Colin's Journal

Colin's Journal: A place for thoughts about politics, software, and daily life.

January 4th, 2003

Network computing

It’s remarkable that I can use my computer remotely from around the world (as shown by this post) via a simple modem connection. I’ve used vnc before over a high speed network connection, where you can use the GUI of one machine on another, and barely notice the difference between the remote and the local version, but it’s another thing to do this over a modem connection. The display is certainly slow to update, but the fact that it’s usable at all is a feat of software engineering. If the whole screen, uncompressed, was sent with every key press then a chuck of data 768K in size would need to be sent over the modem connection. With a connection of about 3.8K per second it would take nearly two and a half minutes just to send the one snapshot of the screen. As it is typing this the delay is roughly one second for the text that I type to appear on the screen in front of me!

As network connections around the world improve the user experience of using a machine across ~3500 miles of ocean will get better, but given the restrictions that a modem places on us, we have already achieved an extremely good result. (BTW If you wish to try this your self then use TightVNC for use over a modem – the ordinary VNC requires too much bandwidth for bearable modem use).

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