I am founder and CEO of RealVNC, a UK software engineering company which was set up by the inventors of remote access software. RealVNC's technology gives computer, smartphone and other device users the power to 'take over' another device remotely from anywhere in the world. This means workers and businesses can share screens and solve each other's problems without having to leave their own desk.

In 2013, RealVNC won the UK's premier engineering prize, the Royal Academy of Engineering's MacRobert Award, known for recognising influential technology. VNC technology is now used on over a billion devices worldwide, and the protocol used by VNC is an official part of the Internet.

Proof 1: https://twitter.com/RealVNC/status/823578312392003586 Proof 2: https://www.realvnc.com/company-profile/andy-harter/ Proof 3: http://www.raeng.org.uk/news/news-releases/2013/July/software-company-realvnc-wins-uks-premier-prize Proof 4: http://www.raeng.org.uk/grants-and-prizes/prizes-and-medals/other-awards/the-macrobert-award Proof 5: https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc6143

Comments: 113 • Responses: 42  • Date: 

alphaboosttt39 karma

Hi Andy - Did you ever pay for WinRAR in your lifetime?

Andy_Harter_RealVNC21 karma

No, I use 7-zip ;-)

Win_Sys29 karma

What was the hardest thing to get working on the first version of RealVNC?

Andy_Harter_RealVNC29 karma

programming the network interface is always the hardest thing to get absolutely right!

Andy_Harter_RealVNC18 karma

the next hardest thing is dealing with keyboards

aaronboardley16 karma

How long was RealVNC in development before the first version was 'good to go'?

(It seems to have always been around, but it'd be great to know how much went on 'behind the scenes' before we'd heard of it!)

Andy_Harter_RealVNC24 karma

VNC started life inside a research lab back in 93/94. we used it a lot internally and developed it quite extensively before deciding to give it to the world in 1998... the rest is history!

aaronboardley10 karma

Thanks! 1998-2017 a lifetime ago in computing terms...1998 was date of my first internet connection. 1993 even harder to remember. Have the inner workings of the application changed a lot or is it still the same at its core?

Andy_Harter_RealVNC20 karma

the application has changed quite a bit, but the underlying protocols haven't, which makes it backwards compatible all the way back to then.

Izzeh11 karma

My partner has used your application to stream her Masters work from her home desktop to her iPad in the classroom more than once when USB sticks have failed her.

What uses have you heard of for your application that have surprised you?

Andy_Harter_RealVNC20 karma

there are so many great stories. we've heard that satellites can't launch without it, and it's been used to monitor tracking equipment and cameras looking at polar bears in the arctic!

C-Lane3 karma

Not as cool as satellites or polar bears, but as an early teen, I loved the movie Hackers. The computer scenes were SO fake looking (a favorite of /r/itsaunixsystem) but the idea of hacking a TV station and playing whatever you wanted was fascinating to me.

Now, as a radio producer, I use VNC quite often from my laptop and my iPhone to effect or schedule what is broadcast on our station. I use it weekly, if not daily, often out of such laziness that I'm VNC'd into a computer in the next cubicle over, just to avoid standing up.

On the flip side, it has saved me and many a co-worker from having to drive across town on a weekend or day off just to perform a simple task to fix a problem. So thanks for that.

Andy_Harter_RealVNC6 karma

yes - we're really pleased to be part of something which has a positive environmental effect i.e. reducing the number of miles travelled in trucks to fix problems and hence reducing the carbon footprint of the IT industry. anecdotally, some of our larger customers also tell us they have saved millions of dollars in this way

LD_in_MT10 karma

There's an urban IT myth that Microsoft said that there was no way to remotely manage Windows servers and you guys came along and proved them wrong in a executable that was only about 150KB (iirc). Care to comment?

