UltraVNC 1.0.2 review
The open-source VNC server is regularly praised by our columnists, and several packages in this month’s Labs are based on it, including the modestly named UltraVNC. VNC is a straightforward client-server system, so deployment is simply a matter of running the installer on the host computer and configuring access permissions. You can then connect to the desktop from anywhere in the world (so long as you can reach it on the correct port) using either dedicated VNC viewer software or a Java viewer that gives you full control of the computer from within a web browser.
Although UltraVNC shares code with other VNC-based packages, it has a few distinctive merits – not least its responsiveness in text and window operations. Image redraw speeds were less impressive, though, with RealVNC wringing appreciably better graphic performance out of the VNC system. As with TightVNC, lossy image compression is offered for occasions when speed is more important than looks. You can also improve responsiveness considerably by viewing only a selected window.
UltraVNC further distinguishes itself from other VNC implementations by its support for Windows user authentication (otherwise found only in the paid-for editions of RealVNC), even including cross-domain authentication and a built-in chat module – handy if you want to use the package to help out a colleague or friend remotely.
In a few areas, there’s still room for improvement: all VNC-based packages lack remote sound and printing, and UltraVNC locks the remote desktop during file transfers, which is frustrating. Version 1.0.2 has minimal Vista support, although an improved version is available in beta. There’s also no built-in session encryption, although a standard plug-in system makes it easy to add it for extra security.
However, while UltraVNC may look limited next to more corporate-friendly solutions, it does an awful lot and is completely free, making it a compelling proposition.