As part of this recent freelance gig, one of the browser requirements was IE5.0 (yeah, that old). And, as luck would have it, my desktop machine at work had IE6 — you would think that IT would have left an older version of IE on there for me, knowing I’m a web developer ;).

In any case, during the early stages of coding, I had to ask around for an IE5.0 machine so that I could test my code. And, the IT guy (yeah, they have just one IT guy) found a Win2k laptop that still had IE5.0 on it. So, he loaned that to me and I set it atop the three-drawer cabinet next to my desk.

The laptop had WiFi, which meant that I didn’t have to bother finding a network cable, though I did plug in the power since I’d be using it for a few days. Normal IE-frustrations aside, the setup wasn’t too bad. But, it became cumbersome over time to have to use the trackpad and its laptop-sized keyboard.

So, even though the laptop was right next to me, and almost within reach anyway, I decided to install VNC on there — VNC is a GPLed client/server app that allows remote control of a PC over a network connection (the remote PC’s desktop just appears as a window on the client’s screen). And, even though I’d be using VNC for a Windows-to-Windows connection, there’re versions available for other operating systems such as Linux and (I think) Mac OS.

I was already familiar with one of the VNC forks, TightVNC — it’s actually backwards-compatible with VNC but it includes a new compression algorithm for a more responsive remote desktop. And, I was about to install TightVNC on the two machines when I ran across UltraVNC (yet another fork). The distinction with UltraVNC is that it includes a “Video Hook Driver” for Win2k/XP which “dramatically improves performances and reduces CPU activity over LAN connections”.

Since they’re all free anyway, I decided to see if UltraVNC’s video hook driver really made a difference. And, sure enough, it did — accessing the laptop via my desktop machine was just about realtime and even JavaScript rollovers appeared almost instantly. So, with the help of UltraVNC, I was make use of the laptop’s IE5.0 installation while still using my desktop’s full-sized keyboard and mouse :).

The only downside with UltraVNC is that it’s only available for Windows at the moment. Howver, since it’s designed to be backwards compatible with regular VNC, that’s not much of a problem. But, in my case, Windows support was all I needed at the time, and it worked out really well.

Though I recall that there may have been some flavor of VNC available for Mac OS, I can’t seem to find it at the moment (at the VNC site or elsewhere). If I could find an OSX (or even OS9) version of VNC, then I’d be able to setup a VNC server on one of the Macs at the office, and could do all my browser testing from my desk :).

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