Remote access from the outside with DWS Remote Control

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© Photo by Tim Davidson on Unsplash

© Photo by Tim Davidson on Unsplash

Article from Issue 268/2023

DWS Remote Control offers convenient browser access to computers outside of your home network.

The use of remote software has grown massively in recent years. Users increasingly experience situations where they need to access the desktop on a remote computer – whether to connect to work from the home office, to help family or friends with computer problems, or to quickly access the home desktop system. Linux offers many possibilities for remote control.

Tools such as Virtual Network Computing (VNC) [1] or Remmina [2], which supports the RDP, Spice, NX, XDMCP, and SSH protocols in addition to VNC, provide access to Linux, macOS, and Windows computers. Chrome Remote Desktop is available for users of Google's Chrome browser. In the commercial world, TeamViewer and AnyDesk are the kings of the hill. However, they are increasingly seeing competition from the fledgling open source tool, RustDesk [3]. Another free, but little known, application for remote access is provided by the Italian company DWService.

Agents at Work

DWS Remote Control, as the service is called, requires you to install an agent as a client on the target computer. You can then access it in any web browser from the source computer. You first need to register on the DWService [4] website. After doing so, proceed to download the agent, which is available for Linux, macOS, Windows, ARM, and Android [5]. DWS Remote Control is released under open source licenses, and the source code is open [6].

As the first step after registering and logging in to the DWService website, click Agents (Figure 1). You will then be prompted to enter a name and description of the computer you want to control remotely. After confirming, you will receive a code required to install the agent on the computer to be controlled.

Figure 1: The administration interface appears after logging in. The Agents button lets you select and configure the agents you want to use.

During the agent download, DWService tells you that it does not store any data and the connection is encrypted. The package is stored as on your machine. First, make the script executable using

chmod +x

and then trigger the installation with sh

Graphical Approach

The next steps take place in the GUI. In the first window, you have the choice of installing the agent permanently or activating it for one session only. If you want to install permanently, start the script with sudo. If you decide to use it for only one session, the next window will provide the information you need to access the remote computer on the source computer on the DWService website. After entering the information, the other end needs to allow access unless Unattended access was selected when the session was initialized. You can also set a password for this.

For a permanent installation, enter the agent code previously shown on the web page during setup and then continue on the Agents tab of the web page by clicking Online. After accessing the remote computer, however, you will not see the desktop as a mirror image of the remote computer. Instead, you'll be presented with a screen with six buttons: Files and Folders, Text editor, Log watch, Resources, Screen, and Shell (Figure 2).

Figure 2: After successfully connecting to the remote computer, you will see a screen with six buttons that offer access to various parts of the remote desktop.

I tested DWS Remote Control with Debian 11, Ubuntu 22.04, and Fedora 37. With Ubuntu and Fedora, when I tried to access the target computer's interface directly via the Screen button, I got a message that the software does not support Wayland. To use DWS Remote Control with distributions that launch a Wayland session by default, you need to take a small detour, which the "DWS Remote Control on Wayland" box explains.

DWS Remote Control on Wayland

Currently, to access the target computer's screen directly with DWS Remote Control on Wayland, you need to edit a file on the target computer. After the connection is established, click the Files and Folders button and navigate to the /etc/gdm3/ folder. Right-click the custom.conf file there and select the Open option. After another right-click, select Open for and then Text editing. Look for the #WaylandEnable=false line in the file and remove the hashtag at the start of the line. Then save the file using the floppy disk icon in the menubar at the top. After rebooting the source computer, DWS Remote Control now also offers a 1:1 view on Wayland.

Different Operating Principle

DWS Remote Control uses an abstraction to represent the remote filesystem. Each remote desktop can be controlled in the same way. Only one of the buttons directly shows you the remote desktop.

The first button labeled Files and Folders takes you to a screen that maps the remote computer's filesystem. You can browse the directories and perform file operations such as create, delete, copy, cut, and paste. You also can upload and download data.

Text editor (Figure 3) takes you to a full-featured editor that lets you create new files and edit existing ones. Log watch lets you browse logs and monitor them in real time. A click on Resources reveals some information about the hardware as well as the running processes and services (Figure 4).

Figure 3: You can open and edit text files on the remote computer via Text editor. The application supports syntax highlighting for numerous programming languages.
Figure 4: The Resources button displays information about the remote computer's hardware, as well as running services and processes.

Screen (Figure 5) takes you to a 1:1 view of the remote computer. If you work in this view, the user on the remote computer can follow what is happening. However, you can disable the other person's mouse and keyboard. In addition, you can scale the screen, switch to full-screen mode, and select keyboard shortcuts to share.

Figure 5: A click on the Screen button reveals the 1:1 view of the remote desktop usually seen with remote maintenance software.

Shell takes you to a terminal emulation where you can run commands on the remote computer. You can switch between the individual categories using the button top left (a nine-square grid). Once opened, all categories remain open as tabs.

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