Remote Desktop control from Android phones

Remote desktop control from Android phones, and with encryption too…

Looks like someone grabbed a tiger by the tail and is trying to cope with sudden success. Their web site, in Russian and they are in Tomsk, Russia; is looking for staff and saying their web site isn’t ready yet… So first off, here’s the App Store blurb for the product:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.glavsoft.rrviewer

Description
Remote Ripple is a remote desktop viewer from the authors of TightVNC.

It makes remote control simple. You just view and control remote desktops using touch-screen interface of your Android device. Both phones and tablets are supported.

Remote Ripple is fast and bandwidth-efficient. It uses VNC protocol with TightVNC improvements. It can connect to standard VNC, TightVNC, UltraVNC, TigerVNC and almost all other VNC-compatible servers, including Apple Remote Desktop. If your remote machine runs Windows, using TightVNC Server is strongly recommended.

Remote Ripple allows you:
● help your friends and family to solve problems with their computers remotely,
● make sure nothing wrong is happening on your computers when you are away,
● cut your expenses and save your time on traveling.

Give it a chance! And if you like it, don’t forget to rate and review Remote Ripple on Google Play!

User Reviews

5 star 3
4 star 0
3 star 0
2 star 0
1 star 1

All of $2. The “related products” panel lists several other Android VNC options, so looks like it’s a competitive field:

VNC Viewer
RealVNC Limited
(1,516)
$9.99

android-vnc-viewer
androidVNC team + antlersoft
(8,849)
Free

RDM+ Remote Desktop
SHAPE
(197)
$4.99

TeamViewer for Remote Control
TeamViewer
(60,565)
Free

Their web site basically says “We have an image of what we want for the web site, and we are looking for people to hire”. I’d gladly work for them, as one of the things they want is an English writer, but my Russian is complete crap. It’s been 40 years. I had all of one class. I can barely pick out the letters and sound out simple words. So we’d have to find some other common language to communicate. I’m sure there are a great many good Russian speakers with very good English language skills (and not on the other side of the planet.) Still, it’s an interesting thing to see happening.

The Russians are very good at doing reliable and clean programming. Some times it is a bit limited in ‘feature set’, but what is there tends to work (unlike American software that gets crammed with all sorts of “features” that may or may not work and may or may not break prior things that did work…) They also are modestly paranoid about security (that’s a good thing!) as they have had both the USA and their own Governments snooping after them forever… As long as they are not compromised by the State Apparatus, it’s likely to be a decently secure product. (And I’m sure a fair number of folks will put a ‘sniffer’ on their network to see just who all this code talks to when operated, just to be sure ;-)

Their website:

http://glavsoft.com/

Да, мы до сих пор не доделали наш новый сайт!

Когда наш новый прекрасный сайт будет готов, он будет выглядеть примерно так, как на картинке справа. →

Потому что дизайн уже есть, а контента, как вы заметили, нет.
Нам нужны сотрудники!

А чтобы сайт получился по настоящему прекрасным (т.е. помогал нам зарабатывать и через это делать отличные продукты), ему срочно нужен хозяин. Другими словами, компании ГлавСофт очень нужен копирайтер на постоянную работу в Томске (как вариант, в Новосибирске?). И это должен быть очень хороший копирайтер. Умеющий грамотно писать как по-русски, так и (это самое главное!) по-английски.

На самом деле, нам нужно еще очень много сотрудников. Пожалуй, отдельно стоит упомянуть вакансию специалиста по продажам B2B, который будет помогать нам заработать кучу денег, чтобы прокормить нашего будущего очень хорошего копирайтера. Кстати, специалисту по продажам не обязательно уметь продавать (этому мы как раз научим!), а обязательно знать всякое про SDK, библиотеки, языки и платформы, а также бегло и грамотно писать по-английски.

А еще нам нужен кто-то, кто наладит нам продажу наших professional services, как бы это не переводилось на русский. А еще… не, пожалуй, для этой странички хватит. Подписывайтесь на твиттер ГлавСофт и следите за новостями, там будет еще много интересных вакансий (и других не менее интересных новостей)!

Как с нами связаться? У нас есть вот такой e-mail: info@glavsoft.com
снимок экрана

На случай, если вам все-таки нужно зайти на какой-нибудь сайт, вот тут есть сайт нашего первого и пока что основного продукта, TightVNC. Кстати, на сайте TightVNC тоже есть кое что про вакансии.

