Using Linux

I know this is a slightly odd title, but bear with me on this, it should make more sense shortly. There are three basic ways to use any operating system, Linux being no exception:

  • Directly: this is when you install Linux directly on a physical device and you have that device in front of you and use it there
  • Remotely: Linux is not installed on the computing device that you are using and hence you are accessing it via something, whether that be over a network or a virtual machine running on your computer
  • Embedded: it is quite likely that you have used Linux without realising it as Linux is often embedded in things like televisions, printers and all kinds of devices
Using an operating system that is embedded should be something where you don't actually know which operating system it is, the point is that it is hidden. With direct access, well, you simply use it as you would any operating system, so login and get working, Linux, like all operating systems has it way of doing things, which you just need to learn. The challenge with Linux is that each distribution does its own thing, for example they use different desktop managers and install different defaults. The area I want to focus on here is remote access to Linux as this is where you have the most choice.
Console Access

In the beginning there was Telnet, however, this is usually disabled as it is not secure and has been replaced with Secure Shell (SSH). With SSH you can connect over a network and see a terminal session which is running on the remote machine, from here you can interact with the Linux machine. Some cloud platforms like Google Cloud Platform add extra security over SSH and hence you have to use their client and authentication methods but the result is the same.

Graphical Access

Sometimes you need to see a graphical interface for the Linux machine. If you are using a virtual machine then the software providing the virtual machine will provide some options, whether that is VirtualBox or Hyper-V running locally or VMWare running remotely or a cloud solution. Just to be clear VirtualBox and Hyper-V could be remote and VMWare might be local, they are just examples.

The oldest and most common option is X Window System, however I have often found this quite tricky to set up and use.

Another good option is Virtual Network Computing which I have used to good effect on Windows, specifically UltraVNC.

In the world of Microsoft Windows, you will find the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is very commonly used, which is also known as Remote Desktop Services. This works well on Windows to Windows, however there is also a client for macOS and interestingly Linux has not been left out. In fact it does better than macOS because macOS only has a client, whereas Linux has a server xrdp and a client FreeRDP and rdesktop: A Remote Desktop Protocol Client.