Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Chromebook remote access

This year I took an Asus Chromebook on vacation. I wanted something light, portable and with good battery life to use for reading e-mail, browsing and staying connected with work.  And, I didn't want to risk exposing my MacBook to the salt air.

The Chromebook worked well. I use gmail for most of my email accounts (all but work e-mail). Not surprisingly, Chromebooks do gmail very well. I also use a Chrome browser for most of my browsing at work and at home, and the Chromebook obviously does Chrome very well too.

I’m a VDI desktop user (my desktop is on a server at work) and I typically use a MacBook Air to connect using VMWare Horizon. On the Chromebook I used the new VMWare Horizon client app (thanks to Paul Fortner for discovering it.) I’d been looking for this client for a couple of years – ever since the Chromebooks came out. It was a quick install and worked out-of-the-box.

There used to be a couple of very convoluted methods of accessing VMWare VDI’s using Citrix but the Horizon app really simplified things. I needed to use an RSA token to authenticate, but that’s what I use to connect my Mac at home to my desktop VDI at work, so I was all set.

There were some problems with the resort's in-room WiFi for the first couple of days, but it worked fine in their "business center." I got the WiFi sorted out with the help of the concierge and the network support staff and a couple of tedious phone calls... However, once WiFi was working it only took a minute or two to get connected, and once I was connected it was almost like working from home running Horizon. 

I use a cheap Chromebook (less than $200.) The keyboard isn’t as nice as the Mac’s, but it was functional and after using it for a few minutes, it was relatively painless.

The Chromebook downside is that it doesn’t work without a WiFi connection – but since there’s usually a WiFi connection available almost everywhere I go, this didn’t turn out to be much of an issue. I've found plane WiFi unreliable for this kind of access - but this just meant that I could relax and have some deep down-time on the plane ride there and back...

All-in-all it was a useful experiment. Next time I’m out of town on business, I’ll probably take a Chromebook.

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