File this one under the “I wish I’d known about this a long time ago” label. Yes, it’s one of those rabbit holes you jump down thinking it’s dead simple and quick, and then spend some inordinate amount of time and sweat following what turns out to be just one dead end after another.
First things first. I now take my Dell XPS 12 with me on trips and leave my heavier (those two extra pounds now really make themselves felt) Dell XPS 15z at home, humming away. Unfortunately, every now and then I wish I had access to some feature or document on the 15z when I’m away travelling. And of course it just remains there well out of reach, with my memory and imagination pulling up the app’s window or the File Explorer listing in my mind’s eye.
So, today – I love these quieter days between Christmas and New Year’s – I decided to set up Remote Desktop Connection for the 15z and to configure my CenturyLink DSL modem and my home network router to allow Remote Desktop connections to be passed through. Here’s a figure that shows my home network configuration:
Why do I have two routers? Well, CenturyLink insist on the Actiontec C1000A modem being the entry point from their DSL line to our home network. It came with the data speed plan I selected, essentially, so I’m stuck with it. I have a couple of wired devices running off it, but in essence it’s a gatekeeper to the Asus RT-N66U router that is the main workhorse of our network. It is this latter router that provides our wireless capabilities and the 15z is wired directly to it with a 1Gbps connection.
So, in order to provide Remote Desktop functionality when I travel, I need a fixed endpoint from the internet (I have a static IP address) and then the modem and the router must both pass though the Remote Desktop connection. In other words, the Actiontec must forward the 3389 port (this is the Remote Desktop port) to the Asus, and the Asus must, in turn, forward the 3389 port to the 15z.
Easy peasy, you might say. Just log into the configuration pages for the modem and the router and set it up. The local IP address of the Asus router from the modem is provided by those same configuration pages, and ditto for the 15z’s local IP address from the Asus router. Except that no matter how hard I tried, when I clicked the Apply button in the configuration page, it would not ‘take’.
This was nuts: I’d check the list and the new port forwarding didn’t appear, I’d set up the exact same data as shown, click Apply, and it would not save. Oh, don’t get me wrong, the modem would display a message for several seconds saying that it was applying the changes , but at the end there was no new port forwarding item. My first thought was that maybe the changes had to be applied from a PC connected directly to the modem – I was doing this from the 15z itself through the router. Out came another laptop (the XPS 12 as it happens), I turned on the WiFi on the Actiontec modem, and… exactly the same result. Big fail. Time for Google. Even then, it took a while to find a small hint buried deep in some forum thread: use Internet Explorer. I use Firefox by default and Chrome in times of trouble or for a change. I never use IE; I dislike it thoroughly. But this time I started it up, and the modem configuration pages worked just fine: the new port forwarding item was saved as advertised.
Compared to this, the configuration of the Asus was a breeze. Finally I tested the Remote Connection by using the XPS 12 connected to the Personal Hotspot from my phone. It worked, albeit a little slowly on LTE, but, then again, this is not how I shall be using it.
So the moral of this tale is: If you are configuring an Actiontec C1000A modem provided by CenturyLink, use Internet Explorer.