Ubuntu, Remote Desktop and Windows Remote desktop (3): ThinLinc

19/04/2014 at 8:48 am Plaats een reactie

This article is a continuation of two previous articles: Ubuntu, Remote Desktop and Windows Remote desktop (1 and 2). It is advised to read those two articles first.

In my previous article, I have explained how to auto-start and auto-pause a VirtualBox VM with Ubuntu. Now let’s see how we can use this feature in a broader context: using a remote desktop solution that enables remote usage of Linux and Windows desktops, from any device, and basically, from anywhere. Anywhere includes access to internal computers from the Internet. For the latter, and with the product that I use for it: a good firewall protection (maybe double), a correctly working DNS, understanding of Network Address Translation and understanding how to harden an SSH server at least with Public Key Authentication are essential. I won’t go into details about accessing an internal desktop from the Internet with the solution explained below. Suffice it to say that I do so. But since security is essential, I won’t publish any details. Numerous articles on the Internet explain items like SSH, alternate SSH ports, Public Key Authentication, Port Redirection, etc.

 For remote access within my home network, I use a free ten user version of ThinLinc, which I installed on my HP xw6400 Workstation with Ubuntu 12.04.  ThinLinc is a Thin Client solution based on Linux. It has excellent sound and video support. In my home situation, even when accessed over two wireless simple SOHO access points, the sound and video quality of e.g. a complex Youtube movie is still acceptable. In other words: ThinLinc just rocks. One more thing though: I strongly advise to install this software on Ubuntu versions that are supported by ThinLinc, and not to try the software on non-LTSP versions of Ubuntu. Ubuntu 12.04 is supported, according to the documentation.

I won’t go into details about the installation of ThinLinc. An excellent instruction, though of an earlier version than the current one, can also be found on Youtube. It is also very well explained in their online documentation.

By the way, ThinLinc has many, many more possibilities than I use in my home network. I just use a fraction of their numerous options.

Anyway, if you’re interested in trying this solution, take your time to read their online installation documentation first, because for the rest of this article, I assume that the reader is familiar with ThinLinc terminology.

Next, have a look at what you can achieve with their software with their online demo.

Also, first create an Ubuntu test virtual machine to familiarize yourself with the installation procedure. Then next with the knowlegde you gained, proceed to a real life installation.

What I myself remember of the installation, is that it was not difficult. Having already installed an Apache web server (sudo apt-get install apache2) but not the SSH server, the installation procedure corrected this issue by installing all missing pieces directly from the web. In less than half an hour, I had a fully functional ThinLinc server.

After having logged in to the admin web interface, I enabled two profiles, and disabled the rest.

thinlinc profiles

The Unity2D profile allows encrypted remote sessions to Linux machines where the VSM Agent is running. So if the VSM Agent is running on the same machine as the VSM server, the profile chooser will contain an option to connect to exactly the same server. Well, since I have only one physical machine… And that’s already the whole trick for remote sessions to your own Ubuntu machine.

 The Windows profile allows encrypted remote sessions to Windows machines where the ThinLinc WTS Tools are installed. Here, the trick is quite simple as well: under Application Servers, just point your default to the Virtualbox VM (with WTS Tools) that is auto-stated at boot time of the Ubuntu host.

thinlinc RDP server

The result, when starting a remote Thinlinc session, is the following.

tl profile chooser

Mind that for this remote desktop example, I use the HTML5 client: no client software on the client device, just a plain and simple (encrypted) HTML page in FireFox. Ready to install clients are available as well.

When clicking on Unity2D, a session is established to the Ubuntu desktop where the ThinLinc software is installed.

ubuntu session

And when choosing my Windows Desktop…a session is established to the VirtualBox VM that was auto-started…at boot time of that same Ubuntu Desktop machine.

ThinLinc remote session to Windows

Oh, and did I already mention that in this way, I am able to print from any device, to the printer that is attached to exactly the same Ubuntu host? Because that is another thing: Thinlinc allows printer redirection as well.

So basically, whether accessing a web page or using the Thinlinc client…off you go with an Open Source solution that allows you to connect to Linux and Windows your computers from any device in your home network!

Learn and have fun!

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Ubuntu, Remote Desktop and Windows Remote desktop (2): How to auto start (and pause) a VirtualBox VM at boot time and shutdown Ubuntu 12.04 and Steam games with Nvidia Quadro FX 1700 video card

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