Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I've been in exile for 6 weeks as of yesterday. Frankly I'm finding it more and more to my liking - especially with a well loaded toolbox and some really terrific coworkers back at the home office.

Today's roundup is all about tele-presence. Not just the kind where you talk via webcam but the stuff that lets a geek get real work done. Up first Webmin. This open source tool is the monster of remote admin tools. Used mostly in the world of *nix it's also available for Windows and OSX and tons of other systems. Not only can you do things like start and stop services (deamons), add users, and reboot but you can actually edit config files (including search and replace) modify the file system install software, remote control the console and even setup a system that monitors your other systems and pages you when there are problems. All from the convenience of your web browser. Get it at

Next is DimDim a free web meeting tool much like Webex and Goto Meeting. The difference - as far as I can tell is that it's free. It has desktop sharing, white boarding, chat, even pretty darn good audio. Plus if your company is a little freaked about running meetings via an outside server you can download the open source package and run it on your own server.

Need simple remote control and have users that find it a little intimidating to install and run VNC or PCAnywhere - Try With this system you download a small program, setup an account and then all your users have to do is visit the website and request you by name. Simple. Works as advertised. And like the name says - Free.

Another unusual item that requires the help of your aforementioned terrific coworkers back at the office, (and is a definite departure from our free tools) is the Axis 214 PTZ webcam. This is not your run of the mill web cam that you connect to your pc and use with Skype or Netmeeting. This is a high end network camera used mostly for surveillance or really nice traffic cams etc. It has it's own web server - will serve up full motion video and allows, as the PTZ in it's name hints - the end user (allot of them at once) to control the pan, tilt and (25x) zoom. Really, really nice for group meetings. You can even hook up an external Mic and the camera will send you high quality audio. We have started using this for things like department meetings where there are several remote workers that need to attend. One meeting like this (plus the savings on the free stuff above) pays for the camera.

What's nice for the folks back home is that it's a small single unit. Easy to move room to room. Because of it's terrific zoom - can be set towards the back of the room out of the way, and it runs on POE so if your company has POE switches - you just plug it into a network jack and you are live. No complicated setup. It just works.

Stick with me - I have at least one more good tool set to share. All this from just 6 weeks too.

No comments: