Has this ever happened to you?
Dad: Hi Ted. There’s a problem with the computer. All my programs disappeared.
Me: What do you mean they disappeared?
Dad: I don’t know– they’re just gone. No Firefox, no iPhoto, all gone.
Me: Can you see the dock?
Dad: What’s that?
Me: Never mind. Just go to the Finder.
Dad: What’s the Finder?
At this point, he wants me to fix this situation, even though he doesn’t have the language to accurately tell me what’s going on. This fundamental paradox is the whole basis for the humor in all those funny tech support transcripts that people forward all over the net.
When you are put in this position, you now have two good tools to get you out of it. Yuuguu.com allows you to share your desktop with any email, IM, or Skype contact you have so you can SHOW THEM visually where to go to fix their computer. You can even voice or text chat while you do it. The best part is that they don’t have to download or install anything to be able to see your screencasts. You just send them a link and they can see it in a web browser.
If you want to go even farther to helping out old Dad, you can actually take control of his computer, seeing his desktop on your screen. Chicken of the VNC is a great open source program that allows you to VNC (Virtual Network Computing) into their computer.
Of course, he needs to give you his IP address for you to do this (“My IP what?”), so you better get started with YuuGuu to show him how to find it!
VNC is also a great technology to allow you to log into other computers you might have around the house. I have an old Linux laptop that I use to store and stream my music files. With VNC, I can log into that computer remotely and manage the files there.
The coolest use of VNC, though, is controlling a computer from an iPhone, essentially making it a multitouch remote control. I use Jaadu VNC to control my Macbook from across the room– much to the shock and awe of my students!
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