Debian (Ubuntu) as a remote workstation

Let me first start by saying I love Linode! I have used several other hosting/vps services and linode is by far the fastest and I have had the fewest problems.

I Currently have 5 linodes and I am currently thinking about using one of them as a remote workstation. What I mean by that is just a server I can use a pc when I'm out of the office or not at home. Something I can have openoffice, email, etc etc on and use while on public pc's.

Now I know I can install X (gnome) and fire up vnc but I am wondering if there is a better solution…say a webos or a pretty x11 interface that is out there.

Has anyone done this or have any suggestions?


5 Replies

I use X forwarding over ssh. Works great as long as you have a decent connection and lowish latency to your linode.

I constantly use my home desktop over VNC while on the road. I can't really think of anything that would be better, since it's essentially the same as being in front of my home computer. I've used VNC to perform a few task on our Linode that required a GUI and it worked quite fine. Why not just use VNC?

If Gnome isn't your first choice you could of course install KDE or any other DE. However, I've found KDE4 has some visual issues over VNC regarding gradients.

You may look at NoMachine ( ), which is similar to VNC but said to be superior. Personally, I had a tough time configuring it.

I just find vnc to be a bit slower than what I would like. I'm leaning towards Cygwin + x11 forwarding but I'm still reading up on how I would configure it and everything I need.

From what I can tell I just need to make sure x11 forwarding is enabled, have Cygwin installed on my windows box and using putty configure my display to

While it appears that's all I need to do I'm currently unclear if I need gnome or another X installed on the debian box first, my guess is yes simply because in Cygwin I'm supposed to type the standard startx…

Anyone know what I'm talking about and looking for wanna throw me a bone?

NX is what you want. Effectively, it's x11 forwarding, but with proxies on both sides that do compression and caching to remove most round-trips. It vastly accelerates x11 to the point where it's faster than pretty much anything else.

I had a friend over the other day. We were both sitting on my couch with our laptops. He had some NX windows to his home computer on a different ISP (figure ~40-50ms latency since I have a 1000km round trip to my first hop), and I was using RDP (Remote Desktop) to my desktop over my wifi.

His NX was faster than my RDP despite the fact that he was going over the net and I was local.

You can get more information here:

I'd suggest using the official binaries. The core of NX is GPL'd, and there are some free implementations like FreeNX, but you'll have a much easier time with the official binaries.

+1 on NX - it is waaay quicker than regular X11 forwarding. You'll still need a fair amount of ram though. I do this regularly on Amazon when I have a big rendering job - fire up a 8 core, 16Gb monster, set up the desktop and away we go. There are actually prepared images at - it's worth reading the notes of those as to the packages installed.


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