Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Another Linux Remote Desktop Solution: Cendio ThinLinc

This is the second post in a three part series exploring Ubuntu-based remote desktop options. See posts one and three for further exploration and conclusions.

After the popularity of my earlier post reviewing FreeNx, Pierre Ossman, a developer at Cendio, informed me of their product, which provides an alternative remote desktop/thin client option for Linux. This post details my comparison of FreeNx and Cendio ThinLinc, as options for remote desktop solutions that rival Windows remote desktop.

Installation and use of Cendio ThinLinc

Obtaining and installing the software is relatively easy - you do have to give Cendio your email address before they will email you the download link, but the installation instructions are straightforward, and the installer does a good job of pulling in any additional required packages. The installation instructions simply consist of unzipping the downloaded package and executing an install script.

For me, the installer did seem to pull a a significant number of additional packages - these packages may just be required as ThinLinc provides a little more functionality than Nx. Overall, the ThinLinc installation took longer and felt a little less friendly than Nx, requiring slightly more configuration and interaction during the install process.

ThinLinc administration page
Once installed, the ThinLinc server is administered via a webpage at http://localhost:1010

Downloading and installing the client is also a simple process, and connecting to the server is straightforward, as can be seen in the box below:

It took me a bit of time to figure out how to disconnect from a session without logging off - the ability to resume a session from multiple locations is a primary driver of my remote desktop use. After some digging around in the documentation however, I found the relevant information - pressing F8 while logged into a remote session pops up a menu that provides the option to disconnect from the session, without ending it.

Now for the best bit - downloading and running the client on the same machine as the server allows you to start a ThinLinc session on that machine. Working in this session then allows connection from another location - using the ThinLinc client at work, for example, leaving programs running and then using the client from home to connect to that same machine gives the same experience as Windows Remote Desktop - the one feature I've missed ever since I've moved to using Linux full time.

Finally, it's worth noting that neither ThinLinc or NoMachine support the full Unity desktop that that is default in Ubuntu versions later than 11.04. Because of this, you need to ensure that gnome-session-fallback is installed:
 sudo apt-get install gnome-session-fallback  

The Comparison
The results of my comparison can be found in the final post of this series: Linux Remote Desktops: A Comparison.

[Image credit] RoomMaster2000

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