Remote control

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It is becoming increasingly important for researchers to be able to operate their instruments remotely. Below are some notes that may help in this regard.

Video Conferencing

Solution: Tablets

A simple solution for video conferencing is to use a tablet that has front and back cameras (for discussion and for showing equipment status, respectively). For instance, this tablet is light, low-cost, and has the necessary features:

In terms of video conferecing, there are of course many platforms and associated apps. To avoid using a personal account, one can:

  1. Create a gmail account for the device:
    1. Create a new Gmail account.
    2. Use Google Hangouts to create a meeting.
  2. Or, use Google Meet to create a new meeting.

Remote Desktop

Solution: VNC

VNC is a generic cross-platform protocol for remote desktop. Free and open-source viewers/clients and servers are available for all major operations systems.

OS Viewer Server

Solution: Network KVM

For instrument computers that cannot have VNC software installed on them, one option is to install a hardware module in the path of the keyboard/video/mouse (KVM) cables. Small hardware boxes known as network/remote KVM switches allow one to connect (e.g. via VNC) over the network and control the remote computer (in terms of clicking the mouse and typing on the keyboard, at least).

Here are a couple examples of commercially available IP-based Network KVM switches:


Solution: Network Web Cameras


Data Access

Solution: Linux Shared Network Drives

  • Linux system (accessible via SSH, scp, rsync, etc.) that hosts an NFS shared drive to Windows machines (via Samba).

Distanced Computer Sharing

If two people want to co-operate on a single computer, while maintaining distancing, there are some options:

  1. Use the remote desktop solutions (e.g. VNC) mentioned above. This allows a second person to remotely view/control the computer.
  2. Use a network/remote KVM switch to remotely control the computer.
  3. Mirror the display to another nearby monitor. There are several ways to do this:
    1. A video splitter and long cables.
    2. A KVM splitter (a.k.a. reverse KVM, a.k.a. "2-way KVM Extender") allows two users (with separate keyboard/monitor/mouse) to both control a single computer.
    3. For Mac, Luna Display allows one to use an iPad or another Mac as a mirror/extension of the computer.
  4. Have a WiFi tablet near the computer, allowing the user of that computer to video-conference with someone else (and use the tablet camera to show what is on screen).
  5. Point a web-camera at the computer screen, allowing a remote participant to see what's happening.