An RDP client and a Smartphone 'Copter

Gibbs is having fun with remote access and flying toys.

Ah, what a week it's been. Ravelling the unravelled and fixing stuff I thought was fixed.

So, my first find of the week: I'm moving all of my Windows desktop boxes out into a rack and the only machines I'll have in my office will be an iMac and a small flock of laptops and pad-style devicess. Nice. But what Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) client to use on my iMac so I can access my PCs?

Microsoft's RDP client, Remote Desktop Connection Client 2.1 doesn't support OS X 10.7 or later (for reasons that completely elude me beyond the assumption that Redmond's interest in anything to do with OS X circled the drain and went down sometime in the last year). Meh.

Then I found CoRD which is FOSS (free open source software), small, fast, and runs on all versions of OS X.

The CoRD RDP client

CoRD is actually a native OS X Cocoa interface (API) version of redesktop, another FOSS product that has spawned a whole family of RDP clients, including CoRD, that cover a wide range of operating systems.

When running multiple sessions you can have them in separate panes or have all sessions unified into a single window along with the pane that lists your saved servers. You can run remote sessions full screen and also have any or all of your local drives "forwarded" to the remote machines so they appear to be local to the remote computer (the drives appear under "Computer"). It's worth noting that even if you change drive forwarding in the application preferences, that only enables or disables forwarding globally so you'll also need to enable forwarding for each session you set up.

I've only been running CoRD for a short time but it appears to be completely stable as well as being fast and doing the job perfectly. CoRD gets a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5.

My next delight is a helicopter. Well, actually an electric toy helicopter: The Griffin Helo TC Assault which I feel is reasonable to include in this column as it uses a free iOS or Android app for control so it kind of fits the whole consumerization of IT and Bring Your Own Device thing. (Ha!)


These flying machines are small (the fuselage is just eight inches long) and you charge the internal rechargeable battery using the supplied USB cable with a special connector at the helicopter end.

The Helo TC Assault is cooler than it's older brother, the Helo TC, because it has a pair of missiles that can be fired while you're flying!

The controller for the Helo is a block that clips on to the side of your smartphone. This device has a lead with a jack that plugs into your phone and a bank of infrared LEDs on its edge.

The Helo app on the smartphone communicates with the controller via audio tones and controls the helicopter's lift power and trim adjustment along with control of forward and backward movement, left and right rotation, and, if you're flying the Assault version, firing of each missile individually. There's also an emergency landing button so if you lose control (as I often do) you can try for a soft landing or at least one where you don't mangle the rotors. You can also record a flight pattern and replay it.

Three people can each fly a Helo simultaneously (the controllers allow you to choose one of three control channels) so the possibility of conducting after-office hours ariel battles in the cubicle farm awaits you.

The Helo TC Assault is, I must admit, tricky to fly (maintaining altitude requires some skill) and my unit seems to have a battery fault, reducing its flying time from a typical 10 minutes down to about 60 seconds. Even so, the Griffin Helo TC Assault, priced at $59.99, gets a Gearhead rating of 4.5 out of 5.

My final techno-frippery of the week is a service I have just installed called SpiderOak. SpiderOak provides cloud-based backup, file synchronization, and file sharing across multiple machines running different OSs.

SpiderOak client control panel

"Meh," you might be muttering "There are scores of online backup services ... what makes this one noteworthy?" The answer, my friend, is SpiderOak's "Zero-Knowledge Privacy Standard".

The big idea here is that all data leaving your computer is encrypted before it gets transferred and SpiderOak has no way to view your content. The feds could, it is claimed, subpoena SpiderOak to their heart's content and SpiderOak could tell them nothing. Nyet. De nada. So, if you have deep, dark secrets that need backing up and or sharing this could be the service for you.

SpiderOak sees Dropbox and Box as their primary competition and, at $10 for 100GB per month, SpiderOak is, respectively, half and a quarter of the price monthly of the other services as well as far more private.

Having only just installed the SpiderOak I can't say that I really know all the ins and outs of how the service works but, so far, I'm impressed. I'll rate SpiderOak sometime in the next few weeks.

Gibbs is in the clouds in Ventura, Calif. Store your thoughts to and follow him on Twitter (@quistuipater) and on Facebook (quistuipater).

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