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Ask Slashdot: Easy, Open Source Desktop-Sharing Software? 116

Posted by timothy
from the what-do-we-see-here dept.
N8F8 writes "Like many IT professionals, I provide a lot of free help desk-type support to friends and family. I've decided to expand my support work and create a site where veterans can receive free computer help. I'm using OSTicket for the ticket reporting. What I really need is an easy to use desktop-sharing system. In the past I've used TeamViewer because it is easy to use, but it is not really free for non-personal use. Recently I switched to Meraki Systems Manager because it is free — and it uses VNC — but unfortunately it isn't intended for the one-time-use type support I'll be offering. So I'm looking for a reliable, open source, easy to use desktop-sharing solution that I can set up on my site for people to join one-time-use help desk sessions."
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Ask Slashdot: Easy, Open Source Desktop-Sharing Software?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I think join.me is free.

    • by Wolfrider (856)

      --join.me is free, but *still* doesn't work well with MS Office "ribbon" menus or UAC prompts.

  • Contact TeamViewer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 02, 2013 @01:40PM (#45312285)

    Personally, I would just send the company behind TeamViewer a mail; explaining your case and see if they're willing to give you some leaway in this case.

    TeamViewer is an amazing piece of software that works really, really well.

    It's worth a shot, right?

    • by Gorobei (127755) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @02:15PM (#45312533)

      +1. This is the obvious answer.

      The optics are great (veterans, help, non-profit.)

      First, fix your website so that it is obvious what you are offering and how you deliver it ("we are off-line now" does not cut it.)

      Second, send a mail to TeamViewer's CEO or PR explaining what you do, what you need, and how you can help them in the PR space (you put thanks on your site, they can point to you as a good deed, you are available for journalists.)

      Better than a shot, it should be a slam-dunk if you do it right.

      • by smart_ass (322852)

        Agreed.
        Just get them to OK the project.

        The fact that it is a volunteer / free thing I can't imagine why they would object.

        Should be great exposure for them.

        • by QA (146189)

          I strongly recommend sending Teamviwer an email explaining your situation and perhaps asking for a little relief on the pricing.
          We started using it a few years ago. I used it for "commercial purposes" on a few machines for 2 or 3 months, then contacted them about a business license. The cost was a little high, but they offered me a 40% discount, so I purchased it on the spot.

          Later, after training a few employees on its use, I ran in to the single channel problem, so I called TeamViewer again and explained t

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Optics? Really?

        • by Gorobei (127755) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @09:28PM (#45315177)

          Really. Used well, it can kill a room full of anodyne PR words. Can only be cast by level 5+ geeks.

          • by hhacklub (2928805)
            At level 10 geek it's all about how many levels deep in full screen remote machines you are connected through without getting lost. ;0 watch out for accidentally looped-back connections as they can be pretty intense! (E.g. "belay phaser order! -Arm photonnnnn torpeeeedos!)
    • by N8F8 (4562) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @04:19PM (#45313321)

      I'll consider this but I'm an Open Source advocate and I would like to have the option of customizing the solution.

  • by iCEBaLM (34905) <{moc.mlabeci} {ta} {mlabeci}> on Saturday November 02, 2013 @01:44PM (#45312313)

    ChunkVNC + Instant Support is great and can be found here: http://www.chunkvnc.com/ [chunkvnc.com] Do yourself a favor and click the "Help" at the top of the page to get to the forums and look for rat's 4.0 fork.

    Basically what you do is run a repeater on an internet accessable box, use the scripts to customize and create a small (2mb usually) "instantsupport.exe" that you can link on a website somewhere, and then when the user runs it, they either pick a support technician, or get an ID number that you use to connect to them, through the repeater, using the chunk viewer.

    • I'm looking for something similar, but the lack of portability is a killer for me.

    • by N8F8 (4562)

      I'll try this. Looks like an excellent option. Thank you.

      • by hhacklub (2928805)
        http://slashdot.org/~N8F8 [slashdot.org] hello, we're working on a similar remote support and would love to share ideas! Would you drop us a line on http://hhack.org/ [hhack.org] or on twitter @hhacklub ? our userbase is similar though with a twist as we're shooting for the holy grail of actually helping the total novice 'digital immigrant' of the typical Granny as everyone in this day and age can use a hand with these magical machines (of frustration! lol) Thanks and cheers from jolly old england!
    • by rduke15 (721841)

      Unfortunately, the repeater is a Windows program. That is what you need to run on a server with a fixed IP. If you already have a server somewhere with a fixed IP, chances are high that it runs Linux or some BSD.

