WO2000077657A1 - Connectionless remote control system - Google Patents

Connectionless remote control system Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2000077657A1
WO2000077657A1 PCT/US2000/015934 US0015934W WO0077657A1 WO 2000077657 A1 WO2000077657 A1 WO 2000077657A1 US 0015934 W US0015934 W US 0015934W WO 0077657 A1 WO0077657 A1 WO 0077657A1
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WO
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Prior art keywords
remote control
electronic mail
script
message
apparatus
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US2000/015934
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French (fr)
Inventor
Peter J. Cranstone
Kevin J. Kiley
Original Assignee
Remote Communications Inc.
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
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Classifications

    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L51/00Arrangements for user-to-user messaging in packet-switching networks, e.g. e-mail or instant messages
    • H04L51/18Messages including commands or codes to be executed either at an intermediate node or at the recipient to perform message-related actions
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L41/00Arrangements for maintenance or administration or management of packet switching networks
    • H04L41/02Arrangements for maintenance or administration or management of packet switching networks involving integration or standardization
    • H04L41/0213Arrangements for maintenance or administration or management of packet switching networks involving integration or standardization using standardized network management protocols, e.g. simple network management protocol [SNMP] or common management interface protocol [CMIP]
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L69/00Application independent communication protocol aspects or techniques in packet data networks
    • H04L69/30Definitions, standards or architectural aspects of layered protocol stacks
    • H04L69/32High level architectural aspects of 7-layer open systems interconnection [OSI] type protocol stacks
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L51/00Arrangements for user-to-user messaging in packet-switching networks, e.g. e-mail or instant messages
    • H04L51/38Arrangements for user-to-user messaging in packet-switching networks, e.g. e-mail or instant messages in combination with wireless systems

Abstract

A connectionless remote control system (10) includes, in an electronic mail embodiment, a control script generator (28) for generating a remote control script, which is associated with a remote, controlling computing device (14). A target, controlled computing device (12) transmits (16) an electronic mail message including the remote control script along with a remote control identifier addressed to the user of the controlled computer (14). The client module (24) executing on the controlled computing device (12) periodically retrieves available electronic mail messages from an electronic mail server (18, 20), and examines each message for the remote control identifier. The remote control script is extracted from electronic mail messages when it includes the remote control identifier, and the client module (24) thereafter executes the instructions contained in the script to perform the remote control tasks.

Description

CONNECTIONLESS REMOTE CONTROL SYSTEM

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Technical Field

The present invention relates generally to remote control systems, and, more particularly, to a connectionless remote control system. 2. Description of the Related Art

Systems for providing access to and/or control of a remote computer have been known for many years, and fall generally into two categories: remote networking and remote control. The latter approach enables a first computer (e.g., a remote computer) to connect to a second computer (e.g., a host computer) and use it as though the user of the remote computer were at the host computer site. The actual applications programs are executed on the host computer, while keyboard and mouse inputs, and screen display outputs are generally exchanged between the remote and host computers. For example, one such known system is sold under the trademark pcAnywhere, by Symantec Corporation, Cupertino, CA 95014 USA, which purports to provide remote control support over standard modem connections as well as TCP/IP networks. The TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) portion of TCP/IP, as known, is a connection-based service in which the sending and receiving machines are communicating with each other at all times, while the IP (Internet Protocol) portion is simply a connectionless packet delivery service. TCP provides the appearance of a point-to-point connection. Known systems, however, have shortcomings. One shortcoming is that such remote control systems require that the communications link and the data stream connecting the host and remote computers be (or function to be) a "point-to-point" connection with real-time packet turnaround. Many of such systems even require a dedicated link which no other communications protocol can share during the execution of a remote control session. When the "host" computer is not immediately available for a connection by the "remote" computer, remote control cannot even be commenced, much less performed through completion. In addition, even where a "connection" is initially established, when "real-time" packet turnaround time degrades, reliable remote control cannot continue. For example, regarding pcAnywhere (V9.0), where packet transit times over TCP/IP exceed 250 milliseconds, such as when Internet traffic is moderate, connections are not as reliable as when such times are below 250 ms, and when such times are above 350 ms, as when Internet traffic is high, a connection cannot be made at all. Similar results occur with other known remote control systems. Another shortcoming is that prior remote control systems require, generally, the ability to open up a port on the host computer, as well as knowledge of the host machine's IP address. These requirements are difficult to satisfy when the host machine is behind a corporate firewall.

