Friday, February 12, 2010

15 Remote Desktop Solutions for Linux.

There are a wide range of remote desktop applications that are available that can be used to connect to Windows environment but there aren’t too many that can be used to remote desktop from Linux to Linux or Windows to Linux.

With this I mean, getting entire desktop of remote Linux environment on your local workstation.

Most people who are used to a Unix-style environment know that a machine can be reached over the network at the shell level using utilities like telnet or ssh.

And some people realize that X Windows output can be redirected back to the client workstation. But many people don’t realize that it is easy to use an entire desktop over the network. There are a several of open source applications that can be used to achieve this.

1)  VNC (Virtual Network Computing)
is a remote display system which allows the user to view the desktop of a remote machine anywhere on the internet. It can also be directed through SSH for security.

Basically you install VNC server on the server and install client on your local PC. Setup is extremely easy and server is very stable.

On client side, you can set the resolution and connect to IP of VNC server. It can be a bit slow compared to Windows remote desktop and also has the tendency to take more time refreshing over low-bandwidth links.

All in all VNC is an amazing piece of free software that gets the job done.

There is RealVNC , TightVNC and UltraVNC. Each has it’s advantages and disadvantages. Most popular one is RealVNC but if you’re upto it, experiment with all three and choose the one that works for you best.

By default, communication between client and server is in clear text on port 5900. However, you can easily route all traffic via SSH tunnel.

Here is a quick way of setting it up if you have access to command line shell:
# ssh -ND 5900
When you get prompted, enter your password. Pop open VNC client and  connect to ‘localhost’. This’ll route your connection to VNC server on  remote machine.

You can download VNC from:
2) Then there is FreeNX.
FreeNX is a system that allows you to access your desktop from another machine over the internet. You can use this to login graphically to your desktop from a remote location.

One example of its use would be to have a FreeNX server set up on your home computer, and graphically logging in to the home computer from your work computer, using a FreeNX client.

It provides near local speed application responsiveness over high latency, low bandwidth links.

FreeNX can be configured to run via SSH without any tunneling. It binds to your existing SSH install. Instead of guiding you through the installation of FreeNX in this article, you can visit the following URLs that’ll guide you through the installation on Ubuntu:
3) The third free application is 2X Terminal Server for Linux.
2X TerminalServer for Linux is an Open Source project, licensed under the GPL and is free of charge.

As far as performance goes, NoMachine’s technology is on par with Windows’ own Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) suite, better than VNC.

Both X2 and FreeNX is based on NoMachine technology.

Here are some quick links if you’re interested in using this software:
4) Then there is is XDMCP.
The X Display Manager Control Protocol uses UDP port 177.

Compared to the list above, it’s not as easy to setup for remote desktop but it’s the original way of doing this on Linux.

You can get setup instructions and other tips in the following URL:
5) CygwinX.
A complete Linux emulation on Windows. You’ll find every tool and app that you have on Linux on Cygwin.
6) XRDP.
RDP server that runs on Linux, thus allowing you to use Windows Remote Desktop Client or rdesktop to connect.
7) x2vnc
great little utility that allows you to tie a linux and windows (or anything that can run the vncserver) together with a single keyboard/mouse, avoiding the need for a switcher box.

Mousing cross screens transparently switches between machines, and cut and paste works.
8 ) Xming
It’s a great and lightweight implementation of X11 for Windows that allows you to connect to a Linux box.
9) KDE Desktop Sharing (formerly krfb)
Part of KDE since version 3.1. It is located in the kdenetwork package. If your distribution splits the KDE applications into separate packets, you may find the client as ‘krdc’ and the server as ‘krfb’.

Also uses VNC technology.

10) X-Win32
Top rated PC X server solutions for Windows PCs connecting to remote Unix and Linux host systems.

Works well over SSH.
11) Single Click UltraVNC
In case you would like to remote control without any software installed on the target computer you need UltraVNC SC.

The user on the to be controlled computer needs to simply click on a web page and remote controlling begins.
12) CrossLoop
CrossLoop is a FREE secure screen sharing utility designed for people of all technical skill levels.

CrossLoop extends the boundaries of VNC’s traditional screen sharing by enabling non-technical users to get connected from anywhere on the Internet in seconds without changing any firewall or router settings.
13) Thinstation
Although not a remote desktop app but worth mentioning here. Thin client linux distro for terminals using std. x86 hw.

It can boot from network, pxe, syslinux,loadlin, CD, floppy or flash-disk and connect to servers using VNC, RDP, XDM, SSH and etc.
14) rdesktop
an open source client for Windows NT Terminal Server and Windows 2000/2003 Terminal Services, capable of natively speaking Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) in order to present the user’s NT desktop.

rdesktop currently runs on most UNIX based platforms with the X Window System, and other ports should be fairly straightforward.
While you’re at it, get grdesktop from ( It is a GNOME frontend, for rdesktop.

It can save several connections (including their options), and browse the network for available terminal servers.

15) ssh -X
You can check out this great article written by a slashdot user sometime ago.

Windows to Mac / Mac to Windows

1) RDP Client for Mac
allows you to connect to a Windows-based computer and work with programs and files on that computer from your Macintosh computer.
2) OSXVnc
Vine Server is a full featured VNC server for Mac OS X providing remote access to the GUI, keyboard and mouse using Vine Viewer or any other VNC client.
3) Chicken of the VNC
A VNC client allows one to display and interact with a remote computer screen. In other words, you can use Chicken of the VNC to interact with a remote computer as though it’s right next to you.
Unfortunately I was not able to find too many available to connect to Mac from Windows other than VNC.

I think Windows need to support RDP into Mac. Many people would benefit from this.

If I am missing anything from the list, please let me know.

1 comment:

  1. Sameh,

    Please also realize that we also offer a fully free NX Free Edition for Linux and Solaris that can be used for up to 2 named users and 2 concurrent connections and is available for download at our web-site at

    Kind Regards,

    /John Watts
    NoMachine Sales and Support