While everyone seems to be using and loving LogMeIn or Go To My PC with their iPad, I wanted to find the definitive FREE (as in beer) solution to using my iPad as a laptop replacement. I downloaded every free RDP and VNC connection client for iPad in the App store and my finding is that 2xClient beats them all hands down for one simple reason. The on screen mouse pointer.
On screen mouse allows for “mouse over” and dead simple Right Click
Now, I can agree that a program like PocketCloud has the on screen keyboard implemented a little better (it also has a scroll wheel functionality). I actually prefer PocketCloud as my go to RDP client on my Dell Streak Android phone. Another dock in points against 2xClient might be that it doesn’t have some drop dead simple to configure workstation side server application that lets you connect with zero configuration ala LogMeIn. You will need to configure a VPN or set up port forwarding. If you port forward TCP 3389, it will allow you to connect UNSECURED to your workstation, so be sure to use SSL. My recomended setup involves connecting to a VPN tunnel first and then hitting your RDP session via LAN IP address.
First, download 2XClient by 2x Software LTD
Important to note, you should already have a VPN configured to your workplace. I use Remote Access and Routing with Server 2003 and Server 2008 to create a L2TP VPN connector. Connecting on the iPad is very fast, secure, and tunnels all traffic. I have yet to find the iOS equivelent to “Do Not Use Default Gateway on Remote Network”. Connect your VPN and launch 2XClient. Here’s the quick and dirty on setting up that connection and getting Windows 7 on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch.
To enable Remote Desktop in Windows 7 (Professional and Above only, sorry Home Premium users), right click “Computer” > Properties. Click “Remote Settings” in the left pane, and check “Allow connections from computers using any version of remote desktop” and hit Apply. Also, be sure to add your user account by clicking “Select Users” button ( if not a member of the Admin group).
Now, you need your LAN IP address. Click Start > Run > CMD > OK to drop into a command prompt. Type “ipconfig” and hit enter (no quotes). Note the IPv4 address of your primary adapter (should look like this: 192.168.1.132 or something similar). Make note of that address. Now configure Windows firewall: Start > Control Panel > System and Security > Windows Firewall > Allow a program or feature through Windows Firewall (left pane). Check Domain and Home / Work for Remote Desktop. Consult your software vendor for configuration of 3rd party firewalls.
Time to fire up that app you installed on your iPad (finally). Hit the little “+” sign in the upper right corner to create a new connection and make sure to choose “Remote Desktop” protocol (not 2xclient). Here we get to start filling in all the important information.
Display and Experience Options are what set 2xClient apart
Alias can be anything you want. Just type in anything to help you remember whose computer you are connecting. I have mine listed by computer name and whose VPN they are on as I am a sys admin. The app has let me create five connections without complaint; not sure what the limit is for this free app.
Address is that IPv4 address you wrote down earlier. Make sure you enter this exact.
Port – leave this alone. You have to change the workstation inbound RDP port first via registry setting. That would technically allow you to use multiple RDP sessions through a single IP WAN link, but you are using VPN, remember?
Username – for most work networks, use DOMAINUSERNAME format
Password – your company windows logon password
Display – now this is cool. There are “Screen Size” settings that allow for a fixed pixel count or multi touch pinch to zoom. I prefer 768 x 1024 (iPad in portrait) but 1280×1024 has pinch to zoom.
Hit Save and go into Experience settings. This allows you to turn on some of the Windows eye candy you expect, or more importantly, turn off visual effects if you are on a slow WAN link (AT&T 3G tethering anybody?). As you may see, I turned everything up to 11 and the speed was fine, great even.
Turn off visuals to save bandwidth
Also worth mentioning is that Settings gear icon there. When you hit it you aren’t presented with a whole bunch of options (hey, it is a FREE app after all). But, what you do get is a pretty cool feature to “Sleep on Idle” and “Auto Reconnect”. This means it shouldn’t drain the heck out of your battery should you forget to close out / disconnect before you put your iPad to sleep. It also means it reconnects very fast to your in progress remote session.
Short video review to be posted soon.