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mainelyme

macrumors member
Original poster
Oct 14, 2017
70
67
I've been attracted to the idea of using an iOS device as portable thin client for a while now. Especially with a cellular iPad, theoretically it should be a great option for a lot of people as an alternative to a laptop or laptop-plus-tablet arrangement. Of course the advantages include all those of the iPad itself: light weight, cellular connectivity, no waiting to reconnect to wifi or download new emails, great battery life, nice display and speakers and cameras, and a touch screen with Pencil compatibility. These compensate for a laptop's shortcomings, while having access to a traditional, full-fat operating system makes up for the shortcomings of mobile operating systems.

To that end, I've done a fair amount of experimentation with a 10.5" iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard, along with a Windows laptop and my iMac. I was wondering if others might share their experiences in this thread, or might share ways to improve what I've got going.

I've tried Microsoft Remote Desktop for RDP in Windows 10 Pro, but I've found that Jump Desktop makes setup a lot easier and offers some features that I really like, including the ability to treat the entire screen as a large trackpad, which is almost as good as using an actual mouse or trackpad. That means I feel less compelled to trade up to a newer iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard, or carry around a bluetooth mouse.

For accessing a PC, the RDP protocol (which is available only in the Pro version of Windows 10) is vastly superior to Jump Desktop's Fluid protocol. It connects very quickly, it can bypass entering a password, and it dynamically adjusts the screen resolution of the PC such that I can even use Windows with retina resolution, in portrait mode. That's actually very handy on an iPhone.

For remotely accessing a Mac, Fluid is much better than VNC, the only other option. While Jump Desktop does make an attempt to adjust resolutions to fit the iPad's screen, Mac OS appears to be much less flexible. I cannot fill the screen in portrait mode, I cannot adjust scaling, and the resolution is relatively low, making everything look a little bit grainy. It also doesn't feel quite as responsive as RDP in Windows. It is quite usable, though, and you still have the simulated trackpad option for pointer control. VNC can give you retina resolution, but it is much slower.

I have found both Windows and Mac OS to be pretty reliable for remote access. Power outages are a problem when there's no one home, but otherwise, after tweaking some power management settings, both seem to stay accessible, either on wifi or ethernet. I've also tried it with a MacBook Air, but as far as I can tell, Mac OS doesn't give you enough control to ensure accessibility reliably enough. The MacBook always goes to sleep, or it cannot be awoken on wifi, and certainly not with the lid closed.

Pretty reliable is not totally reliable, though, and there have been times when the remote machine is just not available. Maybe there has been a Windows update, or Jump Desktop Connect has inexplicably closed. Fortunately the iPad itself can do most of what I need, but it's still difficult for me to leave the MacBook at home when I'm out for more than a day.

One really neat thing I should mention is that with an iOS device connected to an external display via Lightning-to-HDMI or Airplay to an Apple TV, along with a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, you can pretty convincingly simulate the whole experience of a desktop computer. Jump Desktop will fill the external display in retina resolution, and on the iPad you can do this with Jump Desktop taking up only a third of the iPad's screen in multitasking mode. But this also works on the iPhone, as it does not require native mouse support if you have a Citrix X1 mouse; almost fulfilling the dream of a complete computer in your pocket, a la Dex with Samsung devices.

Other observations:

1. Fast-paced gaming does not work well through Jump Desktop, nowhere near as well as it does on a Shadow PC, but it can be done if the game is in windowed mode.
2. On that note, a Shadow cloud PC is another option, but it doesn't offer the flexibility of your own PC accessed with Jump Desktop, nor the speed of initializing a connection. The remote computer needs to boot up when you open the app, it doesn't adjust resolutions quite as well, and it doesn't do the trackpad simulation I like so much. It might be more reliable though.
3. There is always a little lag, which is most aggravating when typing. It's less perceptible when you are on the same network.
4. Remotely accessing a Windows PC on your iPhone, with high resolution in portrait mode, with your phone's screen acting as a trackpad, is a surprisingly terrific experience, and super handy in a pinch. In fact I've considered using nothing but a large-screen iPhone as a portable computer, with a Windows desktop at home.
5. It's great not to have to rely on Dropbox Smart Sync. Since I can connect all kinds of external hard drives to a desktop at home, I can store local copies of everything, and back that up to another massive hard drive.
6. This way you also needn't rely on tethering for internet access on a laptop. Often carriers limit the amount of hotspot data you get each month, even on unlimited data plans.
7. With Jump Desktop, you can copy and paste across computers, and I think you can even drag files from one to the other.

Has anyone else played with this?
 

cupcakes2000

macrumors 68030
Apr 13, 2010
2,957
3,671
Yes. I have been using jump desktop to get into my Mac mini for a few months now. Works very well, it’s very much like macos as an app.

