Thursday, October 30, 2008

Answering a question about accessing your computer & email while traveling

Dear Charles,

I got a question from Ian F. in England, who is one of my Gold Club members. He wrote:

"Hello Worth;

Pleased to receive what I consider another useful email. All those received I am keeping in a file on my desktop for any necessary future reference.

I would like to ask you if it is possible to operate my Apple Mac computer from an Internet Shop some 300 odd miles way. I have heard that this can be done, but I have not got any idea how to do this, if I am indeed right in believing it can be done. If it is possible, I will be able to receive your mails etc whilst away.

If this is in fact possible, I will be most obliged if you will set out in detail - in simple terms that an idiot can understand- to enable me to have access to my computer as I request.

Many thanks, I do appreciate your mails, comments and all other aspects of your service, Yours Ian"

Well Ian, first off remember -- you're not an idiot or a dummy. A lot of people feel that way when it comes to the computer, but it's important for everyone reading this to remember that it's not your fault if you feel that way, you've just never had things explained to you in the right way.

So to answer your question, it is possible to use a computer remotely (regardless of whether it's an Apple Mac or a Windows PC), but it might not be a good idea to do so in this situation.

Let me explain.

There is special software that can be put onto a computer (any type of computer) that, when used with a fast Internet connection, will allow someone to "borrow" the use of the screen, mouse, and keyboard.

I've used this type of software for years to help my parents, who live literally thousands of miles from me, when they get stuck on their computer.

With this software, I can see what's on their screen, and use my mouse and keyboard as if they were plugged directly into my parents' computer, and pretty much use it just as if I were sitting in front of it. Clients of mine also hire me to help them with their computer in the same way.

Now the specific program I chose to use is one where the person at the remote computer has to "invite me in" before I can connect, which is safer for them than a lot of similar programs which are waiting for someone to connect at all times the computer is on, which poses a security risk.

Now I happen to know Ian is leaving shortly for his trip, so he wouldn't have time to install the program and set it up or learn how to use it before he leaves, but there's a better reason for him not to do things this way -- security.

For Ian to be able to connect to his computer while he's away, he'd have to leave the computer on the entire time he's gone (since naturally you can't use a computer when it's turned off, remotely or otherwise). Aside from the added electric bill, he runs the risk of someone discovering his computer through the Internet and "breaking in".

In a sense, what he'd be doing would be leaving his front door open while he's out of town, which is just asking for trouble.

Now it is possible to put a password on the program, which would be like locking the door, and so if he didn't mind leaving his computer on for however long he is away, it could be a fairly safe thing to do as long as he connected from another private computer.

And that's the thing -- if you use a computer at a cyber cafe or Internet shop, it's not a private computer. If they even gave you permission to install the needed software to connect to your home computer (which is unlikely), you'd be using a *public* computer that complete strangers will be paying to use right after you leave.

And in these situations, it can be possible for the next person to come along and potentially get into your home computer using the same software you did!
The better option if you want to check your mail on someone else's computer while traveling is to use something called webmail.

Webmail is just a way of checking your email by visiting a web site, and signing in with your username and password. Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, and GMail are all examples of webmail, but most Internet service providers give you a special site where you can check your email.

For example, if you used Verizon, you'd go to, type in your email address (username) and your password. Each service provider is different, but you can usually find someplace to log into webmail from their website, or call them up and ask them where to go.

You won't usually get to see older emails, and you won't have your address book, since both of those are stored on your own computer, but you can read your new emails and reply to them, etc.

One important thing to remember, is again, if you use a public computer like one in an Internet cafe, be very sure that you click the "logout" or "signout" button on the webmail site to completely log out of your account, or the next person to come along might be able to read your mail!

Also, if the computer asks if you want to save your password for the site, make sure to click "no" or "not for this site" (the exact wording varies), for the same reason.

Hopefully that makes sense and will help you be able to check your email, and also avoid any potential problems.

Until next time, enjoy,

Worth Godwin

P.S. One other thing -- Ian mentioned saving my emails to the desktop for future reference. Try not to keep too many things on your desktop -- not only does it get cluttered and hard to find things, but it can actually slow down your computer!

It's OK to put some things on your desktop, but ideally you should keep them in a folder. This way you can keep organized and have as may things inside that folder as you want without cluttering the desktop or slowing your computer down.

If you're not sure how to do this, I have lessons on organizing your desktop, as well as how to work with files and folders in my Basics CDs for Windows and Mac, which are part of both my Ultimate Beginners Bundle and my Platinum Bundle. You can see what else is in this bundle of quick, easy computer lesson CDs by visiting one of the two links below:

If you have an Apple Mac (including MacBook, iMac, iBook, etc.) then go to:

or if you have a Windows PC (Sony, HP, Dell, etc.), go to:

I respect your right to privacy and to only get email that you want. If you need to unsubscribe from my newsletter, please use the first link below. If you need to change your email address, use the second link.

Please note that if you're a Gold Club member, this will not cancel your Gold Club membership. However, if you unsubscribe from the Gold Club newsletter, it may cause problems with delivery of your CDs since it is what I have to go by to print out your shipping information.

Godwin Productions LLC

81-1039 Keopuka Heights Rd.
Kealakekua, HI

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