Monday, July 30, 2007

Fun and woes with VNC

So, we are at a holiday in Palma de Mallorca momentarily. Unfortunately, we could only bring one of our Macs here - my MacBook Pro ' and had to left wifes 20" iMac at home for obvious reasons (it is not too portable, although I did lug it to UK and back once when it was my primary machine). Our hosts however have an oldie G4 eMac. Since both of us need a machine frequently, I tried to remedy the problem using VNC - Vine VNC server on the MacBook, Chicken of the VNC client on the eMac, so one of us can work logged on in their account from eMac while the other person sits at the MacBook proper.

It mostly works fine. But then, there are annoyances.

First annoyance - the system works on two desktops, except when the user of the remote desktop wants to use VMWare. In that case, using fast user switching hangs the remote VNC sesion. No big deal - we will just have the one of use not using it work remotely. (Surprisingly, that is me - Kriszti actually has some Windows-only software she runs).

Second, much bigger annoyance - keyboard incompatibility. I tried both an Apple keyboard plugged into the eMac as well as a Windows keyboard only to realize there's a deeper reason why I can't punch in many characters (curly brackets included - kills any attempt at coding). The reason is that the MacBook still maps keycodes accordingly to its builtin keyboard. I learned this after many futile attempts to press certain keys and evoke any kind of response, I finally brougt up the Keyboard Viewer, and it pretty much displayed the MacBook Pro uiltin keyboard layout... If I try to press keys on a full size keyboard that aren't present on the laptop's built in keyboard, theyre simply ignored. Quite a lot other keys aren't in the expected place. I guess it's partially to blame that all external keyboards in the house are Spanish and the laptop's is Hungarian... But even switching the keyboard layout in the remote machine to "Spanish ISO" doesn't help anything... I tried to plug in one of the USB keyboards in the laptop, to solve the keyboard mapping mismatch issue, as the OS would then try to map according to that. Didn't work.

So, it's far from being a perfect remote GUI solution, unfortunately. It's okay for casual checking of e-mail (mailbox being on the other machine) but really not much else. Sigh.

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