      I once set up a very simple repeater on my Debian server, to use with UltraVNC (which is what ChunkVNC uses). It worked, but there were no easy instructions on how to set it up, or how to pre-configure the Windows UltraVNC endpoints. Also, if I remember correctly, it only supported one connection at

      • Every tech I know has an always-on desktop connected to the internet with a rarely changing IP. And the forum has instructions on setting it up on Linux.
      • by iCEBaLM (34905)

        There's a few, the recommended one right now is written in perl, easily runnable on any linux box.

    • by mcrbids (148650)

      I run the ChunkVNC repeater on a CentOS EL6 box without issue. It's a perl script! I spent a day or two putting together an auto-build script for our customers, we offer ChunkVNC + InstantSupport.exe/dmg to all our clients. Unfortunately, VNC support for IOs/Android is still somewhat limited.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The X windowing system is designed to be used on a network. Look it up. It might not be the schmanciest thing on the block, but you can do a lot with it.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Rate the requirements:

    Sharing the victim's desktop with support staff
    Ease of installation
    Cost
    Efficiency and responsiveness
    Security
    Multi-platform server support.

  • by Idimmu Xul (204345) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @01:55PM (#45312393) Homepage Journal

    bleeding edge, but is cross platform and can be interfaced with your site seamlessly

  • by number11 (129686) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @01:59PM (#45312421)

    UltraVNC Single Click [uvnc.com] is a small (Win) executable customized to connect the user to your address. You run VNC Viewer in "listen" mode. It's very simple to use, doesn't require installing, can be downloaded by the user or sent via email (if they can receive .exe files), works through user NAT. I've been using it for years, directed to my dynamic IP via dyndns. You can customize what the user client looks like. Don't know if it works with Win8 though, and it doesn't work for users running OSX or Linux.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Mac users CAN go into Screen Sharing, [Computer Settings] and check a box that allows VNC, and let's them set a password for same

      • by Richy_T (111409) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @02:39PM (#45312665) Homepage

        His method uses the client in listen mode though. This is the solution I was going to suggest. It's simple to write a small self-extracting executable that contains the VNC server and launches it with parameters telling it to connect to the client. I even had it integrated with our helpdesk software so that the helpdesk people could choose to pick up the connections (the software I wrote to launch the server would actually wait until one of the helpdesk people "accepted" the user before launching the server).

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rosseloh (3408453)
      This is what we use at our shop, but it's gone way downhill recently. There is now a problem/bug somewhere, either in a recent update of the client or in MS's implementation of UAC, that prevents you from controlling anything that requires admin permissions remotely. This happens even when UAC is fully disabled as far as I've seen. It used to just bring up the standard UAC prompt ("do you want to do this thing") that we couldn't see or click on, but once you got through it everything worked well.

      Nothing
      • Weird. We haven't seen this yet, but we're not running the absolute latest build either.

      • System modal dialog boxes, or UAC prompts now output to console 0. It won't be the same as the one the user is currently logged into
        • by kriston (7886)

          That's interesting. Perhaps they need to re-install UltraVNC as an administrator and install the mirror driver as administrator.

          I get UAC prompts over UltraVNC every day and it does definitely work. I just did one now. UltraVNC works.

          • by rosseloh (3408453)
            We use the single click executable (as mentioned in the parent comment). This doesn't actually install - it's a standalone exe. We run VNC in listen mode on our tech stations at the shop, and tell the customer over the phone who to click on to let us in. So, a reinstall won't help here.
            • by kriston (7886)

              Sorry, I thought I had read it clearly.

              Using the .exe is never going to work just like the others said.

    • I can second this recommendation, as long as users are on Windows, which I'm guessing they most likely are.

      Once it's setup, it really is as simple as VNC can possibly be for users (literally, just: go to this website, download this file, click yes/allow to any security warnings).

      That said, it's pretty amazing how difficult it is to talk some users through something as simple as this, but I guess it's not easy explaining anything technical to people who think their computer is a glorified dishwasher.

      showmypc

    • The lack of portability is a shame though, I wonder why screen-sharing is usually windows-only.

    • by bflong (107195)

      The same setup can be used with a remote linux client using x11vnc.

      http://www.karlrunge.com/x11vnc/faq.html#faq-reverse-connect [karlrunge.com]

      I use this at work to support Laptop users in the field.

    • A very similar solution to this is gitso which is hosted at google code http://code.google.com/p/gitso/ [google.com] As with UltraVNC Single Click, your client downloads the appropriate software for their OS starts the program and then populates the dialog box with your IP or web address. Then, if you have set up your VNC server to listen for connections and if you have forwarded the listening port correctly, then you are good to go! While I too have used Teamviewer for family and friends, I find this a very simple solu
  • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @02:00PM (#45312433) Homepage

    I just open a port on my FW, and use a reverse VNC setup with a listening viewer.

