Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Using your N800 and VNC to connect to your computer remotely

When you're away from your computer at home or work, it's great to be able to connect to it and operate it remotely. If it's a PC you can do this from another Linux, Windows or Mac computer using GoToMyPC or LogMeIn, but what about if you want to use your Nokia N800 to drive your machine remotely?

It's actually very simple, using an app called VNC Viewer running on your N800. You can download it by clicking here. Once you've downloaded it, open application manager and choose Application Install from file from the menu, and select the .deb file you just downloaded.

The next thing to do is get the VNC server software running on the machine you want to access. I recommend:
UltraVNC from ultravnc.sf.net for Windows (download it here)
Vine Server from Redstone software for OSX (you can download it here)
On Linux, check out one of the many VNC Server apps in your repos.

Once you've downloaded and installed the server software, you'll probably have to put in a password which you'll need to type in everytime you access the machine running the server software.

By default, VNC operates over port 5900, so you'll need to go to your router and set up port forwarding so that traffic arriving on port 5900 is forwarded to the machine running the VNC server software. For example, if the computer you want to be able to access remotely (and is therefore running the server software) has a local address of then you need to tell your router to forward traffic on port 5900 to the machine at

Of course, this is no bleeding good if the local IP address of your machine changes everytime it starts up, so you are going to have to ensure that it is always You can do that by giving it a fixed IP address, or going back to your router and adjusting the DHCP settings so that the machine in question always gets assigned the same IP address when it is switched on. This is sometimes called a reserved IP address.

Now, how do you access your machine remotely?

First of all, you need to make sure your N800 is connected to the Internet. Then, fire up VNC Viewer, and type in the name or IP address of your router.

The problem is that while if you are lucky your router will have been given a fixed IP address by your ISP, if you are unlucky it will have a dynamic IP address which changes each time it connects to the Internet. How do you know which you have? One way is to use your browser on the computer you want to access and go to whatsmyip.org/ This will tell you what your IP address is. Then disconnect your router, connect up again, and check again to see if your IP address has changed. If it has then tough luck - you've got a dynamic IP address.

Don't cry though - if you haven't got a fixed IP address you can get round this by going to dyndns.org and picking up a free host name which will always be updated to connect to whatever IP address your router happens to have been assigned by your ISP at any point in time.

So, now you are in a position to type in your router's IP address or host name (if you have a fixed IP address) or its dyndns name (like acaciaave.dyndns.org) to connect to your computer.

You'll then be asked for the password you filled in earlier on the server, and with any luck in a few short seconds you'll see your computer desktop on your N800.

It's a bit bizarre the first time you see XP or OSX running on your N800, but don't worry - you'll soon get used to it.

Then fiddle around with it - you'll soon get the hang of using the viewer. If you click once on something and press the + key at the top of your N800 you'll perform a right click - the rest is fairly obvious.

Now how secure is this? Answer - I don't know for sure, but there's a very easy way to beef up the security, and that's to use VNC Viewer in conjunction with OpenVPN. If you establish an OpenVPN connection to your home machine first, you can then tell VNC Viewer to connect straight to that machine by putting in its OpenVPN network address. If you use the setup outlined in an earlier blog posting here you can connect by entering That way all your VNC traffic between your N800 and remote computer will be encrypted and as secure as a secure thing.

Can you access more than one computer on your network? Of course you can! Each has to be running its own copy of VNC Server, and each has to have a different port number or display number which you assign in the server software. So (assuming you are not using OpenVPN for a moment) one server is on port 5900, and the next is on 5901. By setting up port forwarding for these ports to different machines on your router, you can connect to your second machine by connecting to acaciard.dyndns.org:5901, for example.


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