Andy_Harter_RealVNC20 karma

Not heard that, but VNC is the smallest footprint remote access application, and can certainly be used on Windows servers. And we gave it to the world :)

hicow3 karma

I use it most every day for a server on which I can't use RDP. Thanks for not saddling me with PCAnywhere

Andy_Harter_RealVNC4 karma

it's a pleasure - the cross-platform nature of VNC has always been important to our users. pc anywhere is end of lifed AFAIK...

darkreaper4769 karma

For me personally VNC has never been fast or light enough to be used over slower networks, mobile for example. I've had much better reliability and speed with RDP. But I don't use Windows servers anymore, so no more RDP. With the improvements that gaming IE: steam and others has brought to streaming and remote inputs, will VNC ever get these improvements? Even if it breaks compatibility with old servers I would love to see a new faster better VNC that takes advantage of the newer technology.

Andy_Harter_RealVNC10 karma

H.264 could give us the kind of frame rate needed for remote gaming especially if we can tap into hardware acceleration. This is high on our agenda, and we can implement this without breaking compatibility.

boogotti3 karma

But doesn't RDP specifically gain huge advantages in a way that cross platform VNC can never do? As I understand it, RDP communicates meta info about window positioning and GUI data so that it doesn't need to send any bitmapped info (even compressed) for many screen areas. Much like X Window system does in Linux.

This strategy would never work across desktops of different OS's.

Andy_Harter_RealVNC3 karma

these days a typical desktop is much more graphical than it used to be and encodings such as jpeg and mpeg do about as well as they can. we support both with an increasing step towards h.264. how well does rdp do audio/video content? as you point out if you want a cross-platform, backwards-compatible system, simple universal techniques such as pixels are the best bet.

boogotti1 karma

Ok, fair enough. Followup question, what is the advantage of h264 or webm? vp9 seems pretty good, and the advantage is fully open source.

Andy_Harter_RealVNC2 karma

VP9 / HEVC / h265 are excellent, but don't see the level of hardware encoding support that VP8 / AVC / h264 enjoys at the moment. We're looking into both, and hope that the cost of encoding VP9 will come down so we can get real-time encoding and still leave you some CPU for your applications!

darkreaper4763 karma

H264 would be huge, nearly everything can hardware encode/decode it. Can't wait, thanks!!

Andy_Harter_RealVNC6 karma

We've already done it for some products, just thinking how to fit in across the board

INSERT_LATVIAN_JOKE8 karma

I am an engineer who is responsible for the world's most widely ported application.

You made Solitare?

Andy_Harter_RealVNC4 karma

you have to think beyond conventional desktop and gaming devices. vnc is on all the windows, mac, linux, unix that you care to think of and the mobile platforms too - smartphones, tablets etc. but importantly it is ported to many embedded devices, with & without screens (headless), and many real-time operating systems. also, the combination of silicon and operating systems broadens the landscape. just one of many examples - vnc is on a wide variety of proprietary car head unit hardware/os (https://automotive.realvnc.com) - tetris/doom/solitaire are not

buttsexparty6 karma

In the newest release, RealVNC made the switch to cloud. I actually prefer the old server-client method. Do you have plans to keep this old method instead of the cloud?

Andy_Harter_RealVNC8 karma

We support both, its a customer choice

turnipstealer6 karma

What's the most creative way you've seen or heard of VNC being used?

Andy_Harter_RealVNC21 karma

augmented reality - someone was using VNC to overlay choreography directions to dancers wearing google glass during a live performance... :)

Andy_Harter_RealVNC17 karma

One of the most creative was in what was perhaps the worlds first fully functional smartphone in 1999, a project which I was responsible for too! Check it out here:

http://imgur.com/a/1MJtI

FiveDozenWhales4 karma

How can I convince my office to switch from RDP to VNC? VNC's cross-platform compatibility is big for me, and on a philosophical level its standardized, open nature is important, but I need stronger arguments than these!

Andy_Harter_RealVNC6 karma

I think the cross-platform argument should be persuasive, not just for variety and interconnectivity between platforma, but also because it gives you some degree of future-proofing. Our recent move to cloud mediated connections make VNC preferable if you need to connect from outside the LAN. Performance has been used as an argument for RDP in the past, but with faster networks and high performance endpoints, VNC can actually perform better...

usernametaken172 karma

Also - with VNC you can share the remote screen with the user (rather than kicking them out of the session).

