VNC – Seeing Linux in Linux

What does that mean? Seeing Linux in Linux? Huh?

Well let me tell you a little about vnc – Virtual Network Computing.

vnc has been around quite some time, and in Fedora, its easy to setup. vnc supports communication over ssh too, which will help us securely perform over the network. There are two parts to vnc, the client vncviewer; and the server; vncserver. The easiest way to configure vnc is to set up vncserver first.

vncserver runs as a system V service in Fedora 6. We need to do some configuration to allow connections from different users. Modify the /etc/sysconfig/vncservers configuration file to set the connections up:

# vi /etc/sysconfig/vncservers

Find the lines that look like this:

VNCSERVERARGS[1]="-geometry 800x600"

And add your configurations however you’d like. Many options are detailed in this configuration file. Here’s a few good ones:

-nolisten tcp – Prevents X connections to the VNC Server over TCP
-localhost – Prevents remote VNC clients from connecting, except when they do a ssh tunnel.

Here is my /etc/sysconfig/vncservers file on a system I recently configured:

# cat /etc/sysconfig/vncservers
VNCSERVERS="1:root 2:student"
VNCSERVERARGS[1]="-geometry 800x600"
VNCSERVERARGS[2]="-geometry 640x480 -localhost"

Of course, we should make a password for each of our users as well. This password should probably not be the same as the user’s login, but nothing prevents the password from being the same. To change the users password, login as that user and run vncpasswd:

# vncpasswd
Password: mypassword
Verify: mypassword

Finally, we need to make sure vncserver starts correctly:

# /etc/init.d/vncserver restart
Starting VNC server: 1:root
New ' (root)' desktop is

Starting applications specified in /root/.vnc/xstartup
Log file is /root/.vnc/

New ' (student)' desktop is

Starting applications specified in /home/student/.vnc/xstartup
Log file is /home/student/.vnc/

Once started, test out the connections. These two connections have been configured differently.

Connection 1 will let me connect as root with a screen size of 800×600 over an insecure vnc connection. Connection 2 will let me connect as student but only via an ssh tunnel. Let’s have a look at how we’d connect:

Connecting as root to station5:

$ vncviewer station5:1


$ vncviewer via root@station5 localhost:2

VNC - Login Prompt

This prompt appears.   Enter the password you created earlier with vncpasswd.

And voila!! You should have access to that user’s desktop.



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One Response to VNC – Seeing Linux in Linux

  1. Dave says:

    Nice article! I assume the ‘via’ option causes vncviewer to connect to remote port 22? How would you go about doing this if you were running SSH on another port?

    In my case, remote ssh is listening on 22, but the machine is behind a router forwarding port xxx to machine:22..

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