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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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