Remote Visual Computing with VNC – Workstation Power At Home – Part 6

In the previous episode I’ve described how to use the Remmina remote desktop client in combination with the Virtualbox RDP remote screen capabilities to graphically interact with my virtual machines on my headless workstation server. While this works great it has two disadvantages: RDP requires a lot of bandwidth in combination with low latency. This means that it does not work well over the Internet, even over a 100/40 Mbit/s (dl/ul) link. The other issue is that Remmina’s remote clipboard function in combination with RDP, Virtualbox and Ubuntu 20.04 sometimes freezes the connection for 5 to 10 seconds, which hinders me quite a bit even for local use. So perhaps VNC can be used to work around the two issues?

From other uses I already have a positive experience of using the Remmina remote desktop client in combination with the ‘x11vnc’ server of Karl Runge. It’s installed in an Ubuntu VM with ‘sudo apt get install x11‘ and started as follows:

# Assign a password the first time around:
x11vnc -storepasswd

# Start the server:
x11vnc -localhost -usepw -forever -repeat -display :0 &

To be reachable from the outside, a NAT port forwarding has be configured in Virtualbox for the client to port 5900.

In practice this works great and screen quality can be adapted during an ongoing connection to adapt to different connectivity speeds. Also, the remote clipboard functionality works as desired.

For Windows client VMs I chose to install ‘TightVNC‘ as a server component, based again on years and years of positive experience. I was not disappointed and as for Linux VMs, screen quality can be traded for transmission speed on the fly. And the clipboard works, too.

But there is a downside as well. Occasionally, Remmina crashes when connected to an Ubuntu 18.04 VM. It doesn’t happen very often but it’s a nuisance nevertheless. It does not seem to happen for an Ubuntu 20.04 VM or for a Windows VM.

So far, so good, let’s see how this remote screen variant works out in practice.

4 thoughts on “Remote Visual Computing with VNC – Workstation Power At Home – Part 6”

  1. I must be missing something because RDP is generally recommended when people complain about VNC’s bandwidth + latency consumption.

    1. Hm, perhaps this is product specific? I find Karl Runge’s x11vnc server in combination with Remmina as a client much better when it comes to latency and bandwidth requirements than whatever Ubuntu uses when remote desktop is switched on. So perhaps in my case it’s the other way around for VirtualBox’ RDP server, i.e. it is much slower / has higher bandwidth requirements than other RDP implementations?

        1. Do you have a good combination of RDP Server and Client that works over ‘the Internet’? Would be interested with Linux as the remote system from which I would like to see the screen.

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