Monday, March 24, 2008

Not even Remotely Mac

Via a Twitter acquaintance, I found this article on how to control your Mac remotely with Twitter. Essentially, you set up various Automator tasks and then use it through Mail.
Have you ever been in a meeting and realized that you had forgotten to bring the latest version of a file with you, been out on the town when you remembered you’d left your computer on and the power bill has just been unbearable lately, or forgotten when your mother-in-laws birthday was and needed to know fast?

Never fear, Now you can use Twitter to have your mac send you the important file, turn off your computer to keep your power bill low, and send your phone the date of your Mother in Law’s birthday.

So, in the example they use, you could text a couple of keywords to Twitter, which will then relay them to Mail—either by email or by RSS. This will then activate a Mail Rule that will launch an application and run a script. In this case Photobooth launches, takes a photo and then attaches that photo to an email and sends it to your work address, or whatever.
Now that your Mac is setup to receive instructions from Twitter you should be ready to send your first instruction. Either from or if you’ve already setup your cell phone with Twitter, send a message that includes the following text, “Twitter Take Picture”.

Once the message is sent through twitter you will receive an email that should trigger the rule we created and cause your Mac to take a picture using Photo Booth. If you setup the rule with RSS feed you may need to manually update the feed for it to get the new instruction.

If all has gone well, you will have an email with a picture of you looking amazed at the power of your Mac and the convenience using Twitter may bring to your life.

Is that cool, or what?

Better, through subscribing to Macinverse, I found another article that provides me with the means to do something I've been looking around for for some time.

Through the power of persuasion and deep enthusiasm, I have now converted my entire family to Macs; my father, my mother, both my brothers and my step-sister all have MacBooks. But just occasionally (very occasionally in the case of my brothers) they have a problem (usually it's Pater Devil who has forgotten how to change a certain setting for recording his LPs onto MP3).

The lastest version of the Mac OS comes with Screen Sharing built in, which is easy to do over a local network. However, what I really want to be able to do is to be able to control my family's Macs over the internet, but without having to pay $100 for Apple's .Mac service. However, I am not a programmer or network expert, and I couldn't find easy ways of setting up a VPN.

However, this Lifehacker article, Get Back To Your Mac Without Paying For It, takes you step-by-step how to achieve just that.
Once you've completed the setup I'm detailing below, you'll be able to remotely control your home computer like you're sitting directly in front of it (if you're familiar with VNC, that's all it is), access any of the files on your computer's hard drive just like you would if you were on the same network (or sitting at that computer), and pretty much anything else (provided it's not too graphic-intensive). The main draw is this: When you're done, you should be able to do virtually anything remotely that you could do sitting in front of that computer.

This is precisely what I need to be able to do. Not only will it be very useful for sorting out my family's computers but there have been many times when I have been out and about and stymied for the lack of a particular file.

I have done all of the setup, but haven't been able to test it yet. However, I shall be over at my father's house for lunch tomorrow and will get a chance to see if I have got the setup correct, by accessing my Mac Pro through my MacBook and my father's iMac. I have double-checked my settings and I am hoping that everything should go fairly smoothly.

In the meantime, this is what happens when you use Screen Sharing on one machine to open Screen Sharing on another machine and link back into the original machine.

Infinite screens!

UPDATE: it worked! it fucking worked without a glitch! VPN'ed into my machine from my father's network and am now back at home and have VPN'ed into his machine.

I am unreasonably excited by this, I hope you realise...

DISCLAIMER: I own Apple shares, which finally look to be back on the up.


Edland said...

I think on Linux you can set it up so that you can control your machine via a web browser - presumably if you are careful with the security you could log into your screen from anywhere in the world on any machine!

Devil's Kitchen said...

Yup, that's the essenace of a VPN. I suspect that you probably need to have a static IP address with your ISP too (which I have); you need to do some port-forwarding on your router too.

But yes, the essence of the idea is simple enough.


knirirr said...

Webmin is the browser application for remote admin. If I were going to use something like that rather than just sshing to servers as required I'd prefer Capistrano.

The screen sharing article had this useful comment about ssh tunnelling, for which this information would also be helpful.

Shug Niggurath said...

I've been using VNC for a while for just this purpose, you can even log into PC systems from a Mac (and vice versa)

Pupazz said...

You don't actually need a static IP, though it is helpful. A lot of routers support things like DynDNS ( which allow you to register a hostname with them, and they redirect all webtraffic sent to that host to your IP, which the router will keep updated in their own internal database. If your router doesn't support it, or you are using a modem, you can also use an agent application, which will run as a service and do the same thing.

Guardian apostate said...

Are you sure you need to buy a dot Mac account for Screen Share? Once the free trial period runs out you're left with a dot Mac address which is all you need for iChat and Screen Share. I use it for working with a friend of mine in Ibiza (it's an absolute God send) and even though he's got a paid for dot Mac account I haven't.