Connect from anywhere using VNC

VNC stands for Virtual Network Computing.  In essence, when you run an X-Windows session on from an X-terminal, Unix creates a screen image on the terminal, which displays on your monitor. VNC creates a screen image at the server, which can be viewed from anywhere, using the VNC Viewer. VNC Viewers are available for Unix, PCs, and there is even a Java version that runs in any Java-enabled Web browser. Consequently, no matter where you go, you can run a full X-window session, from any PC. VNC actually consists of several programs:


This is the script you run to launch Xvnc. The first time you run vncserver, it sets up your vnc password, and creates a $HOME/.vnc directory.


This is the actual program that runs your VNC session on the Unix host. You don't directly run this program. vncserver does that for you.


This is the viewer that runs on your PC to let you view the VNC session running on the remote host.


This program lets you change your VNC password.

Setting up your Unix account to run VNC server

Downloading and installation of VNC Viewer on your PC

Using your Unix desktop remotely from a personal computer

FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

Once your Unix account is setup to run vncserver, running a VNC session is a 3 step process:

1. Launch VNC server remotely on your Unix account

a. Login to your Unix account at the command line using an SSH client such as Putty.

b.  Start vncserver on your Unix account.

A typical vncserver session is shown below:

New 'X' desktop is merak:2
Starting applications specified in /home/plants/frist/.vnc/xstartup
Log file is /home/plants/frist/.vnc/merak:2.log

These messages show that VNC has created a new vnc session running on merak,  called merak:2.
You can connect to this session from another Unix account by typing vncviewer session_name 

2. Launch VNC Viewer on your PC

3. Kill the VNC server


Although VNC is fairly secure, it's asking for trouble to be logged in, in any fashion, when you're not doing anything. When you're done, login to the host where vncserver is running and kill the VNC session.

Example:  vncserver -kill :1

On BIRCH systems, you can also use the shortcut

vnckill  :1

Remember, if you launched  vncserver on antares, you must log into antares to kill the job. You can't kill on merak, toliman, etc.


Aside from being a security hole, having numerous vncserver jobs running can sometimes confuse desktop systems such as GNOME, and can sometimes lead to corruption of configuration files.

Return to BIRCH home page