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Old 01-28-09, 02:02 PM Thread Starter   #1
jamesgig
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college personal computer networking


I am starting my college shopping list and need some help with my computer setup. I am fairly knowledgeable in hardware and individual systems, but when it comes to networking and remote access, i am pretty much a beginner.

I work a lot with the Adobe suite so I need a desktop for performance and a low mid level laptop for portability. So far so go, i can wire the desktop into the school's network and find wifi access points on campus or wherever else i go for the laptop. So both are connected to the internet, but not necessarily to the same network (dont think this matters).

I will have a printer in my dorm room that will be connected either directly to my desktop, or to a wired router between the college network and my computer depending on the answers to my following questions.

If I am out with my laptop and want to print a document to my own printer for when I return, what is the easiest and least expensive way to accomplish this? Is there any "remote printer" software similar to remote desktop that would allow me to print to a printer attached to a router so that I dont have to leave my desktop on heating my room all the time? Or would I have to just go through remote desktop?

Since storage costs money, and there is no benefit to storing the same file multiple places (I already have a backup at home and on an external drive), does remote desktop work well for storing files/accessing files or is there a simpler solution? From my reading of microsoft's description, using remote desktop locks the host computer. If I am just accessing files and not using any programs, is there a way to allow me to do work on both computers at the same time for the purpose of having more available display space or would that require another program? Would it just be best to hard wire the two computers to a router in this case?

I have been doing some research, but am having a hard time finding performance information on remote desktop applications. If I am on my laptop which will be slower than my desktop and access my desktop through remote desktop, will the performance be the same as the desktop? Obviously bandwidth limitations will cause slow downs during any file transfers, but in Photoshop, Premiere, or similar apps, where it it mostly just applying filters to previews, will the performance be similar once the program is opened? I may have the entire concept of remote desktop confused, if so, please correct me or send me to a place with a good general description.

How do I back up files to a computer at home for backup purposes without monopolizing the system? Basically, I just want the networked computers screen so that I can copy files to a drive at home.


Thanks for the help

Last edited by jamesgig; 01-28-09 at 03:14 PM.
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Old 01-28-09, 05:41 PM   #2
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All remote desktop really does is act like a mouse, keyboard and monitor for the remote PC. The slowdown you get is purely from bandwidth as you said. The problem with using it to host files or do photoshop like youre suggesting is that the image quality isnt the same as it would be if you were sat at the PC. To save on bandwidth they compress the video so you lose colours and detail. Same reason you cant stream decent resolution video over the net, its just not fast enough unless you have a really good connection, which I doubt you will if you are on a laptop using a shared wifi. For hosting files I would probably use FTP, just set up a private FTP server program on your desktop and log into it from your laptop using your desktops IP. Saying that, I dont know what kind of setup you would have with your colleges network. If you are just hooking up your own router to a DSL or cable line you are good to go, but if its going through a proxy or the colleges own switch into their router/firewall, I really dont know what to suggest as they most likely wont give you an IP of your own or a way to forward ports to your desktop. It would be worth asking the network admins or someone at the college campus who can tell you about that as it will get in your way badly.
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Old 01-28-09, 08:20 PM   #3
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Where I work we use remote desktop to manage servers from our desks, rather than physically going to the server room which is all the way in the back of the building. As Big Dog said, remote desktop really just simulates you being at the keyboard of the remote computer.

The graphics are compressed and the response time can be slow if you don't have a fast connection. Operating a program like Photoshop remotely really stretches the intent of remote desktop, and as a result I doubt it will run too well. The concept behind remote desktop is really for diagnosing and resolving problems remotely, or for convenience of accessing remote files and applications for light computing tasks.

It also does completely lock out anyone trying to use the actual keyboard and mouse - they get a notice saying the system is in use. The exception is Vista's Remote Desktop Sharing which allows the user at the console and the remote user to see the same screen.

Now that I've gone into what is probably too much detail on remote desktop, let me say that you may not be able to use it anyway. In order to connect you would need to set up port forwarding, which you won't be able to do unless you have your own DSL or cable modem. This is going to be the same limitation you face with setting up ftp as a means of file sharing.

What you may find is that it is in fact easier to maintain a set of files on both your desktop and your laptop, and just use a synchronization app to make sure each computer is up to date. Given how cheap drive space is these days, I really suggest going this route.

As far as printing, any kind of "internet printing" solution will require you to have more control over the network than you're going to get. Your best bet is to use remote desktop to control your dorm room computer and print that way, assuming you can set up remote desktop.

A final alternative is to use a commercial app such as GoToMyPC. GoToMyPC uses a 3rd party connection scheme, so you generally don't need any access to firewall rules to make it work. The problem is it isn't free.

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Old 01-28-09, 08:52 PM Thread Starter   #4
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So it looks like I will have to wait until I can get in contact with an admin on campus before I can figure out what my options are.

Does anyone have any experiences doing any of these things on a college network?

Are there any other means of file sharing that have not been mentioned and would not require access to the school's firewall? GoToMyPC seems like it is what I want, but I cannot afford it. Is there a similar free application or single low payment type program?