There is therefore a need to provide a remote control system that minimizes or eliminates one or more of the problems as set forth above.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

One advantage of the present invention is that it provides a system capable of providing remote control in connectionless environments including, but not limited to, the Internet. As such, the inventive remote control system does not require opening a port on the host computer, does not require knowledge of the host computer's IP address, does not require a point-to-point connection either actual or functional (e.g., TCP connection service). The inventive remote control system therefore may be usefully employed in a wider variety of environments. An apparatus for enabling remote control is provided in accordance with the present invention. The apparatus includes an input module and an execution module. The input module is configured to receive a remote control script by way of a connectionless data delivery service. The script includes instructions defining remote control tasks. The execution module is configured to perform the tasks in accordance with the script. In a preferred embodiment, the input module and execution module are presented to the user in a single program that executes on a computing device to be controlled.

In one preferred embodiment, the connectionless data delivery service comprises a Simple Mail Transfer Protocol/Post Office Protocol (SMTP/POP3). The apparatus, particularly the input module, is configured to retrieve an available electronic mail message from an electronic mail server, examine the message for a remote control identifier indicating that the message includes the remote control script, and to extract the script when the message includes the identifier. In an alternate preferred embodiment, the connectionless data delivery service comprises a Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP). The inventive apparatus enables a user to remotely control a computing device via an HTML file containing the remote control script. Other objects, features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art from the following detailed description and drawings which illustrate the invention by way of example, but not by way of limitation.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Figure 1 is a simplified block diagram view of a system according to the invention;

Figure 2 is a simplified block diagram of an electronic mail message containing a remote control identifier according to the invention; Figure 3 is a block diagram showing, in greater detail, a client module portion of the invention; and

Figure 4 shows a graphic user interface for inputting user preferences.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS Referring now to the drawings in which like reference numerals are used to identify identical components in the various views, Figure 1 shows a system 10 for remote control of a computing device in accordance with the present invention. The system enables connectionless remote control, which overcomes the shortcomings of conventional systems as set forth in the Background. "Connectionless" as used herein means communication without requiring that a port be opened on the controlled computer, or without knowledge of the controlled computer's IP address, or for bi-directional communications, or real-time packet turnaround, all as described in the Background.

Figure 1 shows a target, controlled computing device 12, a controlling device 14 remotely located therefrom, a computer network, such as the Internet 16, a Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) server 18, and a Post Office Protocol (POP3)- compliant electronic mail server 20. Figure 1 illustrates a first preferred embodiment of the present invention wherein connectionless remote control is accomplished by way of electronic mail employing conventional, and known electronic mail protocols such as the SMTP and POP3 protocols.

With continued reference to Figure 1 , the particular configuration of computing device 12 that may be controlled remotely in accordance with the present invention varies greatly, and may be any one of a plurality of conventional computing devices. For purposes of example only, computing device 12 may comprise a Personal Computer (PC) executing a windows operating system (e.g., Windows 98 SE, Windows 2000, etc.) a Macintosh computer, a UNIX workstation, a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA's) such a Palm connected-organizer, hand-held computers, wireless phones with web access (WAP enabled) as well as a variety of other computing devices, generally. Controlled computing device may also include computer-embedded appliances such as a toaster, a refrigerator, and other device, such as an electric meter, all that may be configured to include intelligence, and may be usefully controlled in accordance with the invention. Controlled computing device 12 includes an operating system 22, and a POP3-enabled remote control client module 24. Operating system 22 may be conventional operating system compatible with and suitable to the hardware platform of computing device 12.

