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Install VNC on your Ubuntu 16.04

24 Apr 2016 - by 'Maurits van der Schee'

I upgraded my HTPC from Ubuntu 14.04 to 16.04 and since the box does not have a keyboard or mouse I had to setup remote access. I chose to install x11vnc, which is easy to use, but requires tunneling over SSH to be secure.

Install SSH and enable it in the firewall

I chose "x11vnc", which is easy to use and can be configured to be active during the login (greeter). It's built-in security is not good, so it requires tunneling over SSH to be secure. That's why we start installing an SSH server using:

sudo apt-get install openssh-server

Then we ensure the firewall is installed and we configure it to allow traffic on TCP 22 (SSH) and enable it:

sudo apt-get install ufw
sudo ufw allow 22
sudo ufw enable

Now try to login using SSH. This should succeed.

Install X11VNC and load it during startup

Now that SSH is set up, we can install the "x11vnc" package using:

sudo apt-get install x11vnc

Then we setup a password (just an extra layer of security).

sudo x11vnc -storepasswd SomeVerySecurePassword /etc/x11vnc.pass

Now we add the startup configuration:

sudo nano /lib/systemd/system/x11vnc.service

In the editor we copy/paste the following:

[Unit]
Description="x11vnc"
Requires=display-manager.service
After=display-manager.service

[Service]
ExecStart=/usr/bin/x11vnc -xkb -norc -forever -shared -display :0 -auth guess -rfbauth /etc/x11vnc.pass -localhost -o /var/log/x11vnc.log
ExecStop=/usr/bin/killall x11vnc
Restart=on-failure
Restart-sec=2

[Install]
WantedBy=multi-user.target

By starting the "x11vnc" with the option "-localhost" we limit it to (SSH) tunneled connections. In order to make this configuration effective we have to issue the following commands:

sudo systemctl daemon-reload
sudo systemctl enable x11vnc
sudo systemctl start x11vnc

Now you can connect to your machine using an SSH tunnel or using the "remmina" VNC client (for Linux), which has a built-in tunnel manager.

Enjoy!