The biggest problem I found was if the computer restarts, the signal cannot be resumed without physical access. However, if you can control when your computer restarts (turn off automatic updates etc) there is a terminal command to restart which works. The only way it won’t work is if there is an outage or a random power down event.

Try it:

sudo fdesetup authrestart
 
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Harmonious Zen

macrumors 6502a
May 18, 2013
730
375
I’ve been interested in this for a while. It gets me 95% of the way there, but I wish there were a solution that would ensure that I could log back into the Mac side if there were to be an issue. I would love nothing more than to be able to just carry around something like an iPad and feel secure doing so.
 
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tops2

macrumors 6502
Dec 30, 2014
368
185
Jump Desktop app is currently on sale. I've finally picked it up today in in the brief test, its pretty nice.

I was using mostly Microsoft Remote Desktop app to log into some work Linux & Windows machines. Occasionally, I use VNC Viewer app to get around some graphics relate issues (some Linux software..). For home, I use Microsoft Remote Desktop app to log into raspberry pi to mess with some things. It's something that works okay..with enough annoyances that built up over the last few months. Most of the time, I'll just give up and use my Windows laptop since everything just works as expected.

On Monday, I'll try out Jump Desktop app on the ipad to see how well it works for a longer period.
 

kristalsoldier

macrumors 6502a
Aug 10, 2013
789
498
I've been attracted to the idea of using an iOS device as portable thin client for a while now. Especially with a cellular iPad, theoretically it should be a great option for a lot of people as an alternative to a laptop or laptop-plus-tablet arrangement. Of course the advantages include all those of the iPad itself: light weight, cellular connectivity, no waiting to reconnect to wifi or download new emails, great battery life, nice display and speakers and cameras, and a touch screen with Pencil compatibility. These compensate for a laptop's shortcomings, while having access to a traditional, full-fat operating system makes up for the shortcomings of mobile operating systems.

To that end, I've done a fair amount of experimentation with a 10.5" iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard, along with a Windows laptop and my iMac. I was wondering if others might share their experiences in this thread, or might share ways to improve what I've got going.

I've tried Microsoft Remote Desktop for RDP in Windows 10 Pro, but I've found that Jump Desktop makes setup a lot easier and offers some features that I really like, including the ability to treat the entire screen as a large trackpad, which is almost as good as using an actual mouse or trackpad. That means I feel less compelled to trade up to a newer iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard, or carry around a bluetooth mouse.

For accessing a PC, the RDP protocol (which is available only in the Pro version of Windows 10) is vastly superior to Jump Desktop's Fluid protocol. It connects very quickly, it can bypass entering a password, and it dynamically adjusts the screen resolution of the PC such that I can even use Windows with retina resolution, in portrait mode. That's actually very handy on an iPhone.

For remotely accessing a Mac, Fluid is much better than VNC, the only other option. While Jump Desktop does make an attempt to adjust resolutions to fit the iPad's screen, Mac OS appears to be much less flexible. I cannot fill the screen in portrait mode, I cannot adjust scaling, and the resolution is relatively low, making everything look a little bit grainy. It also doesn't feel quite as responsive as RDP in Windows. It is quite usable, though, and you still have the simulated trackpad option for pointer control. VNC can give you retina resolution, but it is much slower.

I have found both Windows and Mac OS to be pretty reliable for remote access. Power outages are a problem when there's no one home, but otherwise, after tweaking some power management settings, both seem to stay accessible, either on wifi or ethernet. I've also tried it with a MacBook Air, but as far as I can tell, Mac OS doesn't give you enough control to ensure accessibility reliably enough. The MacBook always goes to sleep, or it cannot be awoken on wifi, and certainly not with the lid closed.

Pretty reliable is not totally reliable, though, and there have been times when the remote machine is just not available. Maybe there has been a Windows update, or Jump Desktop Connect has inexplicably closed. Fortunately the iPad itself can do most of what I need, but it's still difficult for me to leave the MacBook at home when I'm out for more than a day.

One really neat thing I should mention is that with an iOS device connected to an external display via Lightning-to-HDMI or Airplay to an Apple TV, along with a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, you can pretty convincingly simulate the whole experience of a desktop computer. Jump Desktop will fill the external display in retina resolution, and on the iPad you can do this with Jump Desktop taking up only a third of the iPad's screen in multitasking mode. But this also works on the iPhone, as it does not require native mouse support if you have a Citrix X1 mouse; almost fulfilling the dream of a complete computer in your pocket, a la Dex with Samsung devices.

Other observations:

1. Fast-paced gaming does not work well through Jump Desktop, nowhere near as well as it does on a Shadow PC, but it can be done if the game is in windowed mode.
2. On that note, a Shadow cloud PC is another option, but it doesn't offer the flexibility of your own PC accessed with Jump Desktop, nor the speed of initializing a connection. The remote computer needs to boot up when you open the app, it doesn't adjust resolutions quite as well, and it doesn't do the trackpad simulation I like so much. It might be more reliable though.
3. There is always a little lag, which is most aggravating when typing. It's less perceptible when you are on the same network.
4. Remotely accessing a Windows PC on your iPhone, with high resolution in portrait mode, with your phone's screen acting as a trackpad, is a surprisingly terrific experience, and super handy in a pinch. In fact I've considered using nothing but a large-screen iPhone as a portable computer, with a Windows desktop at home.
5. It's great not to have to rely on Dropbox Smart Sync. Since I can connect all kinds of external hard drives to a desktop at home, I can store local copies of everything, and back that up to another massive hard drive.
6. This way you also needn't rely on tethering for internet access on a laptop. Often carriers limit the amount of hotspot data you get each month, even on unlimited data plans.
7. With Jump Desktop, you can copy and paste across computers, and I think you can even drag files from one to the other.

Has anyone else played with this?
Damn! This is very interesting. If I am understanding your description correctly, this may be quite the useful feature for me. Jump Desk seems to be on sale now. I’ll probably buy it and experiment. Thanks for the heads up.

Edit: Can you explain #6 a bit more? I have unlimited data, which I use to tether my iPad and laptop when out and about. But that aside, if I am out and my laptop is at home on the home WiFi network, I’ll still need an internet connection on my iPad to use this isn’t it?
 
Last edited:

mainelyme

macrumors member
Original poster
Oct 14, 2017
70
67
Edit: Can you explain #6 a bit more? I have unlimited data, which I use to tether my iPad and laptop when out and about. But that aside, if I am out and my laptop is at home on the home WiFi network, I’ll still need an internet connection on my iPad to use this isn’t it?

This is based on my experience with a business account with AT&T. They aren’t very forthcoming about this, but my understanding is that some ”unlimited“ data plans enable the personal hotspot feature on your iOS device, while others do not. Those that do always have a data cap for hotspot usage, usually around 10-30 gb per month, after which they will throttle your speeds to an unusable 128 kbps for the remainder of the billing period.

A lot of my employees rely on using their cellular iPads as mobile hotspots for their laptops in the field. Those who most often rub up against their data caps are the ones who use MacBooks. I suspect that is because when MacBooks connect to the internet, they automatically synchronize all messages, photos, emails, reminders, notes, etc. There is no low data mode. Windows laptops tend to be less connected to cloud services, as Microsoft doesn’t have the same ecosystem integration. This is the one case where Apple’s integration is a bit of a drawback.

Yes, you’ll need a good internet connection on your iPad to access your laptop, but that kind of usage won’t count against your mobile hotspot data limit.
 

rulymammoth

macrumors regular
Jun 8, 2015
234
199
Those who most often rub up against their data caps are the ones who use MacBooks. I suspect that is because when MacBooks connect to the internet, they automatically synchronize all messages, photos, emails, reminders, notes, etc. There is no low data mode.

Yes. That’s absolutely what happens. Not to mention stuff like Dropbox or OneDrive which will start syncing as soon as an internet connection is detected.

If you have the luxury of having two geographically separate locations both with an accessible machine (like one at the office and one at home), the iPad can be used easily as a “thin client” without really any significant risk of failure. In that case one could use an iPad as the ultimate desktop replacement. Internet speeds are so fast in most places that latency is almost a non issue
 

kristalsoldier

macrumors 6502a
Aug 10, 2013
789
498
This is based on my experience with a business account with AT&T. They aren’t very forthcoming about this, but my understanding is that some ”unlimited“ data plans enable the personal hotspot feature on your iOS device, while others do not. Those that do always have a data cap for hotspot usage, usually around 10-30 gb per month, after which they will throttle your speeds to an unusable 128 kbps for the remainder of the billing period.

A lot of my employees rely on using their cellular iPads as mobile hotspots for their laptops in the field. Those who most often rub up against their data caps are the ones who use MacBooks. I suspect that is because when MacBooks connect to the internet, they automatically synchronize all messages, photos, emails, reminders, notes, etc. There is no low data mode. Windows laptops tend to be less connected to cloud services, as Microsoft doesn’t have the same ecosystem integration. This is the one case where Apple’s integration is a bit of a drawback.

Yes, you’ll need a good internet connection on your iPad to access your laptop, but that kind of usage won’t count against your mobile hotspot data limit.
Ok. Thanks. I bought Jump Desk and tried it out yesterday. I am sure I will be putting it thru it’s paces in the days to come. Thanks for the heads up.
 
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