Here is the Google Translate. Pretty crappy. (Maybe my Russian isn’t all that bad after all ;-)

Yes, we still have not completed our new website!

When our beautiful new site is ready, it will look something like the picture on the right. →

Because the design is already there, and the content, as you can see, no.
We need staff!

And that’s turned out in the present perfect (that is, helped us make it through and make great products), he urgently needs a master. In other words, companies GlavSoft really need a copywriter for a permanent job in Tomsk (alternatively, in Novosibirsk?). And it should be a very good copywriter. Who knows how to write correctly as in Russian, and (most importantly!) In English.

In fact, we still have a lot of employees. Perhaps it is worth mentioning separately Clerk Sales B2B, which will help us to make a lot of money to feed our future is very good copywriter. By the way, sales professionals have to know how to sell (that we just teach you!), And need to know all about the SDK, libraries, languages ​​and platforms, as well as fluently and write competently in English.

And we need someone who will establish us sell our professional services, as it is not translated into Russian. And yet … not, perhaps, for this page will suffice. Subscribe to twitter GlavSoft and stay tuned, there will be a lot of interesting jobs (and other interesting news)!

How to contact us? We have here a e-mail: info@glavsoft.com

In case you still need to go to any site, here is the site of our first and so far the main product, TightVNC. Incidentally, the site TightVNC also have something about jobs.

I’ve just installed and used TightVNC. It deviates from full compatibility with other VNC by adding better compression and more choices. It can also do a VPN tunnel on open of the connection. It is backward compatible with the others, but lets you lock things down more and compress more if desired. A nice well thought out feature set.

Here’s the TightVNC site link:

http://www.tightvnc.com/

What is TightVNC?

TightVNC is a free remote control software package. With TightVNC, you can see the desktop of a remote machine and control it with your local mouse and keyboard, just like you would do it sitting in the front of that computer. TightVNC is:

free for both personal and commercial usage, with full source code available,
useful in administration, tech support, education, and for many other purposes,
cross-platform, available for Windows and Unix, with Java client included,
compatible with standard VNC software, conforming to RFB protocol specifications.

That ‘full source code available’ matters. It means folks are looking it over and making sure there are not security holes or back doors in it. It also means these folks are in the open software movement culture.

From the manual page on the ‘viewer’ (that lets you see the remote desktop) a couple of details:

http://www.tightvnc.com/vncviewer.1.html

-via gateway
Automatically create encrypted TCP tunnel to the gateway machine before connection, connect to the host through that tunnel (TightVNC-specific). By default, this option invokes SSH local port forwarding, assuming that SSH client binary can be accessed as /usr/bin/ssh. Note that when using the -via option, the host machine name should be specified as known to the gateway machine, e.g. “localhost” denotes the gateway, not the machine where vncviewer was launched. See the ENVIRONMENT section below for the information on configuring the -via option.
[…]
-compresslevel level
Use specified compression level (0..9) for “tight” and “zlib” encodings (TightVNC-specific). Level 1 uses minimum of CPU time and achieves weak compression ratios, while level 9 offers best compression but is slow in terms of CPU time consumption on the server side. Use high levels with very slow network connections, and low levels when working over high-speed LANs. It’s not recommended to use compression level 0, reasonable choices start from the level 1.
-quality level
Use the specified JPEG quality level (0..9) for the “tight” encoding (TightVNC-specific). Quality level 0 denotes bad image quality but very impressive compression ratios, while level 9 offers very good image quality at lower compression ratios. Note that the “tight” encoder uses JPEG to encode only those screen areas that look suitable for lossy compression, so quality level 0 does not always mean unacceptable image quality.
-nojpeg
Disable lossy JPEG compression in Tight encoding (TightVNC-specific). Disabling JPEG compression is not a good idea in typical cases, as that makes the Tight encoder less efficient. You might want to use this option if it’s absolutely necessary to achieve perfect image quality (see also the -quality option).
[…]
ENCODINGS
The server supplies information in whatever format is desired by the client, in order to make the client as easy as possible to implement. If the client represents itself as able to use multiple formats, the server will choose one.

Pixel format refers to the representation of an individual pixel. The most common formats are 24 and 16 bit “true-color” values, and 8-bit “color map” representations, where an arbitrary map converts the color number to RGB values.

