Remote-Control Software

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Those of us who need to observe other users' actions, control their desktops, exchange files, and conduct voice or typed chats know that Netopia's Timbuktu Pro is a vital part of any network administrator's tool kit. Version 5.0 of this remote-control and remote-access software lets you connect more easily to users over the Internet or even by telephone, letting you help more users than ever before. If you simply want to offer remote help to friends and family who are having problems with their Macs, Netopia also offers a consumer-oriented version of Timbuktu, the elegant and useful HouseCall 5.0.

Timbuktu Pro 5.0 improves on its predecessors with three new features: an Internet Locator service, which helps you find Internet-based users by their e-mail addresses; an IP browser function, which looks for Timbuktu-equipped systems on the local TCP/IP subarea network; and the ability to use one line to both talk to the user and work on the remote system.

Although Netopia has dropped the conferencing feature–introduced in version 4.5–from Timbuktu Pro and made it a separate product (the $30 Timbuktu Conference), owners of version 5.0 can download it free from the company's Web site. Timbuktu Conference is adequate, but it's not on par with Microsoft's free, Windows-only NetMeeting.

Timbuktu Pro 5.0's only other drawbacks are poor documentation, a scattered interface with too many palettes and buttons, and the fact that it won't run unless installed on the start-up disk.

The new (despite the version number) HouseCall 5.0 lets you dial up or connect via the Internet to a Mac–but not a PC–so that you can control its desktop, observe the user's actions, exchange files, and have voice or typed conversations with that user. It's a perfect troubleshooting tool that can double as a collaboration tool. Just keep in mind that only HouseCall Doctor (the administrator component) can initiate file transfers; unlike Timbuktu Pro, HouseCall is not a two-way collaboration tool.

Both the Doctor and Patient components are extremely simple to install and use. Some of HouseCall's functions require a lot of bandwidth and are noticeably slow over a dial-up or Internet connection, but that's a limitation of those connections and not a flaw in HouseCall. Our only quibble is with the price of the Patient software (the Doctor software is free).

Timbuktu Pro is one of those programs that gets better with each update; version 5.0 is a worthwhile upgrade for most users and indispensable for those who aren't on a LAN. For anyone who regularly troubleshoots other people's Macs remotely, HouseCall 5.0 is a must.

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October 1999 page: 42

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