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Monday, July 16, 2012

Using TightVNC for Mac development

My main PC machine is a nice dual screen setup with a fast process and lots of memory. All of my email and IM processing happens on that machine. When I use the MacBook Pro for iOS development I run into multiple issues:

1) Screen is smaller (nice screen but smaller)
2) MacBook Pro keyboard is missing keys I use a lot for programming such as Home / End
3) Company Global Policy times out / locks my PC after 5 minutes
4) With PC locked out I have a blank screen and don't see incoming instant messages and emails

I enabled screen sharing and set up a password for it on the Mac. I then fired up TightVNC on the PC and connected to the Mac. I now get to use my PC keyboard and mouse and have Xcode up in a window on my PC. The PC has a large screen at 24" vs. 15" and more pixels thus I can run the Mac OS in a window and not lose any of my PC context.

So far TightVNC has disconnected a couple of times but a simple click on the taskbar icon brings it right back up. The Mac seems to be happy about the whole thing. I am not seeing any issues with typing, mouse or screen lag. iPad emulator appears to work fine too. On occasion it can be a bit tough to get the Mac taskbar to appear. Since the Mac is sitting on the desk right next to me I can quick swivel my chair and pull it up there. Probably just need to find the sweet spot to let the mouse hover.

At times I think about getting a used Mac Mini to continue iOS development at home. I have not wanted to do that as I thought I would need to set up KVM switch. Did not want to buy a Mac laptop due to cost but the Mini is pretty cheap and setting it up to do VNC is simple. I would have no need for the KVM which can get pricey if you want digital monitor connections. What's a little network bandwidth between friends?

** UPDATE **

I think I am giving up on using VNC with the Mac. TightVNC was crashing a bit too often. I set up UltraVNC and I was able to get the keyboard confused too many times. UltraVNC did not crash but you can't properly use the Windows key with it either. It is just getting to be a bit too much of a headache which means my dreams of a Mac Mini sans KVM are going out the window too.