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Apple Mac OS X tips and tweaks

Date: 10th April 2011

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Access your Mac from your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch using Splashtop

There are times when you are out and away from home or work and you realise that you need to access some files, run an application, look up some information or perform some other type of task. What can you do? Well, if you have an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch with you, you could access it remotely. Splashtop Remote is an app that enables you to remotely control your computer, whether it is an Apple Mac or Windows PC, as if you were sat in front of it. You see the computer's desktop and you can access files, run software and so on as if you were really there.

In another article I looked at TeamViewer and I showed how to access a Linux PC from an iPad. You can also access an Apple Mac too and there's a TeamViewer Mac app available. Splashtop is a similar application that works in the same way. There isn't a Linux version, but you can download and run software on Windows PCs or Apple Macs that enable you to take control of them from your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.

The first step is to download the streamer and this is a free application that runs on your Apple Mac or Windows PC. You just install it and then run it. A little window appears that enables you to view the status, access settings and so on. You don't need to do anything special though.

Now go to the App Store on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch and search for Splashtop. There are paid and free versions and the difference is that the free one only connects for five minutes and then closes. You have to restart the app and connect again. It's basically so that you can try the app before you buy the paid version. It's fine if you just want to follow this article and try remotely accessing your Mac and it will give you a good idea and what you can do.

When you run the app it scans the local network for computers running Splashtop and displays them in a list. You just tap the one you want to connect to. A password is required for security purposes and then the computer's desktop appears on the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch's screen. You can pull down menus, run applications, and generally do anything you want as if you were really using the computer. Obviously the iPhone's screen is much smaller than the Mac's and it's like looking through binoculars the wrong way round, but you can zoom in using the same two-finger spread as with photos. An iPad's display is bigger and you won't need to zoom as much. Here's a screen shot of the iPhone app.

This is an iPhone screen shot. The icon in the bottom right displays the keyboard.

Although Splashtop worked, the app is nowhere near as intuitive as TeamViewer and the controls are confusing. For example, there doesn't seem to be a way of moving the mouse. When you touch the screen it is interpreted as a mouse click and the mouse cursor jumps to that position. This means you can't drag the mouse around and you can't position it over enything without clicking, although double tapping is the same as a mouse hover. I have the Dock set to auto-hide and I couldn't drag the mouse to the bottom of the screen to pop it up so I could access it. You would need to turn off auto-hide and have the Dock onscreen all the time.

Splashtop is certainly interesting and you can access your Mac remotely, but the controls are awkward and could be much better. If you wanted to access your Mac from elsewhere over the internet, such as from a coffeee shop, you would need to know the computer's external IP address, the one the router uses, and set up port forwarding in the router's settings to channel the communications to the Mac. It's not difficult, but it is an added complication and not everyone knows how to configure their router.

To sum up then, it's good, but not perfect. If the mouse control gestures were improved it would be excellent.

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