August 07, 2011

[OT] Mac remote access & Mail advice?

Greetings from rural Illinois, “The Land Connectivity Forgot,” where I’ve just set up my parents’ new iMac. We’ve had some minor hiccups (e.g. repeatedly explaining that an “app store” is neither a physical place nor something that mails you CDs; realizing that N-finger gestures are going to be the source of many panicked “Oh, Jaahn, it disappeared” calls), but overall things are good.

In particular I’m delighted with how well FaceTime is running. I don’t know whether their ISP splurged and added a second upstream cocktail straw, or whether the combo of new hardware/compression has done the trick, but it seems to be a vast improvement over our excruciatingly laggy iChat sessions.

Two questions, though:

  • I want to connect to their machine, wake it up, and drive anytime, regardless of whether they’re around. (Yes, they’re cool with this.) iChat requires someone to accept my screen-sharing request. What’s a more robust alternative? Do I have to spring for Apple Remote Desktop? I’ve occasionally used VNC clients, but do those require me to know the other machine’s (static) IP address?
  • Why, for the love of God, can’t Mail on Lion import a mailbox (.mbox) from Mail on Leopard? I’ve tried every method I can think of (archiving, exporting), but I always get a “some [meaning all] messages could not be imported” error. I’ve even tried dragging everything into my mom’s Gmail account, thinking I could upload from the old machine & download it onto the newer one, but the messages never seem to reach the server. I’ve tried downloading the new Outlook, but it requires 10.5.8, and the old iMac won’t accept its admin password (needed to run a system update).

Yes yes, #firstworldproblems, to be sure, but any advice would be most welcome. Thanks in advance!

Posted by John Nack at 11:02 AM on August 07, 2011


  • Jesper — 11:16 AM on August 07, 2011

    Enable Mac OS X’s own screen sharing and either:

    a) make sure the port is forwarded through the router and the computer is always on, or

    b) use Back to my Mac in combination with a new-ish AirPort base station. It uses the “Bonjour sleep proxy” – – so that the base station takes over the responsibility of Bonjour announcements and wakes up the machine, transferring the connection when something comes in. Back to my Mac is based on long-range Bonjour.

  • Jesper — 11:17 AM on August 07, 2011

    For more on option b), see .

  • Michael Tissington — 11:33 AM on August 07, 2011

    Check out – free for non comercial use, even has an ipad version too

  • derek roe — 11:42 AM on August 07, 2011

    Check out Citrix’s GoTo Assist Express. It allows connection to another remote without them being there. You first set up a connection with someons at the other end, then afterwords you can use “Unattended Access” to log on anytime, even while they are using the computer. It also allows you to reboot their machine & remain connected.
    It is a ‘pay as you go’ type of thing so might not suit you but I use it all the time to do techsupport all over the country. Fees are about $70 per month

  • Jeff Phillips — 11:48 AM on August 07, 2011

    Check out “LogMeIn Ignition” ( I use this to drive my mothers mac mini from my iPad.

  • George Penston — 11:53 AM on August 07, 2011

    I don’t know if it helps, but you may also want to make sure the “Wake for network access” option is on in the Energy Saver system preference.

    Does anybody know if Back to My Mac is still a MobileMe only feature? I’ve never got it to work when I had MobileMe or .mac.

  • David — 12:19 PM on August 07, 2011

    With regard to your first question. I have been connecting to my Mothers iMac in the U.K (from Florida) for a few years now.

    The first method was via Back to My Mac. This required me to setup her machine as my own as far as Mobile Me was concerned. Not a problem since she only uses the Photo Gallery portion of Mobile Me and I don’t.
    Now that Lion is out, Mobile Me no longer available for purchase and eventually discontinued in June 2012 I was concerned I would lose this option. I saw a FAQ today suggesting BTMM will still be available via the cloud.

    The second method I setup, simply because for reasons unknown to me sometimes BTMM wouldn’t connect. Im sure it was the ISP fault and whatever they do. Anyway, iChat does not require someone to accept the incoming chat. There is a setting you can switch on for any user to be automatically accepted. If I request an audio chat with Mother it is automatically accepted, then I switch to screensharing.