Encoding refers to how a rectangle of pixels are sent (all pixel information in VNC is sent as rectangles). All rectangles come with a header giving the location and size of the rectangle and an encoding type used by the data which follows. These types are listed below.

Raw
The raw encoding simply sends width*height pixel values. All clients are required to support this encoding type. Raw is also the fastest when the server and viewer are on the same machine, as the connection speed is essentially infinite and raw encoding minimizes processing time.
CopyRect
The Copy Rectangle encoding is efficient when something is being moved; the only data sent is the location of a rectangle from which data should be copied to the current location. Copyrect could also be used to efficiently transmit a repeated pattern.
RRE
The Rise-and-Run-length-Encoding is basically a 2D version of run-length encoding (RLE). In this encoding, a sequence of identical pixels are compressed to a single value and repeat count. In VNC, this is implemented with a background color, and then specifications of an arbitrary number of subrectangles and color for each. This is an efficient encoding for large blocks of constant color.
CoRRE
This is a minor variation on RRE, using a maximum of 255×255 pixel rectangles. This allows for single-byte values to be used, reducing packet size. This is in general more efficient, because the savings from sending 1-byte values generally outweighs the losses from the (relatively rare) cases where very large regions are painted the same color.
Hextile
Here, rectangles are split up in to 16×16 tiles, which are sent in a predetermined order. The data within the tiles is sent either raw or as a variant on RRE. Hextile encoding is usually the best choice for using in high-speed network environments (e.g. Ethernet local-area networks).
Zlib
Zlib is a very simple encoding that uses zlib library to compress raw pixel data. This encoding achieves good compression, but consumes a lot of CPU time. Support for this encoding is provided for compatibility with VNC servers that might not understand Tight encoding which is more efficient than Zlib in nearly all real-life situations.
Tight
Like Zlib encoding, Tight encoding uses zlib library to compress the pixel data, but it pre-processes data to maximize compression ratios, and to minimize CPU usage on compression. Also, JPEG compression may be used to encode color-rich screen areas (see the description of -quality and -nojpeg options above). Tight encoding is usually the best choice for low-bandwidth network environments (e.g. slow modem connections).

So if you have performance issues it has a LOT of tuning options.

The AUTHORS section confirms the Free Software orientation and the global involvement:

AUTHORS
Original VNC was developed in AT&T Laboratories Cambridge. TightVNC additions were implemented by Constantin Kaplinsky. Many other people participated in development, testing and support.

Man page authors:
Marcus Brinkmann ,
Terran Melconian ,
Tim Waugh ,
Constantin Kaplinsky

I need to learn how to tell the MicoSoft Windows version to open a VPN tunnel (if that feature is in it…) and do some more testing, but at this point, it is looking like most of what is needed to open a secure tunnel from a remote site, to a private server, and then use THAT server to browse or do email, leaving nothing on the laptop / remote, is pretty much all in the package.

IFF that remote machine is properly set up, it, too, can be a “volatile” and “disposable” machine. So “reload from clean image”, and go to Starbucks. Do whatever you want over your secure link, when done, tell the ‘server’ to shutdown and you are done. Only your server knew where you were, and it has thrown that information away. Any “cracking” happened against that server, not your laptop, so that, too, evaporates on the shutdown / reload. It does leave your IP and MAC address of the server as information a public site can gather; but the MAC can be reset on some hardware or a disposable dongle can be used. Then Onion Routing or Yet Another Mirror Server can cause even that information to be hidden.

The other option is that, for “team use”, one can take a Raspberry Pi (or similar) ‘system on a card’ with a disposable MAC dongle, hooked into the laptop for power, keyboard, display, mouse; and then tell THAT RPi to be the server (Picture them sitting in Starbucks…). Now a second person, at a different site, can bounce off that RPi. The controlling laptop is hidden / protected by the RPi. The remote laptop is hidden / protected by their VPN / VNC window. The only thing visible to the Rest Of World is the RPi on the dongle at Starbucks. At the end of the session, it shuts down and the SD card gets pulled / erased. (Stick in laptop and do a FORMAT…) while the dongle can be dumped, zapped, or for some, have the MAC address changed. No intrusion reachs either laptop. No private information is visible on the RPi server or the internet. Anyone doing a ‘trace’ will find a Starbucks IP and a MAC address that no longer exists. Not very useful for ‘day to day needs’, but it would be darned useful for folks like FOIA wanting to put things from one site (UEA) onto another (Russian Server) without leaving a trail.

