I have a desktop and a laptop both with Ubuntu (Ubuntu 10.04.3 LTS) on board. I installed OpenSSH server on desktop and now I'm able to connect to this from my laptop (also running Ubuntu) by typing

ssh -X

this allows me to run programs on the desktop and display their windows on the laptop.

I'm wandering if it is also possible to run GDM on the desktop and display and control it by the laptop, so that if there is e.g. an update notice I see it, etc.? I'm not talking about the normal remote desktop which sends screenshots, because it's too slow.


As an alternate, if your primary concern is with performance, take a look at FreeNX.

Freenx is both fast and secure.




To forward an entire session, you can also use Xephyr. Xephyr is an X session within your desktop.

See: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?p=3816948#post3816948

And if you are using Windows clients, you can connect with Putty and use Xming as a X client.

  • What's the difference between FreeNX and Xephr? Do they send screenshots or X data? – Andrzej Gis Jan 25 '12 at 19:11
  • FreeNX is a VNC server. Xepher is a X clinet, so ssh -X, your ssh session will be in it's own window. – Panther Jan 25 '12 at 19:37

Sending a complete desktop over a network connection will always be slow. Sending it over SSH will theoretically be slower, since you add the SSH encryption.

There are plenty of applications available to show your desktop, but I would not advise to run it over X-forwarding. 3rd party applications will have settings to speed up your desktop (like f.e. disable the colors).

If you still want to test: I believe that you can start your desktop by typing

  • Sure that sending the complete desktop must be slow? Sending particular windows is really fast. Sending complete desktop doesn't seem to be much more work. Btw, I tried gnome-session and it made my laptop gdm go wild :D it looked like maybe two gdm's were struggling to display each other's content at the same time. – Andrzej Gis Jan 25 '12 at 14:31
  • well, one window is only one window, sending all apps / windows trough your connection is a lot more work. Sorry for the GDM thing :D I don't usually forward the entire desktop myself. – Goez Jan 25 '12 at 15:01

The default Display Manager in Ubuntu 11.10 is LightDM, so I will talk about Ubuntu 11.04 and GDM.

On the desktop, open the file /usr/share/gdm/gdm.schemas, look for the stanza


and change true with false. Alternatively, put the following stanza


in the file /etc/gdm/custom.conf. Then restart GDM:

sudo service gdm restart

Now, on the laptop run the command

sudo Xorg :1 vt8 -query

(substitute the last parameter with the desktop IP address).

  • Sorry, I didn't specify the Ubuntu version, it's Ubuntu 10.04.3 LTS. I tried your instructions, but the file /usr/share/gdm/gdm.schema doesn't exist. – Andrzej Gis Jan 25 '12 at 14:22
  • @gisek: sorry, I don't have a 10.04 at hand to check, and look for an alternative. – enzotib Jan 25 '12 at 14:24
  • @gisek: see updated answer. – enzotib Jan 25 '12 at 14:54
  • Actually /etc/gdm/custom.conf doesn't exist either, but i found /etc/gdm/gdm.schemas and edited it the way you said. Unfortunately running the Xorg command failed. It only showed a black screen with a mouse cursor looking like 'X' :( – Andrzej Gis Jan 25 '12 at 17:43
  • @gisek: have you restarted the gdm service? Have you used the correct IP address when running Xorg -query? – enzotib Jan 25 '12 at 17:45

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