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The "Desktop Sharing" settings that come installed by default seem to use VNC. VNC is a bit of a bandwidth hog, can only work at the resolution of whatever screen is attached to the host, and mirrors every action on the host. (It also seems to work poorly with compositing, but maybe that's been fixed.)

I know about X tunnelling, but that's annoying to use and doesn't always work properly (or, more accurately, some apps don't work properly).

Is there any kind of protocol in between the two, similar to RDP used for Windows? Specifically, something that can run at a different resolution to the host screen and is a little lighter on the network? (Ideally, the more the protocol could have in common with RDP, the better.)

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possible duplicate of Remote Desktop similar to Teamviewer? – Takkat Jan 18 '12 at 12:53
rdesktop is what's used afaik and it uses RDP. VNC should be a seperate install (and is not the default)(someome correct me if I am wrong). – Rinzwind Jan 18 '12 at 12:54
@Rinzwind - that appears to be a viewer, not a server. – detly Jan 19 '12 at 0:10
While I don't entirely disagree with the close votes, it's worth noting that x2go is a great solution to this problem, but does not appear as an answer to the duplicate or in the Wikipedia list linked to therein. But the answers to the other questions are probably close enough (if outdated) that I would not have posted a bounty to get new answers. – detly Jan 19 '12 at 3:54
up vote 6 down vote accepted

I would recommend X2go. It's very similar to RDP and highly efficient even over low-bandwidth, high-latency connections. Clients for all systems, including a plugin for Firefox, etc. It works over ssh and integrates with PulseAudio so you can use VoIP, for instance. Read more on

The x2go client requires a session command to execute upon logging in. For example, to use Unity 2D, use the session command: gnome-session --session=ubuntu-2d. This was found by looking in the file (on the host) /usr/share/xsessions/ubuntu-2d.desktop and copying value of the Exec=... line. If you want to use some other session, you can use the value from another file in /usr/share/xsessions/, but it seems that anything requiring 3D acceleration will not work.

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Thanks for this, x2go is fantastic! I hope you don't mind, but I edited your answer to add some info on the session command parameter needed for the client. – detly Jan 19 '12 at 3:04
No, that's great. Thank you. :) – Jo-Erlend Schinstad Jan 19 '12 at 6:34

Chrome Remote Desktop BETA


This is a Chrome extension by google, which installs a plugin in chrome for enabling remote desktop sharing. The sharing is much simpler compared to other solutions, and is easy to setup.


Chrome Remote Desktop BETA allows users to remotely access another computer through Chrome browser or a Chromebook. Computers can be made available on an short-term basis for scenarios such as ad hoc remote support, or on a more long-term basis for remote access to your applications and files. All connections are fully secured.

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There is a linux RDP-server

I used it some time ago. It worked flawlessly.

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xrdp seems to have some problems on Ubuntu 11.10, alas. You can only see the background (ie. wallpaper). – detly Jan 19 '12 at 0:33
That seems to be a problem with Unity — maybe, like with x2go, if you could set the session command it would work. – detly Jan 19 '12 at 1:57

I use NoMachine's free client (and server). They have repos which makes it easy to install. It works like a charm.

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x11vnc Install x11vnc

By installing and running x11vnc on the remote we will have access to far more options than with vnc (see manpage for x11vnc). Still you have the advantage of staying within the vnc architecture.

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Are you sure? I see nothing other than information about VNC on the website, package description and man page. – detly Jan 19 '12 at 0:33
x11vnc is not vnc-server – Takkat Jan 20 '12 at 21:54

I advise you to use X11RDP. I gives you the best performance and it is Windows compatible. You can logon from Windows (or Ubuntu) into Ubuntu.

Refer to this question for more information.

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Spice might be interesting once it's matured, though it's focused on visualization.

From their site:

The Spice project aims to provide a complete open source solution for interaction with virtualized desktop devices.The Spice project deals with both the virtualized devices and the front-end. Interaction between front-end and back-end is done using VD-Interfaces. The VD-Interfaces (VDI) enable both ends of the solution to be easily utilized by a third-party component.

Here is a link that details the install for Ubuntu

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