Monday, March 19, 2007

Copilot

This weekend I spent some time celebrating a friend’s birthday (a lot of fun), seeing 300 (blah), praising God (great lesson, Mike), and trouble-shooting Mom and Dad’s PC. It’s the last event I want to talk more about.

If you have family like me who live in a different town and don’t know the difference between a browser and a cursor, you have probably spent hours and hours trying to talk them through updating their anti-virus software or attaching a file to an email. It can be an exercise in frustration for both parties.

I first tried helping my parents by running Windows XP’s Remote Assistance. It took a while to walk Dad through the process, but eventually we got it figured out. But just when I was about to connect, we discovered that my parent’s computer wouldn’t allow me access… probably because of an ISP firewall setting. Argh.

So next I tried Copilot from Fog Creek. This is a program which was written by a bunch of college interns a few summers ago (their experience was turned into a movie called Ardvark’d).

Anyway, Copilot allows you to connect to the remote computer you are helping via their own servers. This allows you to skirt many firewall issues like the one that made Remote Assistance impossible. A more technical description of how it works can be found here.

Copilot crashed on my Dad at first, but reading through their discussion list, it was due to a proxy setting in my Dad’s browser (still not a good excuse though). Finally we were able to connect, and it hasn’t caused me any problems since.

I only have a few complaints. The response time is a little slow, and every time my parent’s screensaver kicks on, I get disconnected. Also if I have to reboot their computer, I need them to login and re-start the Copilot program. Besides these, at $5 a day, Copilot is a pretty nifty little program.