A Lengthy Reboot

By Richard Hsu
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Remote Everything

It's been over a month since we went into COVID-19 lockdown. With the help of various apps and websites, we can work, study, learn, and attend mass. It has been fascinating to observe how different organizations find ways to keep things going remotely.

The list of apps we are using4

  • Citrix
  • Google Classroom
  • Cisco WebEx
  • Whereby
  • Zoom
  • YouTube

In this post, I will talk about the first and uber essential one: Citrix


The wife and I both use Citrix to connect to our remote work computers. It works so well I forget the computer I am using is thousands of miles away in a data center. With rare exceptions, there is no lag in the screen, keyboard, or mouse response. Even when my home internet disconnects briefly, Citrix resumes without us having to redo the connection steps. The underlying Citrix tech is magical. I can even print from my remote work computer to my home printer!

We remote to the work Windows computers in many ways, and it all works

  • Two monitors
  • 4K display3
  • MacBook1
  • iPad2

When I started working from home over 10 years ago, I was using Citrix remoting to a Windows XP computer. Everything worked except when I opened a PDF file or watched videos. These two were painfully slow. I can still picture the words in the PDF files stretching and bleeding virtual ink as I scrolled through the page very slowly. The work around for the videos were to make the video dimensions small, like a thumbnail. Fortunately, I didn't have to do either of them often.

At some point, my work computer got upgraded to Windows 7 and that solved both the problems. Then I got myself a 4K display at home and created a new problem. The text didn't scale well with Windows 7 so I had to manually adjust font sizes in the apps to make it look normal. The toolbar icons in many apps became tiny and there was no way to resize them.

I was lucky with the timing. Few months later, I heard about a pilot for Windows 10 and I harassed some people to get me one at work. The 4K display with Citrix connected to remote Windows 10 computer eliminated 90% of the text and icon sizing problems!

Time heals everything. I take it for granted but the minions in Redmond are hard at work making every release of Windows better. Windows 10 is a pleasure to use.

  1. Requires extra patience. I don't like the feel of the MacBook Air keyboard, and many frequently used Windows keyboard shortcuts don't work with the Citrix connection either because keys don't map properly or keys are missing entirely. 

  2. Requires patience. I was able to work a whole day with an external keyboard and Citrix's cute little onscreen mouse on the 10.5" iPad connected to my work Windows computer. The screen isn't as limiting as I imagined. I was able to do programming, emails, Excel, and surprisingly drag things around to change the layout in a workflow tool. Some would call it Zen mode

  3. At screen refresh rate of 30hz, which is smooth enough that I don't even notice anymore. When I first started using the 4K display with Citrix, I had the office sys admins change the default screen refresh to 60hz, it was smoother than 30hz but Skype screen sharing kept crashing, and no one had any idea, so I reverted it to 30hz. Skype still crashes (really sucks) but I stayed with 30hz. 

  4. None of them are from Microsoft. Skype is conspicuous by absence.