Andy_Harter_RealVNC2 karma

good point, rdp implementations don't allow shared or collaborative sessions AFAIK. Collaboration, and the training and educating opportunities are a big thing for many people!

fenrir5112 karma

You can share screen with RDP but it's not intuitive on how to get to it and is rarely opened up security wise.

You have to allow for remote desktop services manager to connect to the computer remotely, and then go to users, right click and select shadow.

Why MS would choose this ridiculous way over say... How VNC does it, is beyond me. But it is another design point for why VNC is a better service.

Andy_Harter_RealVNC1 karma

thanks! VNC's simple and easy-to-use sharing and collaboration has always been popular. with multiple people on one session, you're actually providing training as well as a fix and so maybe that reduces calls to IT helpdesks - a virtuous circle!

Paradoxicorn4 karma

what is your favorite sandwich recipe?

Andy_Harter_RealVNC5 karma

Hard to choose, so I'll offer two

1 Grilled aubergine (eggplant), mozzarella and pesto in toasted panini

2 Salt beef with pickle and mustard on rye

Why not help me decide and vote in the thread?

repostuje4 karma

What are other pieces of software that you use daily and consider essential to your workflow?

Andy_Harter_RealVNC6 karma

we use jira, confluence, git, jenkins, slack, visual studio, eclipse, xcode etc - the usual suspects :)

Christi1233214 karma

How do you got the idea for Real VNC? Is any interesting story connected to that?

Andy_Harter_RealVNC11 karma

The original idea came about because we were exploring ways of providing people access to their computing environments as they moved around an office. We wanted to give them access to their own desktop no matter what kind of computer they found themselves in front of. The idea of providing remote tech-support came after that.

Andy_Harter_RealVNC10 karma

The idea for the business came much later in 2002, after we had made the software freely available under an open source license in 1998. We founded the company with cash from merchandising and donations - we pioneered the crowdfunding idea before it was even called that, which didn't happen until 2006!

HeartyBeast2 karma

Had you played with stuff like Timbuktu - which does similar things but was developed in the late 1980s for Mac?

Andy_Harter_RealVNC2 karma

we knew of it but our vision and philosophy was much broader particularly because we were using windows, linux, mac and proprietary embedded display systems in the lab

rickmuscles3 karma

What's the best basic tip to troubleshoot your computer and other devices?

Andy_Harter_RealVNC24 karma

you can't beat turning it off and on again

MuchRedditLessTime3 karma

Why should I use RealVNC over TightVNC or other FOSS alternatives?

(Pretty sure the Chrome CNC Viewer is made by RealVNC right? Incredibly useful to have a platform-independent reliable client!)

Andy_Harter_RealVNC3 karma

RealVNC applications are developed and supported by a large team of professional, dedicated engineers. so we're well-resourced to always be as up to date as it is possible to be with latest operating system versions etc. also, a commercial framework gives us the opportunity to do significant, focussed research & development - exactly what gave us the confidence to launch our cloud service. as you point out, the quality you see in the Chrome Viewer is an example of why people choose RealVNC. we're hoping to support cloud connections in Chrome too, by the way

PepEye3 karma

Is copying and pasting images and other files ever going to be a possibility and if not, why?

Andy_Harter_RealVNC3 karma

It's not possible to do it in a cross-platform way, which breaks our philosophy. We have supported an integrated cross-platform file transfer function for a number of years, which might not be the most convenient, but is at least possible.

doorbellguy3 karma

What are some of the popular names using this technology and what do you think is the next big thing in your field?


Bonus question: Does 'taking over' devices shown in movies come remotely close to what real-life hackers can do? If so, how?

Thank you.

Andy_Harter_RealVNC5 karma

Bonus answer: no, not really. the real world is always far more complex than the few minutes that filmmakers have to depict a scene.

Andy_Harter_RealVNC3 karma

Every industry, every sector, government, education - fortune 500 last time we looked. It's everyone from Disney to Phillips, Intel to NASA, Google to Honda.

