Exporting an active linux desktop with vnc, or vnc remote desktop under linux

There are lots of ways to get a remote desktop under linux, remote X, nxserver, vnc. One of the problems though is the most common configuration doesn’t let you connect to a running desktop session. There is a vnc component that let’s you do this and I’m using it right now. On the home network, sometimes I don’t want to be sitting at the desktop machine and would rather use the laptop while checking in on programs running on the desktop itself. But, being too lazy to go to the desktop it would be nice if there was a way I could run something remotely that would let me view that desktop… ahhh there is a way.

Once upon a time I wrote a little script to deal with this.

export DISPLAY=:0
x0rfbserver &

Very simple and straightforward… we use bash, set the environment variable for which display to use and run x0rfbserver. x0rfbserver is a remote framebuffer server. In other words it will allow you to use vnc to see what’s currently on the desktop. Here is how I would use this script. I’m sitting typing on the laptop and think, I wonder if that program stopped compiling on the desktop? Well, I could log in via ssh and do a top, or ps ax to look for it, but.. not today I also want to see a few other apps, so… ssh username@desktop /home/userdir/scripts/startvnc

Then, I go to the KDE menu, run and type vncviewer desktop:0 am prompted for a password and then up pops my desktop. The fact that I run it from a remote login is what makes it important to export DISPLAY=:0 so we don’t try to forward X over the ssh connection. (Otherwise x0rfbserver would run on the laptop…. not what I’m looking for.)

An earlier version of this script used export DISPLAY=localhost:0 so, depending on your distribution/X setup I guess you may need to adjust that for your situation. Anyway it gives a neat and tidy way to remotely view a running linux desktop (even when you forget to launch the server before you left the desktop.)

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