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Technology Untangled: GoToMyPC for iPad or Android has some shortcomings

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technology-bourIt used to be that anytime I was planning to be away from the office for a while, including a summer vacation, my laptop computer came along. Some work could be done on the laptop, while other tasks required remote access to the main computer at the office using GoToMyPC. These days, lugging even a portable computer seems too onerous. The iPad continues to take over. Today’s article will look at lightening the travel load by using an iPad to remotely access your computers back at home and the office. This is accomplished with the mobile device versions of GoToMyPC.

The standard version of GoToMyPC has been a useful and successful product for many years. For as low as $9.99/month or $99.99/year you can set up an individual computer with the ability to be remotely accessed through the Internet. Subscription costs are based upon how many computers you want to access remotely, not upon how many different devices you want to use as remote access terminals. The standard concept has a person accessing their work computer from their home computer. With that setup, the effect is as if you are using a mouse and keyboard with really long extension cords connected back to the office.

With an iPad or Android tablet, there is no mouse or tactile keyboard, so things get a bit more difficult. Installation, however, is an easy process. Simply search the App Store or the Google Play Store and install GoToMyPC for free. Launch the app, type in your preconfigured user name and password for the host computer, and soon the screen of that host computer appears on your tablet. Surprisingly, the wait time for the host screen to appear on my iPad is noticeably shorter than the wait time on my PC.

The first thing that pops up on top of your tablet screen is a guide for using the virtual mouse as a substitute for your real mouse. Figuring out this virtual mouse took some study and practice, and I still can’t use it very smoothly. A small two-button mouse image floats over the host screen image, just below the image of the mouse pointer. You have to drag this little image around the screen and tap it just the right way to get it to do what you need. Unless you zoom in, it is hard to hit exactly what you are aiming at with the virtual mouse. This is to be expected when working with an iPad screen that is less than one-fourth the size of the LCD screen it is emulating. You can also call up a set of left-right, up-down arrow keys that I found a bit easier to use.

For typing, pressing three fingers on the surface of the iPad brings up the keyboard, which then blocks out half of the already undersized view of the host computer’s screen. I have never been a big fan of touch screen keyboards, and this one is a bit more difficult to use with the added extra lag time due to the remote connection. This is not to say that you can’t get some useful work done with it in a pinch.

Can you use this technology if you no longer use a PC, and work exclusively with Mac computers? Yes. Note that GoToMyPC also can be used through all your mobile devices to remotely access your Mac. Strangely, it is still called “GoToMyPC” even though there is no Windows PC involved. The company website explains that they wanted to stick with their trusted brand name and consider “PC” to be more about the “personal computer” rather than a specific operating system.

Just to test the limits of functionality, I tried accessing my work PC from my Android phone. While it is possible to access and operate your computer from your phone, it is not very practical; the 4-inch phone screen is simply too small. Sure, you can zoom in on any portion of the screen, but reading that cropped screen was clumsy as was operating the mouse within the abbreviated views.

Using your tablet to gain emergency access back to your main computer could prove beneficial on occasion. I have found it somewhat useful for situations like reviewing archival emails or retrieving documents from older case files. It has also been useful for providing real-time technical assistance for others who were simultaneously in front of the host computer in the office. But for regular everyday use, wrestling with an iPad in order to do much productive work on the host computer is a stretch.

In spite of the shortcomings of remote access, I do like having the ability to leave the laptop behind during summer travels. The iPad and the GoToMyPC option make it possible to travel light, yet still have a functional method for using your other computers if necessary.•

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Stephen Bour (bourtech@iquest.net) is an engineer and legal technology consultant in Indianapolis. His company, the Alliance for Litigation Support Inc., includes Bour Technical Services and Alliance Court Reporting. Areas of service include legal videography, tape analysis, document scanning to CD and courtroom presentation support. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.

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    Try this. Ammyy Admin is a powerful multi-task solution for remote desktop sharing, remote computer administration and distance learning from any location in the World.

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  1. How nice, on the day of my car accident on the way to work at the Indiana Supreme Court. Unlike the others, I did not steal any money or do ANYTHING unethical whatsoever. I am suing the Indiana Supreme Court and appealed the failure of the district court in SDIN to protect me. I am suing the federal judge because she failed to protect me and her abandonment of jurisdiction leaves her open to lawsuits because she stripped herself of immunity. I am a candidate for Indiana Supreme Court justice, and they imposed just enough sanction so that I am made ineligible. I am asking the 7th Circuit to remove all of them and appoint me as the new Chief Justice of Indiana. That's what they get for dishonoring my sacrifice and and violating the ADA in about 50 different ways.

  2. Can anyone please help this mother and child? We can all discuss the mother's rights, child's rights when this court only considered the father's rights. It is actually scarey to think a man like this even being a father period with custody of this child. I don't believe any of his other children would have anything good to say about him being their father! How many people are afraid to say anything or try to help because they are afraid of Carl. He's a bully and that his how he gets his way. Please someone help this mother and child. There has to be someone that has the heart and the means to help this family.

  3. I enrolled America's 1st tax-free Health Savings Account (HSA) so you can trust me. I bet 1/3 of my clients were lawyers because they love tax-free deposits, growth and withdrawals or total tax freedom. Most of the time (always) these clients are uninformed about insurance law. Employer-based health insurance is simple if you read the policy. It says, Employers (lawyers) and employees who are working 30-hours-per-week are ELIGIBLE for insurance. Then I show the lawyer the TERMINATION clause which states: When you are no longer ELIGIBLE! Then I ask a closing question (sales term) to the lawyer which is, "If you have a stroke or cancer and become too sick to work can you keep your health insurance?" If the lawyer had dependent children they needed a "Dependent Conversion Privilege" in case their child got sick or hurt which the lawyers never had. Lawyers are pretty easy sales. Save premium, eliminate taxes and build wealth!

  4. Ok, so cheap laughs made about the Christian Right. hardiharhar ... All kidding aside, it is Mohammad's followers who you should be seeking divine protection from. Allahu Akbar But progressives are in denial about that, even as Europe crumbles.

  5. Father's rights? What about a mothers rights? A child's rights? Taking a child from the custody of the mother for political reasons! A miscarriage of justice! What about the welfare of the child? Has anyone considered parent alienation, the father can't erase the mother from the child's life. This child loves the mother and the home in Wisconsin, friends, school and family. It is apparent the father hates his ex-wife more than he loves his child! I hope there will be a Guardian Ad Litem, who will spend time with and get to know the child, BEFORE being brainwashed by the father. This is not just a child! A little person with rights and real needs, a stable home and a parent that cares enough to let this child at least finish the school year, where she is happy and comfortable! Where is the justice?

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