Sooner or later, all of us have the experience of being somewhere away from the desktop system and wishing we were not. You might be on a business trip and need a file that is inconveniently only available back on your desktop. Worse yet, you might have the file, but it needs just a bit of tweaking. The program you need to use is — you guessed it — back on your desktop. The annoying thing about desktop systems is that they stay at your desk and you do not. There are a variety of solutions that try to deal with these situations. There are web-based services that allow you to work with your desktop from any other web-connected computer. Unfortunately, all of these systems have an on-going cost per month or per year. In this review, we'll take a look at z2's Remote2PC.
z2 Remote2PC allows you to view and control your Windows desktop system from your Pocket PC. Your PPC can be connected via LAN, WLAN, phone (modem), or any Internet connection. Remote2PC also provides means to emulate double-clicks and right-clicks, upload and download clipboard contents, and send Escape, Return, and CTRL-ALT-DEL key sequences to the remote PC.
z2 Remote2PC has two parts: There is a server application that runs on your Windows desktop and a client application that runs on your Pocket PC. The initial setup takes place on the desktop. You have to set up at least one user both to set the server "helper" and to log in remotely. Each user has a user name and password which you use to log in. z2 provides a secondary level of security. If you enable device access control only recognized devices will be allowed to connect. The Device List dialog also provides the registration function. The [Send register email..] button sends the serial number and purchase information to z2. They respond with a registration code which you input with the [Register...] button. z2 also provides a "call back" function to aid in working though firewalls. When your Pocket PC attempts to connect, the server application reverses the connection preserving your firewalls protection against unauthorized incoming connections while still allowing Remote2PC to work. The Options panel allows you to control various server aspects like DNS resolution and whether the remote system is accessible locally when you are operating it remotely.
Once you have created a user on the desktop, you set up your Pocket PC to connect as that user. The client application starts with a log in screen that also allows control over encryption, color depth, and cache memory. The client application also has an Options dialog that gives you control over the look and feel and other internal functionality of the application. As a relative expert in networking and computers, I had no problem setting up z2 Remote2PC. I thought, however, that an average user would probably find the configurations and options a bit daunting. This is where a more extensive manual would come in handy. If each of the configuration options were explained in more detail and, particularly, if several examples of common scenarios were shown with the appropriate configurations, this would help the more novice user through the setup process.
Once the server application is installed and configured, you can start the "Server Helper" application by clicking on the taskbar icon (shown on the left above).
On the Pocket PC, a similar icon on the taskbar gives you access and control over the client application when it is running in background. The client application shows the remote PC's screen surrounded by buttons that allow additional control. (Click the picture above for a full VGA-resolution image.) The Remote2PC Client can also rotate the screen to landscape orientation even if your Pocket PC does not normally support screen rotation. The client can also set the color depth from full color all the way down to monochrome. Lower color depth allows faster response with slow connections. In addition to being able to transfer information using the clipboards of the Pocket PC and desktop, Remote2PC can also transfer files directly. A file transfer is initiated by "adding" the file transfer specifics. Once added, a specific file transfer can be re-initiated, in either direction, without re-entering the information. During a file transfer, the dialog shows progress. Unfortunately, the file information (near the top of the dialog) is not formatted to show the information very well. While running the Remote2PC client, you have full access to all the software, in exactly the way you set them up on your desktop system. Above, you can see Microsoft Word (the full desktop edition) running within the client window. This is the control set on the left side of the display. The controls, from top to bottom, are:
Pin button — shows or hides this toolbar; also indicates on-going downloading and uploading Options — hides the remote view and shows the configuration dialog Zoom In / Zoom out — 6 level zoom up to 125%, down to full display of the remote screen Rotate left / Rotate right Download remote clipboard to Pocket PC clipboard Upload Pocket PC clipboard to remote PC Send a left button double-click at the current cursor position Send a right button click Increase / Decrease screen color depth — 2 colors to 65,536 colors. Scroll the toolbar to show the remaining buttons This is the right side toolbar. From top to bottom, the controls are:
- Send close window command to the remote desktop
- Send minimize/maximize command to remote desktop
- Send "ESC" key to remote system
- Send "Return" key to remote system
- Send "Up" key to remote system
- Send "Down" key to remote system
- Send "Show Desktop" command to remote system. This button also indicates on-going download or uploads
The installation routine also places a user manual (in PDF/Adobe Acrobat format) on your desktop system and even places a shortcut to it in your Start Menu. The manual is terse, but adequately covers what you will need to know to work with both the server and client applications. In addition, you can send an e-mail to z2 to request further information or assistance.
The Remote2PC Server runs on Windows 98SE, Me, NT 4.0 (SP6), Windows 2000, and Windows XP Home and Professional. The server application requires about 1.212MB of memory while running on the desktop. The Remote2PC Client runs on Windows CE Handheld Pro 2.11 (on ARM, MIPS, SH3, and SH4 processors), Pocket PC 2000 (on ARM, MIPS, or SH3 processors), Handheld PC 2000 (on ARM and MIPS processors), Pocket PC 2002 including Phone Edition, Pocket PC 2003 including Phone Edition, Pocket PC 2003 Second Edition including Phone Edition, Windows CE.NET 4.1 and Windows CE.NET 4.2. The remote client takes about 49.42MB of system memory to run in full color mode and 39.13MB to run in black and white mode. Even in black and white, this is a significant memory footprint. You'll probably need a 128MB Pocket PC to run the program. z2 Remote2PC also takes a much smaller 682KB of storage to install, which can be on a storage card or file store.
The program ran almost flawlessly during my tests . The one exception was the file download dialog. The download process worked as it should, but, as shown earlier, the progress dialog was not formatted in a readable way.
The File Transfer progress dialog displays information on each file, but, unfortunately, not in a readable way.
I was quite impressed with z2 Remote2PC. In my tests, the program performed exactly as it should, allowing me very good control over my remote desktop and full access to files on both the remote and local machines. The only thing that would keep me from whole-heartedly recommending it for everyone is the memory requirement. If you have the need to fully access your desktop system remotely and have a large-memory Pocket PC, then, by all means give z2 Remote2PC serious consideration. If you have a smaller-memory Pocket PC or want to occasionally access the remote PC from something other than your Pocket PC, you will need to consider other, subscription/web-based solutions.