REMOTE CONTROL

LogMeIn looks like it should be a dish in a Chinese restaurant, but it’s actually a service for controlling your home or office computer from afar. After a couple of hours of knocking herself out, Joy got it going, and it’s pretty neat.     You can work directly from its Web site, LogMeIn.com, or download the appropriate software from there to any flash drive or miniature hard drive you want to carry around when you travel. Plug that into a guest computer, like those available at libraries and Internet cafes, and the LogMeIn screen appears. Enter your password, and you’re in control. Oh yeah, we forgot oneLogMeIn other thing: Don’t forget to leave your home or office computer turned on and connected to the Internet.

The LogMeIn software has to be installed on any computer you want to control from a remote location. You can then log in, so to speak, from the Web site or from the software installed on the drive you carry with you.

The flash drive version is called Ignition, as in space launch talk: “Houston, we have ignition.” We had some problems using this at first because Ignition is a brand-new service, just starting in March. But after making pests of ourselves, we got it going, and it was worth it.

We are able to transfer files, edit documents and in general do just about anything we could do if we were sitting in front of our home machine. We could use this to fix problems on someone else’s computer if it’s loaded with the software and we’re given permission.

If your home machine needs a password for entry, you’ll have to enter that in a second log-in screen that comes up asking you for that password and your Windows username. You may have to turn off some protection software on your home machine, as this may block remote control access. (Test it out before you go a long way from home.)

If you sit down at the remote computer and realize you forgot to bring your little flash drive with Ignition, never fear, you can log into the LogMeIn Web site and work from there. The company says it’s more secure to use its Ignition software on a flash drive.

There are two versions of LogMeIn: One is free and meant for casual users, while the Pro version costs $13 a month, or $70 a year, and has more features. Ignition is an extra service that costs $50 a year, but it’s per account, not per computer, no matter how many computers you want to control.         

If you’re thinking about the cost of a flash drive added onto that, don’t. These things have become roadkill; we found a 1 gigabyte flash drive at Amazon.com for $10, and we’ve seen smaller capacities sold as six packs for $20. Flash memory has gotten real cheap.

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