Making my life easier, one step at a time
When I’m not feeling too good I try to find something to do that will make my life at little bit easier. Typically this means finding ways to simplify, increase flexibility or resilience. I’ve pulled off all three today by setting up remote access (from outside the house) to my House Server, my Media Centre TVs and my Laptops from all my portable PCs and from my iPhone and iPad.
I’ve tried a variety of solutions before, but they’ve always been a mix of expensive, clunky, slow, and/or needed software to be installed and configured on each device. Due to these factors I’ve used remote access infrequently, and so I’ve never really learned to use it well. Recently I thought I’d found a good solution in the remote access plugin for Chrome, but whilst it was convenient, it proved to be slow, quirky, not suited to devices with multiple displays and had no iOS client support.
In contrast I use Microsoft Remote Desktop constantly from within the house. I love it as it provides a mostly consistent experience regardless of whether I’m working locally or remotely, has a wonderful full screen mode and adapts to changing resolutions and multiple monitors seamlessly.
So today I decided to extend my at home Microsoft Remote Desktop (RDP) experience outside the house and found it to be trivial, I broadly followed the steps in this article, but my specifics were slightly different, as follows:
- I already have all my PCs configured for remote desktop access, because I use it all the time at home, but the article above explains how to do it
- I needed to configure all my PCs with static IP addresses instead of DHCP assigned addresses, I did this on my router, but it’s just as easy to do on your PC as explained here
- My ISP (BT Internet) assigns my router a dynamic IP address so I needed to register with a provider who will map a dns name to the dynamic IP address. I used the free service from no-ip.com that my router natively supports, otherwise you just download a little app from no-ip.com to do the mapping for you.
- Then I needed to forward the RDP port to my PCs, but since I have lots of PCs, I needed to forward a different port for each PC, like this
- when I connect to port 8000 it forwards to PC1, RDP port 3389
- when I connect to port 9000 it forwards to PC2 on port 3389. This site explains how to do it on most routers
- In installed the free RDP clients from Microsoft for iOS
- Finally I needed to set my RDP clients to connect, so for example
- to connect to PC1 I enter in the RDP client the server name myhouse.no-ip.com:8000
- to connect to PC2 I enter myhouse.no-ip.com:9000
- That’s it, now I can connect to all of my PCs whether I’m at home or away
Connecting this way is:
- Simple, because I have no software to install on any of the clients or the servers, everything works the same, RDP adapts to changes transparently and everything is free
- Flexible, because I can connect to all my PCs from all my devices, with no further setup required, from anywhere that I can get at a PC or iPad, I don’t even need my own devices to connect. My laptops and iPad have 3G connections too.
- Resilient, because I can rebuild my PCs, get new PCs and everything will still work. I only need to check one thing, that I update that static IP address configuration on my router if I get a new device (and I can do that remotely now, if I forget)