Saturday, February 4, 2012

Remmina is the best Linux application for working with remote computers

As many people know, I have Ubuntu installed on my work laptop. However, this does not mean the bulk of my development and testing is done on this platform. The software that IBM develops runs on many different platforms and so I need to do most of my work on remote servers which are running various different operating systems.

Ubuntu comes with Vinagre pre-installed - it appears as "Remote Desktop Connect" in the system menu. This tool can connect via the RDP protocol to Windows type systems and it also speaks VNC to most other platforms. While it works, it is not exactly a joy to use so I sometimes use Tsclient to connect to Windows servers and TightVNC to connect to VNC servers. Neither of these tools is perfect either so I decided to look to to see what alternatives are available. After a bit of experimentation I hit upon Remmina as the best overall tool that can be used to connect over either VNC or RDP to remote desktops.

The main features that I like about Remmina are
  • It has a lot of flexibility about resolution. As well as allowing you type in any arbitrary screen resolution you can also ask Remmina to pick a resolution that is optimized to the screen you are using.
  • There are a number of Hot keys that can be used to quickly access common features e.g. change the window size to match the current resolution or visa-versa.
  • It integrates the local and remote clipboard so you can easily copy text from a local application to a remote one.
  • It is easy to get files to or from a Linux machine, but configuring shared drives on windows can be much more tricky. Therefore Remmina helps you by configuring your local home folder (or any other directory you specify) as a shared folder via Samba and then automatically connects to that shared folder from the remote session it establishes on a windows machine.
  • It has a handy applet which integrates with the system tray and allows you to quickly connect to any of your configured servers.
However, Remmina is not perfect. The main problem is the almost total lack of documentation. The project website has the FAQ about where to find documentation "Remmina was designed to be hopefully work for most people without the aid of any documentation". Although this is not really a grammatical sentence it is close to being true, but here are a few things that it would be useful to know before you start using Remmina:

  • Most UI elements in Remmina can also be accessed by a combination of keys on the keyboard. When you hover over a control in the UI with the mouse the equivalent key combination will pop-up.
  • All of the hot key combinations are accessed by first pressing the ctrl key on the right of your keyboard  For example when you hover over the "Full Screen button" in the UI you are told that the keyboard equivalent is "Control_R+F". I initially thought that this meant that I should press the ctrl R and F keys at the same time, but it actually means that you need to press the right hand ctrl button and the F key at the same time.
  • Because the right hand ctrl key is used by Remmina, you will often need to use the left hand ctrl key to use the applications on the remote machine. For example, most editors use the ctrl key combined with the right or left arrows to navigate through the document a word at a time. If you are editing a document in a remote window that you opened via Remmina, you need to use the left ctrl key for this type of navigation because if you use the right crtl key Remmina will interpret your ctrl arrow key presses as instructions to switch to a different active remote connection.

21 comments:

  1. Remmina is just too buggy.

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  2. What problems do you have? I use Remmina a lot and the only problem I have ever seen is that when I lose connectivity to one server it can sometimes hang all open Remmina sessions (I would expect that it would hang the session that I lost connection to)

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    1. Hi Brian

      i am using remmina on Ubuntu 10.04 & 12.04 for last tow month.
      issue which have been noted that in key board CAPS LOCK working as reversed.(if CAPS LOCK is ON than small character are type & vice-verse)

      Pls. help me to resolve this issue.......

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    2. I have seen this issue occasionally when using RDP to connect to a Windows box, but I never saw it happen with VNC protocol. I don't have anything to do with the maintenance of Remmina. I see some people disussing similar issues in the Ubuntu forum at https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/remmina/+bug/730990 maybe you can find help there.

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    3. Have you tried reconnecting? I have had this problem with other applications like LogMeIn. You can disable the Caps Lock state on the remote machine, disconnect, disable it on the local machine, and then reconnect. I have had to do this with Keys like Caps Lock, Ctrl, and the Meta Key.

