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How to Access Your Desktop When You’re Away

We’ve all been in a situation where a client calls you in a panic and they need something right away. Only problem is, the file they need is on your desktop at work or at home or… basically somewhere you’re not. Remote access can save you from trouble and offer a level of convenience like few other apps can.

Where To Start

There are tons of remote access applications out there, some free, some paid, closed source and open source. Previously, I used the free version of TeamViewer. That is, until they were hacked. So are there any decent applications that can just connect you without having to give up your email address? Thankfully, yes.

Remmina

Remmina is awesome. However, it can be terrible if it’s not set up properly, or if you’re not quite sure exactly how to use it. I’ve learned the hard way, and hopefully I can share enough info to get you up and running in no time!

Install Remmina

If you’re running Ubuntu, Remmina comes in the box. If not, you can grab the snap version by running this in the terminal:

sudo snap install remmina

Alternatively, you can grab the PPA like so:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:remmina-ppa-team/remmina-next
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install remmina remmina-plugin-* libfreerdp-plugins-standard

Uninstall Remmina

If later on, you feel like this wasn’t working for you, or you just want to uninstall everything, just run:

sudo apt-get install ppa-purge && sudo ppa-purge ppa:remmina-ppa-team/remmina-next

Once you’ve got Remmina on your machine, you should see a window that looks kinda like this:

So fresh and so clean

Set up the Computer You Want To Access Remotely

On the computer you want to access remotely, your first step is to enable screen sharing.

Linux was hitting up that dark theme about 35 years before Apple. Just sayin

By default, screen sharing is disabled, but for this to work, you’re gonna want to turn that on.

Clickity click

Now you should see the screen sharing options. You’ll want to allow others to access the screen, and prompt them with a password upon logging in.

All good

Establishing A Remote Connection

Now, all you need to do is open Remmina on the computer you’ll be accessing FROM, and enter the IP address of your remote computer. This can be tricky if you’ve never done this before. If you’re at home and the computer you want to control is also at home, you’re more than likely on the same network. This is known as a local network connection. You can access your machine easily just by typing in its local IP address. However, if you try this from your local coffee shop wifi, it won’t work.

What’s My IP Address?

As mentioned earlier, there’s your public (external) IP address, and your private (internal) IP address. Which is which, and why does it matter? Your internal IP is used for local networks, like your home wifi that’s connecting your laptop, desktop, Chromecast, AppleTV, Roku, your friend’s phone, and your Alexa. All those devices have their own individual IP addresses, and are connected to your wireless router (wifi), that has its own public IP address, which is accessable over the internet.

Use your PUBLIC IP Address

The point of remote access is… being remote, AKA outside the network where your other computer is. So before you leave the house, go to whatsmyip.com and copy that address to your clipboard. This is your public IP address (hence, why you can just hit that website and it displays it to you).

Set Up Your Router

Paste the IP address you got from whatsmyip.com into your favorite browser. This will bring up the login page to your home router. If you’ve never seen this before, the username and password is typically printed on a sticker on the side or bottom of your router. Look for a button that says “Port Forwarding”. Find the computer that you want to connect to and create a new rule for it. Set your port number to 5900 and save.

Set Up the Remote Computer

You need to install a VNC server that will allow your remote computer to listen for incomming connections. You can do this by running:

sudo apt install vnc4server

Connect

Okay, back to Remmina. In the main window, select VNC from the dropdown at the top.

RDP is only for connecting to Windows, and SSH is just terminal access

Next, type your IP from whatsmyip.com into the bar, and ending it with :5900. So, for example, yours might look something like this:

65.88.88.127:5900

Next, you’ll be prompted for that password you set up earlier.

Tales from the Encrypt

Then, badda bing, you’re looking at your remote desktop! You did it!

such linux. much awesome.

Did I miss a step? Having trouble? If you had any questions or ran into any issues while trying to set up your connection, feel free to reach out! Drop a comment below, or hit me up on Twitter.

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