Remote Desktop With GDM

by Juliet Kemp

Tip of the Trade: With GDM, the standard Gnome display manager, setting up a remote desktop is a snap.

Juliet Kemp
I needed to set up a remote desktop with my netbook the other day (why use that tiny screen when you don't have to?) and expected to need to install additional software on the server side. In fact, gdm, the standard Gnome display manager, will handle this for you, as will the KDE version, kdm.

For gdm, edit /etc/gdm/gdm.conf (on some systems this may be located at /etc/X11/gdm/gdm.conf). For kdm, edit/etc/kde3/kdm/kdmrc. In both cases, you must change the line in the [Xdmcp] section so it reads

If there's no Enable line, add it. Save the file, and restart the display manager so the change will take effect. You can also use the gdmsetup utility to configure gdm graphically, if you prefer.

On the client side, just type

Xnest -query remotemachine.com -geometry 1280x1024 :1
and you should get a login screen for your remote machine. You can give the IP address instead of the name if you prefer. This should work from either Mac (if X11 is running) or Linux.

If you get a security error, try xhost remotemachine.com on your local machine (this adds the machine to the allowed list) and then the Xhost line again. If you get a "Server is already active for display" error, check that you remembered to put :1 on the end: Otherwise the server will default to :0, which conflicts with your existing desktop. You can also try :2 if there's a conflict with


For a more complicated setup, something like VNC may be better, but this method is quick, easy, and does a good basic job.

This article was originally published on Monday Mar 9th 2009
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