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Old 10-17-2015, 12:03 AM   #1
mfoley
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How to select and set up VNC


I want to set up VNC (or whatever) on my office workstation so I can connect from home. I've been to https://help.ubuntu.com/community/VNC/Servers and askubuntu and find a bewildering selection of VNC server some of which can start at boot, other require user login first, some require passwords, etc. Doing `apt-cache search vnc` lists 84 different VNC packages or related tools. There's also an x11rdp that suppose to work like Windows RDC, but that development is several years old, so maybe not a good choice. I find "krdc - Remote Desktop Connection client" in my `apt-cache` list. Is that something interesting? Here's what I'd like if it exists:

I'd like to be able to remotely connect to my running desktop session, or to get a new login prompt if there is not active session. I do not want to first have to ssh into the workstation and run something (vncclient?)

Help me sort through the pile!

Last edited by mfoley; 10-17-2015 at 12:05 AM.
 
Old 10-17-2015, 12:21 AM   #2
berndbausch
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To reduce your list of VNC candidates, only check VNC servers, which excludes krdc, for example. On your home computer, you will then set up the client.

There are two ways of connecting to your GUI, either by "mirroring" (for want of a better word) an existing session, or by creating a separate one. You seem to be wanting the former, which further decreases the number of options.

The page you reference says "Vino is the default VNC server in Ubuntu to share your existing desktop with other users". So why not go with it?
 
Old 10-17-2015, 01:44 PM   #3
mfoley
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Quote:
Originally Posted by berndbausch View Post
To reduce your list of VNC candidates, only check VNC servers, which excludes krdc, for example. On your home computer, you will then set up the client.
Why exclude krdc?

Quote:
There are two ways of connecting to your GUI, either by "mirroring" (for want of a better word) an existing session, or by creating a separate one. You seem to be wanting the former, which further decreases the number of options.
Well, ideally I'd like to do both. I.e. if there is an existing session I'd like to connect to it, otherwise get a new session login. If I have to choose either/or, then a new session would be what I want.

Quote:
The page you reference says "Vino is the default VNC server in Ubuntu to share your existing desktop with other users". So why not go with it?
The info in that link on Vino seems to indicate it works with GNOME. I'm not using the GNOME desktop. I'm using either the Ubuntu default desktop or Cinnamon. I don't think I can use vino with these.

The next server in the list, x11vnc says it "is a VNC server that is not dependent on any one particular graphical environment."

Lots of web instructions specify installing tightvnc. TigerVNC seems to be have the most recent stable release: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compar...sktop_software

btw - this illustrates the reason for my thread - I'd like to NOT try one VNC server after the other and benefit from the experience of Ubuntu users.

Last edited by mfoley; 10-17-2015 at 01:45 PM.
 
Old 10-17-2015, 09:20 PM   #4
frankbell
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I have used tightvnc and x11vnc server programs. Both of them work nicely.
 
Old 10-18-2015, 12:09 AM   #5
mfoley
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Quote:
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I have used tightvnc and x11vnc server programs. Both of them work nicely.
Can either or both of them run in "server" mode or does a VNC session have to be started from a terminal on the target computer? The description for tightvnc says, "Like x11vnc, tightvnc is designed to be run from the command-line". Despite that statement, the description for x11vnc has two "Have x11vnc start automatically" howtos, so it is apparently not true that it has to run from a command line?

Can either or both of them allow connection to an existing session, or to a new session if there is no existing session? I'm thinking tightvnc cannot connect to an existing session. The referenced link says, " tightvnc creates a completely new desktop, not attached to any actual screen. This makes it much less useful for some things".

Do either or both have any restrictions with what desktop they work with (x11vnc said it worked with any GUI, what about tightvnc -- it didn't say.

TightVNC hasn't had a stable release update since 2013 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compar...sktop_software). Does that bode ill for its future?

if anyone else at linuxquestions has experience with VNC packages, go ahead and jump on in here!
 
