Remember what it was like when you used to gasp in astonishment at new programs? I still recall seeing Windows 3.0 and being amazed by how good it looked. The WWW with graphics for the first time was another one, the first time I saw a database-driven site from the back-end was another.
Well I’d begun to get a little complacent. I didn’t think anything could have that same "wow" factor any more. Not even Google Earth did it for me (although I was fairly impressed).
This weekend I was doing a bit of work from home. Nothing too onerous, just a bit of configuration and testing. Rather than spend 3 hours on a tube, I asked if I could try the company’s new remote access system. We’ve had dialup for a while but recently introduced an over-the-internet system using Citrix Metaframe. Basically, you access a site on the net, enter some details and you are presented with a virtual desktop containing the applications you’re allowed to use.
First of all, I was using Internet Explorer and Remote Desktop, and all was well and good. Both those apps were installed on the machine I was using so I wasn’t too impressed. At one point, though, I had to check my work email and that meant opening Lotus Notes. I wouldn’t have a Notes install disk within 100 metres of my computer, so when it actually popped up on my screen, that was when I began to be impressed.
Basically, the Citrix client is an ActiveX control in your browser, and it’s talking to its server at the other end, asking for programs to be run and sending back what would be on the screen if you were there. It works really well and given the rubbish nature of our company LAN, nearly as quick over my 4Mb broadband connection as it is at work.
I’d love to show you a screenshot of it in action, but I fear my company would get upset. Still, I recommend it if you ever need anything like that yourself.