If your company is anything like mine, you probably have been in this situation (or something like it):
ME: Well, I just reset my active-directory login, but doing so caused my computer’s keychain of passwords to stop working, since it has a different password than what is now the new active-directory login.
TECH: Oh, that’s pretty easy to fix. Do I have permission to take over your computer for a minute?
At which point, my screen flashes, I click on “agree” when asked if I will share my computer, and the cursor begins to be controlled by a tech somewhere in North Carolina while I sit in Manhattan. I watch as she opens windows, scrolls through menus and types information into various fields and forms.
And everything is again right with my computer.
Let’s compare that with another tech-support phone call that many of us encounter:
MY MOTHER: Hi honey, it’s me. Something’s wrong with the computer.
ME: Oh? What’s the problem?
MOM: I used to have Safari in my dock of applications, and now it’s gone.
ME: O.K. Start by going to the Go menu and open your Applications window.
MOM: I don’t understand anything you just said.
ME: O.K. Um, do you see “Go” at the top of your screen?
MOM: I’m looking … Finder, File, Edit, View, Go!
ME: O.K., click on that.
MOM: I’ve clicked on it. What do I do next?
ME: Click on “Applications.”
MOM: Got it.
ME: Scroll down until you see Safari.
MOM: O.K. Scrolling…
I’ll spare you the rest. Suffice it to say, as a technology advice columnist, I get a lot of questions like this — and not just from my mother. You have the same problem, right?
I’ve found that it’s easier to take control of someone’s computer and fix problems myself than try to talk somebody through an elaborate solution. Not to mention that the person seeking help gets the added benefit of being able to see what I did on the computer. Having seen my handiwork, they may be able to repeat the same fix later, without needing to call me for help. (I can dream, can’t I?)
Fortunately, it is possible to do this remotely for the computers of loved ones and friends, in much the same way that your corporate I.T. department can. Generally categorized under the term “remote access,” these services let you view and control another person’s computer (or your own machine) from any computer with an Internet connection.
Before you worry that these services expose you to hackers, scammers and outright thieves, know that in order for any remote-access service to work, you have to take specific steps to enable a computer, and that access is controlled through a system of passwords. Using remote access is as much a security risk as logging in to your bank’s Web site, giving your credit card number to a phone operator at a catalog retailer, or walking outside with your wallet in your pocket.
If you use popular communications software like Skype or iChat, you already have some remote capabilities. Those applications have screen-sharing features, which allow you and another user to agree to see what is on your or their display.
That’s helpful, but it still requires a detailed phone conversation in which you direct your friend/family member/colleague around their desktop and hard drive as they retain control over the computer (“Just click once and wait for the label to be highlighted. No, you just clicked twice and opened the folder, go back…”)
What you really want is the ability to look at another person’s display and take control of their computer (is there a way to say this that doesn’t sound sinister?). There are several services that provide this feature, but the one I prefer is LogMeIn.
LogMeIn offers a range of products, but my favorite is LogMeIn Free. That’s because it’s free.
LogMeIn Free is designed and marketed as a way to set up your own computer for remote access, but it can easily be used to set up someone else’s instead. First you set up an account at logmein.com. Then you download a small piece of software onto the computer you wish to control and use that application to link that computer to your logmein.com account. You can add as many computers to your account as you wish.
Once you’ve linked a computer to your account, you’re able to view and control it from any Web browser after logging into your account and entering the password you assigned to it. This is another reason I prefer LogMeIn to some other services. It doesn’t require you to have any special software on your end — just a computer and an Internet connection. Or you can use an Apple smartphone or tablet and a free app; Android support is coming soon, the company says.
When you take over another computer, it will appear in a window on logmein.com. You have the option to view that window in full screen, effectively turning your keyboard and mouse or trackpad into the other computer’s. That’s not to say that, for example, my mother is locked out of using her machine when I access it; her computer will accept inputs from her or me, so we can switch off if need be. If we both try to do different things at the same time, the computer gets a little confused and the cursor doesn’t really move, so you have to work in turns.
LogMeIn Free allows the host computer to control some of the parameters of remote access. You can set it so whoever is requesting access has to get your consent before they can control your computer, or you can grant them automatic access. When your computer is being controlled remotely, LogMeIn will display a small window on your screen letting you know it’s been entered. A user can also turn LogMeIn off at any time, making remote access impossible. You also have the power to cancel a remote session if you’d like.