    An automator application makes sure iChat starts up a minute or so after the machine starts up and turns the volume down so I can connect while she is in bed, otherwise we’d end up in a very long chat session abut the weather and stuff. I used Automator to delay the iChat session simply because initially it would try to launch and connect before the machine had finished starting up, resulting in a fail.

    Lions screensharing seems to be a little fast to connect.
    Hope that helps.

    • Ben Hansen — 1:33 PM on August 07, 2011

      “Anyway, iChat does not require someone to accept the incoming chat. There is a setting you can switch on for any user to be automatically accepted.”

      where is that setting now?

      Also how are you starting the computer up remotely now?

      • David — 6:41 PM on August 07, 2011

        Select the Buddy you want to auto accept. Right click or Buddies > Show Info.
        Select Alerts
        Check the box “Run Applescripts”
        Select Auto Accept script.

        The computer starts up remotely via the System Preferences: Energy Saver > Schedule.

        There is a 5 hour time difference between us so I set it to startup at 8pm my time and shut down before she wakes up. Any other time and the computer is on anyway.

        Hope that clarifies it for you.

  • Ben Hansen — 1:35 PM on August 07, 2011

    You know how to reset the admin password right?

    [Yeah, I’m afraid that didn’t work for me when I upgraded them to Leopard (as far as their G5 can go). I think there’s honestly some bug in that system that can’t be overcome by anything short of an HD reformatting. Thanks, though. –J.]

  • Caleb Clauset — 3:25 PM on August 07, 2011

    Check out Screens for iPhone, iPad and/or Mac App Store. Works great as an alternative to ARD.

  • skocko — 4:22 PM on August 07, 2011

    Wow. What great suggestions!

    John, when you’ve settled on what works best for you, please post your preference. You see, my mother-in-law just bought an iMac and I’ve spent several mornings at her place helping to solve problems and answer questions. I love her dearly but I’d also love to help remotely when possible.

    P.S. I already have ARD and if that’s the best solution, please give a nod that way if it’s the way you’d go if you had it.


  • GAntico — 4:38 PM on August 07, 2011

    Back to my Mac works great for me on Lion, much better then on Snow Leopard. Now I’m also able to remotely wake up from sleep my MacPro in studio from my MacBook Pro. It’s probably the option with best easy of use, it even allows you to copy from computer A and paste on computer B. As already said, the drawback is mobileme requirement.

    Second best option is probably TeamViewer, because it works from anywhere: iPhone and iPad app, web browser, PC and Mac. If you register and save passwords it became pretty straightforward to start a connection. You just need to add and hide the Teamviewer on client Mac in Log-in items.

  • Ken — 7:40 PM on August 07, 2011


    Gee whiz, I to just bought my first mac pro. Hope on down to Kentucky John and help a 65 year old get ramped up. Yikes,

    My best
    Ken in KY

  • J. Peterson — 8:23 PM on August 07, 2011

    John – might also be a solution for the screen-sharing issue…assuming they get their act together with Lion.

  • J. McAnear — 6:41 AM on August 08, 2011

    I second the vote for Logmein. I have it installed both at work and at home and I have been able to remotely run either machine flawlessly. It’s been a lifesaver on many occasions. It just works.

  • Rod Wynne-Powell — 11:22 AM on August 08, 2011

    Hi John,

    The wealth of sound advice given you when you put up a question on your blog, makes me think if I ever have a problem for which I need a rapid response, I should get you to ask the question for me!

    I think some of them just want some of your fame to rub off on them, so they can wear their ‘I’ve answered John Nack’s question’ tee shirts with pride!
    Seriously, I wanted to get a good handle on just this issue, so I shall look in on the comments again soon.


    PS. How do you find time to work for Adobe with all your blog-publishing activities?

  • Steph Boudreau — 3:19 PM on August 10, 2011

    Thunderbird has always been a great intermediate step in getting various versions of Apple Mail to import into the newest version of Mail.
    I’ve not tried it with a Lion upgrade, but it’s worth a try.

  • Phil Brown — 1:32 AM on August 12, 2011

    I have nothing to add, but “Oh, Jaahn” made me laugh lots :-)

    [Heh–I wondered if anyone would get/appreciate that. When I’m back in the “M-Dub,” the accent comes right back. –J.]

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