Being able to remotely access a computer is a wonderful thing, but most software requires you to use that specific software on both ends to do so. For instance, on the Mac you can use Apple Remote Desktop, or screen sharing via iChat, or other VNC solutions. This requires setup on both the computer to control and the controlling computer. To make matters worse, if you are currently at a Windows or Linux computer, it may not work depending on the solution you chose, and the protocol it uses.
A really interesting cross-platform solution to this is to use the LogMeIn service. LogMeIn comes in multiple variants, but to try it out you can use LogMeIn Free. This will allow you to remotely control your computer with nothing more than a Web browser.
To begin, you must sign up for the LogMeIn service. This is quick and easy and involves providing an email address and password, and downloading the client software to install on the computer (or computers) you wish to remotely control. Once the software is installed, navigate to Applications | LogMeIn | and start the LogMeIn application.
Next, go to a remote computer. From there, open a browser and visit the LogMeIn Web page. Log in with the credentials you chose and you will see a list of computers that can be controlled. Select the computer and the connection will be established. You must provide the login user name and password for a local account on the computer you wish to connect to (this will be different from that which you provided to LogMeIn). Depending on the operating system and browser you connect with, you can download an optional plugin to presumably make it faster; otherwise, it will just use java.
Don't expect to be able to play games remotely, but the speed is decent and the viewing quality is quite good. Once connected, you can simply view the desktop (it supports multiple monitors, which is really nice), or you can remotely control it.
On the client being controlled, a window appears indicating who is controlling the desktop and from where (displays their host name). The client software that must be installed on the computer to control is for Mac or Windows only, but that computer can be controlled by anything; using Firefox on Fedora 12 posed no problem at all.
The LogMeIn Pro product has an annual subscription price-tag, but offers advanced functionality like Remote-to-Local printing, file sharing, and file transfer capabilities. On its own, LogMeIn Free supports Wake on LAN, allows for rebooting the remote computer, and also has basic reports. The connection is fully encrypted as well.
For a basic remote desktop experience, LogMeIn Free works pretty good. The ability to use it via any Web browser, on any operating system, is definitely a bonus.
Vincent Danen works on the Red Hat Security Response Team and lives in Canada. He has been writing about and developing on Linux for over 10 years and is a veteran Mac user.