There is a little bit of lag time when you’re controlling someone else’s computer. Don’t expect the cursor to move perfectly smoothly, as it will jump and stutter a little bit. LogMeIn is great to change a setting or find a misplaced file, but the connection it uses isn’t very robust, so accessing Mom’s computer to, say, watch a video she has stored on it is not going to be a satisfying viewing experience.
There are some other limitations to LogMeIn Free. You can’t drag a file from your desktop and drop it into Mom’s; for that, you’d have to upgrade to LogMeIn Pro, which costs $70 annually. Copying and pasting text between machines is not always available, either.
But those are small quibbles, to be honest. What LogMeIn has done for me and my family is better than any therapist. Frustrating phone calls are a thing of the past. Inconvenient house calls are also in the rearview mirror. Now, when there’s a problem, I can quickly and easily get online, assess the situation and do my best to remedy it. Familial tranquillity has been restored.
Well, at least when it comes to the computer.
The world is becoming increasingly open, and that has implications both bright and dangerous. Marc Goodman paints a portrait of a grave future, in which technology’s rapid development could allow crime to take a turn for the worse.
Marc Goodman works to prevent future crimes and acts of terrorism, even those security threats not yet invented. Full bio »
The Man With The Iron Fists is an over-the-top kung fu flick starring Lucy Liu. What more needs to be said?
Fine — here’s the plot, as if it matters: In feudal China, a blacksmith who makes weapons for a small village is put in the position where he must defend himself and his fellow villagers.
Produced by Quentin Tarantino, RZA’s directorial debut also stars Russell Crowe. Out October 26.
(Not Safe For Work — red band.)
Bray’s recommendation is that when access to a website is denied for legal reasons, the user is given the status code 451:
We can never do away entirely with legal restrictions on freedom of speech. On the other hand, I feel that when such restrictions are imposed, they should be done so transparently; for example, most civilized people find Britain’s system of superinjunctions loathsome and terrifying.
While we may agree on the existence of certain restrictions, we should be nervous whenever we do it; thus the reference to the dystopian vision of Fahrenheit 451 may be helpful. Also, since the Internet exists in several of the many futures imagined by Bradbury, it would be nice for a tip of the hat in his direction from the net, in the year of his death.
The proposal will be considered in July by the Internet Engineering Task Force, the body that makes such decisions.
No Math: Michael Boatman, Julie Bowen, Simon Helberg, and John Oliver are seriously funny in “A World Without Math,” part of a Save the Children campaign for math education programs in Bangladesh and Malawi.
“We do not want to create a situation like that which exists in South Africa, where the whites are the owners and rulers, and the blacks are the workers. If we do not do all kinds of work, easy and hard, skilled and unskilled, if we become merely landlords, then this will not be our homeland.”
— David Ben Gurion (Shabtai Teveth, Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs:
From Peace to War, London: Oxford University Press, 1985, p. 140)
Yet, denied citizenship in his United Arab Emirates birthplace, he has become one of a number of stateless people in the oil-rich country who have acquired the nationality of a group of islands with which they have no ties. His goal: to secure the official identity he needs to travel and access basic services.
“We’re seeing much more of a security state in the Gulf,” says Kristian Ulrichsen, a Gulf expert at the London School of Economics. “Regimes feel more threatened and more concerned over who is in and who is out.”
Ahmed’s unusual tale holds a mirror to the legal and social troubles that face hundreds of thousands of stateless people, known as “bidoun”, across the Gulf, which have intensified with the uprisings across the Arab world. In Kuwait, some members of the 105,000-strong bidoun population have been arrested after street protests against the government’s reluctance to offer citizenship. In the UAE, rights activists have raised concerns over what they say is the possible deportation of a bidoun political campaigner detained last month.“Either I should bury myself and die or try to survive,” Ahmed says of the decision.
The term bidoun – “without” in Arabic – refers to long-time residents whose ancestors failed to apply for formal identity papers as the discovery of oil prompted the rapid transformation of the region from a Bedouin culture to an urban economy. Without these basic documents, they have since struggled without secure healthcare, education and jobs.
While the public demonstrations of Kuwait’s bidoun that began early last year have not been repeated in other countries, stateless people are found across the Gulf. The UN estimates that Saudi Arabia is home to 70,000 of them. Between 30,000 and 100,000 more are estimated to live in the UAE.
Uprisings across the Arab world have widened the schism between the bidoun and the region’s wealthy nationals. Increased spending by Gulf states on salaries and subsidies to quell the possibility of unrest – with pay rises of up to 120 per cent last year for some government workers – have made it increasingly attractive to be a citizen.
