Remote control

Date:10 February 2013 Tags:, , ,

My dad just got a new computer and keeps calling me for tech help. Is there any way I can control his computer from my own?

By Rachel Zarndt

Remote access makes explaining how to, say, set up e-mail ports a lot easier than telling the person on the other end of the line to drag the mouse to the upper right… no, there… no, over a little – and so on. It used to be the case that linking computers on different networks required setting up a virtual private network (VPN), connecting to that, and then connecting to the remote computer using built-in system software. That’s still an option, but there are easier ones. Now all you need is a dedicated remote-access program such as TeamViewer or join.me. Both are free, work across operating systems, and are straightforward to set up.

No matter which method you use, the first step to connecting to another computer is enabling remote access. On a PC, go to Start, right-click Computer, and choose Properties. Then go to Remote Desktop by clicking on Remote settings, and check the box next to Allow Remote Assistance. On a Mac, go to System Preferences, then Sharing, and check Screen Sharing.

Join.me and TeamViewer work similarly, except you’ll remotely access your dad’s computer via a Web interface with join. me, while you’ll use a separate piece of software with TeamViewer. Because it’s slightly faster to set up, join.me is a good option if you want to connect only once or twice. Just go to join.me, have your dad download the software, and type in the pass code he tells you. It’s fast and easy, but the Web interface lags and is short on capabilities. For something more robust, turn to TeamViewer, a stand-alone application that needs to be running on both computers. Once you download it from teamviewer.com, you can both skip the set up and go straight to running the program. To connect to your dad’s computer, have him tell you his automatically generated ID and password, which you’ll then enter in the main application window.
And just like that, you’ll gain control of his computer.

LISTENING TO THE CLOUD

I set up iTunes Match so my music is available in the cloud, and I noticed iTunes’ versions of some of my songs are higher quality than the ones I have. Is there a way to get iTunes’ high-quality versions? And if I do that, do I lose my originals?

When you enable iTunes Match, a $25 (about R200)-a-year subscription service, iTunes uploads your music to the cloud, but skips any songs it has in its library.
That cuts down upload times, reduces the burden on Apple servers, and, most important in this case, gives you access to the matched fi les, which, no matter the quality of your songs, are 256-kbps AAC files. If you play the music from the computer on which the songs live, you’ll be playing the original-quality tracks. But whenever you access matched songs on a different device, you’ll hear – and have the option to download – iTunes’ versions.

The trick to getting the 256-kbps versions of those songs on your computer is first figuring out which of your matched songs are actually lower quality and, second, making iTunes think you don’t have those tracks anymore. Make a smart playlist with the rule “bit rate is less than 256 kbps” to filter all the low-quality songs both you and iTunes have. Then comes the tedious part: delete each of those songs from your library. Do not choose “Also delete song from iCloud,” but do choose “Move file to trash.” As soon as you’ve moved the files from your iTunes library folder to the trash, you’ll have the option to download Apple’s versions from the cloud. And, like magic, they’ll come in at 256 kbps.

If you use Amazon’s Cloud Player musicmatching service, you’re technically able to download any music the service matches, including higher-quality files, but it’s much tougher to figure out which files have only been matched and which have been matched to better versions. You could turn to iTunes, make the same smart playlist, and then upload only those low-quality songs to Amazon. Then you’d have to check to see which ones match as they upload by watching the progress in Amazon’s Music Importer. And after consulting your list of matched, high-quality tracks, you could finally redownload them. It’s a less than pleasant process, to say the least.

Regarding your last question: yes, if you don’t back up your songs. So if you want to hold on to those low-bit-rate files, back them up to an external hard drive before deleting them.

MOBILE MALWARE MENACE

It seems like Android viruses have been more and more common lately, but I don’t know anyone who’s got one. Still, I don’t want my phone getting infected. Is it worth installing antivirus software?

Short answer: yes. Longer answer: probably, unless you spend so much time vetting each app you install that you’re completely confident it’s legitimate and virus-free.

It was only a matter of time before malware makers started targeting smartphones, which emphasise Internet use – including downloading apps. According to a Pew Internet report released last July, 55 per cent of cellphone owners go online using their phones. So for malware and spyware makers, getting onto smartphones is savvy business.

Apple hasn’t approved any antivirus software to be distributed through its App Store and insists that a combination of hardware, firmware and OS features makes malware attacks virtually impossible. So far, that closed system has kept viruses out.

Meanwhile, malware is thriving on Android devices. There are two primary types of Android viruses: trojans, which send SMS messages to premium numbers, and spyware, which sends information – contacts, for instance – from the phone to the spyware’s developer. These kinds of viruses are proliferating quickly. According to Kaspersky Lab, a maker of antivirus software, there were 14 923 new smartphone malware programs detected between April and June 2012.

While there’s nothing that will protect your phone completely, there are plenty of decent antivirus apps, and many of them are free. Last March, AV-Test, an independent antivirus research institute, tested the efficacy of 41 apps against 20 pieces of malware and spyware. Free apps from Avast, Dr.Web, Kaspersky and Lookout were among the Top 10 most effective, detecting 90 per cent or more of the malware introduced. In general, to guard against that other 10 per cent – and for malware that hasn’t yet been identified by app developers – don’t download unofficial versions of apps, and try to get apps only through the Google Play store. In other words, use common sense.