    The other guy connects to a listening viewer to my IP.

    You could prolly find a portable-executable vnc server and roll it up with a launcher to call it with appropriate args like your IP.

  • http://join.me/ [join.me]

    It is free, no account necessary and does what you need. It is web browser based so it doesn't matter what OS you are on.

    • by Draknor (745036)

      another plug for join.me -- we use it for screen-sharing for work (such as virtual meetings, conference calls, etc). I paid for the professional account ($79/yr, I think?) because I get a conference phone line with that, and it was a simple, easy-to-use service that I felt was worth it.

      Stupid-simple to use -- user just visits a simple URL (join.me/my-url-here) to observer. If you pass presenter control to them, the browser will prompt to download an executable that runs to host. No install necessary, just

  • I use a custom build of the old version of PcHelpware, from the creators of UltraVnc. Not the new version, but the old version. The old version of PcHelpware lets me pick the port number, so I can get through restrictive firewalls that only allow well-known port numbers.

    However, it's still a bit buggy on Vista/Windows 7, specifically, it crashes whenever a UAC prompt appears. I made a workaround for this, I replaced the main EXE with a stub version that disables UAC when you run it, and reenables UAC aft

  • by Tetravus (79831) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @02:12PM (#45312515) Homepage

    Google published a remote desktop plugin for the Chrome browser. It's not Open Source, but it is free (as in beer), and professionally written installation / setup instructions are available in multiple languages.

    Actual remote access for you will be controlled by the user, they create a one-time passkey in Chrome and share that with you to connect to their system.

    Here's the plugin page: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/chrome-remote-desktop/gbchcmhmhahfdphkhkmpfmihenigjmpp [google.com]

    Here's the support page: https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/1649523?hl=en [google.com]

    For non-technical users adding a browser plugin is going to be much easier to understand than messing around with port forwarding and system permissions.

    • by Splab (574204)

      +1000 for this.

      I just installed this on my grandmas computer, you can even add a desktop icon for easy use.

    • by swillden (191260)

      (Apologies for the double post; I accidentally posted this in reply to another post).

      Google published a remote desktop plugin for the Chrome browser. It's not Open Source, but it is free (as in beer)

      Actually, it is open source. BSD licensed, and it's included in the Chromium source.

      It's very easy to use, fast and reliable. I use it daily to connect to my desktop machine at work.

  • First you need to define what veteran means. Old farts like me that have been around since 1959 and on the Internet since 1995 and also in the industry for 20 years ~ or vets RAMBO style.

    If they are like me, then what is it for? If it is for the other, the a Uzi would suffice with a redirect to "I'll be back"

    It should be called "Old farts that don't have a clue"
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's free software, it runs on Mac, Windows, and a variety of Linuxes, it has built-in text and audio chat. The only setup needed is to register an XMPP account on jit.si and then enter that account name and the password in Jitsi the first time you start it.

    The downside is that it's written in Java and, at least on Debian, uses a butt-ugly widget theme that doesn't seem to be changeable.

  • For helping friends/family, I like ShowMyPC.com. Both of you go there and download/run an EXE. Once it launches, they click to generate a code that they give to you and you connect using it. It's VNC-based and nothing to install.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I too am in the market for such a support tool, but I am past my rigid requirements for open source and have made my requirements far more simple.
    1. Inexpensive.
    2. Viewer must work from a Linux workstation.
    3. Must work well.

    So far I have been using LogMeIn Free, Ultra VNC SC(Single Click), Join.me and other failed attempts. None of these solutions have provided all of my requirements.
    UltraVNC SC - Poor quality/reliability connections freeze, color consumes too much bandwidth, UAC is a nightmare, no persiste

  • Check out Pertino.com, a network as a service startup. You can set up a free account for three devices forever. If you need to expand past three devices at the same time, then Pertino has become valuable to you.

    At a minimum, you get a very easy to use (and administer) private, secure network between you and whomever you invite onto your network, so you can do Remote Desktop, VNC, X, or whatever else you choose for you and your family to use without resorting to GotoMyPC, WebEx, etc. (mind you, all of those

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Google Chrome has a little known extension from Google called Remote Desktop that may fit your requirements. I think it's open souce as part of chromium. It requires some non open-source Google services to operate, though (nat traversal, authentication, looking up remote assistance invitations etc).

  • He may have something that he knows was/is being used currently...

