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Remote Desktop With GDM

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Juliet Kemp

I needed to set up a remote desktop with my netbook the other day (why use
that tiny screen when you don’t have to?) and expected to need to install
additional software on the server side. In fact, gdm, the standard
Gnome display manager, will handle this for you, as will the KDE version,

Tip of the Trade: With GDM, the standard Gnome display manager, setting up a remote desktop is a snap.

For gdm, edit /etc/gdm/gdm.conf (on some systems this may
be located at /etc/X11/gdm/gdm.conf). For kdm, edit

/etc/kde3/kdm/kdmrc. In both cases, you must change the line in
the [Xdmcp] section so it reads


If there’s no Enable line, add it. Save the file, and restart the display
manager so the change will take effect. You can also use the
gdmsetup utility to configure gdm graphically, if you

On the client side, just type

Xnest -query -geometry 1280x1024 :1

and you should get a login screen for your remote machine. You can give the
IP address instead of the name if you prefer. This should work from either
Mac (if X11 is running) or Linux.

If you get a security error, try xhost on your
local machine (this adds the machine to the allowed list) and then the
Xhost line again. If you get a “Server is already active for
display” error, check that you remembered to put :1 on the end:
Otherwise the server will default to :0, which conflicts with your
existing desktop. You can also try :2 if there’s a conflict with


For a more complicated setup, something like VNC may be better, but
this method is quick, easy, and does a good basic job.

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