Dell web-development sandbox

Damned if I know

| This morning I decided to see if I could set up my Dell laptop to run as a remote desktop on my Gateway. The Dell has a complete stand-alone web development environment — Apache web server, PHP scripting language, and MySQL database — and sometimes I'd like to quickly try an idea while I'm sitting with my Gateway in the living room or on the patio without having to walk back to the office. Windows has a feature called Remote Desktop that sounds exactly right:

With Remote Desktop Connection, you can access a computer running Windows from another computer running Windows that's connected to the same network or to the Internet. For example, you can use all of your work computer's programs, files, and network resources from your home computer, and it's just like you're sitting in front of your computer at work.

I followed the instructions: allow remote connections on the computer you want to connect to; start Remote Desktop on the computer you want to work from. The System Properties dialog box on the Dell didn't look exactly like the instructions, but that's not terribly unusual. I even watched the video provided on the help page. Sounded like a piece of cake.

I launched Remote Desktop.

Starting Remote Desktop on the Gateway

A dialog box informed me that it was configuring the connection. At least 5 minutes later it was still configuring.


Finally about 10 minutes later, another dialog box popped up to explain that Remote Desktop couldn't connect.

Hmmmmm. I naturally Googled the problem. Most of what I found took the form of Why are you even bothering with Remote Desktop? You should be using   fill-in-the-blank  . One of the more frequent suggestions was something called TightVNC, so I downloaded it and installed it on both systems.


On the Gateway, I launched the Viewer (the piece you use to look at another computer's desktop). It seemed simple enough.

The TightVNC logon dialog

In the blink of an eye, the Dell desktop appeared in a window on the monitor of my Gateway. And while that window was in focus, I could do whatever I wanted on the Dell using the keyboard and mouse of the Gateway. Slick!

The Dell desktop in a window on the Gateway

I later found out that what the Microsoft "help" neglected to mention is that "you can access a computer running Windows" really means "unless it's Windows ...." Arghhhhh!!! The following crucial bit of information is buried in a separate "Frequently Asked Questions" article:

You cannot use Remote Desktop Connection to connect to remote (host) computers running the following editions of Windows Vista:

  • Windows Vista Starter
  • Windows Vista Home Basic
  • Windows Vista Home Basic N
  • Windows Vista Home Premium

However, any edition of Windows Vista can be running on your computer (the one you want to connect from).

You cannot use Remote Desktop Connection to connect to remote computers running Windows XP.

Microsoft just doesn't get the whole usability concept.

Last updated on Apr 13, 2018



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