Control Your Desktop from Your iPhone

By eWEEK Labs  |  Posted 2008-07-17 Print this article Print


Control Your Desktop from Your iPhone

One of the App Store's most popular pieces of software is Remote, an application that allows iPhone and iPod Touch users to control iTunes or Apple TV from their beloved devices.

If you wish to extend your iPhone-based control beyond those applications to your desktop as a whole, you'll be pleased to know that a client for the popular VNC (Virtual Network Computing) server. The client, called Mocha VNC Lite, is freely available from the App Store and is fairly easy to use.

The Remote Desktop features of Apple OS X and of the GNOME and KDE open-source desktop environments are based on VNC, so viewing and controlling these desktops from Mocha VNC requires only that the Remote Desktop option for these environments be enabled.

On Windows machines, you must first download and install a VNC server-in the past we've used TightVNC, which is freely available, and RealVNC, which costs $30.

We tested Mocha VNC Lite with a GNOME-based Ubuntu desktop, and were fairly pleased with its performance. We could zoom in and out with the standard iPhone pinch and spread gestures, and pan around the display with a finger. The client's interface carries buttons for activating the keyboard or mouse on your remote machine.

The keyboard function worked surprisingly well for regular typing, but since the iPhone on-screen keyboard lacks a "delete" key, there's no way to hit ctrl-alt-del to access a locked Windows desktop.

There was one other major bug that we encountered, which, pending a fix at least, will curb our use of this handy VNC client-while the client supports password protection of VNC sessions, we could not connect to our Ubuntu desktop without disabling the password requirement. We didn't test with a Mac, Windows or KDE box, so perhaps this bug is Linux- or GNOME-specific.


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