Screen sharing with Leopard

It was a beautiful day outside so I decided to grab the MacBook Pro and enjoy the delightful weather out on our screened in porch. I had some online reading to do as I am trying to get a handle on Git, the version control system I am going to be using.

While sitting here enjoying the breeze and working through the Git documentation I remembered that I had left Adium running on the Mac Pro downstairs. Many of my friends contact me through AIM and I usually put up an away message if I’m gone for a while. But I just sat down and got comfortable – getting up seemed like a lot of work to me. I decided that now was the perfect time to try out Leopard’s Screen Sharing capability.
For some reason Apple decided to bury Screen Sharing down in the following location:
/System/Library/Core Services
I navigated to that in Finder and then dragged it into my Dock to get easier access to it. Once I had that fired up I simply entered the name of my Mac Pro into the Host window and pressed Connect. I was immediately rewarded with my entire Mac Pro’s screen, miniaturized and scaled to fit on my MacBook Pro:
Even my dual monitors were represented. I tried playing around a bit and found it to be quite responsive. I had the option of either viewing the screen in scaled mode or by scrolling it. I found the scaling worked better for what I needed to do. Granted, the menu bar was extremely tiny but I could make out the little Adium icon and quickly set my status to away.
One machine to rule them all
Having accomplished this little mission I thought to myself: I wonder if I can gain access to my Ubuntu machine from the comfort of my screened in porch too? It physically sits right next to the Mac Pro and resides on the same network. I use SSH all the time to remotely connect and run tasks but I had never tried accessing my Ubuntu machine using a remote screen sharing application.
Apple’s Screen Sharing program is based on VNC, which I knew was available for Ubuntu. With this little hacking challenge on the table I decided to dig in. First I ran SSH and connected to my Ubuntu machine. Next I followed LifeHacker’s nice little four step instructions for getting VNC up and running on Ubuntu—something that could be handled through my SSH connection.
Within a couple of minutes I had my Ubuntu machine ready to be accessed. I fired up Screen Sharing again and entered in the name of my Ubuntu workstation. I got a couple of warning dialogs but within a few seconds I was rewarded with my Ubuntu screen up and running on my MacBook Pro:
The performance of the connection was terrible compared to the performance I got from the Mac Pro, though it was functional. I didn’t tweak it at all; I just did it because I could, so I’m sure there is room for optimization.
I don’t know why but there is something tremendously satisfying about remotely controlling a machine, especially one you didn’t have the ability to control when you sat down. With my little remote adventure out of the way and this blog entry written up I better get back to that Git documentation.
It’s not reading itself.