Client-free remote desktop

Window to Windows

You can create other connections by selecting different protocols such as RDP.

Again, head back to Settings | Connections and click the New Connection button. Here, give your connection a name and select RDP from the Protocol pull-down. Scroll down to the Parameters section and enter the hostname or the IP address of the Windows machine you wish to access and enter 3389 in the Port field. And just like before, enter the authentication information for the Windows user you wish to remotely access.

You can now save the details and try connecting to the Windows machine. Depending on the version of Windows you want to access, you might have to take additional steps. First up, in any case, you'll have to enable Remote Desktop Sharing in Windows. For this, switch to the Windows machine and head to Control Panel | System and Security and select the Allow remote access option under the System section. You'll be taken to the Remote tab in the System Properties window, where you need to toggle the Allow remote connections to this computer option.

In Windows 10, the option for only allowing connections from PCs running Remote Desktop with Network Level Authentication is also enabled by default. Make sure you disable this option; otherwise, you'll not be able to connect to your Windows machine from Linux.

Furthermore, to access a Windows 10 machine, I had to toggle the Ignore server certificate option under the Authentication section in the Guacamole settings (Figure 3).

Figure 3: By default, Guacamole selects a security mode as part of the negotiation process.

Remote Control

As mentioned earlier, all configured connections are listed in Guacamole's dashboard, along with icons of the most recently accessed ones (Figure 4).

Figure 4: In addition to a screenshot, you can view the number of users connected to each remote desktop session from the desktop.

You can double-click a listed connection to launch a remote desktop session. Guacamole includes a hidden onscreen menu that you can bring up with the Ctrl+Alt+Shift key combination (Figure 5). If you are accessing Guacamole from a mobile device, you can bring up the menu by swiping from the left edge of the screen. The menu offers several features such as an on-screen keyboard, clipboard management, screen zoom control, and more.

Figure 5: You can use the onscreen keyboard to pass certain key combinations (such as Alt+Tab) to the remote desktop.

Click your username in this menu to bring up more options. The Disconnect option will terminate the session, the Home option will take you to the Guacamole dashboard, and the Settings option will take you to the dashboard's Settings window.

The Active Sessions tab in the Settings window lists all sessions that you have exited without first disconnecting them. The sessions are listed in a sortable table along with various details such as the username, the duration of the active session, and more (Figure 6). You can terminate an active session by selecting its corresponding checkbox. After you've selected the sessions you wish to terminate, click the Kill Sessions button to disconnect them.

Figure 6: While Active Sessions lists all ongoing sessions, switch to the History tab to view a list of recently used sessions.

Sharing Is Caring

While Guacamole offers several options to tweak your remote desktop connections, one of the most essential is file sharing. You can easily transfer files back and forth between your local computer and the remote desktop. Currently, Guacamole supports file transfer for VNC, RDP, and SSH, using either the protocol's native file transfer support or SFTP.

To enable file transfer, bring up the Settings page for one of your remote connections. Scroll down to the SFTP section and toggle the Enable SFTP button (Figure 7). Enter the remote machine's hostname and 22 as the port since you are connecting using the SSH protocol. Finally, enter the authentication information and click the Save button to activate the settings.

Figure 7: You can provide the optional SFTP Host key for Guacamole to verify the SFTP server's identity before transferring files.

You'll now be able to transfer files to the remote machine. You can either drag and drop them inside the browser window or use the file browser located in the Guacamole menu (Figure 8). Navigate the filesystem and then use the Upload Files button to select the file you wish to upload to the remote machine.

Figure 8: A notification dialog tracks the status of all uploads, while the browser's download notification system tracks downloads.

Once you have configured and accessed a remote connection, you can explore the various other parameters to tweak the connection per your requirements. Guacamole offers extensive options, and you can refer to its official documentation [6] for more information.

The Author

Mayank Sharma is a technology writer. You can read his scribblings in various geeky magazines on both sides of the pond.

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