What is it? It’s a tool, much like VNC, GotoMyPC, FogCreek Co-Pilot, etc. which allows you to remote control a computer of your choice. The difference is RDC is a Microsoft product using Microsoft proprietary protocols for remoting. They offer a version for Mac users too. So if you own a Macintosh and need to do something like, oh, I dunno, control a Windows computer you can do so. I use RDC. I use it because I’m allergic to Chicken of the VNC. Truth be told, VNC from Mac to Windows sux! You can’t get your work done, your keys are all incorrectly mapped, there’s little option for customization, it’s terrible! With RDC you have most your your keys mapped correctly. There’s the Windows key, Alt+Tab works correctly, Ctrl copy/paste works, multi-select, just about everything except an insert key. (If you’re on a MacBook Pro you have to remember the trick with the fn+delete to get a true delete instead of a backspace and honestly why don’t the y just stick the extra button on the Mac keyboard? Are they so aesthetically overachieving that they’re afraid the general user community will be like, “Oh no! there’s two keys for deleting characters! I’m gonna haffta grow an extra finger to operate it!” Really would one more [two more, throw an insert key in there too] key ruin the shape of the keyboard or something?)

So yes, I use RDC because it maps my keys correctly. The other day I started RDC. I got a polite message informing me that my beta copy was outdated and suggesting that I upgrade. In my business one kinda understands the underpinnings of such a dialog, having worked on at least two auto-versioning systems just completing one recently it comes as no surprise that a piece of software may find the need to maintain itself. So I elect to upgrade. Now lets talk about auto versioning for a minute. I feel it should be as unintrusive as possible. I’ve seen at least two other good examples of such unobtrusiveness on the Mac. Adium occasionally updates itself and the whole process always runs smoothly. It fetches the latest version from the web, unpacks and installs itself, and restarts with little interruption. ZipEG is another such auto-versioning tool that causes little disruption. The tool I just wrote is also similar, however I’ve not figured out how to trigger a restart from J2ME and I fight with the unpredictability of the device that sometimes chooses to allow me to run an app after installing and sometimes forces a reboot. At any rate, that’s what auto-versioning should work like. Ask once, do the update, restart, and get the [insert four letter explitive here] outta my way.

Microsoft appears to choose extra dialogs bearing its icon over simplicity whenever possible. Let me back up a minute and explain the RDC upgrade process. The update warning appears giving you the option of upgrading or continuing. (Thank God for options, you’ll see why later.) You click “Download Latest Version” and instead of performing the upgrade it points your browser to the site where you can download and install the latest version. Not too bad, just extra steps for end users. Then you download and install. When I reopen my .rdc file (this is the file containing all of the settings, user name, password, etc. for my remote session) it seems to be associated with the older version of RDC because I continue to get the out of date dialog. I delete the older version which was saved in a non-standard sub-folder under “Applications”, I update my QuickSilver index because I use QuickSilver for just about everything short of filing my taxes though I think there is a 1040 and a 1040a QuickSilver plugin available, and I launch RDC again this time directly and still get the prompt. I delete all installs of RDC and reinstall from the downloaded .dmg file. (On the Mac a .dmg is kinda like an archive you open them and sometimes they include installers.) Same dialog. After accepting the reality of the dialog that is not going away, I click the continue button. Lo and behold I am patronized by another dialog telling me that RDC cannot verify the identity of the computer I want to connect to. Apparently, according to the dialog box, this problem can occur if the remote computer is running a version of Windows that is earlier than Windows Vista. Once again I am given the option of connecting anyway as if to say, “are you sure you want to connect to a Windows XP device? Wouldn’t you rather click no then download the latest version of Windows Vista and install before you continue? Thank you for using Windows products.”

Now I always get two dialog prompts whenever I launch RDC. The first one reminds me that I’m still using a beta copy and I should update to a release version that does not appear on the web site. The second one reminds me of how foolish I am for daring to still using a legacy Windows XP device of a remote connection. I use to be able to walk right into my Dell XP box from QuickSilver by keying RDC aqnd hitting enter twice, once to laucnh and once to bypass the standard AOL notice dialog that pops up on WinXP screen login. If ya’ got a Mac and your getting ill vibes from RDC hit me off with some lingo below.

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