Remote Display

Raspberry Pi 4: Chronicling the Desktop Experience – Remote Desktop – Week 8

This is a weekly blog about the Raspberry Pi 4 (“RPI4”), the latest product in the popular Raspberry Pi range of computers.

I really appreciate receiving suggestions from readers of this blog. I’ve received a few requests to see how the RPI4 fares as a remote desktop client. I can see this could make sense. The RPI4 offers dual monitor support. It should have sufficient CPU and GPU resources to act as a functional remote desktop, particularly when connecting to servers that have better system resources.

Remote Desktop Control displays the screen of another computer (via Internet or local area network) on a local screen. This type of software enables users to use the mouse and keyboard to control the other computer remotely. It means that a user can work on a remote computer as if he or she was sitting directly in front of it, regardless of the distance between the computers.

While readers’ suggestions were focused on the RPI4 acting as a client, my more immediate concern was to use the RPI4 as a host rather than a client. I’ll explain why. For the past week, I’ve been travelling around the country, staying with a few friends. Friends that run Windows only. No one is perfect! And the week before this trip, my Linux laptop gave up the ghost. Reliant on Windows machines with only an Android phone as solace for an entire week wasn’t a tempting prospect. So what better time to access my RPI4 remotely and continue my Pi adventures.

In the realm of remote desktop software, there’s lots of choices for the Raspberry Pi. The obvious focus is VNC related software. There’s lots of VNC clients available in the Raspbian repositories. Popular ones such as VNC Viewer (realvnc), Remmina, TigerVNC, TightVNC, Vinagre are all present.

But the host Windows machines only had TeamViewer installed, and I never force ‘alien’ software on my (dinosaur) mates.

TeamViewer offers remote access to a wide variety of operating systems including Linux distributions. It’s proprietary software, so you won’t find the source code available. But you can use the software free of charge to access private computers. For the RPI4 (and earlier versions) TeamViewer is only available for the RPI4 in a host edition. This means that the software is designed to receive connections and act as a server. But that’s sufficient for my week away.

Unsurprisingly, TeamViewer isn’t present in the Raspbian repositories. But installation is straightforward. Point your web browser to the download site and grab a package (.deb) for TeamViewer Host for Raspberry Pi (it’s somewhat tucked away on the right hand side of the page). Once downloaded, type:

$ sudo dpkg -i teamviewer-host_15.0.8397_armhf.deb

This command didn’t complete successfully because my system was missing a variety of packages (specifically qml-module-qtgraphicaleffects, qml-module-qtquick-controls, qml-module-qtquick-dialogs, qml-module-qtquick-layouts, qml-module-qtquick-privatewidgets, qml-module-qtquick-window2, and qml-module-qtquick2).

The installation was completed with the command below. This installs the missing packages and completes the installation of TeamViewer too.

$ sudo apt –fix-broken install

There’s a few more jumps to clear before the software is ready to use. Choose a password, connect the device to your TeamViewer account, accept the license agreement, associate your RPI4 with your TeamViewer account (you can connect via the TeamViewer ID instead), grant easy access, and assign your account.

My friends already have TeamViewer running on their Windows machines. Connecting to my RPI4 was straightforward. How’s performance?

To start with, I opened a terminal remotely on the RPI4, and ran top. On the host machine (RPI4), CPU usage is minimal when the host machine is idle. The software consumes about 7% CPU of 1 core for the TeamViewer_Desktop process, around 2.6% CPU for the TeamViewer daemon, and less than 1% for the TeamViewer process. Here’s the memory consumption for the 3 processes:

TeamViewer memory consumption

A pretty hefty memory footprint. I wouldn’t recommend using the software on the 1GB RAM model of the RPI4.

Interactivity with the RPI4 host was very good even with 2 monitors running at 2560×1440 resolution. I tried various custom settings ranging from the highest quality (colors set to true color and quality set to highest quality), to the quickest setting (grayscale and the quality slider set to highest speed). Dragging windows around the desktop is a bit laggy even with quality settings set fairly low, but that’s more of a limitation with remote ‘desktoping’. It’s heavy on CPU resources. For example, simply moving a window around the desktop consumes almost the entire CPU of one of the 4 cores.

There’s no noticeable lag navigating desktop menus, and performing basic GUI tasks such as moving files between directories works like a charm. Of course, if you tax the X server (Xorg) to any significant degree, interactivity isn’t perfect, but again there’s always limitations with remote desktops.

Summary

I was more than happy with performance. TeamViewer allowed me to write this week’s blog, tinker with some of the RPI4’s recommended software including dabbling with Mathematica, have full access to the power of the command-line, and much more.

