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BlackBerry Hacks by Dave Mabe

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Hack #40. Control Another Computer Remotely

Use this open source remote control software to access other machines from your device.

Wouldn't it be nice to access the desktops of other computers when you only have access to your BlackBerry? It turns out you can by using Virtual Network Computing software, or VNC. VNC allows you to remotely control another computer across a network. You have access to the keyboard and mouse, and you can even send a Ctrl-Alt-Delete to a Windows computer to shut it down. For Windows and Linux, you should check out the free TightVNC program (http://www.tightvnc.com). It is compatible with most VNC clients, but will optimize bandwidth when used with TightVNC-compatible clients. Mac users can use the free OSXvnc (http://www.redstonesoftware.com/vnc.html). There is VNC support in recent versions of Mac OS X (check out Apple Remote Desktop in System Preferences Sharing).

There are ports of the client and server components of VNC for practically any operating system in existence and, because it's open source software, its features and stability continue to improve.

Install the Server

To use VNC, you have to install the server software on the machine you'd like to remote control. You can download and install the server software from the VNC web site at http://www.realvnc.com. Choose the appropriate software for the operating system you'd like to remotely control and follow the installation instructions.

Install the BlackBerry VNC Client

The VNC client for the BlackBerry device is available at http://www.ethell.com/j2mevnc/. There is no over-the-air install available, so you will have to download the archive and use Application Loader to install the software on your device. The latest version can be downloaded using this URL: http://www.ethell.com/j2mevnc/VNC-en-bb.zip.

Once installed, there will (oddly enough) be two icons for VNC on your Home screen, as shown in Figure 4-7. One icon runs the actual program and the other displays an About screen describing the program. So, this would be a good opportunity to hide the About VNC icon from the Home screen [Hack #5] .

Two VNC icons on the Home screen

Figure 4-7. Two VNC icons on the Home screen

Connect to a VNC Server

When you run the program from the Home screen, you'll be taken to the VNC client that will allow you to connect to a remote computer running the VNC server component. To make a connection, enter the name or IP address of the computer to which you'd like to connect in the Host field. If the computer requires a password (and it should!), enter it in the Password field. Figure 4-8 shows the screen you'll see when making a connection.

Connecting to a remote computer

Figure 4-8. Connecting to a remote computer

The Share Desktop option should be enabled if you'd like other VNC clients to be able to connect to your session on the VNC server at the same time you are connected. The NCM option stands for Nokia Compatibility Mode and can be ignored.

Use the trackwheel to bring up the menu and click Connect. The client then attempts to make a connection to the VNC server, as shown in Figure 4-9.

Connection attempt

Figure 4-9. Connection attempt

Once connected, you'll be able to view the desktop and use the mouse on the remote computer. To use the mouse, click the trackwheel and select Mode. Under the Game Mode section (see Figure 4-10), enable the Mouse Mode option.

The Mode config screen

Figure 4-10. The Mode config screen

A mouse pointer will appear in the screen, as shown in Figure 4-11. If you're used to using a standard desktop version of the VNC client, you'll notice the familiar red dot that the remote mouse pointer follows around the screen.

Remotely controlling a VNC server

Figure 4-11. Remotely controlling a VNC server

I'm not exactly sure why, but there is a full screen mode included for those of you who have the vision of a hawk. I wouldn't recommend trying to use it.


Because you are operating over a GPRS or other cellular-based network, you will notice a significant delay using the client. If you are used to the desktop version of VNC, you'll probably grow weary waiting for the screen to refresh on your BlackBerry. Of course, when you are in a bind, this could come in handy.

If you're willing to spend a little money, there is an excellent remote control client and server that works well on the BlackBerry called Remote Desktop for Mobiles (http://www.desktopmobiles.com/). It has better performance than VNC, although it works only on the Windows platform.

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