Dear Aunt TUAW,
I have a late 2008 MacBook Pro and a 4 year old MacBook Pro that I will be taking to Romania next month to give to my in-laws so we can video conference with them. Seeing as they are not very computer literate, I want to be able to perform remote control / screen sharing in case the need should arise.
I know that OSX has built-in screen sharing capabilities on a local network, but over the Internet is something else altogether. I know that there are several services, such as LogMeIn, that provide this service for a fee, but I was wondering if I could do this without paying for a service.
Can you direct me to some documentation as to how to set this up? ssh configuration, port forwarding on the firewall, etc.... that might be able to get me started? Or make a recommendation that would be how you would do this.
Your Nephew Chris M.
While there are a number of available solutions, not the least of which include iChat and Skype, Auntie is going to recommend LogMeIn, the service that you mentioned (but you were worried about pricing). LogMeIn has a free, basic package that offers remote desktop access from any Flash-enabled Web browser.
You install the free client software on the computers you're going to bring to Romania, and then you can enable remote access from the LogMeIn software. For security, you can add an extra layer of access-control passwording in addition to normal user account authentication.
The LogMeIn client is smart enough to set itself up to reinitialize after reboots, so your in-laws will remain on-line and accessible, even if the computer has to be restarted; that's something you don't get with iChat screen sharing. And if you're worried about access overseas, don't be. A LogMeIn spokesperson assured TUAW that, "whether the computer is located in the same room or on the other side of the Earth, the setup is the same."
Paid options beyond the free remote control feature include a $30 iPad client (which TUAW found well made and easy to use) and upgrades that allow you to use local printers and disk drives to interact with your remote client. You can read about those upgrades here. Going by your letter, however, all the features you initially need should be available in the free package.
Best of luck with the trip, and congratulations on finding good homes for your old friends.
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