Module 24 is configured to establish communications with POP3 server 20, and check for electronic mail of the type containing a remote control script. Once identified, such electronic mail messages are processed, and a remote control script is extracted, and executed. Through the execution of the remote control script by module 24, the remote control of computing device 12 is accomplished. While module 24 is illustrated, in the first preferred embodiment, as being POP3 -compliant, it should be understood by those of ordinary skill in the art that other electronic mail protocols, such as the Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) may be implemented, as an equivalent thereof. The governing standards for Post Office Protocol 3 are known to those of ordinary skill in the art, and are published in Request For Comments (RFC) 1734, Meyers, J., POP3 authentication command, 1994 December; RFC 1725, Meyers, J., Rose, M., Post Office Protocol-Version 3, 1994 November; RFC 1082, Rose, M., Post Office Protocol; Version 3; extended service offerings; 1988 November, all of which may be found in a variety of publicly accessible Internet sites, such as http://www.rfc.editor.org/rfc.html. POP3 is a client/server protocol in which electronic mail is received and held in the illustrated embodiment, by POP3 server 20. Controlling device 14 may also comprise conventional computing devices, such as, for example only, a PC executing a Windows operating system, a Macintosh computer, a UNIX workstation, PDA's, handheld computers, wireless phones, and the like. Device 14 includes an operating system 26, a remote control script generator 28, and a Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP)-enabled module 30. Operating system 26 may comprise conventional operating system software compatible with the particular hardware configuration of remote controlling device 14.

Control script generator 28 is configured to generate a remote control script destined for transmission in an electronic mail message addressed to a user of the controlled computing device 12.

Figure 2 shows an electronic mail message 32 that includes a remote control identifier 34 and a remote control script portion 36. The remote control identifier 34, when present, indicates that electronic mail message 32 is a message of the type that includes a remote control script 36. Remote control script 36 includes instructions that define remote control tasks. Generator 28 may take a variety of forms, depending on the particular form of remote control script 36. Generator 28 may be a text editor where remote control script 36, particularly the instructions contained therein, are text-based. Where the remote control script is, in an alternate embodiment, in binary form, a corresponding generator 28 must be used to produce a file containing the desired binary sequences.

Module 30 is provided for transmitting electronic mail message 32 to the electronic mail server 20 associated with the user of the controlled computing device 12. Module 30 may comprise conventional electronic mail client software programs such as Microsoft Outlook, commercially available from Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, Washington, or Netscape Messenger available as part of the Netscape

Communicator Internet Suite, Netscape Communications Corporation. As understood by those of ordinary skill in the art, the SMTP protocol is the Internet's standard host- to-host mail transport protocol. The SMTP protocol is documented in RFC 821, and RFC 1869 (extended SMTP), publicly available, for example, at http://www.rfc.editor.org/rfc.h-ml.

As conventional, an electronic message 32 originating from remote controlling device 14 is transmitted to SMTP server 18, which is configured to transport the message 32, according to the SMTP protocol, through Internet 16 to the destination server 20, based on the addressee's electronic mail address. The message 32 is s received and is queued in the user's mail box on server 20. Periodically, according to the invention, remote control client module 24 checks the mail box on server 20 and downloads any available messages that are identified as containing a remote control script 36. The remote control script 36 is extracted by module 24, and executed on the target, controlled computing device 12. Through the foregoing, controlled computing device 12 may not even be connected to the Internet when the remote control script, embedded in message 32, is sent from remote controlling device 14. No port need be opened on the target, controlled computing device 12, no knowledge of the target controlled computing devices IP address is required, nor is a point-to- point connection with real-time packet turnaround required between device 14 and device 12, all overcoming the disadvantages of conventional remote control systems.