Old 10-18-2015, 02:27 PM   #6
273
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I don't want to rain on anyone's parade but are you allowed to do this on your work machine? Also, how do you propose to keep things secure? Just running a VNC server and opening it up to the internet is not a good idea. The installing and running a VNC client could be the easy part of this whole setup.

Last edited by 273; 10-18-2015 at 02:31 PM.
 
Old 10-18-2015, 03:54 PM   #7
mfoley
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 273 View Post
I don't want to rain on anyone's parade but are you allowed to do this on your work machine? Also, how do you propose to keep things secure? Just running a VNC server and opening it up to the internet is not a good idea. The installing and running a VNC client could be the easy part of this whole setup.
I am allowed because I am the sysadmin! Ironically, this is all about security. I do sysadmin for a State Pension Fund manager and security is very important. For that reason we are beginning to migrate away from Microsoft as is it strong-arming small organizations into the cloud and has now decided to join the data-harvesting fray with Windows 10 (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/08...rpers_cesspit/). Therefore, I am researching a replacement for Windows 7 when it eventually goes dark (end of 2019).

I am now researching replacing the Windows 7 domain workstations with Linux and am first looking at Ubuntu for its reputed ease-of-use. I already have it set to do AD user login with autofs of the user's home directory to their same Windows domain redirected folders -- so currently booting either Ubuntu or Windows gives them the same desktop contents, and they can use their Domain login from any workstations.

VNC is what I am looking at to replace Remote Desktop Connection from users' home computer. I do have plenty of security elements in place such as monitoring bad password attempts and attempted domain break-ins. I'm hoping VNC establishes a secure connection, but if not there's always VPN.

I've never used VNC before and this post is seeking advice on the best candidate to use as a RDC replacement. I'm also looking at x11rdp http://www.linuxquestions.org/questi...dp-4175556435/, but haven't made much process so far.

Your recommendation?
 
Old 10-18-2015, 04:00 PM   #8
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Well, as I mentioned, I wouldn't open VLC to the internet so, yes, a VPN or similar (which is why SSH is used) would be a good start.
For VNC I've used TightVNC which starts a new X desktop and Vinagre which doesn't but I've not heard of one which can do both.
 
Old 10-19-2015, 12:49 AM   #9
mfoley
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 273 View Post
I've used TightVNC which starts a new X desktop and Vinagre which doesn't but I've not heard of one which can do both.
Well, I can live with starting a new desktop -- it's just a bit of a problem for users that leave a Word doc open on their desktops with the idea of continuing from home. They might just have to learn to close files and log off before leaving.

As for VNCs which don't start a new desktop like the Vinagre you mentioned, does a desktop already have to be running or you're screwed? If that is the case, then one that starts a new desktop would be best. At least you could still get in.

Do any or all of these VNCs support an login screen that accepts the actual /etc/passwd user ID and password (like Windows RDC), or are you just dropped right into the desktop? Yeah, that would be a security issue!
 
Old 10-20-2015, 09:28 PM   #10
mfoley
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Here are some of my testing results using different VNC servers and clients. Perhaps this will be of benefit to people like me searching for a VNC solution.

VNC Viewers - I tested these from Windows 7 only, which for now will be the main client.

TeamViewer VNC

Pros: Well, it worked ...

Cons: Not free, but that's not that important. I don't mind paying for stuff. Main thing is that the target user must start a server-side session and generate a key and passcode. Then the client uses that key and passcode to connect. Does not appear to provide the possibility of an always-ready session. Obviously targeted to remote technical support use, not for regular users wanting to log into their office desktop. Speaking of which, I was able to connect to a LAN workstation using the key, but I saw no mechanism for specify IPort (must be one though). OFF THE LIST!

RealVNC Viewer - 5.2.3

Pros: The best thing about this client is that it auto-scales the screen! It also provides encryption -- if the server-side supports it. It has a nice top-menu-bar, like Windows RDC, that lets you go to/from full-screen and hide the window.

Cons: Not free (but see above). The main problem was it was VERY slow by comparison to all other VNC viewers tested.

Ultra VNC Viewer - 1.2.0.6

Pros: Fast. Worked well enough. Also has a top-menu-bar, like Windows RDC and RealVNC, that lets you go to/from full-screen and hide the window.

