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I've been using X11 and Xming, but it's much too laggy for practical use.

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You might be better off with VNC or NX over a WAN link. Additionally, these protocols have support for connect/disconnect so they can recover from a link going out.

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You should use VNC for exporting a GUI from the Ubuntu server.

Although VNC has some optional security features, you should not run VNC directly over an untrusted network like the Internet. Instead, you should set an SSH server up as discussed in the SSH guide and configure a VNC server that you can start in so-called once mode. When you have set up your SSH and VNC servers, you can use SSH to log in to your computer over the Internet, start your VNC server, and use port-forwarding to securely access the VNC server.

Some good clients are TightVNC and UltraVNC.

Setting up the VNC for a best-compression communication rather than a fast-compression will help over remote (across ISPs, low-bandwidth) locations.

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Try X11 forwarding:

  1. On server side add this line to /etc/ssh/sshd_config:
    AllowX11Forwarding yes
  2. On client side enable X11 forwarding - add
    ForwardX11 yes

    to /etc/ssh/ssh_config

  3. Log into the remote system and type xclock &. This starts a X clock program that can be used for testing the forwarding connection. If the X clock window is displayed properly, you have X11 forwarding working.

You can also set up the compression, as LapTop006 mentioned above.

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Depends on how much you're planning to do. If you want a single application running, X-Forwarding via ssh works fairly well.

If you want to transfer the whole desktop and the system is not located on the local network, I'd recommend using VNC with TightVNC as a server.

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X11 tunneled over SSH (with compression) is a little faster, but why do you want a GUI?

I've never needed a GUI on any of my linux servers since the last time I ran Novell eDirectory.

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ssh into the computer with the -X flag on

ssh -X user@ip etc

This will forward X11 on a per-connection basis

(It is a capital X. Small x disables X11 forwarding)

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More details would be helpful. However, tunneling over SSH with compression is a good way to get better response.

If you use putty on your Windows machine, look in the Configuration tree for "Connection" - then under that, "SSH" - then under that "X11". Click on "X11" and select "Enable X11 forwarding" and add your Xming server's display address in "X display location". The display address is the same one you've been using to get the display in the first place.

Now click on "SSH" in the configuration categories and select "Enable compression" on the left.

Depending on the speed of the two servers and how fast they can compress/decompress, compression might not be for you - but if network latency is the problem, then it will help.

If your remote server is bogged down running X11, then nothing will help except not running X11. Most UNIX/Linux system administrators do not run X11 on their servers: the tradeoff is too much for too little gain: it takes away processing power, data I/O, and adds new security risks.

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Ubuntu has the vino VNC server installed by default.

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