Returning to Figure 2, remote control identifier 34 provides a signature and indicates that the message 32 includes a remote control script 36. Identifier 34 must be present in message 32 in order to identify itself to client module 24. Identifier 34 may take a variety of forms, for example, a text string contained in the body of electronic mail message 32, or a text string contained in the subject line heading of message 32. The plurality of alternative identifiers may be employed, and would be considered equivalents thereof in accordance with the invention.

Script 36 includes a suite of commands or instructions that are interpreted and executed by module 24 on controlled computing device 12. Script 36 may execute commands contained within the message 32 itself, and/or commands contained in files located on the remote controlled computing device 12 itself, and/or some other remote storage medium. Control script 36 may execute by way of client module 24 in a "visible" fashion, with progress displays on the remote control device 12, or, in an alternative embodiment, may execute silently in the background on the controlled computing device 12. Script 36 may be encrypted, compressed, secure, and/or non- secure. Script 36 may also contain comments or inactive lines. Table 1 shows exemplary commands and a description of each command in a text-based remote control script embodiment. TABLE 1

Figure imgf000009_0001
Figure imgf000010_0001

Figure 3 shows remote control client module 24 in greater detail. Module 24 includes an input module 38, an execution module 40, a deleting module 42, and a configuration module 44 adapted for use in connection with input from a user 46.

Input module 38 is configured to receive remote control script 36 by way of a connectionless data delivery service, such as an electronic mail delivery service in the illustrated embodiment. Script 36, as set forth above in Table 1, includes instructions defining remote control tasks.

Input module 38 includes means 48 for retrieving an available electronic mail message 32, means 50 for examining message 32 for remote control identifier 34, and means 52 for extracting script 36.

In the illustrated embodiment, retrieving means 48 is POP3-compliant. Accordingly, retrieving means 48 is configured to establish a POP3 connection to mail server 20, and issue appropriate POP3 commands to the server 20 via Internet 16 that check for messages 32. If there are available messages, retrieving means, as

1 configured, issues further POP3 commands to retrieve the next available message. This process is continued until all available messages have been retrieved from server 20 to module 24.

Examining means 50 is configured to identify electronic mail messages that contain remote control scripts 36. In this regard, examining means 50 is configured to examine messages for the presence of remote control identifier 34. If identifier 34 is present, extracting means 52 extracts script 36 from message 32 and forwards the extracted remote control script to execution module 40.

Execution module 40 executes the instructions contained in script 36 on the controlled computing device 12, performing all specified remote control tasks. When execution module has completed executing remote control script 36, client module 24, in the illustrated embodiment and by way of deleting module 42, issues appropriate POP3-compliant commands to delete on server 20 the message 32 from which script 36 was extracted. Configuration module 44 is configured to obtain preferences from user 46.

The preferences are provided to input module 38, as shown in Figure 3. In the illustrated embodiment, the user preferences control the operating behavior of input module 38. For example, the user preferences include a retrieval interval (e.g., in seconds), a user identification (ID) and password for authentication purposes relative to server 20, an electronic mail server address (e.g., either an IP address, or a word equivalent), and, optionally a deletion parameter indicative of whether the message should be deleted from the electronic mail server. The retrieval interval defines the time period between the checks of server 20 for messages. The server address, and user ID/password allow module to locate, and access the user 46's mailbox. Figure 4 shows a graphical user interface 54 employed by configuration module 44 to obtain the preselected user preferences described above. As shown, interface 54 provides for the input of a user name, password, mail server address, retrieval interval, and further allows the user 46 to start monitoring and retrieval of available electronic mail messages (i.e., by "clicking" on the "start" button). In addition, a user may exit the interface 54, deferring retrieval of messages by clicking on the "exit" button. As also shown in Figure 4, a "flash" parameter is selectable, wherein a task bar icon flashes periodically when electronic mail messages 32 containing control scripts are present. Likewise, a "beep" parameter selectable which

7 provides an audible alert when electronic mail messages 32 are available that contain a remote control script 36.

