2008/11/18

Control Windows Vista with a Palm TX

You probably know RemoteDesktop, included in Windows Vista, which allows to remote control the desktop of another computer within the LAN or through the Internet. In the Linux world, VNC and NX, in their various versions and flavors, are the technologies used for remote desktop connections, although these too can be used and installed in Windows, and that's great because there is a free VNC client for the Palm OS called PalmVNC, so you can see and remote control your desktop from your palm screen and even enter text using Graffiti.

The only drawback is that the installer for PalmVNC comes bundled with a VNC server that is not optimized for Windows Vista, so there is a delay of several seconds from say the moment you click some menu title in your remote desktop and the time you see the menu opened in your PDA screen.

Luckily, the latest version of UltraVNC, one of the many implementations of VNC server/client technology, includes special options and display drivers which makes the interaction with a remote Vista desktop quite responsive.

You almost have nothing left to configure in the UltraVNC server but the server password, every other option just works right in their default values. Just remember to forward port 5900 to your VNC server LAN IP if you intend to connect from outside the LAN via your server domain name (I use one from dynDNS for this).

One important thing to do before trying to control a remote desktop is to calibrate Graffiti so that you don't miss the tiny buttons.

The only annoyance of PalmVNC is that once it is opened it takes all the PDA buttons for itself, and the menu has no Exit option, so there is no direct way to close the application or switch to another one. Luckily, I had dictionary viewer BDicty 6.0 Pro installed and set up as resident in Palm OS's command bar, so by striking an ascending line from left to right at the center of the virtual silkscreen I could later click on BDicty's hand icon and finally switch to this viewer by clicking on the tiny square at the upper right corner of the look-up screen.

If you don't have BDicty, or any other application icon in the commend bar, the only way to close PalmVNC is by reseting the Palm.

Don't expect to be able to enjoy looking at pictures or watching a video played at your remote desktop, even within a LAN it will play choppy and the remote desktop will show 256 colors at most, but for any other purpose this is a great tool, specially with a Palm TX, where you can rotate the screen to have a wider wide.

UPDATE: another disadvantage of PalmVNC is that as concerns to security, it only supports server password authentication. So if you plan to keep UltraVNC server ready for PalmVNC to be able to connect, you must refrain from using the MS-login options and any encryption plugins. Just make your server password harder to guess and crack, specially if you leave opened VNC's 5900 default port for outside the LAN connections.