Thanks for the clarification and help.

Last edited by jamesgig; 01-28-09 at 09:03 PM.
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Old 01-28-09, 09:07 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jamesgig View Post
So it looks like I will have to wait until I can get in contact with an admin on campus before I can figure out what my options are.

Does anyone have any experiences doing any of these things on a college network?

Are there any other means of file sharing that have not been mentioned and would not require access to the school's firewall? GoToMyPC seems like it is what I want, but I cannot afford it. Is there a similar free application or single low payment type program?

Thanks for the clarification and help.
You're options for what you want to do will be nil from your network admin, can almost guarantee that.

logmein.com. Free, works well.

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Old 01-28-09, 09:32 PM Thread Starter   #6
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Have you used logmein free? By quickly looking at the product comparison, it looks like I would need pro ($120/year) to share files and printers, but i may be misreading something.
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Old 01-28-09, 09:48 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jamesgig View Post
Have you used logmein free? By quickly looking at the product comparison, it looks like I would need pro ($120/year) to share files and printers, but i may be misreading something.
Free works well, although wanting to print to your printer, there is no possible way any of this would work without you leaving your desktop on 24/7. It's good for email, word processing, excel, etc..., but higher performance programs may not run as logmein is citrix based (AFAIK). They're not going to give you a static IP, VPN is out, and unless you were close enough to your room to hit an access point that you installed in your room, I think you're going to have to deal with synchronizing data. That would be as simple as storing everything in your my docs folder, then moving that folder to a share on the desktop, and enabling offline files. Everytime you're in range and hit your desktop, it should synchronize the files.

My two cents.

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Old 01-28-09, 10:38 PM   #8
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Yeah, the more I think about this the more I believe synchronizing data is going to be by far the easiest way to handle the file situation. Plus it saves time by everything always being on both machines with no manual work required to do it. Logmein is a very good suggestion for access though. I hadn't heard of that one before.

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Old 01-29-09, 07:15 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doublejack View Post
Yeah, the more I think about this the more I believe synchronizing data is going to be by far the easiest way to handle the file situation. Plus it saves time by everything always being on both machines with no manual work required to do it. Logmein is a very good suggestion for access though. I hadn't heard of that one before.
for syncing data i recommend windows live sync. its free and you can set multipule computers up via network / internet connection. you can automatically sync your files then pop to the remote computer and print your things via logmein

edit: oh, cw, LMI is all citrix based. also gotomypc, gotomymeeting and all the likes are other than RDP/ vnc obviously.

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Old 01-29-09, 10:53 AM   #10
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The product you are looking for to backup your files is dropbox. Its free, originated from MIT, and it ensures your stuff is synced, anytime the machines are turned on. If a machine is off, it waits, then once it comes back on, it syncs. It's also the only item I've seen mentioned that can sync across any OS you may use someday not just windows, and can sync securely over the internet - all the machines need in order to sync is an internet connection. In addition, it not only syncs every PC you have dropbox installed on, it also syncs to the dropbox website where you can access your files from any PC with an internet connection.

1. Install dropbox on both PCs.
2. Save your files in the dropbox folder.
3. Go to other PC and see your files already synced automatically.
4. Go to a public PC and login to the dropbox website to see your files stored securely there.
5. ????
6. Profit!

http://www.getdropbox.com/

As for printing, wireless and network printers only make sense in an office setting where lots of people use the printer so it needs to be shared. For you, if you want to print something for when you return, save it to a printing folder on your desktop. When you get home, plug the usb printer into your laptop and start the print jobs. Doing it this way is non-complex, reliable, and will save you a headache trying to do it any other way.

As for remote desktop, all that is being sent over the network is mouse/keyboard events and snapshots of what is on the screen. The machine you remote control does all the work, and remote desktop just sends the pictures of whats happening back to your screen.

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Last edited by I.M.O.G.; 01-29-09 at 11:25 AM.
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Old 01-29-09, 11:01 AM   #11
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dropbox looks neat, same concept though

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Old 01-30-09, 09:39 AM   #12
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Wow, this was a really great thread. One thing that I wanted to add was my experience working for a residential network on a mid sized campus. We do NOT allow anything that will extend the network beyond our own AP. Also another thing I wanted to say is using a terminal server. You could wipe your main desktop and put server 03/08 on there and make it a terminal server. Yes I do understand that it costs some money, but after college it can make for some great experience in a job interview . The problem with this idea (going back to my campus) is that servers are not allowed. One loop-hole I found was that if you take the wired network and put it in to a Switch, then you can control a good part of it that is if your net admin uses static IPs for the Network Closet. Again a very good question and some great responses, reminds me why I am on this site.

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Old 02-10-09, 06:18 AM   #13
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I use UltraVNC for remote access on my network.. It's fairly fast and efficient, and completely free.. It might even be open-source, don't quote me on that though.
For file transfers on campus you could always set up an FTP server on your desktop (depending on your campus' firewall restrictions), or for sharing files and downloads you could always try DC++, again, subject to firewall limits.
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