The following pseudo-logic illustrates the process of receiving and executing a remote control script 36 contained within an EMAIL message 32.

- Start run

- Obtain user preferences

- Initialize the program - Engage

while (engaged ) if ( time_to_check_for_messages )

{ - Establish a POP3 connection to the server(s)

- Issue appropriate POP3 commands that check for message(s)

if (fhere_are_messages_waiting )

{ - Retrieve the next available message

- Examine the message for the presence of a remote control script 36. if (message_contains_a_remote_control_script )

{ - Extract the remote control script from the message

Execute the script on the local machine and perform all specified remote control tasks

- Issue appropriate POP3 mail commands and delete the message from the mail server

- {

// End 'if (message_contains_a_remote_control_script )'

}// End 'if (there_are_messages_waiting )' t }// End 'if (time_to_check_for_messages )' }// End of while (engaged ) Terminate the program

EXAMPLE

The following text-based remote control script 36 performs the following actions when it is received and executed on a WINDOWS 9x/NT based target computing device 12.

1. Runs the standard NOTEPAD text editor.

2. Enters a full line of text into a new document.

3. Chooses the 'File' Menu...

4. Chooses the 'Save As' option on that menu...

5. Enter the name 'filename.txt' and saves the file. 6. Terminates the NOTEPAD program.

7. Runs the standard REGEDIT Registry Editor Program

8. Sends a screen snapshot to specified mailbox as an EMAIL.

9. Terminates the REGEDIT program.

' SAMPLE TEXT-BASED REMOTE CONTROL SCRIPT 36

" Sample comment using accent grave # Sample comment using pound sign / Sample comment using forward slash ; Sample comment using semi-colon

Εvery script 36 preferably contains the

'following signature phrase (i.e., remote control identifier 34).

rctp script

begin

// wait 2 seconds

run notepad wait 3 seconds type "This line of text is entered into the remote computer"

press F10 press ENTER type A wait 1 second type "filename.txt" wait 1 second press ENTER wait 3 seconds press F10 press ENTER type "X" wait 4 seconds

run regedit wait 3 seconds send screen to someone@somwhere.com wait 2 seconds press F10 press ENTER type "X"

end

ΕND OF SAMPLE REMOTE CONTROL SCRIPT 36 In yet another embodiment, the connectionless data delivery system comprises a Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP) exchange. In particular, a remote control identifier 34, and a remote control script 36 may be contained inside a Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) text file. The following pseudo-logic illustrates the process of receiving and executing a remote control script 36 contained within an HTML file.

- Start run

- Obtain user preferences - Initialize the program

- Initialize HTML filter logic

- Engage

while (engaged ) { if (an_HTML_file_is_arriving )

{

- Examine the HTML file for the presence of remote control script 36

if (fιle_contains_a_remote_control_script )

{

- Extract the remote control script from the HTML file

- Execute the script on computing device 12 and perform all specified remote control tasks

}// End 'if (file_contains_a_remote_control_script)' }// End 'if (an_HTML_file_is_arriving )' }// End of while (engaged )

- Terminate the HTML filter logic - Terminate the program

An apparatus in accordance with the present invention enables connectionless remote control. Remote control is achieved without opening a port on the target, controlled computing device, without requiring knowledge of the IP address of the controlled computing device, and without establishing an actual point-to-point connection, or the functionality of a point-to-point (i.e., TCP service) connection having real-time packet turnaround. The apparatus is useful in allowing remote control of computing devices that are not immediately available, or do not allow connections from remote machines.

Module 24 may be implemented in software based on the described functionality and pseudocode included in the present specification using no more than routine application of the knowledge and skill of one of ordinary skill in the art.