So far, having done no tuning for performance beyond cutting the screen size down to match my laptop, and not running over a public network (yet), performance is acceptable for most things. So while unlikely to be a good way to watch movies over the internet, it ought to be fine for email / browsing uses. It would be a bit of a PITA to set up all this each time you want to do something, but some of that can be automated.

At this point, I’m going to be using TightVNC for the remote desktop control. I’ll be exploring how it can set up a VPN, and if that’s “an issue” from the PC, how to do a VPN via other means. I’ve also got some ‘performance tuning’ to do, and some RPi software / security work. Eventually I’d like to have a “Real Monitor” on the RPi (just to see how much performance gain comes from being able to actually use the graphics processor in the RPi ;-) if nothing else…) and see how it works in a ‘stand alone’ acting as a ‘real computer’ with a hard disk on USB and swap space. (Swapping to an SD card is a bad idea as the limited write lifetime tends to cause the card to fail “soon”…)

In Conclusion

If you have two computers, it would be worth your time to try TightVNC. If really ambitious, you could try several of the VNC choices and post comments (or links to other places with comments) doing ‘compare and contrast’ on them. There are other kinds of remote access (including line oriented terminal products like PuTTY and various window based products), but it looks like VNC has the “momentum” at the moment. PuTTY does a nice job for things like doing software installs on the RPi, since those can be done efficiently with a text command. (Yes, that old Unix SysAdmin typing cryptic text lines habit ;-)

I have no idea how well “Ripple” works for Android phones. As I’ve said before, I use my phone AS a phone, and not much else. But for folks with an Android phone, this looks like a simple way to do the same kind of bounce off a remote clean secure server. Set up a RPi at home, then when “out”, you could use Ripple to use that remote machine to do what you need done. Leaving little information about you in the public arena. (Mostly just your physical location and activity to ‘home’ in your telco / carrier records). Putting a ‘redirection’ layer between your phone and the internet also blocks things like web sites phishing information about you from your cell phone, so you don’t get “customized advertizing” saying things like “You are right near us and we see from your history you like Sushi, and we sell it, so come on it!”… Frankly, I’m not interested in being nagged while doing things, and I really don’t like the idea of everyone and their brother getting to know where I am located. (Or that I’m using my phone, or what settings I have in it including browser history and…)

So it looks to me like at a minimum you get back some control over location beacon (other than your Telco provider) and cookies / history sniffing (via the remote server reset cycle) and some phishing / hacking attacks as they hit the remote server (that gets flushed / reset). If I had an Android phone, I’d be giving it a try. If anyone out there has an Android, is a bit adventuresome, and maybe a bit of a techie, it would be great to have a ‘tried it review’…

With that, I’m going back to plugging along on all my other projects ;-)

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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8 Responses to Remote Desktop control from Android phones

  1. Sandy McClintock says:

    Have you tried 2X in rep mode?

  2. E.M.Smith says:

    What is “2X”? (Or in other words ‘No.’)

  3. PhilJourdan says:

    I am going to book mark this page as I do have an Android, and the price seems right! Will let you know how it goes.

  4. Kent Gatewood says:

    All have to worry about are security cameras at the Starbucks and nearby stores.

  5. BobN says:

    E.M – I have an idea on how you might make some money, If you give me your personal email I will shoot you an email on what I’m thinking. My email is [REDACTED to prevent SPAM bots getting it]

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    @BobN:

    It’s in the “donate” box to the right “encoded” to prevent SPAM bots picking it up. I’ve deleted your email from your posting as well ( I can see it in the message meta-data anyway, so you don’t need to post it to the world for me to see it.). A nice technique to use is to turns symbols into words to defeat the email harvesters…

    So I am: pub[numeral four]all AtSign AOL[dot]com

    You ought to be able to turn that into valid email syntax, while most SPAM bots can’t…

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    @Kent Gatewood:

    I’ve regularly picked up my coffee and gone back to the car (no outlets open in the Starbucks and/or no seats…) plugged into the inverter in the car for power and connected to the network. So if worried, just don’t get out of your car… “Me? Sorry, I was never in that Starbucks on that day. Check your cameras.”… and you can show your laptop MAC address and it will not show up on the log files (as the WiFi was off [button pushed on the HP] and it was hardwire to the RPi …)

    But yes, awareness of cameras matters.

  8. Pingback: Speaking of ways around net censorship… | Musings from the Chiefio

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