How to remote access a Linux GUI from a vCloud environment using a PC or an iPad?

I’ve received this question from one of my readers where he wanted an RDP-like mechanism to access the Linux GUI from a PC or a mobile device (e.g. iPad or iPhone). In his environment he plans to provide some GUI-based applications to his end-users and it must be accessible remotely using Windows and iOS. The vCD portal, for some reason, is not a preferred method in his use-case.

I’ve tried to simulate this in one of my public vCloud accounts and I wanted to share with you these two methods in case they are of any interest to others.

Remote access from Windows machines:

I’ve used here two free tools in order to access the Linux GUI remotely. The first one is my favorite SSH client, Putty. This is to initiate the ssh connection to your VM in the cloud. The second tool is called Xming and we will use it here to forward the X-Window traffic. You need to download and install both the Xming and Xming-fonts utilities.

After the installation is done, all what you need is to fire-up your putty client, and set your SSH connection as follows:

in the Connection -> SSH -> X11 panel click on the “Enable X11 forwarding” check box and put “localhost:0” in your X display location. Now start the SSH connection and when you are there in the Linux shell you can either launch the GUI application directly (e.g. firefox as shown in the screen shot below) or launch a complete Gnome / KDE session by issuing the commands gnome-session / kdestart respectively.

Remote access from an iOS device (iPhone or iPad):

In this method i used a paid App called “iSSH” since i already have it installed in my iPhone/iPad. You simple need to download the App to your iOS device and setup your SSH connection. once you are at the Linux shell, you also need to run your GUI app and then click to the “X” icon to see the display. Make sure to enable the X-Window in the App after you install it since it is switched off my default.

The iPhone Screenshots:

The iPad Screenshots:

So what is the catch here?

As you may have already noticed, you can only use these two methods if your VMs are connected to an external network (direct or routed). If your VMs are isolated, there is no way to access them remotely. Your only option will be the native VMRC through the vCloud portal.

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