4/12/2018 - 10:13 AM

Setting up Chrome Remote Desktop on Ubuntu

Setting up Chrome Remote Desktop on Ubuntu

# Originally posted by `scode` at; no longer available.

Setting up Chrome Remote Desktop on Ubuntu
This was written in September of 2015. Not sure whether it still applies.

The upstream documentation is a little bit scattered, not always entirely complete, and the Ubuntu package provided needs some poking to work. Hence this summary.

The two main sources of information I found are:

An old product forum post:!topic/chrome/8PMxG69VJ6o

This documentation (under "Enable remote access to your computer"):

Overview of how remote-desktop works
The Linux version of chrome remote desktop (henceforth, CRD) doesn’t allow clients to connect and control an existing X session; rather, there is a dedicated X session specific to CRD. This is similar to the classic vncserver mechanic. When you connect, a session is started if one is not already running. If it is running, you are connected to the in-progress session.

Initial setup still requires a non-headless environment: A running Chrome (until someone or Google makes a tool that generates the necessary on-disk state in your home directory for authorizing remote access).

Once set up however, CRD is completely headless and is controlled using an init script. For example:

sudo /etc/init.d/chrome-remote-desktop restart
It determines which users should have CRD running based on which users are part of the chrome-remote-desktop Unix group.

Why Chrome Remote Desktop instead of $OTHER_OPTION?

It works natively on ChromeOS, and works well. It handles hi-dpi displays correctly, and passes through keyboard combinations correctly (e.g., it stops CTRL-N from opening a new local window).

It seems faster than any other remote desktop option I have tried. I don’t know technical details, but likely their use of some kind of modified VP9 codec has to do with this. When originally writing this I thought it was lossy and pixel perfect nonetheless, but I’ve been informed it’s not. At least it was good enough to fool me :)

Setup instructions
Install the package
Download the package linked from and install it:

sudo dpkg -i chrome-remote-desktop_current_amd64.deb
sudo apt-get -f install
Prepare the chrome-remote-desktop group
At the time of this writing, the package installer seems to fail to create the chrome-remote-desktop group, so add it:

sudo groupadd chrome-remote-desktop
You may need to add yourself to the group (unclear if this happens correctly automatically):

sudo usermod -a -G chrome-remote-desktop $USER
Set up the desktop session
If ~/.chrome-remote-desktop-session is missing or containing bad information, the attempt to connect to the remote desktop will fail without a clear cause. Example:

xterm &
exec i3
Unconfirmed whether chmod +x is needed.

Set up your desired resolution in your shell profile
Wherever your shell profile is, add an appropriate resolution selection:

Bootstrap through SSH+VNC
On the server:

sudo apt-get install vnc4server
# log in remotely and bootstrap chrome (see later)
vncserver -kill :1
On the client, log into the server using a VNC client over SSH forwarding. I.e:

ssh -L 5901:localhost:5901 username@remotehost
And run your preferred VNC client to connect to localhost:5901.

Enable remote connections in Chrome
Start Chrome, install the "Chrome Remote Desktop" app, run it. Under "My Computers", hit "Enable remote connections".

Hopefully it should succeed. After this, the session will automatically start on boot thanks to the init script, and chrome will have directly launched a session for you just now - so you should now be able to connect through a CRD client.