At my university, I have a Linux workstation, on which all my simulations and other scientific applications/calcs are run. When I am physically present in the office, I use the i3 window manager, which suits my keyboard-centric workflow.

Now, there are 2 scenarios happening regularly in my life, which needs an RDP connection to this workstation from a windows computer.

  1. At home, I have a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (mainly because I need its precise note-taking and sync capabilities as well as for Exchange365 and box-sync apps which my Univ uses for which there are no Linux clients sadly). When I need to connect my SP3 to my office workstation, then I mostly use a remote-SSH connection. But there are occasions on which I need X-window support, like if I am editing an image or other graphical based apps (don't want to keep transferring files on cloud-based storage). Putty with Xming support or mobaxterm is not cutting it. For now, I am using the NX protocol provided by nomachine, and am reasonably OK with it. But scenario 2 is a significant challenge.

  2. At meetings with my supervisor (who runs Windows 7), I sometimes find the need to connect to my Linux workstation, providing a graphical desktop for him to interact with. (Even on i3, it's still not probably as intimidating to him as a terminal window running vim, if I can probably open the file in say gedit, before handing him over the control)

Furthermore, my university prevents admin access on staff machine, so installing nomachineNX/FreeNX/other NX variants is out. Even if I get ICT to do it on one machine, it is generally painful when I have detailed discussions with fellow Ph.D. students/postdocs in other buildings who run windows 7/10, and I need to show them something on my workstation for a troubleshooting session. I also face this issue when I am working on a library machine (Win 7) on our satellite campus and need to connect to my workstation).

I have spent quite a bit of time researching solutions for this situation. The xRDP project seemed like a good candidate. There were instructions on getting it to run and configure for a xfce4 session. It was less than perfect than a mouse-free i3 session but was an acceptable compromise. Although it worked for a few weeks when my workstation updated to a newer kernel and in another update xrdp also got updated, something broke, and systemd would not let xrdp service start. This happened in the rolling distro Manjaro as well as on the reasonably stable Debian Stretch! I then read online about the incompatibilities of systemd and xrdp. It also seems that there is a related project x11rdp-o-matic, which provides an automated configuration for directed sound/monitor config etc. But it looks like the maintainer of that project also abandoned this due to frustration with above-mentioned systemd issues.

I'd like to seek help from the community if someone can help on this issue. Ideally, I'd like to just fire up the 'remote desktop connection' app (i understand that the underlying connection is just VNC protocol) on any Win 7/10 machine, and just connect to an i3wm session on my workstation. (However, I am happy to accept a compromise if I can reliably connect to a xfce session).

Any help is much appreciated.

PS: My current OS is Xubuntu. But I am happy to switch to another distribution for solving this issue forever.


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