VNC on iDevices

When Mood Music
2013-08-18 22:43:00 tired and flatulent none

A comment on LiveJournal prompted me to try a different VNC solution on my iPhones and my dad’s iPad mini.

BTMM/VNC and Mocha VNC
Until today I’ve been using Mocha VNC on my iPhones when I’ve needed to take over my main mac (Iggy) from afar. Every now and then I find I’ve not got a needed file. VNC allows me to to take over my main mac’s screen and slowly, clumsily make Iggy email the file to me.

(If I have my MacBookAir (MIA) and I can connect it to a network, I can use the built-in VNC to take over Iggy much more conveniently:

1. MIA controlling Iggy

This works very well. Thanks to BackToMyMack, I don’t need to remember Servants’ Quarters’ public-facing IP address. If the connection is fast enough, I can work roughly as if I was sat at Iggy, although MIA’s reduced screen area is a limitation. Even if the connection is slow and patchy, whatever I do stays on Iggy and is backed up via TimeMachine, CarbonCopyCloner and CrashPlan. Alternatively, I can put whatever I wish to work on in a Cubby so that it synchronises to MIA. Then I can do the work locally, knowing that as soon as I save it and MIA is online, the work will be synchronised back to Iggy.BTMM and VNC have also allowed me to take over my dad’s mac with ease, so I can sort whatever has troubled him.)

But what if I only have my iPhone? So far, Mocha VNC has been acceptable. Over Servants’ Quarters’ wireless LAN, it can do the job, although there is a lot of screen-resizing and cursing as I make the dock visible, start up the relevant application, then do whatever I need to do. Over a good 3G connection, Mocha VNC works acceptably too. Over a lousy cellular connection, it’s painful. (Of course this is mostly due to the slow connection, and is not Mocha VNC’s fault.)

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2. iPhone 4 controlling Iggy via wireless LAN 3. iPhone 4 controlling Iggy via 3G cellular

However, Mocha VNC has always crapped out whenever I’ve tried to use it to take over my dad’s mac, both via Servants’ Quarters’ LAN and via cellular. This occurred no matter whether I used an iPhone or the iPad I’m due to take to him at the end of next week.

I’d also been musing on my perfect portable device. I think that if I had a spare £5000, it would be a ModBook in a bespoke water- and shock-proof case. (£4000 for a high-spec ModBook and £1000 to get someone to make a one-off prophylactic, then an iPad emulator for doing iOS things, along with my existing iPhone for connectivity.) This is never going to happen. So my default single portable device would be an iPad mini (with cellular connection) in a Lifeproof case.

But what if I wanted to do remote stuff? suggested getting a VNC app. As I mentioned, Mocha VNC is acceptable for getting at Iggy but craps out if I try to control my dad’s mac. (I also wanted to give him the opportunity to control his mac from downstairs or wherever he happens to be. [The temporary caveat is that his iPad doesn’t have a SIM, because he’s not yet sure how much he would use the iPad away from home and he doesn’t want to take on another cellphone contract if he can help it.])

VNC Viewer works!
A quick Google found some advice: of the two recommended bits of software, I chose the cheaper, VNC Viewer. (It also just happens to be from VNC’s original developers.) And lo! And behold! I can VNC from both of my iPhones and from dad’s iPad into Iggy and my dad’s mac, via both both Servants’ Quarters’ LAN and via 3G cellular. (OK, that’s not quite true – I can’t yet use cellular connections on the iPad because it doesn’t have a SIM. But if it works via cellular on the iPhones, and works via LAN on the iPad then its seems reasonable to believe it will work via cellular on the iPad.)

The interface is intuitive, with a lot less stuff to enter. (Unlike Mocha VNC, it doesn’t offer more ‘mac-cy’ choices, such as logging using a registered username. Not a hassle, as far as I can see!)

Here’s some screenshots of it in use on the iPad:

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4. iPad mini controlling Iggy via wireless LAN;
Iggy is controlling MIA via wired LAN
5. The onscreen keyboard takes up a lot of space.
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6. iPad mini controlling Iggy via wireless LAN 7. In portrait orientation, the keyboard takes up less space.
But only half of Iggy’s screen is visible.
8. iPad mini controlling my dad’s mac via wireless LAN

So it’s not perfect, but it’s a lot less fiddly than the iPhones’ tiny screens.

iPhone 3GS versus iPhone 4
Finally, here are screenshots of my iPhones using VNC viewer to control my dad’s mac. Note the differences in screen resolution!

9. iPhone 3GS
10. iPhone 4



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