Remobo: instant VPN, filesharing, and remote desktop control

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Remobo is free app that can connect computers instantly via VPN. Based on a P2P structure, it allows you to connect to and control your computer remotely, to access your files from anywhere, and to run any application between computers on top of Remobo.

It also offers secure file shares via private BitTorrents as well as the ability to share your entire music collection online using Remobo and Opentape. Remobo is multiplatform Windows and Mac OSX.

Yet another foray into freeware VPN/screen sharing/file sharing apps (e.g. Mikogo, gBridge, TeamViewer, and Crossloop). I recently had an email exchange with one of the members of the team behind Remobo where I asked him what makes Remobo noteworthy, and would like to paraphrase the reasons he cited as follows:

  • Instant: connect easily and instantly without the complex configuration that is needed with traditional VPN software. If you have internet access you will be able to connect.
  • Secure: all traffic is secured using “industry standard encryption”. Any files/folders are shared using encrypted private bittorents (even your ISP cannot see what is being shared).
  • P2P: Remobo uses a unique architecture built on P2P technology rather than a client/server model, which makes it (a) easy to install/launch, and (b) promises better performance.
  • Share your entire music collection: the Remobo team provides a tutorial on how to use the open source Opentape in conjunction with Remobo to do this (note that you will need to install PHP/MySQL). Note that I did not try this personally.

Here are some observations on Remobo having installed and used it:

  • Remobo Screenshot - the main interfaceThe user interface: is simple and straightforward and is by far one of the best for an application of this kind (see image to the right).
  • Ease of use: simply install and run (see “Instant” above). You will need to create an online Remobo account, though. Once installed, you will find it easy enough to figure out how to use the app on your own (see “the user interface” above).
  • Performance: the Remobo site makes reference to their P2P technology as helping attain better performance. My experience is that it is generally quite good; it felt to me that Remobo remote PC control worked slightly better than others I have tried, although this is purely subjective. I will mention that when initially starting it took a while before the visual representation of the remote desktop kicked into gear – it was pixellated at first the displayed color quality was wrong.
  • Private torrents: you can open these in your regular torrent client (I use Deluge). You will be able to share files and folders. For the latter it is possible to download selected, specific contents of shared folders using your BitTorrent client; however, note that any additions to the shared folder that happen after the torrent is created (when it is first shared) will, obviously, not appear in the shared torrent.
  • Windows file sharing: aside from private torrents, you can use Remobo to access folders shared using Windows shared folders (which is be the better way to go if the folders you are sharing for frequently-changing folders).
  • Third party applications: you can easily connect your apps on top of Remobo. All you need to do is add that application in the Remobo interface (on both computers) and away you go (allows for gaming over LAN,
  • Notes on installation: the default Remobo install will add BitTorrent 5.2.0 to your computer, so if you already have a Torrent client make sure to uncheck that box during installation.
  • Control: Remobo will allow you to specify exactly which files to share with which of your contacts and

Wish list (or how this program can be even better):

  • Access without requiring Remobo on both ends: I’ve received word that the developers of this software are working on an option to access a PC running Remobo without requiring that the app be installed on both ends. Keeping my fingers crossed
  • Beta software: despite being in beta this is remarkably stable software (from what I have read in various places it seems that it has recently made strides in that aspect). However, there are still some kinks to iron out: e.g. once I logged in as user A and told it to remember me, I could not for the life of me find a way to log in as user B. I also experienced a Remobo crash in the remote computer I was trying to access while testing this app at one point.

The verdict: considering the many freeware programs that provide similar functions to this (some of which mentioned above) we are certainly spoilt for choice; I think Remobo is solid app that for me personally is one of my favorites. I really like Remobo for several reasons (a) it is easy to setup and get connected pretty much anywhere without hassle, (b) has a simple, intuitive interface, (c) I like the idea of private BitTorrent sharing, (d) I like the ease of which you can access folders shared in Windows remotely, (e) I am giving the developers the benefit of the doubt that their P2P technology provides better performance than other similar apps, and (f) Remobo is multiplatform Windows and Mac.

Version Tested: 0.13.0

Compatibility: Windows 2000, XP, 2003 and Vista; Mac OSX.

Go to the Remobo home page to download the latest version (approx 12.2 megs).