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New Microsoft Software Helps Macs and PCs Play Nice

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jul 7, 2008 4:00 AM PT

After about a year, 750,000 downloads of various betas, 500 notes of feedback, and a redesigned user interface, Microsoft's Mac Business Unit (MacBU) has officially released Remote Desktop Connection Client for Mac 2 (RDC 2).

New Microsoft Software Helps Macs and PCs Play Nice

RDC 2 lets Mac users connect to remote Windows PCs to access files, applications, devices and networks -- all from within the Mac. It runs natively on both Intel-based and PowerPC-based Macs. In addition to the new, more "Mac-like" user interface, RDC 2 now supports multiple sessions for access to multiple Windows PCs at the same time.

While RDC 2 can be used by anyone who wants to access Windows files and applications remotely -- even over a home-based network, for example -- it seems primarily geared for business use, where Mac users might need to access enterprise applications that are limited to Windows clients.

For security, Microsoft has added Network Level Authentication (NLA), which is a new authentication method in Windows Vista that can help to protect the remote computer from hackers and malicious software. It completes user authentication before the user establishes a full Remote Desktop Connection, according to Microsoft.

Reconnecting With Vista

In announcing the release of RDC 2 on Microsoft's Mac Mojo blog, Nadyne Mielke, a user experience researcher with the MacBU, told beta users that their feedback was particularly helpful this time around.

"After the release of the third beta, some of our non-English users started reporting that they couldn't connect to Vista boxes that they had been able to connect to using our previous betas. The details that you provided to us about your setup, especially when you included all of the details about all of your hardware, software and network connections, were instrumental to figuring out the underlying problem," she wrote.

"Without your bug reports, we wouldn't have been able to track down this issue as quickly and efficiently as we did. So thanks for your help," she added.

Intuitive Commands

One of the issues that Mac/Windows users have is remembering how keyboard commands are different in Mac OS X vs. Windows. On a Mac, for example, a user might use "command-C" for copy, whereas a Windows application would need "control-C". The MacBU team, Mielke said, eliminated the problem by automatically mapping the keyboard commands so that either set of commands works in both the Windows session and Mac session.

"These shortcuts are so commonly used and are identical across the OSes, so we might as well not force users to remember which OS they're in to be able to do those commands," Mielke noted.

'Big Improvement'

"RDC 2 represents a big improvement in the quality of Microsoft software for the Mac and hopefully is a sign of a more long-term improvement," John Lockwood, an IT manager in the UK who has used RDC, told MacNewsWorld, noting that Microsoft fixed several annoying keyboard bugs that had plagued non-U.S. users.

"I am also impressed it manages to transfer sound across the network, which other remote control packages like VNC and Timbuktu don't support. It does not, in my opinion, fully adhere to established Mac practices, but at least all the expected functions are present and working," he added.

The free download is available in eight languages and has lightweight requirements -- most any reasonably new Mac should fit fine. For example, the minimum memory is just 128 MB of RAM.

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