Remote Control The Easy Way

Posted on: 12 June 2008

Yesterday I needed to take remote control of a friend's PC over the internet. This can be a bit hairy at the best of times, but when the friend isn't exactly what you would call a power user, it can be nigh-on impossible. Fortunately, I've been a reader of Joel On Software for a while now, and was very interested in their intern project Copilot. This seemed like the perfect solution, at least according to the sales pitch - easy to use from both ends of the connection, nothing to install at either end, seamless negotiation of firewalls - it just works!

I tried out the day pass option - $5 for unlimited use in a 24 hour period. Given the strength of the pound right now, that's less than the price of a pint of beer. Within minutes, I was connected to my friend's PC, and got their problem resolved within another couple of minutes. For the amount of time it saved, $5 is a steal.

The technical background is well worth a read - it's not rocket science, but there's a brilliant creative leap from the traditional peer-to-peer remote control pattern (with it's attendant installation and firewall headaches) to a client-server pattern. There's also clearly been a great deal of thought put in to making it really simple to use. As an example, I was given a connection code and pointed to a downloadable exe. Most solutions would have had you run the exe and enter your connection code. But this one already knows your connection code! There are no additional config files with the code, so my guess is that the download action compiles a special version of the client just for me. It's the little extra touches like this that make the difference between using an application that just works and using an application that makes you feel you want to tell the world about it.