It is to be understood that the above-description is merely exemplary rather than limiting in nature, the invention being limited only by the appended claims. Various modifications and changes may be made thereto by one of ordinary skill in the art which embody the principles of the invention and fall within the spirit and scope thereof.

tf

Claims

1. An apparatus for enabling remote control comprising: an input module configured to receive a remote control script by way of a connectionless data delivery service, said script including instructions defining remote control tasks; and an execution module configured to perform said tasks in accordance with said script.
2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said connectionless data delivery service comprises one of a Simple Mail Transfer Protocol/Post Office Protocol (SMTP/POP3) and a HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP).
3. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said connectionless data delivery service comprises an electronic mail delivery service, and said input module comprises: means for retrieving an available electronic mail message; means for examining said message for a remote control identifier indicating that said message includes said remote control script; and means for extracting said script when said message includes said identifier.
4. The apparatus of claim 3 wherein said apparatus further includes a configuration module for obtaining preferences from a user, said preferences being at least one selected from the group comprising a retrieval interval, a user identification (ID) and password for authentication to said electronic mail delivery service, and a deletion parameter indicative of whether said message should be deleted from an electronic mail server.
5. The apparatus of claim 3 wherein said apparatus further includes: means for deleting said electronic mail message on an electronic mail server.
6. The apparatus of claim 3 wherein said retrieving means is Post Office Protocol (POP3)-compliant .
7 The apparatus of claim 6 wherein said input module further includes means for establishing communications with said POP3-comphant server
8 The apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a configuration module configured to obtain preferences from a user
9 An apparatus for facilitating remote control composing an input module configured to receive a remote control scπpt by way of an electronic mail delivery service, said scπpt including instructions defining remote control tasks, said input module including means for retrieving an available electronic mail message from an electronic mail server, means for examining said message for a remote control identifier indicating that said message includes said remote control scπpt, and means for extracting said scπpt when said message includes said identifier, and an execution module configured to perform said tasks in accordance with said scπpt
10 The apparatus of claim 9 further including a configuration module for obtaining preferences from a user, said preferences being at least one selected from the group compπsmg a retπeval interval, a user identification (ID) and password for authentication to said electronic mail delivery service, and a deletion parameter indicative of whether said message should be deleted from said electronic mail server
11 The apparatus of claim 10 wherein said apparatus further includes a deleting module configured to delete said electronic mail message on an electronic mail server
12 The apparatus of claim 1 1 wherein said retrieving means is Post Office Protocol (POP3)-comphant , and said input module further includes means for establishing communications with said POP3-comphant server
/(.
13. A system for remote control of a computing device, said system comprising: a control script generator executing on a remote computer configured to generate a remote control script destined for transmission in an electronic mail message addressed to a user of the computing device; and a client module executing on said computing device, said client module including (i) an input module configured to receive a remote control script by way of an electronic mail delivery service wherein said script includes instructions defining remote control tasks, and (ii) an execution module configured to perform said tasks in accordance with said script.
14. The system of claim 13 wherein said remote computer includes an electronic mail module that is Simple Mail Transport Protocol (SMTP)-compliant, and said client module on said computing device is Post Office Protocol (POP3)- compliant.
15. The system of claim 14 wherein said computing device is one selected from the group comprising a handheld computer, a personal computer, a personal digital assistant, a mainframe computer, a wireless communication device, an automotive vehicle containing a computer, a cellular telephone, an appliance and an electric meter.
ι1
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US09/590,727 2000-06-08

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CN105094385A (en) * 2015-06-30 2015-11-25 北京奇虎科技有限公司 Method, device and system for remote control

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WO2004010400A1 (en) * 2002-07-19 2004-01-29 Somfy Sas Method for transmitting instructions between a transmitter and a receiver
CN105094385A (en) * 2015-06-30 2015-11-25 北京奇虎科技有限公司 Method, device and system for remote control
CN105094385B (en) * 2015-06-30 2018-01-02 北京奇虎科技有限公司 The method of remote control devices and systems

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