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My objective is to have a machine running red hat 7.2, and be able to use VNC to control it. The situation is that im not going to have physical access to this machine, hence my desire to use VNC.
Where I get fuzzy, is how to have the machine boot, and have the X come on and VNC start without someone physically being at the machine. Should I accomplish this via ssh? Or are there other options/better ways to go, etc.
It depends. When you put runlevel 5 and vnc into your startup scripts, they'll boot by default. SSH can help if there's X problem. But in case of serious error (when the system doesn't boot) phisical access is a must.
Actually, you should have SSH startup, but maybe not VNC. You're really best off blocking access to the VNC port at your firewall and only allowing SSH through.
SSh to your box with a tunnel setup for 5901 (for first screen of VNC, or 5902 for second, etc). Note that putty.exe does this quite well if you're working from a Windblows machine as I have to from work.
Launch your "vncserver" program and specify the password.
When VNCviewer is launched at the client side, you have it point to localhost:1 -- SSH kicks in at this point and tunnels your data to your server.
Setting things up this way adds an extra level of security to using VNC over a public network.
I would have to agree with Burke! (Although I will admit I have never done it this way. I may have to go home and play tonight.) For the record though, you can add programs and scripts that you want executed to the...
file. Lines in here get executed after the initial boot up but before the user logs in. For my server (in a closet, not off site) I ssh into it and start my vnc server when I need to do maintenance. I don't leave the server up. The best/easiest way to do this will depend on what type of security you need.
It is not necessary to have the machine boot into a gui. As long as you have X installed and a couple desktop managers (KDE/Gnome/whatever), you should be okay. Just have the machine boot up to a login prompt (Saves resources!).
As long as you have your vncserver running through some init scripts and it has a password setup, you'll be able to connect to the desktop just fine from vncviewer on Linux or Windows.
Good point mhearn --
thevariegator -- what OS is the machine that you will be accessing this one with?
If you're using a Linux workstation, you can just SSH to the workstation you need to control, then you can launch X programs from the SSH session. Since both machines have all the necessary X stuff, the program will launch the graphical interface on your local station -- it's pretty cool.