“As the value of having Gulf citizenship has increased, the disparity between the haves and the have-nots has gone up,” Mr Ulrichsen says.
The Arab revolts have also made the bidoun more vulnerable to security-conscious governments suspicious of perceived outsiders and alleged enemies within. Kuwaiti authorities, for example, say the bidoun have been infiltrated by imposters from countries such as Iraq and Syria, who destroy their passports so they can ultimately claim nationality.
In the UAE, the bidoun’s difficulties have surfaced in the curious case of the Comoros passports. At least a thousand stateless residents have taken the documents, says Zoubert A Soufiane Al Ahdal, Comoros ambassador to the UAE.
Bidoun in the UAE say the Comoros documents make it easier for them to meet tougher official identity requirements for securing papers such as vehicle renewals – and perhaps even eventually, somewhat paradoxically, a UAE passport.
It is unclear who is paying for the passports: two of four bidoun interviewed by the Financial Times said they thought the UAE government had paid for theirs. Ambassador Ahdal denied this, while the UAE authorities declined to comment.
While the Comoros passports seem on one level to offer a little respite for the bidoun and a convenient partial solution for the UAE government, some rights activists say moves by stateless people to secure foreign nationality have a darker dimension that has grown in significance since the Arab uprisings began.
Disturbed by small murmurings of political dissent and in particular by the activities of suspected Islamists, the UAE authorities have begun using nationality as a legal tool as Qatar did in 2005, when it revoked the citizenship of as many as 6,000 people.
The UAE government last year revoked the citizenship of seven members of al-Islah, an Islamist organisation, turning them into bidoun and arresting many of them later for refusing to sign undertakings that they would take on a new passport.
“Wherever citizenship is exclusive it can be used as a weapon,” says Michael Stephens, Gulf expert at the Royal United Services Institute in Doha.
In another UAE case, Human Rights Watch said last month that Ahmed Abd al-Khaleq, a detailed UAE-born bidoun campaigner, now fears deportation on the basis of his recently acquired Comorian nationality. Mr Abd al-Khaleq was one of five pro-democracy activists imprisoned last year for insulting the UAE’s leaders and later pardoned.
The UAE authorities declined to comment on Mr Abd al-Khaleq’s case. Officials have previously said thousands of other bidoun have been given UAE nationality, after a 2006 pledge by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president, to resolve the problem once and for all.
Colombian downhill mountain biker Marcelo Gutierrez is back, this time taking us on a Red Bull Downhill time trial that descends some 2,000 meters and includes more than 1,000 stone steps.
- Digital Overlord
- Creator of Happiness
- Retail Jedi
- Wizard of Light Bulb Moments
- Dream Alchemist
- Chief Chatter
- Change Magician
- Accounting Ninja
- Chief Biscuit Dunker
- Direct Mail Demi-God
- The patient refused autopsy.
- The patient has no previous history of suicides.
- Patient has left white blood cells at another hospital.
- Note: patient here?recovering from forehead cut. Patient became very angry when given an enema by mistake.
- Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.
- On the second day the knee was better, and on the third day it disappeared.
- The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.
- The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in 1993.
- Discharge status: Alive but without permission.
- Healthy appearing decrepit 69-year old male, mentally alert but forgetful.
- Patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for lunch.
- She is numb from her toes down.
- While in ER, she was examined, x-rated and sent home.
- The skin was moist and dry.
- Occasional, constant infrequent headaches.
- Patient was alert and unresponsive.
- Rectal examination revealed a normal size thyroid.
- She stated that she had been constipated for most of her life, until she got a divorce.
- I saw your patient today, who is still under our car for physical therapy.
- Examination of genitalia reveals that he is circu sized.
- The lab test indicated abnormal lover function.
- Skin: somewhat pale but present
- Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities
Billy Collins: Everyday moments, caught in time
Combining dry wit with artistic depth, Billy Collins shares a project in which several of his poems were turned into delightful animated films in a collaboration with Sundance Channel. Five of them are included in this wonderfully entertaining and moving talk — and don’t miss the hilarious final poem!
A two-term U.S. Poet Laureate, Billy Collins captures readers with his understated wit, profound insight — and a sense of being “hospitable.” Full bio »
In his latest trials promo, stunt cyclist Andrew Dickey makes the streets of Melbourne his life partner.