Quick Learn – Save External Dynamic IP to Dropbox

There are times when I’m away from the house, where I need to be able to reach my home computer via Remote Desktop. Because of this occasional need, I have my home router set up to allow this external connection. To do this required a static (internal) IP assignment for my home computer (I actually use a DHCP reservation), my router listening on port 3389 on the outside IP, and port forwarding that routes this external traffic to the home computer’s internal IP address. I used to connect by name, but the application I was using to sync my IP with my hostname, doesn’t seem to be working consistently. Therefore, I’ve been using my fallback option a lot lately: PowerShell and Dropbox.

Here’s what happens: I have a scheduled task on my home computer that runs a PowerShell script at 12 a.m., 6 a.m., 12 p.m, and 6 p.m. each day. The purpose of the script is to get my current, outside IP and write it, as well as the date and time, to a text file in Dropbox. That file is then snyced to my other computer and phone. It’s simple.

In line one, below, we create a variable, $UseableDate, to hold the string I use for the date and time. For today’s date, it might look something like this: D2015-08-19_T09-02-43-PM. This has long been my preferred way to store the date and time, especially when used in file names, as it will keep everything in a sort able order by year, month, and then day, and doesn’t include any invalid characters when used in a file path.

$UseableDate = Get-Date -Format 'Dyyyy-MM-dd_Thh-mm-ss-tt'

Next we need to collect the outside IP address. This is an important distinction — I don’t want my internal, NAT’d IP address. Line two, below, which checks in with dyndns.com, was borrowed from Aman Dhally. I’ve included a couple other options that can be used to populate the same $IPAddress variable (note: ifconfig.me has always seemed to be slower than the rest). Notice that using something other than dyndns will not require using any Regex, just some trimming to remove some white space surrounding the IP address.

$IPAddress = (Invoke-WebRequest -Uri ‘http://wtfismyip.com/text’).Content.Trim()
$IPAddress = (Invoke-WebRequest -Uri ‘http://ifconfig.me/ip’).Content.Trim()

$UseableDate = Get-Date -Format 'Dyyyy-MM-dd_Thh-mm-ss-tt'
$IPAddress = (Invoke-WebRequest -Uri 'http://checkip.dyndns.com').Content -replace "[^\d\.]"

The third line in the script, joins the date and time with the IP address and writes (appends) it to the file inside my Dropbox folder. Again, this is running from my home computer. Once in Dropbox at home, my work computer and phone will have the newest version of the file. In fact, it’s become a pretty good reminder that it is lunch time at work, as Dropbox pops up a Notification Area balloon that my file has been updated at 12 p.m.

$UseableDate = Get-Date -Format 'Dyyyy-MM-dd_Thh-mm-ss-tt'
$IPAddress = (Invoke-WebRequest -Uri 'http://checkip.dyndns.com').Content -replace "[^\d\.]"
"$UseableDate -- $IPaddress" | Out-File -FilePath 'C:\Users\tommymaynard\Dropbox\IP\homecomputer-IP.txt' -Append

To be as complete as possible, and save as many seconds as I can per day, I have a little function in my profile on my work computer to grab the IP address from the file. First, here’s an example of my homecomputer-IP.txt file (with hashtags taking the place of the digits):

D2015-08-18_T06-00-03-PM -- ##.###.##.###
D2015-08-19_T12-00-06-AM -- ##.###.##.###
D2015-08-19_T06-00-07-AM -- ##.###.##.###
D2015-08-19_T12-00-06-PM -- ##.###.##.###
D2015-08-19_T06-00-03-PM -- ##.###.##.###

The function below will extract the last IP address added to the homecomputer-IP.txt file. With that, I can add it to the Remote Desktop command line executable and get connected to the home computer from anywhere.

Function Get-HomeIP {
    $IPFile = 'C:\Users\tommymaynard\Dropbox\IP\homecomputer-IP.txt'
    (Get-Content -Path $IPFile | Select-Object -Last 1).Split(' -- ')[-1]
PS> Get-HomeIP
PS> mstsc.exe /v (Get-HomeIP)

That’s it — I hope this might be helpful to someone, someday. It’s saved me a time, or two now.

Update [02/09/2017]: I recently made a couple changes to the above function. The problem was that sometimes the IP wasn’t written to the file, for whatever reason. In this instance, my function ends up returning nothing. Therefore, I now sanitize the file first, so that any rows that don’t contain an IP address are excluded. Take a look.

Function Get-HomeIP {
    $IPFile = 'C:\Users\$env:USERNAME\Dropbox\IP\homecomputer-IP.txt'
    $SantizedIPs = Get-Content -Path $IPFile | Where-Object -FilterScript {$_.Length -gt 34}
    ($SantizedIPs | Select-Object -Last 1).Split(' -- ')[-1]

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