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Remote Desktop Service

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The Informatics Remote Desktop service gives you a DICE Linux graphical login. You can use it from anywhere, on any device which has RDP client software.
You connect to a DICE remote desktop server. If you have a DICE computer allocated to you, you can connect to that instead.

How to get started with remote desktop

Firstly, you will need to configure your device. These pages tell you how to do that:

You may need a VPN

Secondly, you may need to use a VPN.

Whether you need a VPN or not, and which VPN you need, depends on where you are on the network, and on which computer you're trying to connect to.

There are two VPNs you can use - the University's VPN or the School of Informatics VPN.

If you are on eduroam wifi

If you are on eduroam wifi, you can connect to a DICE remote desktop server without using a VPN.

However, if you're connecting to your own DICE computer, you will need to use the School of Informatics VPN. If you don't, your access will be blocked by a firewall.

If you are connecting from home

If you are outside the Edinburgh University network - for instance, at home - then, to connect to a DICE remote desktop server, you MUST be using either the University's VPN or the School's VPN. If you don't, you won't get access to the Remote Desktop service.

If you're connecting to your own office DICE computer, you will need to use the School of Informatics VPN. If you don't, your access will be blocked by a firewall.

If you are already on an Informatics computer

If you are using a computer on the Informatics wired network, you will not need a VPN to connect to a DICE remote desktop server, and you will not need a VPN to connect to your own DICE computer if you have one.

Hosts

  1. All Users: Your remote desktop host is your DICE username followed by .remote.inf.ed.ac.uk. For example, if your username was s1234567 then your remote host would be s1234567.remote.inf.ed.ac.uk.
  2. Staff: Staff may additionally use a remote desktop server named staff.xrdp.inf.ed.ac.uk.
  3. Office desktop owners: If you have a personal DICE computer (many staff and research postgrads have this), you can use it as a remote desktop server. In this case you should bear two things in mind:
    • Your remote desktop host will be your DICE computer's name followed by .inf.ed.ac.uk.
    • You will need to use ⇒ The School of Informatics OpenVPN service. If you don't, your access will be blocked by a firewall.

How to logout

When you have finished, please logout of your session - here's how:

Sessions left idle for more than two weeks are terminated automatically.

Limitations

The remote desktop machines are shared, so please be considerate.

Processes which need a lot of memory or processing power, or which take days to run, should be run on other computers, for instance in the Informatics computing labs or on the compute servers - not on the remote desktop machines.

Some software is not available on remote desktop servers. This includes the Chrome web browser (google-chrome, google-chrome-stable) and MATLAB. To use this software in a remote desktop session, login (using ssh in a terminal window) to a a compute server or your own DICE desktop if you have one, and run it there.

FAQ

Share your screen (in a scheduled lab session)
See Chrome remote desktop.
Desktop Environment
The remote desktop service only supports the MATE desktop environment. To ensure a good quality of service, selecting an alternative desktop environment is not supported. The GNOME and KDE desktop environments both need a lot of resources and GNOME is known to not function correctly. However GNOME and KDE applications can still be run if wanted.
Copy/Paste Support
The standard copy/paste functionality (supported in most applications through menus or by using Ctrl-c, Ctrl-v, Ctrl-x) should now work reliably between remote and local environments. The traditional Unix style of highlighting text to copy and pasting by middle-button mouse click does NOT work.
Screen resizing
The XRDP software (which provides the RDP connection to the local X server) does not support dynamically changing the screen resolution - it is necessary to disconnect and then reconnect. See this issue on the project github page for full details.
Audio
There is no support for forwarding audio from the remote session to the local client.
Keyboard mapping problem
You may well get a US keyboard layout when you login - meaning that characters such as £, ~, |, > are on the wrong keys or aren't present. If you have the wrong keyboard layout then the following command, when run in a terminal window in your RDP DICE session, should fix things: setxkbmap gb.
Login problems
The keyboard mapping problem (above) means that people with non-alphanumeric characters in their DICE password may not be able to login, because their keyboard isn't sending the symbols they expect. We're looking for a solution to this problem.
Mate panel disappears
If the Mate panel disappears, it can be reset by pressing the following keys together Ctrl+Alt+T to open a terminal. In the terminal type mate-panel --reset . If this returns errors relating to dconf access, just move that out of the way with mv ~/.config/dconf/ ~/.config/dconf.bak and run the mate panel reset command again.
Slow response
In some clients, such as Microsoft Remote Desktop, you can change the options of the connection. E.g after clicking Options,the Experience tab contains quality options. Should the reactivity of your remote desktop be slow, you can experiment with these to find suitable settings
Inkscape doesn't work properly
On Ubuntu 20.04 this bug means that Inkscape won't start properly. The solution is to set the _INKSCAPE_GC environment variable to be "disable" before starting the application.
Last reviewed: 
19/05/2021

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