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I want to set up my Grandfather's mac (running lion) so that it's got a vnc server always running that I can connect to anytime without any input from him. The point is to try to circumvent the hour long support calls I end up doing when his "email is broken", by being able to take control of his computer and do it for him.

I've tried setting him up with Copilot (from fogcreek), but that still involves talking him through launching the application and letting me connect. Are any of the mac-native things (like ichat, icloud, screen sharing?) going to be any better? What do you recommend? (I run 10.6.8)

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4 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Here's what we ended up doing.

Enable iCloud's "Back to My Mac" feature and enable remote management options under Sharing in system preferences, following these instructions:

http://reviews.cnet.co.uk/laptops/icloud-how-to-setup-back-to-my-mac-50005107/

The tricky part is that Grandpa's Mac isn't just sitting on the internet with its own IP address, it sits behind his wireless router (as is the case for most of us). So you have to go into the router's admin settings and forward ports 5500, 5800, and 5900 to Grandpa's IP on the local network (192.168.something). The above link had hints about that but we also googled for his specific router, plus "port forwarding". Apparently port 5900 is the standard for VNC and something somewhere told us ports 5500 and 5800 were needed as well, which seemed to be true.

Nothing more should ever need to be touched on Grandpa's computer.

On our own computer, we do command-K in Finder (Go menu -> Connect to Server) and type in vnc://123.456.789.012 or whatever Grandpa's IP address is. We log in using Grandpa's name and password for his Mac.

Finally, his IP address is likely fairly static but in case it ever changes, we installed this on his computer:

http://www.monkeybreadsoftware.de/Freeware/IPinmenubar.shtml

That way he should be able to easily read us his IP address from his menubar and enable us to take control again.

PS: This is much faster than Copilot.com (presumably logmein.com is similar to copilot, having to route all the network traffic over http or whatever). We actually used Copilot to do all the above setup on Grandpa's computer though.

PPS: At some point the local IP address changed from 192.168.1.104 to 192.168.1.100 so we had to go back into the router's port forwarding settings (did this with copilot.com again!) and update it. Direct link for Linksys WRT54G: 192.168.1.1/Forward.htm

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Simplest and cheapest would be to setup iChat on both computers and use Ask to Share screen feature from context menu.

Usually it will work from the start. Sometimes you need to configure router, here is a list of ports used by Apple services. Enabling uPNP or NAT-PMP on the router will usually work. In any case you need fast enough connection for it to work (at least 300kbps recommended still it's better to have faster one but what is more important is quality of the connection).

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Wow, works great between two Lion computers. Any experience with it from behind firewalls / routers? –  Dogweather Nov 30 '11 at 8:21
    
@Dogweather I've updated original answer with an answer to this. –  iskra Nov 30 '11 at 9:09
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A couple of days ago I consulted two friends with lots of experience in this area, and they suggested Log Me In. Some of the benefits:

  • Will work behind routers & firewalls
  • Will auto-start with boot up and never need action on part of the controlee.
  • Free for this simple use.

I've been testing it for a very similar scenario as yours, and it's been working well. (Have installed it on a macbook pro which I'll be fedexing to a relative who's not computer savvy.)

EDIT: Log me in just crashed on the client computer while we were testing it. So we're now looking at other options. Not sure if we'll stay with log me in.

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I'm really liking the VNC solution described above. If you can get through the router forwarding bit, it's quite nice. Log Me In, or CoPilot might work well enough to set up the router forwarding, but the really nice thing about VNC is you can initiate the connection with Grampa's computer. Right now I've got skype running on Grampa's computer and everytime he sits down at the computer Skype alerts me and I can be on standby to help if he needs it. –  Bee Dec 3 '11 at 21:37
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TeamViewer with unattended access set up.

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