Introducing Live Mesh Remote Desktop: Part 1

Introducing Live Mesh Remote Desktop: Part 1

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The Remote Desktop Protocol is an efficient and feature-rich protocol which we have invested in greatly over the years.   As such, we’ve worked to make RDP available not just in traditional Terminal Server scenarios, but also as a platform for additional products from Microsoft and third party ISV’s.  We are seeing the benefits of this work in very cool products like the Live Mesh Remote Desktop, which we developed with one of our partner teams.  This service was just released to public Beta during Microsoft’s PDC, and in this post we’ll walk you through how it is used.

If you’ve ever wanted to have quick access to one of your computers from anywhere without the hassle of advanced network configuration and VPNs, Live Mesh is for you. Live Mesh uses advanced routing technology to enable seamless connectivity to any of your machines that are connected to the internet, regardless of network topology.

Note that there are a number of other valuable features in Live Mesh, but this post will focus exclusively on Live Remote Desktop. For more information on the additional features of Live Mesh, feel free to stop by their blog at http://blogs.msdn.com/livemesh/. Now, let’s get you up and accessing your devices!

Adding Devices to Your Mesh

It is very simple to get started with Live Mesh. If you don’t already have a Windows Live ID, you can start by creating one from www.passport.net. Once you have an ID to use for your Live Mesh account, you’ll need to visit www.mesh.com and sign in.

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After signing in with your Windows Live ID, you will be presented with a first look at your mesh of devices. Initially your list of devices will be empty, so the first step will be to add devices you’d like to access to your Mesh.

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To add your device to the mesh, simply click the large Add Device button, select the operating system from the drop down menu, and click Install.

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This process will accomplish two things. First, it will download and install the Live Mesh desktop software onto your computer. Installing this software adds all the Live Mesh functionality to your computer, including the components which make it remotely accessible. Second, it will register the computer with the Live Mesh service, to make your computer show up in your list of devices. After downloading and running the installer from the Mesh website, you will see a Live Mesh notification in your system tray.

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Next, click Sign in and enter your Live ID to get your computer logged on to your Live Mesh account. By allowing Live Mesh to save your password and sign in automatically, you can ensure that you’ll always have access to your computer, even upon reboot before logging in to your user account.

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After you’ve signed in to your Live Mesh account, you’ll be able to create a friendly name to identify the device you’ve added to your mesh.

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After clicking “Add Device” you have officially added the device to your Mesh and are ready to access it from anywhere. You should repeat this process on all machines you’d like remote access to. I personally have it on every computer I own =).

Connecting to Your Devices

Now that you have added your desired devices to your mesh, the next step will be to connect to your computers. The Live Mesh desktop software will be installed on any Windows XP or Vista computer you add to your mesh, and can be accessed via the Live Mesh icon in your taskbar’s notification area.

To begin, ensure that the device you’d like to access is turned on and has been signed in to your mesh either manually or by configuring it for automatic sign-in. Note that any machines which are set to automatically sleep for power-saving reasons won’t be reachable while they are asleep. On the computer you’re connecting from, click the Live Mesh icon on the right of your taskbar to bring up your list of devices. You will see that any device in your mesh which is online and logged in to your Live Mesh account will have the “Connect to device” option below its name.

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Upon connecting you’ll see the lock screen of the target device. For security reasons, the device you are connecting to is locked upon connection, ensuring that whoever is accessing the device has not only successfully signed in to your Mesh account, but also has full rights to the remote device’s user account. After you log in, you can control your device in the same manner as you would through traditional Remote Desktop.

So far we’ve gone through how sign up for Live Mesh, add your devices to the mesh, and get connected via the Live Mesh software. In Part 2 of this post, I’ll outline how you can use Live Mesh to access your devices from anywhere via the browser, as well as some of the ways that Live Mesh Remote Desktop is unique when compared to the well-known Windows Remote Desktop feature.

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  • Can you not control a Vista 64 bit machine?

  • The mouse doesn't work correctly. I have dual monitors and clicking in a window pops up another window!

  • Hi Jeff,

    Live Mesh works fully on Vista 64-bit.  Simply click on the "Windows Vista - 64 bit" option from the drop down menu when you are installing the desktop software.  You can see it on the third picture above.

