Gbridge: access remote PCs easily

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Gbridge is a free software that can connect multiple computers. It forms a VPN between multiple computers and provides remote computer access, folder synchronization, automatic folder backup, remote computer control and/or screen sharing, and chat. Gbridge can use Google’s Gtalk network to connect remote PCs and requires Gtalk (Gmail) accounts.

There has been a proliferation of free tools and protocols that aim to provide various remote connection services (e.g. Crossloop, Mikogo to name but two). These services will require the installation of some sort of desktop client locally and many will require the creation of user accounts in order to access a centralized network used for the connection. With the various protocols that these tools use, it may or may not be possible to connect in different settings depending on whether the different computers are behind firewalls, behind routers (whether or they have a public IP), and whether the tool/service offers a centralized network on their own servers.

What is noteworthy about Gbridge is that it will try multiple ways to connect based on what will result in the best performance, but the lowest common denominator (if you will) will be connecting through the Gtalk network (a Gtalk/Gmail account is a requirement to use the service). Here are more notes on this software:

  • You WILL be able to connect: Gbride will automatically figure out the best way to connect the various computers to provide maximum throughput and privacy; it will attempt to create a tunnel through NAT or firewall or if that is not possible it will connect through the Gtalk network. The user does not have to worry about complex technical configurations and the likelihood that you will achieve connectivity is high no matter what context your PC lives in; Gbridge, to quote their site “solves the real world naming and connectivity issues for almost all networks”.
  • VPN for non-experts: see point above. Gbridge will allow any user to install, logon, and be on their way.
  • Highly versatile: you can control which folders to share with which of your contacts and which users to require password authentication to access your shared folders, etc. You can also share an unlimited number of files, folders, and – interestingly – unlimited file size (I read somewhere about successfully sharing a 5 gig file).
  • Wide range of services: will try to keep up with the terminology here. Share a file or folder with yourself or others (Secureshare), synchronize folders automatically across computers (AutoSync), backup files across computers (EasyBackup), view the screen and/or access remote computers (DesktopShare), chat with friends (Chat). Gbridge automatically generates thumbnails for media files, and allows for media streaming of shared media files without downloading first (LiveBrowse); also offers the ability to run 3rd party applications (e.g. FTP) over the VPN.
  • Performance: is generally very good, but will vary depending on the different settings that the computers live in and how they are connected, except there is the underlying promise that Gbridge will find the best possible connection where performance is concerned. I experienced the same lag when controlling a remote desktop that I saw with other free tools, but overall Gbridge was very competent and delivered what it promised. MP3 streaming worked exceptionally well.
  • Security: Gbridge is not a Google product. The Gbridge app will request your Gtalk/Gmail account info, but Gbridge claims that it is never sent to the Gbridge server but sent in encrypted form to the Google Gtalk server; they also suggest to create a new Gmail account for use with Gbridge if you still have security concerns. See “Security” section below for more info. All data exchanges are purported to be AES encrypted.Gbridge: browsing shared media files
  • The user interface: this is one area that could be a bit more intuitive, as I found it at times difficult to figure out what I needed to do to get access some of the functions. On the other hand browsing shared files/folders through the browser is cool because, as mentioned above, Gbridge offers media thumbnails and media streaming (see image to the right). Folder/file sharing can be set up using drag and drop, which is cool.
  • Connecting two of your own computers: log into Gbridge using the same account on multiple computers and you will be able to access them from either end. This will circumvent some of the complexities of having to set up shared files/folders or grant desktopshare access, etc. (Note: this is not the same as being logged into your Gmail account).

Wish list (or how this software can be even better)

  • Better UI design: with all the great functions they have managed to offer they really should aim for better usability. You will figure out how to do what you need to do after a bit of tinkering around, but it could be better streamlined and more intuitivie.
  • Better two-way folder synchronization: while synching one way seems to work just fine, two way synching is not does not seem to be on offer, and requires some user intervention (note: this is an issue that I came across while researching this app and did not see it personally).

The verdict: I really like this for some good reasons, I think. (a) because it will probably connect reliably where other similar free services might not, (b) because it is designed to be easy to use, and (c) because it offers a complete, wide set of functions that are on average more than the other free tools have to offer (in fact the only function I can think of which it doesn’t offer is VOIP, and I’m not sure I would want that on top of all the other functions anyway). I also think that (d) it offers good performance overall, which may be the most important aspect of a program like this. Overall I recommend it highly.

Version Tested: 1.0.0.1111

Compatibility: Windows 2000, XP, or Vista(x32), and a Gmail account.

Go to Gbridge home page to download the latest version (approx 2 megs).