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My evil plan is to serve rdp from an AWS ubuntu instance so I can have a permanent xubuntu desktop as I roam from windows computer to windows computer (or any computer really). It is as easy as running mstsc -v {aws.public.url}.

How, through, ssh, can I have the instance serve a remote desktop?

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I don't know about running an rds-compatible service, but if you can't find one, VNC should meet your needs - just install a VNC server on AWS, and a VNC client on the windows machines. See e.g. this VNC discussion

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Note: This answer is now outdated:

  • xrdp no longer needs tightvnc for 11.04.. maybe 10.10 too
    • so, no need to install tightvnc, just install xrpd
    • so, also, the restriction on 64bit machines is lifted

Thanks to nealmcb's answer and following the tightvnc + xrdp discussion, I've got it working here is my complete list of tasks to set up an mstsc -v able aws:

Xubuntu not Ubuntu Desktop

I originally tried an ubuntu desktop, but with a micro instance, the gui performance was too slow, switching to xubuntu gives a reasonably responsive remote desktop

AWS Setup

  1. Create a Key Pair (save as a .pem file to local machine)
  2. Modify Default Security Group, add RDP, tcp, 3389, 3389,
  3. Create AWS instance: Canonical ami-508c7839
    • (i386 important due to 64 bug in tightvnc)
    • use this for the user data section


apt_update: true
apt_upgrade: true
 - xubuntu-desktop
 - indicator-applet-session
 - gnome-themes-selected
 - tightvncserver
 - xrdp

SSH access on windows

  1. download putty and puttygen
  2. with puttygen: create a .ppk from the .pem
  3. putty {awc.public.url}, ssh auth with .ppk file

Server Setup

You might have to wait for the xubuntu-desktop apt-get to finish before the xrdp.ini is available.

sudo vim /etc/xrdp/xrdp.ini
# remove the entries below the xrdp1 block
sudo adduser me
sudo addgroup me admin

now I can mstsc -v {aws.public.url} into the aws.

D Keystroke Problem

  • System -> Preferences -> Keyboard Shortcuts
  • Change Show Desktop Shortcut from D to alt-D

Thanks to the following resources:

AWS Install Guide

Xubuntu AWS Install Guide


TightVNC 1.3.9 64bit Issues

RDP D key Problem

Fast Switch Applet Problem

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Thanks for documenting your process - that's a huge help and a good guide to others trying to do the same thing! :) – Brian Knight May 9 '11 at 1:08

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