  • Hi Max,

    Are you seeing a problem with the mouse click being registered on a different part of the screen than the position you clicked?  Can you provide some more detail on what you are clicking that causes a new window to open?  Does this happen with only a specific application?

  • Got it working on Vista 64.  It seems to require a reboot, whereas the 32 bit version or XP didn't.

    Thanks

  • Is there a limit to the number of devices?  Could it be in the hundreds?

  • It says for faster performance it will not render the wallpaper but when I connect to my home PC that is running Vista home basic SP1 it renders the wallpaper which seems to really slow it down. Is this a bug or am I missing something?

  • Remote Desktop over Live Mesh is unusable at present.  Full-screen is not properly implemented, causing problems when resolution of server and client don't match.  (Try a widescreen 1680x1050 display on a portrait-mode 768x1024 -- it's either lots of scrolling, or can't read the fit-to-screen text.  It won't resize the server screen to fit the client desktop.)

    Performance is also suboptimal even with desktop turned off. All the tuning options that we know and love from the mstsc client are missing.

    As it stands right now, Live Mesh is suitable only for a kiosk demonstration.  Unsuitable for serious work over Remote Desktop.  A real shame, because it's quite helpful to not have to tunnel in through the VPN.

    This is not the only thing wrong with Live Mesh.  They call it a "Beta" but I'd say it's only CTP quality.

  • I also had a problem with my mouse not being registered properly during remote desktop--my visible pointer was about three widths of the taskbar below where the selection happened. Scenario: Vista Ultimate connecting to Windows XP laptop with external monitor set up for extended desktop. I assumed the problem was because of the vastly different aspect ratios.

    Gotta tell you--while it was nice to see the displays for both the laptop and external monitor, the fact that they were different resolutions and different aspect ratios really made the remote monitors hard to read. Even though my Vista was 1600px wide, the combined width of the XP display was almost 2500 px--I couldn't get good scrolling or good resizing and performance was very slow. Even slower than my normal Remote Desktop connection to the XP machine that requires me to first remote desktop into one machine available through the firewall, then remote desktop to the XP.

    (And, if you are thinking of features, how about adding in the feature that allows us to browse the files of the remote machine a la Foldershare.)

  • I have also had problems with the cursor registration. I can connect to a 17" Dell Inspiron laptop from an HP Mini 1000 both running xp. However where I am placing the cursor on the mini does not correspond to the location of the cursor on the Dell. The mapping between the two resolutions is not correct making it impossible to click/select the correct item.

  • Hi Jeff,

    I have confirmed that there is currently a limit of 100 devices per Mesh.  Hopefully this should the needs of your home :).

  • Hi Tom,

    With regards to your problems with desktop resolution, there are a couple of ways to improve the experience.  First, you can lower the resolution of the host computer to match your client, which is not ideal, but will fix your problem.

    Second, you can use our new panning features, which I will be outlining in more detail during Part 2 of this post.  By using the "Show desktop as actual size" option and going into full screen mode, you can pan the full resolution of the host computer by moving your mouse to the sides of your screen.

    Regarding problems with performance tuning, I'd be interested to hear your feedback on which tuning options you would like to see.  One of the things that might impact performance over traditional RDP is the fact that all traffic goes through the internet, where your upstream bandwidth can often be a bottleneck.

    Thanks for your feedback.

  • Hi Derrel/Peter,

    The panning feature I mentioned in response to Tom's post would likely help you quite a bit with your problem of your view of the remote computer being "squished" when placed into a smaller window.  

    Could you give me more detail about your problem with the cursor not clicking the proper area of the screen?  About how many pixels is it off?  Does the amount of offset from where you clicked to where the click was registered vary as you click on different areas of the screen (i.e. top of desktop vs. bottom).

  • I'm using remote desktop with both panning and "squished" mode. In both cases the mouse click registers in the incorrect place.

    local display 1280x800

    remote display 1400x1050

    Poor quality because I used my mobile phone, but you can find video that shows what I'm trying to do.

    http://andyerickson.org/stuff/resolution-differences.3GP

    http://andyerickson.org/stuff/remote-desktop-issues.3GP

    Look at the resolution-differences first.

    You can see I'm trying to click on the top login button on the remote screen. On my local machine it looks like I'm clicking on it. On the remote machine I'm about 1/2 a screen off.

    The video shows me trying to do this in both squished mode as well as panning mode.

    andy at andyerickson dot org

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