Cons: Scaling has to be manually done, but works well. The top-menu-bar feature doesn't work if you have multiple physical displays and move the viewer off the main screen (might be a function of the display software). Worse, when off the main screen, the top-menu-bar slowly drifted down to about mid-screen, then just stuck there! Biggest issue: the CAPS-lock key usually didn't work. I had to hold it down for an unnatural period of time to get it to 'stick'. Likewise to un-CAPS-lock.

TightVNC Viewer - 2.7.10

pros: Best I've come across so far. Fast. Does scaling of screen (albeit manual setting). Let's you turn off the annoying 'local' cursor dot so your remote cursor is not always chasing the dot.

cons: No top-menu-bar for full-screening, shrinking, etc. You have to type CTRL-SHFT-F to get out of full screen mode -- that's probably the most annoying feature. Scaling is manual (oh well).

SERVERS

TightVNC

Pros: none discovered.

Cons: Requires a VNC password. When I connected using the TightVNC Viewer, I got a big white/gray screen with a black X in the middle for a cursor. No controls, nothing! There are probably ways to configure this but x11vnc worked well, so I'm not going to waste time. Ironic that the TightVNC viewer worked great but the server sucked.

x11vnc

Pros: This worked great! A user can run it to permit connecting to an already open session, or it can be run from root as: `x11vnc -auth guess -forever -loop -repeat` which will actually show the Display Manager login screen and, when you log out, will re-run itself and let you reconnect from the client. Warns you if you don't have a VNC password, but runs anyway.

Cons: Apparently encryption is not yet supported.

Conclusions - so far the x11vnc server with the TightVNC viewer have been the best combination. Response is fast. My Windows client is a 1.65 GHz AMD E-450 2-core laptop, 3.6GB memory (6 yrs old), and I'm connecting to a Ubuntu server running on a Gateway Netbook with 1.6GHz Intel Atom (!) and 2GB of memory. Even with these boat-anchors, response is quite usable. Connecting to the office workstation was also very responsive as that is a real computer.

I can run the server in background (though I haven't figured that bit out in the Ubuntu init.d labyrinth yet) and can repeatedly connect and disconnect from the server, forever. Supposedly, I can connect remotely even while an actual user is logged into the console -- something not possible with Windows RDC. I think I can even have multiple remote connections, but haven't tried that yet.

Security: When waiting for a connection and/or after logging out, the DM screen is displayed with the normal Ubuntu login dialog (I've removed the list of users, and guest from this page). My Cinnamon desktop has a screen-saver setting that requires the password to be entered to get back in. In this sense, security is no different that our current mechanism of connecting with Windows RDC. I have additional scripts on the AD/DC that look for break-in attempts and shut down the attacker.

What is missing, security-wise, is encryption of the connection. The screen updates are encoded, but the keystrokes and userID/PW entry are likely sent in plain text. Supposedly they (x11vnc) are working on encryption. I can't really do ssh tunneling from Windows because the users are non-technical and won't stand for the extra steps (if even doable -- putty/ssh?). Another solution might be to use VPN.

This is where I'm at now. Would love more feedback (still trying to find info on x11rdp). Perhaps someone can point out incorrect statements in my analysis. Anyone want to share experiences with other VNC server/viewers?
 
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Old 10-28-2015, 12:31 AM   #11
mfoley
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Latest bit. I've found ssvnc: http://www.karlrunge.com/x11vnc/ssvnc.html, which creates an ssl tunnel from Windows to x11vnc on the Ubuntu host. No-brainer to configure, just run the ssvnc.exe. This works just fine except that the version of TightVNC viewer that ships with ssvnc 1.0.[29|30] is 1.3.9 which is older and much slower than the version 2.7.10 I downloaded earlier. My solution was to copy the 2.7.10 executable into the ..\ssvnc\Windows\util folder and rename it to the same as the 1.3.9 version. Odd that such an old version of TIghtVNC viewer is shipped with ssvnc (the 2.7.10 itself is from 2013).
 
  


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