to educate people on internet security if you were going to teach them about remote access. I think the two would go hand in hand.

    But yes, I agree that most people “don’t have time”, which is a sad situation because they’re being taken advantage of. Particularly in this case where setting up a remote connection is neither expensive nor difficult.

  3. I agree those adverts are annoying – we had them on the local radio here for a while but then they stopped playing them – there are good proper secure ways of doing what they offer but they don’t get to advertise by radio it is a cashin unfortunatly – just glad we had noone calling in asking about it…

  4. I recently had to tell my boss that he’d wasted his money on this after he saw the recent tv ads. He only has dial up at home and our firewall/proxy won’t allow this traffic; even if it did I wouldn’t allow this bandwidth hog on my network.

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