Supporting Friends and Family with TeamViewer 5

My father has been running Kubuntu Linux since 2007, having nearly given up using computers after a number of bad experiences with Windows. Considering he was born in the late 1920s he has done rather well with Linux, he has even managed to do a distribution upgrade, much to my horror!

However, as he lives a few miles away from me, trying to explain things over the phone is difficult, and getting him to explain what he is seeing is even harder! Matters are not helped because he uses a dynamic public IP address on his broadband connection and switches off his router when he does not use it. His router has a built in firewall and this only assists in making matters more complicated! This means that solutions based around VNC are not viable.

So for some time I’ve been looking for ways of providing remote support from my computer. This week I came across a review of TeamViewer 5 in Linux Format Magazine (page 24, LXF133 July 2010)

The software is cross platform Windows, Mac, Linux and iPhone and is free for personal non-commercial use.

For Linux there are RPM and DEB packages both 32 and 64-bit plus the source in the form of a ‘TAR ball’ so you can “roll your own”. For an Ubuntu based system (e.g. Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Linux Mint, Xubuntu, Mythbuntu, Crunchbang#! Linux, etc) just download the DEB file and install it using the package manager.

TeamViewer is installed in Kubuntu 10.04 under Internet, depending on your own distribution this may vary.

When you run TeamViewer the following window is displayed.

How to Use

Get the person you wish to connect to (assuming they are running TeamViewer) to tell you their ID number, displayed on the left hand side of their panel under “wait for session”, you type in their id on the right hand side of your panel under “Create session” and then click on Connect to Partner.

You will now be asked for their Password, and on entering this you are connected to their PC.

Once connected a view of their computer screen will be displayed allowing you to see what they are doing and if required control their mouse and keyboard. The remote user can still see their screen and use the mouse and keyboard. Great if you want to resolve a problem or show someone how to do something.


The Linux version is still in Beta, so lacks some of the extra features of it Windows and Mac stalemates, but it supports VoIP and Video so in theory you can speak to and see the person you are supporting as well as control their PC. You can set-up a partner list and check they are online before contacting them for the password.

The beauty of this software is there are no “technical hurdles” for either yourself or the remote user to jump every time you wish to get a connection.

Whilst this software does require a minimum of a 512Kbps broadband connection to work (no good for anyone still on dial-up!), it is absolutely superb for anyone providing remote support for friends and family and definitely goes on to my Essential Utilities list.

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