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  3. My problem is I cannot use the CTRL key any more in my win7 box. was using tsclient in 10.04 fine but upgraded to 12.04 and Remmina. Why cant I cut/copy/paste in my remote terminal using either CTRL key any more? I can't alt+tab either. I can't open a link in an email that I was replying to at all because the only way to open it is to press CRTL +Click. It seems all my shortcut keys are not working. The only one that does work is the Windows super key but it also brings up the the Dash Bar at time on my local box.

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  4. Ahh! These are not bugs, but a lack of understanding how Remmina works. I would say RTFM, but of course Remmina doesn't have a manual :-(

    By default, the CTRL key at the right of your keyboard is reserved for use by Remmina (e.g. switching to/from full screen mode etc.) and the CTRL key on the left of the keyboard is sent to the remote server. So if you want to copy in your remote editing session just use the left-ctrl+C not right-ctrl+C.

    The ALT-TAB is an example of a key combination which could be interpreted by your local operating system or by the remote operating system. As you say, ALT-TAB will by default switch focus from Remmina to another local application on your laptop. If you want to use ALT-TAB to switch between applications on your remote Windows system then you need to select the option "grab all keyboard events" (there is an icon at the top of the Remmina screen to enable/disable this).

    You can see all of the Remmina keyboard shortcuts an/or change them in the "Keyboard" tab of the Remmina preferences dialog.

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  5. Well, that seems to be the problem! I understand how it SHOULD work but it doesn't. My left CTRL key does not work inside my RDP session regardless of whether i have the "Grab all keyboard events' selected or not. I have not changed the default layout of the keyboard in Remmina. I did get ALT-TAB working but its hit or miss on where the mouse focus should be and whether it is switching apps locally or in RDP. (I use 3 monitors and the Remmina client uses one for RDP). UPDATE- the right CTRL key IS working for editing now but I need it to be the left side. :)

    I'll keep messing around with it and see if it grows on me.

    Thanks for the info.

    Yours truly,
    Anonymous ;-)

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  6. I have been using Remmina since Ubuntu 11.10 and found it worked perfectly. However since upgrading to 12.04 it is very buggy - frequently drops sessions, almost always loses the connection on switching to other open windows of to different desktops. Also can not copy or paste from the ubuntu desktop into (or out of) a Remmina session. Bit of a disaster actually as I use it to connect to my work server. Haven't been able to find suitable alternative yet. Which version of Ubuntu do you use Brian?

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  7. I use several computers which use different versions of Ubuntu. However, my main work laptop is still using 12.04 because several applications I need for work still don't support 12.04 properly. Based upon what you are telling me perhaps I should hold off a bit longer before upgrading to 12.04.

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  8. Well I am looking at downgrading to 11.10 when I get a chance to regain functionality.

    Fintan

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  9. Can we execute Programs through Remmina on the remote desktop. For example, I would like to run things which take up a lot of space and memory on my desktop rather than the laptop. I tried running Matlab, it worked fine but Counter Strike Source did not run and am not sure about Autodesk Products also (that's the main concern, because these are not available for ubuntu).

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  10. Of course Ravi this is exactly what Remmina is supposed to be used for.

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  11. Of course Ravi this is exactly what Remmina is supposed to be used for.

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    1. But the game 'Counter Strike Source' could not be started remotely. The process doesn't even show up in the task manager. If I run it physically on the same computer, it runs smoothly. Don't know what happens remotely? Will try Autodesk Inventor soon (its downloading now).

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    2. Ravi, I don't know anything about 'Counter Strike Source' or Autodesk so I can't advise why they might not be working for you. Remmina is just a way of seeing the screen of the remote system. Brian

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  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  13. Any word on getting the left ctrl key working when remoted into my win7 box? I'm also on Ubuntu 12.04 and still none of the combination keys (cut, copy, paste, save, etc) work.

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  14. For me the left ctrl key works fine for cut/copy/paste etc. - by default only the right control key is hijacked by Remmina. Perhaps you accidentally changed the keyboard mappings on your Remmina client. You can change it again by using the "Keyboard" tab in the Remmina preferences dialog.

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