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Remote Desktop Between Ubuntu/Linux and Windows, Part I

Figuring Out What To Use

  • January 19, 2009
  • By Eric Geier

Do you use both Windows and Linux? Wish you could remote into Windows from Linux (Ubuntu or other distributions) or into Linux from Windows? Well, you can. Just like when using a Remote Desktop Connection between Microsoft platforms (or remoting between Linux machines), you can bring up the desktop of the other platform. You can click around the desktop and run applications just as if you were sitting in front of the computer.

We'll discuss a few different approaches you can take to get this remote desktop capability. Plus we'll go step-by-step through setting up one method, using free tools. Let's get started.

Choosing a remote desktop protocol

Remote desktop applications typically use either the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) or Virtual Network Computing (VNC) protocol. In order to establish a remote connection, both the host/server and client have to support the same protocol. The problem is that not all operating systems (OSs) use the same default protocol. Plus some Linux distributions and some Windows editions don't include both a remote desktop server and client application, or either one.

Your first task should be evaluating which protocols are already supported by your computers. In addition to scouring your OS, searching documentation, and referring to the cheat sheet table, you ought to be able to figure out what's what, and where. Then in the end, you should choose a protocol to use among all your computers.

Platform

Protocol

Client

Server

Windows Home Edition

RDP

X

Windows XP Professional

RDP

X

X

Windows Vista Home Basic & Premium

RDP

X

Windows Vista Business & Ultimate

RDP

X

X

Most Linux Distros

VNC

X

X

Here are a few more things for you to consider:

  • VNC remote desktop connections are typically slower than RDP connections, however VNC is usually easier to implement across a variety of platforms.

  • For better performance and security, you can use NoMachine's NX free server and clients, or those from FreeNX—more advanced configuration is required though.

  • It's also possible to support RDP connections to Linux machines; for example, by using the xrdp server.

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