  • But, Chromium/Chrome has plugin for remote desktop. I don't know license of plugin, but it's there, easy to install, i tested it on Linux, should also work on Linux. It's easy to use. It's not running in normal server/client model, in a sence, that server is some google service, but it does what says on the tin. Though I have my privacy concern here. Its UBER easy, mom tested. (I have gentoo, mom's laptom Linux Mint) You only need plugin, which is easy to install, and chromium on both computers. No need fo
  • jitsi (Score:4, Informative)

    by higuita (129722) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @05:25PM (#45313777) Homepage

    I use locally a set of scripts that remotly install a vnc, start it, connect to it and uninstall it on the end.

    For more remote access, i use both teamviewer or jitsi.

    Jitsi is a XMPP cliente in java, with great support for VOIP and Video, and allows remotly control the computer... so it's easy to start a session for people that i'm connected.

    with a little script, you can ask to run a url that runs the jitsi, configure it (asking a name+email probably) and starting a chat. You can then ask for remote control the machine.

    yes, teamviewer is simpler, but with jitsi you can control all the process

  • by caseih (160668) on Saturday November 02, 2013 @07:04PM (#45314395)

    By far the easiest and cheapest would be to have them be running Google Chrome and install the remote desktop app. They need to just fire it up, have it generate a code, and give you that code that you plunk in your end. It's fairly fast, secure (one-time codes), and works on mac, linux, and windows.

    https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/chrome-remote-desktop/gbchcmhmhahfdphkhkmpfmihenigjmpp?hl=en [google.com]

  • I know it's not free, but you can host the software on a linux box (even a cheap VPS will do nicely) and their pricing is *significantly* better than team viewer/etc, especially in bulk,. I also know they offer heavily discounted non-profit pricing.

    It's mainly designed for the "run it for a few minutes, solve the issue and automatic uninstall when done" model.
    The problem with join.me/teamviewer, is that the person has to read you numbers off the screen before you connect.
    With Screen connect, they just run t

  • I am still amazed at how people can recommend 1990s technologies like VNC and NX.
    Things have moved on quite a bit since then, and those two technologies have not.
    • by xint_64 (701832)
      Do you have any proof of that? AFAIK there is very little remained in NX about the original X Window roots. They have ditched X completely even before Wayland developers decided to do it. While they have terminal servers for Linux that use X, the new version works on windows and mac and uses video encoding everywhere. This is no different compared to what OnLive or the NVidia Shield are doing.
      • They have ditched X completely even before Wayland developers decided to do it

        There is just no other way of providing native OSX or win32 servers! It wasn't a great act of foresight. (using an X11 proxying protocol for OSX and win32 servers would be a very dumb thing to do, a complete nightmare and a waste of development effort)

        The reason why I did not consider NX v4 to be included in my statement is that it is approximately 6 weeks old... It is closed source and the "free" version is a bit crippled (maybe not so crippled as to make it unsuitable for the OP though?). v3 (abandonwa

        • by xint_64 (701832)

          There is just no other way of providing native OSX or win32 servers!

          Are you implying that intercepting the DirectX [wikipedia.org] or the OpenGL [wikipedia.org] command stream is not a legitimate way? There are always different ways to do something, until one comes up with a better way. After that everything becomes obvious. About ditching X, I don't remember NoMachine to have ever been very active in the X development. Maybe they had come to the same [hack.org] conclusions long time before, but, you know, X was what was used on Linux...

          even where the delta compression algorithm wasn't even theirs to begin with...

          This seems a bit unfair for people that, with their open source work, sparked at

          • by xint_64 (701832)
            Replying to myself because the OpenGL link is wrong. I meant this [wikipedia.org].
          • Are you implying that intercepting the DirectX or the OpenGL command stream is not a legitimate way?

            Not at all, it is. I am saying that designing a network protocol for forwarding desktop pixels from OSX or win32 desktops and using X11 semantics would be a mind boggingly stupid idea, which is why they have not done it.
            This is also why directing criticism towards X11 is very much misguided, it may have its flaws but this is certainly not what drove them to make the decision to switch.

            This seems a bit unfair for people ... that was completely novel ...

            Which technology was their creation and which one wasn't is not really the issue for me, taking an open-source product and

  • Google Chrome, do it, and do well! And its free. You need only to install a plugin in Chrome. You can also, use Google Hangout, which has some sharing facilities. All is free and works.
  • I have used crossloop for a long time. Simple download, works with mac and windows. From my system as the viewer, I was able to get it to work after some fiddling with it using wine. It makes an outbound connection from the end user, so you don't have to worry about punching a hole in the typical end users router. They also have advertising facets on their website where you can list yourself as a professional in certain areas and people looking for help can connect to you for support that way too (I nev
  • Only used it once or twice, but it was really easy to use.
  • In my opinion, the one that is easiest, requiring the "fewest clicks" by the enduser is http://join.me/ [join.me]

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