I really like TeamViewer’s multi-monitor support. It was really useful to be able to view each monitor individually, or as a super-desktop. And I could move between these sessions instantly.

TeamViewer has a ton of other functionality although many of the features aren’t supported with RPI4 running as the host machine. But for my purposes, the functionality is more than adequate.

TeamViewer is a remote-control app that is often used by scammers, but that’s mainly because of the free-for-personal-use aspect than anything inherently dangerous about the software. It has a fairly sophisticated security model.

I also ran TeamViewer on my Samsung mobile phone. For some desktop functions, it performs quite well. Speed wasn’t an issue. But the lack of a proper keyboard and mouse limits its usefulness.

In a future blog, I’ll report on using the RPI4 as the client rather than the host machine. The host machines will be desktop PCs running Linux and Windows. But tests running Windows 10 as the host and RPI4 as the client will be limited. I won’t be able to use Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection as only Windows 10 Professional machines can be remotely controlled in this way — not Windows 10 Home machines. My only Windows licenses are Windows 10 Home. And as an impoverished student, that’s unlikely to change any time soon.


Read all my blog posts about the RPI4.

Raspberry Pi 4 Blog
Week 36Manage your personal collections on the RPI4
Week 35Survey of terminal emulators
Week 34Search the desktop with the latest version of Recoll
Week 33Personal Information Managers on the RPI4
Week 32Keep a diary with the RPI4
Week 31Process complex mathematical functions, plot 2D and 3D graphs with calculators
Week 30Internet radio on this tiny computer. A detailed survey of open source software
Week 29Professionally manage your photo collection with digiKam
Week 28Typeset beautifully with LyX
Week 27Software that teaches young people how to learn basic computing skills and beyond
Week 26Firefox revisited - Raspbian now offers a real alternative to Chromium
Week 25Turn the Raspberry Pi 4 into a low power writing machine
Week 24Keep the kids learning and having fun
Week 23Lots of choices to view images
Week 22Listening to podcasts on the RPI4
Week 21File management on the RPI4
Week 20Open Broadcaster Software (OBS Studio) on the RPI4
Week 19Keep up-to-date with these news aggregators
Week 18Web Browsers Again: Firefox
Week 17Retro gaming on the RPI4
Week 16Screen capturing with the RPI4
Week 15Emulate the Amiga, ZX Spectrum, and the Atari ST on the RPI4
Week 14Choose the right model of the RPI4 for your desktop needs
Week 13Using the RPI4 as a screencaster
Week 12Have fun reading comics on the RPI4 with YACReader, MComix, and more
Week 11Turn the RPI4 into a complete home theater
Week 10Watching locally stored video with VLC, OMXPlayer, and others
Week 9PDF viewing on the RPI4
Week 8Access the RPI4 remotely running GUI apps
Week 7e-book tools are put under the microscope
Week 6The office suite is the archetypal business software. LibreOffice is tested
Week 5Managing your email box with the RPI4
Week 4Web surfing on the RPI4 looking at Chromium, Vivaldi, Firefox, and Midori
Week 3Video streaming with Chromium & omxplayerGUI as well as streamlink
Week 2A survey of open source music players on the RPI4 including Tauon Music Box
Week 1An introduction to the world of the RPI4 looking at musikcube and PiPackages

This blog is written on the RPI4.

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4 comments

  1. Great series of articles. I’ve been reading each and every of those for the RPi. One thing I am trying to do with mine (RPI 4 4G) is to use it as my remote access to my bigger Intel I5-based server. One thing that my RPI 4 can do is to have two displays, that I am used to have now, whether this is at work or at home. I am trying to get a dual-display access to my other system, running Ubuntu 19.10. So far, I mainly had issues about resizing the display so that it fits my actual displays, rather than the ones attached to the I5 box.

  2. Could you check how well photo editing software, such as Darktable, runs locally. I’m interested in trying it out for a middle school club.

    1. I’ll definitely cover photo editing software although it won’t be this side of Christmas. My RPI4 blog articles are published every Wednesday, and there’s only one Wednesday left as there won’t be a blog article on Christmas day itself.

      From a brief check of the Raspbian repositories, there’s no package for Darktable. Compiling might be possible for the ARMv8 architecture that RPI4 uses although I don’t think there’s any official support. If anyone has installed Darktable on Raspbian, do let me know.

  3. Hi there,
    I like you’re blogs. Have a question though. Is it possible to use the RP4 with an browser to connect with office 365 or with iCloud?
    Hope to hear!

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