Now that the World Cup is over and the Spanish parties are more or less over, I wanted to document a challenge I’ve been running for myself. Can I use LogMeIn’s Ignition iPad (or iPhone) application to work-from-home effectively and efficiently?
You’re no doubt aware of LogMeIn. It’s a service that enables you to control your computer remotely from any web browser. I have been a user of the service since they started and I use a mix of free and paid subscriptions according to the service level I want. (LogMeIn, unlike other service providers, will let you use their basic remote control facility absolutely free, period. Upgrade if you want more facilities.)
I use the service on all of my desktops and laptops and it’s been absolutely invaluable to me for years. I really do like the confidence of stepping of the plane in San Francisco and knowing that, should I need it, I can retrieve a document, a file or run one of my applications remotely from any browser.
The introduction of the iPhone application was good news. But at £17.99 I did have to think about it for a little while. That’s quite a steep purchase for an app. However the flexibility and confidence I derive from being able to now access my machines from my iDevices (the iPad is now supported too) easily justified the expense. Fair enough, I thought, since the actual web facility is offered free of charge.
The iPhone version of LogMeIn is eminently usable, however the biggest issue is screen size. There’s quite a lot of scrolling involved, especially if you’ve got 4x 1920 pixel screens hooked up like I do. But it gets the job done. That is crucial.
So, to the challenge. Could I sit at home watching the World Cup and still use my main office computer reasonably competently? Yes.
But I’ll go one bit further, actually. I was going to narrate the experience of watching one of the recent games and plodding away via LogMeIn getting-stuff-done. However this week I had a bit of a problem. A serious, serious problem. And it highlights how I rely on the service.
“The server’s not working,” came a note from one of my colleagues on my BlackBerry.
I was out at a meeting ‘on location’.
Unfortunately my BlackBerry Bold 9700 had elected to swap to EDGE data connectivity. Vodafone was uncharacteristically rubbish. I walked around the office to try and send my “what, what’s gone wrong?” request for clarification. Alas the BlackBerry wouldn’t connect to data. I’d normally use the SSH BlackBerry app to connect into the server and see what was wrong. But that wasn’t possible.
Instead I reached into my bag and switched on my next-gen 3 Mobile WiFi unit. Then I reached for the iPad. I saw the MiFi boot up and hit on the LogMeIn app. I’ve programmed it to remember my username and password so logged straight into the back end.
My plan was to connect to my desktop machine and then use SSH there to connect to the (apparently broken) server and try and determine the problem.
I saw my main desktop listed on LogMeIn, tapped on it, confirmed the login details and boom, the screen appeared. I found the usability fast, but immediately headed to the LogMeIn app settings and selected ‘greyscale’ under quality. Even though the 3 MiFi unit was connected at ‘H’ (HSPA+) I wanted super-fast connectivity with no latency at all. I swapped to Coda on my desktop, brought up the server and connected.
“Good,” I thought, “At least the server is responding.”
I issued a few commands from the iPad keyboard. I had to keep reminding myself that I was using an iPad connected to my desktop. It really did feel like I was there. And it was entirely usable. Indeed — and this is a measure of how much I like LogMeIn — I forgot I was using it.
I did some quick checks and realised the server was fine.
Then I noticed my IM client was flashing away. So I sat and had a conversation with a colleague via IM. On the iPad. Heh.
It turned out that there wasn’t a problem. The server was fine. And I was relieved! If you’d like the same level of ability, do consider trying out LogMeIn or a similar service.