RemoteLab: Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the RemoteLab service unavailable?

Remote access to Library Computer Access Facility (CAF) computers was a service provided during the COVID-19 pandemic. The facility operated under special software licensing exemptions that existed current the early stages of the pandemic which are no longer available to us.

We understand the service remains desirable and are currently investigating options and may provide similar facilities for remote software access in the future.

Which applications are available on RemoteLab computers?

RemoteLab computers all have the same standard complement of applications installed. These applications include:

  • Productivity tools such as Microsoft Office 365, LibreOffice, and Scribus
  • Design tools such as Gimp, Inkscape, and Krita
  • AV software such as Audacity, OpenShot, and Handbrake
  • GIS software such as ArcGIS, QGIS, and Google Earth Pro
  • Data Analysis software such as PSPP, RStudio, and Tableau Public
  • Accessibility software such as Kurzweil 3000

Every computer in a particular RemoteLab Pool has the same set of applications.

Some computer pools have additional applications, either licensed by or specific to the mandate of the hosting library. These differences can are detailed in the pool description.

How do I manage my files on RemoteLab computers?

First, it bears emphasizing that your personal files shouldn't be "stored" on the RemoteLab computers.

There is an option to re-reserve a previously visited computer but there is no guarantee that it will be available for use when you need it. Also, we reserve the right to perform needed maintenance on these computers which may wipe all contents from the hard drives, including any files left behind.

There are three mechanisms for file transfer that we would recommend and support:

  1. Email the files.
    Straight-forward but frankly cumbersome. 7-Zip is available to collect multiple files in a single archive.
  2. OneDrive (and other web-based storage platforms).
    All University of Toronto students, staff, and faculty have access to Microsoft OneDrive. We don't provide a desktop OneDrive client (cumbersome to configure and de-configure for each session) but the web-based app works well.
  3. Remote Desktop file transfer.
    Your remote desktop session will attempt to create drive mappings to allow files and folders to be copied to and from your personal computer. Look for something like "C on MYCOMPUTER" in the "This PC" folder in Windows Explorer.

When can I use my computer reservation?

Computers are immediately usable once they have been reserved. Reservations will expire if you do not log in within 15 minutes, but otherwise last 8 hours.

It is not possible to reserve computers for later times and dates.

Why am I prompted "The publisher of this remote connection can't be identified..." when I try to connect?

This behaviour is expected with our environment.

The RDP file is configured to make a connection to the IP address of the remote computer because most of our computers don't have public DNS records. The certificate offered when the remote connection is made doesn't include IP addresses in its subject and therefore can't be associated with the target address.

What should I do when my Remote Desktop Client can't connect to a reserved computer?

There may be a problem with the computer that has been reserved for you. Please cancel the reservation and create a new reservation. Confirm you have been assigned a new computer.

The RemoteLab service performs a series of basic functionaliy checks before reserving a specific computer for you, but it cannot test the RDP service itself. We monitor for failed and abandoned reservations, but if you have an opportunity to tell us about failures to connect, it would be appreciated.

Otherwise, if you are unable to connect to a couple different computers, confirm your UTORvpn connection is still active and that your computer or network isn't blocking RDP (TCP/3389) traffic.

What should I do when my Remote Desktop Client disconnects and I need access to the same computer?

You may experience a network or computer problem that may disconnect or terminate a session. Should you need to reconnect to the same computer to retrieve some data, please review your Recent Reservations and find the reservation that was disconnected.
If the computer is available, you can reserve it again. If it is in use, you will need to attempt a connection later. We attempt to cache user files for recovery purposes for up to 5 days.

Which operating systems are supported?

Any operating system should work with this service if it:

  1. can connect to the UTORvpn service
    See the Information Commons Help Desk: UTORvpn section for links to software download and installation instructions.
  2. has a Remote Desktop Protocol client
    See the Microsoft Docs: Remote Desktop clients page for links to software downloads and installation instructions.

Windows 8.1+, MacOS, and various Linux distributions have been confirmed to work. Android and iOS devices should work with appropriate apps.

Who do I contact if I have a question?

Questions and feedback can be submitted via the RemoteLab Feedback form (login is required).
However, we can also respond to questions via the Information Commons Operations team e-mail.