Maybe some of you guys know that feeling: You've just come home after a long stressful day at work looking forward to an enjoyable evening of watching TV or reading the latest news on gHacks. But as soon as you switched on your TV/Computer, your phone rings. It is your sister (mother in law, father) and you remember the promise - that you gave in a moment of feeble-minded weakness - that you would help if they would face difficulties with their computer. This leaves you with two options: Tell them you aren't in the mood, which might come back to haunt you on the next family day, or give in to a extended session of "what's wrong with it?" on the phone.
Luckily, the guys from uvnc.com are providing us with a third option, called PCHelpware, which is basically another remote-viewing-tool from the developers of my favorite VNC implementation. The interesting part though is, that it allows you to create a redistributable executable which can be placed on the target's computer, on a web server for downloading or sent to the person on the other end by mail. And it gets even better. Due to the opposed direction of starting the communication, it allows you to bypass routers and firewalls on the side of the user in need, sparing you the excess of configuring the router/firewall in advance if you want to remotely connect to that computer.
Basically, it works like that: the damsel-in-distress calls, you tell her to double-click the little blue icon in the upper right corner of her desktop, which you planted there earlier in wise foresight, while you start the viewer-part of the application on your computer. She hits "start", and you're free to control her desktop while she can watch every step. It's exactly what I always wanted for Christmas!
I have found a number of manuals and step-by-step-tutorials, but I decided to give some quick hints on my own, since I wasn't that happy with all of them.
PCHelpware offers three ways of connecting to a Viewer (the side of the plagued person-to-help - that's you). By direct connection with no router or firewall getting in the way, through a firewall that has an appropriate port opened to the Internet, or through a repeater service which should offer a zero-configuration-connection over two or more firewalls, but which didn't work for me, with other users reporting the same problems. But since we usually have full control over our own routers and firewalls, and PCHelpware also supporting UPnP, the second one seems like the most probable and suitable setting.
Unzipping and locating the viewer executable shouldn't be that much of a problem. After starting, just follow the steps in the picture and you should be rewarded with a distributable single-click-executable of minimal size in the /myservers/profilename directory.
After you push "Create Server", a small popup will show up to enter your IP address. If you have a dynamic IP, you should use a dynamic dns-service like dyndns.org.
To ready the viewer for incoming connections (which should only be done when expecting one or for another very good reason), just pick the profile and click "Start" in the lower right corner. You could open the port in your UPnP-supporting firewall automatically by checking "Auto Map" or click the "Map Upnp"-button, or just leave
it alone because you already troubled yourself with it. Once your viewer is set up, the user-in-need may start his server, which will connect and voilá!
Another nice feature is the customizable server-part, which allows you to incorporate your own logos and stuff. Since the license emphatically allows use in a commercial environment, I'm going to design one for my own workplace, since we do a lot of helpdesk-stuff from time to time. I only have to figure out a way that's just as easy for dial-up-connections...
Note. You should also download the patched dlls, which offer better compression and some bugfixes.
Any questions can be relayed to me or posted in the comments. Since this is sort of my very first article I publish, please be nice to me ;)
Finally, Hails and Cheers to Martin for giving me the opportunity of doing so.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.