iTwin Remote Computer Access Device
A new secure way to share and remotely
Put one half of the iTwin
pair of USB sticks in one computer and the other in any
other Windows or Mac computer so as to be able to share files between them.
What could be easier than
Part 1 of a two part review
- please also see part 2.
Remote access and file sharing
is an increasingly important part of modern and mobile
There are various ways of
achieving this, most relying on software or internet 'cloud'
storage of some form or another.
The iTwin approach is different
because it allows you to remotely access files on one computer
from pretty much any other computer, while using a robust security
process to protect your computer privacy.
Simple and easy to use, fairly
priced ($99), and with no ongoing monthly costs, the iTwin product is
well worth considering.
iTwin - What You Get
The iTwin remote computer
access device comes attractively packaged in an easily opened box.
Inside is the device itself
and a Getting Started guide. Nothing else is included,
presumably because nothing else is needed.
When I say 'inside is the
device itself', I perhaps should better say 'inside are the
devices themselves' because the iTwin, as its name sort of
implies, is a two part device. There are two USB stick
shaped devices, which can also be connected to each other (from
the other end of each USB stick, not via their USB interfaces) so
as to create the electronic 'pair' link between them that
subsequently authorizes them to access each other's computer.
So, what next? I reach
for the Getting Started guide - a tiny 2.5" x 3.8" booklet with 16
pages of content, and quickly discover how easy it is to get this
device up and running.
no warranty statement on the box
or in the booklet or on their website. The company advises
that the warranty is for 3 months, which is somewhere between
average and below average for such devices.
But with no
moving parts, there's not a lot to go wrong, and if you get
through the initial 'infant mortality' period (some solid state
devices tend to fail early in their life) you'll probably not have
any issues for years to follow.
The iTwin is priced at $99.99
and can be purchased direct from the
supplier (with shipping also
charged extra) or from Amazon
(for 'only' $99 and probably with free
If you should lose either half
of the iTwin double device, you can buy a single half (very fairly
priced at half the $99.99 price for both devices, too); you do not
need to buy a complete new double device.
Installing the iTwin on the First
Could it be this simple?
You just plug the double device into the first computer you want
to use it with, and it self-installs.
So I do exactly this, and the
product does exactly that. The installation process is quick
and easy. I have to name the iTwin, which seems somewhat
unnecessary, then enter my email address to be sent a 'just in
case' disable code (in case I subsequently lose one half of the
device) and then am presented with a screen where I can nominate
what files and folders I share with the other half of the iTwin.
Within a couple of minutes an
email that clearly explains the disabling procedure has been sent
to me. So far, so good.
Back to the new screen that
opened. This screen is a bit confusing, and what I see on
the screen doesn't look like what I see in the Getting Started
But after closing this down
and then opening up iTwin's program, I get a different program
that is as expected and easily understood.
If this is a computer that I
then wish to share files from, I can specify which files or
folders I want to be shareable with the other iTwin enabled
There seems little reason not
to share almost anything and everything, so as to most robustly
guard against unexpectedly discovering something was overlooked
and forgotten. In the past, I've had problems with programs
that store their data in nonstandard places that I forget to synch
or copy over. So to guard against that, it is best to simply
share everything. That way you'll never be stuck.
On the other hand, if you're
sharing some files not just with yourself when you're away from
your main computer, but instead sharing with some other person,
you might then have a valid reason to seek to limit which files
you give them access to.
Installing iTwin on the Second
I split the iTwin device into
its two halves. I leave one half in the first computer, and put
the second half into a second computer.
It quickly installs itself on
the other computer, and then almost immediately discovers its
remote twin and allows access to the other computer's files.
Installing the device on the
second computer proved
to be as easy, simple and problem-free as it was to install the
device on the first computer.
Usng the iTwin service is easy
and simple. You simply click on the iTwin icon in the system
tray to select if you wish to see the remote files on the other
computer, or if you wish to see the local shareable file settings
on your local computer.
One of the great things about
iTwin is that it is fully symmetrical. You can share files
in both directions, from either computer to the other computer.
There is no formal master/slave type setup, both computers can
access and share files from the other.
Most of the time you'll
typically be wanting to access files from your main computer onto
your remote traveling computer. But there's a major benefit
in the bi-directional nature of the file sharing. You can
use it as a way of backing up your files - for example, if you're
traveling with your laptop, you can backup new files onto your
main computer back home as and when you feel the need.
Another use could be if you're
traveling with a digital camera, you could transfer the photos you
take back to your main computer, then clear your memory cards and
reuse them again and again.
You can also use iTwin to
remotely access and work on a file on the other computer, without
needing to copy it to your local computer, work on it, then copy
it back again.
iTwin simply creates another
virtual drive on your local computer, with the contents of the
virtual drive being the files/folders you've designated as shared
on the other computer.
You access the shared files
through the same Windows Explorer program that you access your
local files. And if you're trying to access/open a file
through a program's File -> Open interface, the iTwin 'drive'
appears in its interface, the same as local drives and other
networked shares do.
Mac and PC compatible
When first released, the iTwin
worked only on PC type computers. A subsequent beta release
of Mac software was not without some beta problems, but an
official Mac release came out on 19 September 2011 and seems to
now be trouble free.
The PC software we tested gave
no problems at all.
I'd earlier recommended
sharing everything on each computer (assuming there are no
security reasons not to do so - ie, you are wanting to access your
computer yourself, rather than allow some third party to get
access to your computer). This is the easiest way to
configure the computers, and also means there is never a danger of
a file being unlocatable on the distant computer.
You can even share network
connections, which is a great extra feature.
If you haven't shared
everything, you can't remotely add extra directories to be shared.
This makes sense from a security point of view.
Most firewall products will
allow iTwin to work through them with no problems. Some may
require you to specifically allow iTwin access.
If you have iTwin connected
computers on the same Local Area Network, they will attempt to
communicate directly through the LAN for more efficient data
If the direct connection is
not possible, they will fall back to a standard connection
externally via the internet and iTwin's Amazon powered servers.
Standby and Sleep/Hibernate Modes
When a computer goes to sleep,
it usually can not then be remotely woken up, and so to protect
against this, the iTwin product keeps any computer it is plugged
into awake and able to respond to remote iTwin access requests.
It will allow your screen
monitor to blank, and your drives to stop spinning. But it
keeps the processor awake and listening for iTwin access requests.
The only possible exception to
this is if Windows decides to do an auto-update and reboots itself
at the end of its auto-update. If that occurs, you're stuck
until someone can restart the remote computer for you.
All data that is shared
between the two computers is first encrypted using a state of the
art AES256 standard encryption technology. Unless you're the
NSA (and maybe even if you are), this means the information sent
between the computers is close to totally secure and unreadable by
You can also use iTwin safely
on someone else's computer, because when you unplug the iTwin
device, it automatically deletes any temporary files which have
been created on the computer. Only files you specifically
copied to the remote computer will stay there; anything/everything
else you have done will disappear.
Continued in part 2
Please click on to
the second part of this article
for comparisons between the iTwin device and other types of remote
file access and sharing services.
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04 Nov 2011, last update
09 Nov 2011
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.