Installing the VPN software - instructions for Mac OS X users

The VPN software required for accessing the RTL is provided to students/researchers by Population Data BC through a site license held by Population Data BC. Each student/researcher requiring access to the RTL can download and install a copy of Cisco Systems VPN Client software, also known as AnyConnect.

VPN (Virtual Private Network) encrypts communications from your computer to ours, so data or passwords cannot be intercepted, and prevents unauthorized access attempts (similar to HTTPS). You only need to install once; other times see Connecting to RTL.

Note that Mac OS X users will need to install the VPN software and then install the Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection Client software.


Step 1

Download the installer from

After downloading, open the file “anyconnect-macos....dmg”

Then when that has opened, open AnyConnect.pkg in the installer window for “AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client”, click on Continue as shown

Step 2

When you get to “installation type”, keep option “VPN”, but de-select all other options ( “Web Security”,“Posture”, etc.) because they are not supported at PopData and may lead to confusion.

Before actually installing, the installer verifies the username and password for a local account on your Mac (this is probably different from the account name you use on PopData servers).  Note that AnyConnect requires an account with administrative priviledges.

NOTE that if you install "Diagnostic and Reporting Tool" it will appear as application "Cisco AnyConnect DART" alongside "Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client". DART just collects debugging information for troubleshooting.

Step 3

You should now see that the installation was successful.

The application “Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client” can now be found in the “Cisco” subfolder of Applications on your Mac, but the easiest way to open it is using Spotlight: click the magnifying glass icon, and type the first few letters of “anyconnect”.

You can find detailed screenshots at except you should ignore any advice about altering System Preferences to reduce your Mac's security

Installing the Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection Client Software

Step 1

Microsoft has replaced "Remote Desktop Connection" for Mac with "Microsoft Remote Desktop 10", available from the Apple app store

NOTE 1: You can import your old "Desktop" specifications using "Connections" -> "Import From Microsoft Remote Desktop 8".

NOTE 2: Upgrading to version 10 does not remove version 8, which is likely to cause confusion because they use the identical name "Microsoft Remote Desktop". Version 10 has a round icon, version 8 is square. To uninstall the obsolete version, go to Finder and from menu Go select Applications. On my mac I find the old "Microsoft Remote" with the square icon, and folder "Microsoft Remote Desktop" which contains the new "Microsoft Remote" version 10 with the round icon. You can verify the version using right-click -> Get Info". I suggest moving version 8 to Trash.

Once you have installed "Microsoft Remote Desktop" (M.R.D.) from the Apple "app store", you can start it as any other app, for example start Spotlight (click on the magnifying glass icon) and start typing the app name).

Step 2

The M.R.D. window presents a list of "My Desktops", which are previously configured combinations of remote Windows machine, user name and display options.

The first time, click on "+" and select "Desktop" (or use shortcut COMMAND-N then enter under "PC name" the machine you selected from (ex: rtl30), and select a "User Account" which should be "POPDATA\" followed by your long username.

We recommend you don't enter a password on this screen, because it would get stored on your hard drive under “Keychain Access”.  When you need to change which RTL machine is available, edit the desktop (optionally after Connections -> Duplicate).  The descriptive “Friendly  name” should either be left blank, or match “PC name” (ex: rtl13).

Step 3

Keyboard preparation

If you find that some characters like tilde (~) slash (/) and backtick (`) are unavailable in a Remote Desktop connection, you should prepare your Mac to offer the keyboard layout “U.S. International - PC” by opening “System Preferences” , selecting “Show input menu” in menu bar”,  then depending on your Os X version:

  • 10.9 (2012 “Mountain Lion) select “Language & Text” then “Input Sources”.  Scroll way down and select “U.S. International - PC”. 
  • 10.11 (2015 “El Capitan”) select “Keyboard” then “Input Sources”.  Click “+” in lower left corner; in left column select language “English”; in righ column select “U.S. International - PC”

A flag will appear in the menu bar, where you can switch to “U.S. International - PC”.  This app seems to think all Canadian keyboards are French.

Special keys: the Mac key “command” gets mapped to the windows key “windows”; left-side “option” to “Alt”;  right-side “option” to “alt gr” for special symbols.  CTRL-ALT-DELETE requires the FN key.  “On Screen Keyboard” can be run by typing “osk” in the Windows Start Menu search box.

If your Mac lacks a mouse with Right-Click button, open 'System Preferences” from the Apple menu, and under “Trackpad” enable “Secondary Click”. Then tapping or clicking with 2 fingers will simulate a right-click.

Step 4

Upon connecting, a complaint may pop up that the certificate is self-signed. While the PopData VPN is connected, there is minimal risk of connecting to a bad machine in the RTL, so you can ignore this warning.

Step 5

For geeks, memorized options are in under ~/Library/Containers/ (binary plist format). You only need to install once; other times see Connecting to RTL instructions.