Remotely monitoring your children’s computers using iTalc

Teachers have a great classroom tool called iTalc that they use to monitor and control their classroom computers.  Using iTalc, teachers can monitor each computer in the classroom.  They can also take control of the computer, lock and black the screen, take screenshots of the computer screen, and even power down the machine, all with a single click of a button.  The tool is free (open source) and marketed towards teachers and classroom settings.  Parents can install the open source iTalc software and use it in their homes too though.  Using iTalc on your private home network, you can monitor your kid’s activities and keep an eye on what websites they are browsing, what they are doing on social networking sites like Facebook, and even watch as they read their email.  There are other tools that offer similar functionality such as keylogging tools and web site blockers, but iTalc is a perfect addition to your arsenal of child protection tools.

The following describes how to install and configure iTalc on your home network.  The version installed below is a Windows XP version but is compatible with Windows 7 and earlier with a few extra steps to get it working on Windows 7 (that are not well documented).

NOTE: click the screenshot images below for a larger, easier to view shot.

iTalc setup on Windows 7

  1. These directions are for a Windows 7 install.  The Windows 7 install takes a few more steps but the application works perfectly on this newer version of Windows.
  2. Install iTalc.  Installation is pretty simple.  The install will start the key generator when the install completes.  Keys are generated and used to ensure the computers can securely connect to each other.  You’ll have a master key, that is generated on the first “master” install, which will be copied to each client machine that you wish to monitor.
  3. Once the install completes, generate the master key on the machine that will be your primary administration machine.image
  4. Install iTalc on client machine(s).  Copy the key that was generated on the master machine to your client machine, preferably in the iTalc/Keys directory.  The key will be named something like italc_dsa_key.pub.
  5. During the client install, don’t generate the master key again but instead, choose the default option to import a key.  Import the italc_dsa_key.pub key that was generated during the master installation.image
  6. From the iTalc master, add the machine you wish to remotely monitor.  You’ll need the IP Address and MAC address of the machine you wish to monitor.
    1. Click the Classroom Manager button on the left-hand side of the window.image
    2. You’ll first need to add a “classroom”.  Name it “home network” or something like that.
    3. Then add a computer.  You’ll need to enter the IP Address and MAC address of the computer you are adding.  Give it a friendly descriptive name like “my youngest son’s laptop”.image
  7. Stop and disable the iTalc Client service in Windows service on the master and client machines.  You can do this from the Services plugin in the Computer Management application.  Later we’ll add the program to the startup folder so it runs each time Windows is booted up.image
  8. From the iTalc application directory, run ica.exe.  If Windows Firewall prompts for access, allow access to private network.  No application screen will appear but you’ll see a new green icon in the Windows notification area.image
  9. Put ica.exe in the startup folder on each machine.  This is needed so ica.exe (the client side of iTalc) is run each time the machine is booted up.
  10. When iTalc client is running, you’ll see a notification icon in the notification bar.
  11. Using the master machine, start iTalc and choose the classroom.  The remote screen for that computer will display and refresh in 1 second intervals (configurable from iTalc).image
  12. You can shoot screenshots, take control of the remote machine, lock and black the screen of the remote machine, and even power down the machine.

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2 Responses

  1. kharv says:

    Which version of iTALC did you use for this article? Are you using the 1.0.12 XP version or the new version released in late December specifically for Win7?

    Most of the configurations I have tested at school, have resulted in being unable to view Win7 clients because of the black screen seen upon connection.

  2. bhaddock says:

    These directions are for the older Windows XP version. I saw those “black screen” connections here too but only on Win7 computers that had multiple login accounts. Seems like the “switch user” functionality was the culprit in my case. If everyone completely logged out it seemed to work OK.

    After I posted this I installed the new Win7 Beta version of iTalc and am currently testing it out. So far it has run terrific on Win7 even with “switch user” functionality used.

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