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Working across the globe

How I access my home studio remotely from Taiwan

One thing I worried about coming here- what if we get more work that I need my massive workstation back at the studio in Chicago to complete? Laptops are nice... ...but my workstation has 4 video cards and TONS of computing power well beyond this laptop. I did a little research, consulted some uber nerds I know who play in that area, and came up with a great solution that's easy enough for almost anyone and doesn't break the bank. Here's a video explaining the whole process, which I'll also go into more detail about below:

It takes 3 simple things, a little computer know-how, and some testing before you go.

First you need a Smart Outlet. There's a bunch of them. The key point here is you need one that's good to power on from anywhere with an app. So do your homework- some smart outlets are just made for controlling lights from your home. They're made to only stay on your home network and do things like dim the lights in the kitchen from your bedroom, for example.

What you need here is one that can set up while you're at home, but then control from anywhere. I chose the Kasa smart outlet- it connects the app to the outlet on your home network and then can activate it from the app no matter where you are. It always works well with Google Assistant on my phone, and was only about $25. That fit the bill for me!

So, set it up, name it, and plug your computer into the outlet. Next, you need to adjust your computer's power on settings, usually found in the BIOS or UEFI. If you don't know what those are, you may be out of your depth on this project :-) Here's what that involves:

You may have to look up where this is on your machine- it seems to be under different areas depending on who made your computer. It's usually set to 'Power Off' or something similar. Just set it to 'Power On' and then your machine is ready. You can test if this worked by turning your computer off, then unplugging it and plugging it back in. AC Restore is designed to start servers up again when there's been an outage. So if your computer has no power and then it gets power again (by plugging it back in) it should boot up like if you'd hit the power button on the case. Pretty cool, right?

Last thing you need is Remote Desktop Access software. There's a lot of those too- TeamViewer and AnyDesk are two big players here, but you also have Webex, Logmein, and some others out there. TeamViewer and AnyDesk both have lots of good features like file transfer, multiple monitor setups, and unattended access. If you're working on anything big- like videos- file transfer is nice because it goes directly from one machine to another vs. having to upload and THEN download from somewhere like Google Drive or Dropbox. A real time-saver. Unattended Access if your friend here! It sets up so anyone with the address code to the machine can just run it without logging in. So, set that up and then DON'T give that information out to anyone.

So, now we have the three parts to this- smart outlet, power options, and remote desktop software. Here's how we run them together. Power your computer down like you normally would, then power off the smart outlet with the app to begin. Power on the smart outlet with the app and your computer should start up on its own! Make sure you've disabled the log-in screen on your computer first. You may have to look up how to do this- it's in lots of places depending on your OS. Otherwise, it can never boot into the unattended access we just set up.

Then launch your Remote Desktop server from the remote machine to control your home computer. It should work just like it did at home, but some things may lag a little depending on what you're doing. For me, some of my animation and 3D software took a second to catch up to my mouse movements. It may not be great for timing animation or editing video remotely, depending on where you are (like a hotel with bad internet.) When you're done working, just use the Remote Desktop software to shut down the remote machine- this will end your remote session, so you can close that. One important point is to time how long it takes your machine to power up and down before you leave. Mine took a bit over a minute for each. This way you don't power off the outlet while the machine is still running (computers don't like that) or try to connect to your Remote Desktop software before it's on all the way to the OS.

When the time it takes to power your computer off is up, just turn the smart outlet off from the app and it's ready to go the next time. My machine uses LOTS of power because of all the hardware, fans, graphics cards etc. so it's nice to have it all the way off when I don't need it (and saves on power bills!) I've run this setup from my hotel in Taiwan all the way to my computer at my studio in Chicago and it works great! Happy remote working :-)

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