Sunday, February 17, 2008

How to be there for your family - remotely

Let's face it, even if it's not the primary purpose for your family to want you to come visit, if you're anything like me, you will end up spending half your Christmas sitting in front of the family computer, cleaning it to withstand a new season of abuse, setting up and installing things (while trying to make it absolutely fool-proof, anything which breaks will cost you hours of frustrating phone-calls to try set things straight again) and generally... wishing you could spend Christmas doing something nicer but still help your family with all these things some other time.

A little engineering ingenuitiy (to get "call home" including tweaking sshd configuration was my idea), my favourite vodcast Hak5 and Bozteck OneClickVNC to the rescue! Go ahead and read the show notes / wiki or watch the episode.

Essentially I have now emailed a small (less than 1 MB) zip file to all members of my family, with some brief instructions on how to run it (I didn't bother about creating an installer, it's a zip file) and whenever they need my computer support (there seems to be no way I will be able to refuse them), they just send me a message and click the "Call CJ" icon on the desktop.

My mother got all teary-eyed today, partly about this and partly about Skype voice chat - "It feels like you're not so far away, it's really nice!". Yep - Trust your technolust.

Anyway, if either of my dear readers are interested in this, I've also recently managed to set up my own TWiki, it's awesome in itself, where I've got some further helpful info.

(Update: Since working further on this solution, I want to link to the Wikipedia article on remote administration and "remote_administration" on my Also, it's worth noting that OneClickVNC seems to be free for all use, I will have to see whether it is allowed to modify it)

Besides all this nerdiness, I spent Friday-Saturday in Toila spa and visited the freaky-looking "village of frozen urine" / Valaste waterfalls:

Spa was... very nice. Very nice. Thanks baby.

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