Operations > Computing > FAQ
Unix VNC Sessions
VNC allows graphical programs (e.g. MATLAB, CAD software, etc.) to be run remotely with the ability to reconnect to that session should the network connection fail. The ECE Linux Lab systems have VNC software installed. Recommended clients include Chicken on Mac OS X or the TightVNC Java Viewer on Windows.
VNC sessions will not be able to be setup if your account is over quota.
- Start a VNC Session
- Connect using TightVNC
- Connect using Chicken
- Connect using another client
- Close your VNC session
- Reset your VNC session password
- Alternatives to VNC
- Connect to an ECE Linux Lab system using a SSH client. It is best to use
linuxsrv01.ece.uw.eduor one of the other non-lab linux lab systems, as these are less likely to be rebooted or unplugged.
- Run vncserver -list to see what sessions have been started.
- If none have been started, launch a new server with the following command:
vncserver -interface 127.0.0.1
The first time, a password will be asked for; this password will help prevent other users from accessing your VNC session. If you forget this password, remove the
~/.vncdirectory then retry these setup steps.
- Now the -list command should show a session (the numbers will vary):
linux13$ vncserver -list TigerVNC server sessions: X DISPLAY # PROCESS ID :1 5528
- Use the lsof command to show the port number the process is listening on, in this case
5901. The port number may vary if other sessions exist. This port must match the port used when connecting with the VNC client.
linux13$ /usr/sbin/lsof -i -P | grep vnc Xvnc 7131 nemo 6u IPv4 594464 0t0 TCP localhost:5901
On Windows, we recommend using the TightVNC Java Viewer. TightVNC can simplify the process of creating an SSH port forward to secure your connection to the VNC server by selecting the "Use SSH tunneling" option. Enable this option, then enter the hostname of the system where you started the VNC session, and your UW username.
On OS X, we recommend using Chicken. Like TightVNC, Chicken can create ssh tunnels for VNC connections. You will typically need to enter the SSH host setting prefixed with your UW username (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org).
If your VNC client doesn't support creating an SSH tunnel, as in the previous example, then you will need to create an SSH tunnel manually. Use the "local port forward" option to open a TCP port on your own system and forward those connections to the host where your VNC session is running. For example, if your session is running on linux13 and listening on port 5901:
mylaptop$ ssh linux13 -L 5901:localhost:5901
Once connected to by ssh, you can then connect your VNC viewer to localhost port 5901. The VNC client will connect to the port on your own system that ssh has opened, and ssh will forward that connection to the remote system.
Use the vncserver -list command and then vncserver -kill command to quit any sessions that need not remain open.
linux13$ vncserver -list TigerVNC server sessions: X DISPLAY # PROCESS ID :1 7131 linux13$ vncserver -kill :1 Killing Xvnc process ID 7131
Close any VNC sessions as in the previous section, then delete the
~/.vnc directory. This will wipe out any saved password for the VNC session:
linux13$ cd linux13$ pwd /homes/nemo linux13$ rm -rf .vnc # and to be really sure nothing is running... linux13$ pkill -u $USER Xvnc
Then, head back up to the top of the page to start a new server listening. (Note: things will be more complicated if you have started VNC server sessions on multiple hosts. The easy way to avoid this problem is to not do that.)
Another option is to use Xming to run X11 applications, though this relies on an active connection, and will fail when the network fails for any reason. The Eight Fallacies of Distributed Computing might make for good reading.