Andy_Harter_RealVNC2 karma

The next big thing is IoT. If you think that VNC is the universal interconnect between screens of all different kinds, and that IoT will have billions of embedded screens, there's probably something for us to do in that space... and our protocols and cloud connectivity can even be useful for devices that don't have screens to share real time data streams

RudegarWithFunnyHat2 karma

you're behind "hallo world" ? :O

Andy_Harter_RealVNC1 karma

is "hello world?" an application? #philosophy :)

CheesyPeteza2 karma

How would we go about implementing VNC in another Windows c# software application to allow simple remote support without making them download another tool?

Andy_Harter_RealVNC1 karma

supporting application developers and helping them speed up their integration is a big part of our strategy. we have a really easy-to-use SDK (https://developer.realvnc.com) which provides a library for VNC functionality that can be called via p/invoke from C#. it's possible to write a vnc server/viewer in a matter of minutes

CheesyPeteza1 karma

That's sounds good, but how does the pricing work out for that? Say we have 100,000 end users, but on one day our support team only need to connect to <50 systems throughout the day to troubleshoot, probably <4 running at the same time.

Also can you configure it just to show our application rather than the whole desktop, and restrict connections only from our IP address for safety? I guess we'd set it up as requiring them to launch it from within a menu.

Andy_Harter_RealVNC1 karma

that's getting a bit salesy - happy to have someone talk to you about this. pm me your e-mail.

mrmidjji2 karma

Why use pixel forwarding instead of primitive forwarding?

What where the original idea there? I mean in 93 the former would be less portable than the latter given poor connectivity and lack of real time high compression encoding given a minimum quality

Andy_Harter_RealVNC1 karma

VNC was developed in a lab where one research goal was to anticipate a world with better connectivity and innovate accordingly. pixels are universal which means you can make simple viewer and servers with a small footprint that will work on absolutely anything. also pixels are pixels whereas primitives continue to change with new operating system versions/windowing systems etc

SirOompaLoompa1 karma

Since many vendor-specific implementations of VNC have H.264 as one of the compression standards they support, are there any plans to make this part of the standard?

Andy_Harter_RealVNC1 karma

We support H.264 (audio/video mpeg 4 standard for those who aren't sure what it means!) in some of our SDK products aimed at markets where there is hardware encode/decode. We're considering the wider application of it more generally across our product offerings for the 2017 roadmap.

SirOompaLoompa1 karma

Will that be part of an upcoming update to the RFB protocol specification?

Andy_Harter_RealVNC1 karma

We're still thinking about this. It can, and has been, done in a way which doesn't require protocol changes. There may be arguments for something more tightly coupled.

Z2DION1 karma

May be a little off topic idk, but, what do you use to program android?

Andy_Harter_RealVNC2 karma

we use android studio and the android ndk, writing in java and c++

IamBlackOG1 karma

Did you patent the technology?

Andy_Harter_RealVNC6 karma

The core protocol is open, published and unpatented. There are elements of RealVNC applications, including some proprietary encoding algorithms that are patented.

zasx201 karma

Isn't Tetris more widely ported?

Andy_Harter_RealVNC2 karma

you have to think beyond conventional desktop and gaming devices. vnc is on all the windows, mac, linux, unix that you care to think of and the mobile platforms too - smartphones, tablets etc. but importantly it is ported to many embedded devices, with & without screens (headless), and many real-time operating systems. also, the combination of silicon and operating systems broadens the landscape. just one of many examples - vnc is on a wide variety of proprietary car head unit hardware/os (https://automotive.realvnc.com) - tetris/doom/solitaire are not

JeremyWrastle1 karma

what's the tap-drill size for a 12-28 UNC?

Andy_Harter_RealVNC1 karma

if you mean 12-28 UNF then no. 14 (0.1820 decimal inches) that's what google tells me anyway... :)

loinfroth-1 karma

How do you feel about the fact that Teamviewer will shit all over RealVNC in terms of performance and features?

Andy_Harter_RealVNC4 karma

teamviewer is a great product, but performance is very subjective and differs according to the environment you're working in. our philosophy re: features has always been to keep things simple and ensure that vnc works everywhere and is backwards and forward compatible. this is something that our customers tell us they really value. it gets harder and harder the more features you add. also, by sticking to that philosophy our codebase is highly relevant to embedded systems where footprint and resource constraints are still crucial. with IT trends pointing to IoT, simple and lightweight could become even more desirable...