If I could log onto my desktop computer wirelessly, I'd have a way to access everything that was stored at home.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
Log on to your computer from afar with LogMeIn

July 29, 2007

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, The Post-Standard

   My wife and I had to make some tough decisions on what to bring and what to leave at home when we packed for five weeks on the road in our motor home. But we both agreed that we'd never leave home without our laptop computers.
   The two laptops and our two cameras turned out to be ideal companions. We were able to view and edit our digital photos on the spot, and we used a Verizon broadband wireless laptop adaptor do our e-mail and blogs on our 8,000-mile journey.
   But having modern laptop computers and being connected 24/7 wasn't enough for me. At first, I'd wanted to bring along my desktop computer and its massive external storage drives. By doing that, I'd have immediate access to every program, document and help file in my collection, along with all my digital photos.
   Alas, our passenger list included two large dogs, and they needed every inch of extra space in the RV. So I quickly discarded the idea of hauling my big desktop system along. And I reluctantly gave up the notion of bringing along any of my storage drives.
   Just before we left, however, I realized I could take my desktop computer and its drives on the journey in another way. They would take up no space at all. If I could log onto my desktop computer wirelessly, from my laptop, I'd have a way to access everything that was stored at home.
   For as long as there have been computers and networks, there have been ways of connecting to distant systems as if you were sitting at the remote computer's keyboard. Most of them have been slow and difficult to set up. The method I used, however, was comparatively fast and very easy to put into use.
   I installed software called LogMeIn, from https://secure.logmein.com. There are versions for both Windows and Mac computers. (The Mac version is so new you might not find it on the main page. Instead, go to https://secure.logmein.com/products/mac/download.asp.)
   The Pro version, available only for Windows as of mid-July, costs $60 to $70 a year for each PC, based on how many licenses you buy. It allows remote file transfers and printing. among other non-essential features. I used the free version, which has all the functions I needed (access to my home computer even across a firewall, the ability to run programs remotely, and full access to documents). Special deals might also be available; check the Web site.
   The company behind this remote-access software is LogMeIn, Inc., located in the Boston area. Rather than connecting one computer directly to another, the LogMeIn method uses a gateway on its own servers. You begin the connection by logging onto the gateway, which then sends the other computer a signal to allow a remote connection. The remote computer has to be running LogMeIn connection software in order to link up.
   This requirement tripped me up at one point. Apparently I had set up automatic updating on the LogMeIn host software installed on my desktop Mac. After many days of successful connections, the LogMeIn software on my laptop reported that my desktop system was not responding.
   When I got home, the screen on my desktop computer showed that it had been waiting -- for weeks, as it turned out -- for my permission to complete a LogMeIn update. While it was showing this form on the screen, my Mac had blocked all communications.
   I can't blame my Mac (which was designed to be secure) or the update software (which was just doing its job), but the next time I go away I'll turn off any auto-updates.