If you are a frequent reader to this blog you have probably noticed that I am running Ubuntu on my netbook for a couple of years now as it is fast and slick on such limited hardware and, of course, it's open source. But there are a few tasks for which I still prefer Windows software, for which I use Wine to use it in Ubuntu.
One of these is the Windows TightVNC Remote Desktop Client, which for my purposes is much better suited than Ubuntu's built in Vinagre VNC Client. Especially the "scaling" option that let's me scale down the remote desktop which tremendously helps if it is vastly bigger than the small netbook screen is sadly missing. Also, the built-in client does not show me the local mouse pointer which kills usability as it makes moving the remote mouse pointer precisely very arduous.
But o.k. I use Wine to run the Windows application in Ubuntu and it does the trick, even if the scaled down image of the desktop does not look as nice as if the program ran on a real Windows machine. However, it has its limits, too. When I recently tried to remotely administer another Ubuntu machine with it, I found it to be unstable with Vine as the VNC server on the other end. So I switched back to Vinagre just to be disappointed again by the missing local mouse pointer. Time to do search for an alternative. And the alternative I found is quite stunning. It's called Remmina and can be installed right via the Ubuntu package manager.
Not only does Remmina have a seamless scaling option that beautifully reduces the size of the remote desktop but it also has a full screen view in which the desktop moves when the mouse pointer hits the screen limit in case the remote desktop is still biger even after scaling down. Also, it handles both Windows 7 and Ubuntu client desktops without any hicups. Perfect! Furthermore, it has a reverse VNC functionality, i.e. the remote desktop can establish a connection to the client. I use this quite frequently when the remote desktop is behind a NAT in which the TCP port required for the incoming VNC session is not forwarded. In this case the user of the remote computer needs to establish a reverse connection. Very simple on Windows but unfortunately not built into the Ubuntu remote desktop server Vino. Again a simple fix: After installing X11Vnc from the package repository, a reverse VNC session can be established with a simple command: "x11vnc -connect YOURIPADDRESS". Easy to put in a shell script which is then linked to an icon on the desktop. This way, the remote user doesn't even have to type in anything.
And finally, another very important thing Remmina and X11Vnc do is to adapt to the connection being established over the Internet, i.e. much less bandwidth than in a local network. Compression is automatically activated with a good balance between good looks and speed.