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For the last couple of months I've been using a Windows server with AWS to remote desktop into when I need a high-speed connection (big FTP transfers, connecting when Virgin Media fail in the UK) etc etc. It's great, and solves many problems, but is very expensive ($80 a month + bw). I was wondering if there were any alternatives.

My thoughts are that I could configure a linux box to have some form of display, like X or Gnome, and access that remotely - but I'm not sure where to start in terms of a) getting it setup and b) connecting to it from my mac (10.7).

Any suggestions / alternatives?


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closed as off topic by Shane Madden, voretaq7, Bart Silverstrim, Zoredache, EEAA Jan 17 '12 at 19:27

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Gnome kind of depends on X to work. Ubuntu (and no doubt others now, if you use a desktop install) have a "share my desktop" feature that is essentially a VNC server for the desktop.

Using that you would be able to VNC into the computer, although I'd use SSH to tunnel it and encrypt the connection.

That said, you can already ssh into a *nix workstation and using X-forwarding launch programs remotely or run many/most tasks from the command prompt. It would be faster in most cases than using the GUI if you're pressed for bandwidth.

So you can either use SSH and x-forwarding to open graphical programs on the remote system/run commands from the command prompt, or you can run an X server on the Unix system to display the desktop, or use the built-in sharing of the desktop preconfigured on many of the more "user friendly" distros to do what you're looking to do.

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If you need a complete desktop, it's not that easy to forward GNOME or KDE on Mac because OSX doesn't really like the other window managers. (it bugs a lot, weird result).

You can very easily just forward X over ssh and launch the apps you want from the command line. But you will open and close these everytime you close the connection, so you can't leave them running.

The easiest to have a working desktop is using VNC server on your linux machine and use a VNC client on your Mac or windows.

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I did some searching and VNC seemed to be the way forwards. ) my only query being, can I close the tunnel and leave the server working away on, for instance, a FTP job? I'd ideally like to be able to use a GUI filezilla and just leave it running. – George Pearce Jan 17 '12 at 19:31
Yea, VNC will just forward a running desktop. I've used it in that way before. – Lucas Kauffman Jan 17 '12 at 19:31

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