Desktop in the Cloud

A feature that my squad worked on for the Ubuntu 12.10 release is the remote greeter feature. In a nutshell, this is support in the greeter to launch into a full screen remote login under a guest user on the local machine. This means that you don't need to authenticate the local machine (by using the guest account) and you can quickly get access to your remote machine, which can be anywhere on the Internet.

One of the problems we realized pretty quickly was that remembering the hostnames for all of the machines when they're "on a cloud" somewhere was going to make this feature much less useful. So we talked with some of our friends on the server side of Canonical and asked them to help. They've created a small service tied into Ubuntu SSO that will store a list of servers for you. We tied this back in so you only need to remember your Ubuntu SSO login, which will get the list of servers, and then you can select which you'd like to login into.

I realize now you want to play with this feature, and we can help you out there too. What we've done is create a Juju charm called xrdp-desktop that will create an Ubuntu desktop that you can connect to via RDP. You can find instructions on deploying it in its README but you probably want to make sure you set up Juju first. After you've got it running you can add it to your server list and then you have it anywhere there is an Ubuntu machine.

Now you can quickly try out Kubuntu or get real "private browsing" on a disposable machine or perhaps remember what the defaults were before you customized everything. Perhaps you want to open that attachment to see if you really are the niece or nephew of a Nigerian prince. This is the tip of the iceberg for how this feature could be used. It only supports RDP right now. What we've spent our time on is ensuring that there's a reasonable framework for adding new protocols and ways to use this feature in the future. I'm excited to see what people will do with it!

posted on Fri, 07 Sep 2012 at 13:37 | permanent link