Category: Mac Stuff

VNC on the Mac

&otI’ve got need at work for running VNC on one of the machines so an app running on it can be shared with multiple users on the network. VNC is a great solution that’s been out there for a long time, but in general it kinda sucks because, 1. it’s slow, 2. the image resolution is crappy, and 3. it’s slow.

Did I mention it was slow? Well, it is.

I’ve been using Chicken of the VNC for a long time, and it works reasonably well for remotely controlling the PC servers I manage on the network, but today I tried using it to control a Mac and it puked all over the task. Wouldn’t pull up a screen at all; just gave an error — Connection Terminated: Zlib inflate error: invalid block type. That was it for me; I decided to shop around for a newer/faster/better solution.

I’ve also used Apple Remote Desktop, which would be a nice option because it’s got a lot of additional features I could put to use. But it’s expensive too; $300 for a 10 Managed Systems edition, which allows for one administrator. I’m not sure, but I think that means there can be up to 10 systems that can be controlled, but only one machine that can do the controlling. That mule don’t pull in the job I’m needing filled.

One thing I discovered on my visit to Apple’s site is that ARD is basically VNC built into the Mac OS (at least for 10.4 and above). Enabling the VNC server on a Mac is as easy as opening the Sharing Preferences pane in System Preferences, turning on Apple Remote Desktop, and enabling VNC control in the window that pops up. That allows any machine running a VNC client to hook up via port 5900 and control it. Slick. And. Easy. (great set of instructions at MacMiniColo.net.)

But then a Google search led me to Vine VNC; wow. Just wow. Does it work nicely or what. It pulled up the screen for the Mac in question with no problem. The screen resolution on that machine is larger than the screen on my lowly PowerBook, but no problem; the scroll wheel on my mouse allows me to move around in the window just like it should. The screen resolution and color on the remote Mac window is beautiful, just as it should be. It just works.

Vine isn’t free, but at $30 it’s not bad either. I gladly ponied up for it (besides, it wasn’t my money!)

Before I bought Vine, I dug around a little more on Apple’s site and found another VNC option, JollysFastVNC. Very nice freebie. Not quite as nice as Vine — the Ctrl-Alt-Del command requires a trip to the menu bar, whereas Vine lets you do it on the keyboard — but still very nice. Relatively fast, nice resolution, and free.

So, to cap it off, using VNC on the Mac doesn’t have to be a painful experience. There are some great solutions out there, but as has always been the case with Mac software, it takes a little digging to find what you’re looking for that works well.

jolly.jpgvine.jpg

Beginner’s Guide To Quicksilver

Quicksilver

Quicksilver is one of those OS X apps that I could do without, but would rather not. It speeds up many of the things that need to be done on my Macs and makes it so very much easier to get around in the OS. But, as is the case with many great applications, there is so much to Quicksilver that it’s hard to explain, and harder to get the most out of it.

The guys over at Lifehacker have put together a beginner’s guide to using Quicksilver. Even though I’ve been using Quicksilver for a long time, just browsing through the guide tells me that I’ve got a thing or two to learn as well.

Kim Komando

On many Saturday mornings, I’ll listen to the Kim Komando radio show, where Kim fields calls from computer users with problems. Most of the callers are dealing with Windows problems, and I often get a good laugh out of some of the situations these people wrestle with, because on most occasions there would be no problem if they were using a Mac instead of a PC.

A large portion of the calls are from novice users with virus, worm, or ad-ware problems, or they just need help getting something simple done on their computer. Their Windows computer. And Kim will often end up talking way over their heads, giving some obscure string of commands to fix the problem, and promising to add the issue with thorough instructions to her newsletter.

When a question comes up about a Mac, she’ll often talk about how the issue would be handled on a Windows computer, but rarely gives a decent answer for the Mac user; she usually throws in some snide comment about Macs. When I turned the radio on last Saturday she was talking about Macs, and how one of her former employees — who had moved on to a new job using Macs — had stopped back for a visit. She said that he had told her that Macs aren’t really any easier to use than Windows machines; he said that the Macs that they used for her show worked well because they were well maintained, but the ones at his new job were not and they were anything but reliable. And she used that to back up her disagreement with a caller’s assertion that Macs are easier to use. The only ones who find Macs hard to use are hard-core Windows users. “Don’t throw anything new at me, I know all the ins and outs of Windows, and could care less if there’s an easier & better way!”

Now I don’t fault Kim for being Windows-centric. In fact in her line of work having more users on Windows machines is in her best interest, and it’s even better if they have problems with those Windows machines. It creates more demand for her books and drives more listeners to her show. Macs are a threat to that, plain and simple.

It still drives me just a little nuts listening to it all, and knowing there is a better way.