Big Cat to the Rescue

Charly's Column – Tiger VNC

Article from Issue 224/2019
Author(s):

Sys admin columnist Charly enumerates the computers in his household and makes it clear that commuting between them would be an unreasonable burden on his personal energy balance. Instead he lets a tiger go the distance for him.

My powerful Linux workstation is in my study up in the attic, because its fan would unnecessarily heat up my living room. The family PC is quiet; it's in the small hobby corner along with a couple of half-finished Lego sets, a few Raspberry Pis, a laptop, and a MIDI controller, which I dabble with for relaxation. Then there are the two small test servers in the storeroom next to the kitchen where I try out software before I write about it.

SSH prevents me from burning too many calories when running between the dispersed machines. But if I want to show a host's whole desktop, then it's time for Virtual Network Computing (VNC). To access all of these machines, I recently checked out Tiger VNC [1]. On the workstation in my study, I typed the following command for quick installation:

sudo apt install tigervnc-standalone-server tigervnc-xorg-extension

In /etc/vnc.conf, I replaced the

$vncStartup = "/etc/X11/Xvnc-session";

line with

$vncStartup = "$ENV{HOME}/.vnc/xstartup";

and saved the file from Listing 1 in the Ohm/.vnc directory. vncpasswd sets a VNC password, which should not be identical to that of the user. Now I can choose whether the user can only watch from a distance or actually do something.

Listing 1

xstartup

01 #!/bin/sh
02 # Start Desktop
03 [ -x /etc/vnc/xstartup ] && exec /etc/vnc/xstartup
04 [ -r $HOME/.Xresources ] && xrdb $HOME/.Xresources
05 vncconfig -iconic &
06 dbus-launch --exit-with-session gnome-session &

This completes everything on the server side. I fired up the VNC server by typing vncserver (without sudo; root rights are not required). It launched, but I only saw a Connection refused when trying to connect. What's going on? The output from lsof | grep LISTEN sheds light on the subject. The VNC server has only bound to localhost. I stop the server with vncserver -kill. The man page, which you only read when something goes wrong, provides the solution:

vncserver :1 -localhost no

Now the server accepts connections on all interfaces. Time to move on to the clients.

Tigers, Everywhere

I installed the Tiger VNC client on all my Linux computers by typing

sudo apt install tigervnc-viewer

The server connection is opened with:

xtigervncviewer -SecurityTypes VncAuth,TLSVnc -passwd /home/<charly>/.vnc/passwd <10.0.0.54>:1

Of course, you need to adapt the IP address to match your own server.

From the selection of clients [2], I tried the macOS version on the living room laptop. (My favorite audio tool is unfortunately not available for Linux.) However, the macOS Tiger doesn't convince me. Since VNC is widespread, an alternative was quickly found; Chicken [3] was swapped in as a replacement (Figure 1). Another handful of calories that I don't have to waste by moving my legs.

Figure 1: Charly sends his Linux workstation desktop to the Apple laptop.

The Author

Charly Kühnast manages Unix systems in a data center in the Lower Rhine region of Germany. His responsibilities include ensuring the security and availability of firewalls and the DMZ.

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