Using The Remote Desktop Viewer Under Ubuntu

Say you want to remotely log into a desktop on another machine. One way to do it is by using an approach called VNC. It stands for “virtual network computing” and has been around for quite a while, with servers and clients that run under a variety of operating systems.

You may have been following my recent exploits running Ubuntu on my old Galaxy S using LinuxonAndroid. The system is fairly responsive and gives you the capability to flip back and forth between the Linux command line and the Android desktop.

For VNC I use a Linux client called Remote Desktop Viewer. It’s available in the Synaptic manager under Ubuntu. There are a variety of other VNC clients for Linus including xvnc4viewer, vinegre and directvnc. On Android devices, I use AndroidVNC. VNC Viewer is popular on Windows and Macs.

Connecting

VNC Client

Connecting the Remote Desktop Viewer to a VNC server is pretty straightforward.

  1. Start the program from the Application menu.
  2. Tap the Machine drop-down menu at the upper left hand corner and select the Connect menu item.
  3. A screen will appear, as shown in the graphic above, and ask for the IP address of your VNC server machine. Fill in the address and make sure that the Protocol text box says VNC.
    To get the highest quality screen rendering, uncheck the JPEG compression box and change the Depth Color to True Color (24 bits). You can also put a check in the full-screen box if you want that on your monitor.
  4. Next, push the Connect button at the lower left of the pop-up window.
  5. You should be greeted with a VNC Authentication Is Required screen, as seen in the graphic below, where you can enter your VNC password. The password is set when configuring the VNC server and may or may not be the same as your normal user password.

Remote VNC Authorization Pop-Up

If everything went correctly you’ll immediately see a desktop appear in the Remote Desktop Viewer window. If you checked the full screen box, your desktop will fill your screen. The screen should look like the desktop shown below.

LXDE Desktop Screen Shot

If you can’t connect to the VNC server from your client, take a look at your firewall settings. You might need to open port 5900 or 5901 so a connection can go through. Don’t forget that you might have a firewall on the router, on the server device or on your local machine.

Finally, I’ve found that most VNC clients work well on Linux notebooks and desktops, with a standard mouse and keyboard. Same with Windows. But normal touchscreens and soft keyboards on a tablet don’t work so well, although you can still do basic pointing and clicking.

Try it out. And if you have any questions, post them in the comments below.

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