November 22, 2001, 12:00 AM — Virtual Network Computing (VNC) is a client-server application that
acts as a remote display system for graphical desktops. You run the VNC
server on one computer and the client on another, and the client can
access the server's "desktop." You can run the server on Linux, UNIX,
Windows, or a whole host of other platforms. The client application
then accesses the server-side desktop.
On Linux or UNIX, the server-side program acts as a virtual X Window
server with no real display (no monitor, etc...). You then run programs
to display on this virtual X server through the VNC client. You can
interact with the programs, and even have a number of users log on to
the same "desktop". The VNC client's greatest use seems to be for
remote access to Windows or UNIX systems, especially helpful for
dialing in from home.
The protocol between the client and server is somewhat compressed and
optimized. VNC works best over normal-speed networks, but, due to the
compressed protocol, it works better than many other remote access
packages over slower dialup lines. I found this especially true when
trying to run UNIX X Window applications over a dialup line. However,
VNC worked better than anything else I tried.
TightVNC (http://www.tightvnc.com) adds better bandwidth optimization
for slower connections and supports a number of enhanced features
including local cursor processing and secure tunneling under SSH.
However, TightVNC only provides UNIX, Linux, Windows, and Java versions.
Like TightVNC, Tridia (http://www.tridiavnc.com) also provides an
enhanced VNC for UNIX, Linux, and Windows. Tridia offers an enhanced
version with a streamlined installation, online help, improved
compression and enhanced security. Tridia also offers VNC-related
services. You can also purchase the entire package with printed manuals
and a CD-ROM.
The original VNC supports a larger set of operating systems, including
MacOS. VNC clients run on Linux, UNIX, Windows, and a host of other
platforms including Windows CE on the low end. There's even a version
for the PalmOS (http://www.icsi.berkeley.edu/~minenko/PalmVNC) and Java
applet client that you can run from a Web browser. You can download the
original VNC from http://www.uk.research.att.com/vnc/. A good manual
for using VNC resides at http://www.uk.research.att.com/vnc/docs.html
and a FAQ list at http://www.uk.research.att.com/vnc/faq.html.