David Szpunar: Lead Engineer, PC Help Services

David's Church Information Technology

September 1st, 2008 at 12:38 pm Print This Post Print This Post

Remote Desktop and SSH with mRemote, free and open source

mRemote is one of my best Cool Tools finds in quite a while.  I first heard about it from this 4sysops post comparing free RDP clients. For a long time, I thought all I needed was the built-in Windows Remote Desktop Client. I was very wrong. Sure, it’ll get the job done, if you don’t mind windows all over the place, managing a bunch of connection settings files, and manually editing said files to get Console connections. Or hey, you could always start RDP from the command line if you want to connect to a server’s console session using a switch. But with the free and open source mRemote software, you can have one window with connections organized by folder, inheriting settings in a hierarchy (or not, as you prefer, per setting), and giving you tab-based access to your open remote control windows! All this with a configuration file you can copy and use on multiple computers, or the option of storing connection settings in a SQL Server database (I haven’t tried this; I might if it supported using a MySQL database).

In addition to Remote Desktop, you can also open webpages (HTTP or HTTPS, using Internet Explorer or optionally the Gecko rendering engine that Firefox uses if you download xulrunner…see the instructions within mRemote). And connect to SSH sessions using PuTTY, which comes with mRemote, right inside other tabs.

There are other tools out there that do similar things. Royal TS is one, and in fact was the first one I found (see review from 4sysops here). There are others in the original 4sysops post I linked to, which compared six free RDP clients and mentioned a paid one. mRemote does everything I need in a comfortable way that I’m very pleased with, at my favorite price. It works fine with Server 2008 and Vista, and using the smartsize setting so the remote desktop fills whatever resolution is available inside the mRemote window makes for an efficient work area that’s as large as you can fit on your screen!

If you use Remote Desktop on more than just an occasional basis or to connect to more than one system, you need mRemote, or one of the other similar tools if you find it’s a better fit.

What if you’re away from your laptop or desktop and need to Remote Desktop from just about anywhere you can get cellular data coverage with AT&T? Well, you have to have an iPhone too, but I highly recommend WinAdmin for the iPhone to fill that need. That’s a review I wrote as a part of my iPhone Apps reviews over at my personal blog earlier today, and it ties in well with this full-sized mRemote companion :-) (As you might have guessed, writing about WinAdmin actually sparked the idea to blog about mRemote. They complement each other well! Seriously, I think I hear mRemote telling WinAdmin how it thinks of it fondly as a younger brother, whenever my iPhone is next to my laptop :-)

The obligatory “why I haven’t been blogging”: Busy playing with iPhone :-D Too much fun to waste time writing about other stuff (even writing about iPhone Apps has taken a backseat until today!), but I’ve got a few ideas planned and things to write about up ahead. For now, enjoy having a bit less in your feedreader; I know I’ve been falling quite behind in my own blogreading too! Twitter and the #citrt IRC channel are also to blame in large part, but not in a bad way. I’m not the only one; see Jason Powell’s post about it.