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Wishing for wizards
We love this app's no-reboot installation, and version 5.0 works smoothly under Windows XP, though it's unbearably slow over a 56K modem. It's not hard to make your first connection, however, we wish Timbuktu provided wizards such as LapLink, pcAnywhere, and GoToMyPC do. Instead, you must stumble through tasks such as setting up Timbuktu to take direct, incoming calls.
Timbuktu's plain-Jane interface gets the job done, using tabs for important chores and big toolbar buttons for remote tasks, such as sending files. Unfortunately, Timbuktu spawns a new window for each chore. Controlling a computer, chatting, and exchanging files requires three open windows.
Although it's no match for LapLink in the file-transfer department, Timbuktu offers an intuitive, drag-and-drop file-transfer mode for moving files between host and remote PCs. Plus, you can restrict file-transfer privileges by user to, say, let Judy send and retrieve files from the host but restrict Bob to send-only status.
Mac mavens love Timbuktu
You can't beat Timbuktu for multiplatform control. Although WinVNC comes in Mac versions, only Timbuktu boasts enough security and support to control a Mac from a PC. The newest version also supports Mac OS X.
Timbuktu connects to another computer in two ways: by dialing its modem directly, which is mandatory if you're using a dial-up connection, or by using TCP/IP and either the Internet or your business's intranet. A TCP/IP connection offers a nifty feature: when you link two machines this way, the folks at both ends can chat using text messaging or Timbuktu's Intercomm feature. Of course, you'll need microphones and sound capabilities to talk.
Once connected, Timbuktu offers rock-solid security--as long as you install a firewall. You can also assign specific privileges for each registered user and set Timbuktu so that you must manually approve every incoming remote user, a good way to double-protect your PC. Timbuktu also encrypts the data that moves between machines; automatically causes passwords to expire, forcing you to create new ones; and blanks out the host's screen so that spies can't see what you're doing from the remote machine. That's tough to beat.
No browser buddy
Despite such tricks, we wish Timbuktu simply offered more features, such as browser support. You can't connect to a host computer unless you have Timbuktu on the remote computer, unlike LapLink, which at least offers a way to exchange files using just a browser and the Net. In addition, while Timbuktu will print to any printer on the host, it won't let you redirect print jobs on host-based docs to the printer at the remote machine. In this regard, LapLink and GoToMyPC remain more powerful.
If you run into trouble with this app, which is likely, given the lack of wizards, Timbuktu doesn't provide much help. Its phone desk, staffed 11.5 hours per day, is open only on weekdays. Timbuktu offers an outdated online FAQ (it covers only Timbuktu Pro 4.5), and its support section lists virtually no information about using Timbuktu with Windows XP. If you e-mail your question, Netopia promises a response within five business days--that's way too long.
Timbuktu is straightforward, but it doesn't offer tools that really bowl us over. Unless you want to control a Mac long distance from either another Mac or a PC, we prefer the simpler GoToMyPC or the slightly less expensive LapLink.