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Hot off the Forge: VNC for NetWare

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Russell Cohen

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Posted: 15 Aug 2003
 

Looking for a VNC Server NLM for NetWare? Look no further. Russell Cohen, Project Admin. VNC for NetWare, explains how they tackled this in the Novell Forge, where to get it, and how you can participate in making it even better.

About VNC

Virtual Network Computing (VNC) is remote control software that allows you to view and interact with one computer (the "server") using a simple program (the "viewer") on another computer anywhere on the Internet. The two computers don't even have to be the same type, so for example you can use VNC to view an office Linux machine on your Windows PC at home. VNC is freely and publicly available and is in widespread active use by millions throughout industry, academia and privately.

VNC differs from other remote display systems in three crucial ways:

  1. It is fully cross-platform. A desktop running on a Linux machine may be displayed on a Windows PC, on a Solaris machine, or on any number of other architectures. There is a Java viewer so that any desktop can be viewed with any Java-capable browser. There is a Windows server, allowing you to view the desktop of a remote Windows machine on any of these platforms using exactly the same viewer. The simplicity of the protocol makes it easy to port to new platforms and other people have therefore ported VNC to a huge variety of platforms.
  2. It is small and simple. The Windows viewer, for example, is about 150K in size and can be run directly from a floppy. The entire Java viewer is substantially less than 100K and takes less time to download than the images on some web pages.
  3. It is free! You can download it, use it, and redistribute it under the terms of the GNU General Public License.

The above information was extracted from the RealVNC website at: http://www.realvnc.com/

A VNC Server NLM for NetWare?

Given the above, it was surprising to find no VNC server implementation for the NetWare environment, although the idea had had been raised and, to some extent, acted upon in the past. (See the links at here for some background in this regard.)

I broached the idea with Novell Forge in mid-June 2003 and, less than two months later, a fully-fledged prototype VNC Server NLM for NetWare is available for download!

Novell Forge - VNC for NetWare http://forge.novell.com/modules/xfmod/project/?vncnw

Code base

VNCSRV.NLM (the VNC Server NLM for NetWare) is a prototype release of a VNC server for NetWare based on LibVNCServer hosted at:

Business case

The business case for a VNC Server NLM for NetWare appears as part of the project documentation, but is summarised here for easy reference:

  • VNC is the most widely used open source or freeware remote control or remote administration tool available today.
  • NetWare was probably the only significant computing platform for which a VNC server was not available.
  • Creating (or porting) a VNC Server for NetWare would allow administrators in a mixed environment to use a single remote management tool across all the platforms they support.
  • It would allow NetWare to be treated as just another platform to be supported, instead of always being the odd man out.
  • It may help those IT shops out there who need to justify why they maintain their NetWare infrastructure in the face of demands to "consolidate".
  • It would put NetWare "on the map" as a viable alternative operating system insofar as VNC Users are concerned, instead of just a legacy O/S not even supported by their favourite utility.
  • Once a VNC Server for NetWare becomes available, it would be a coup for the VNC "community", and both NetWare and the Novell Open Source initiative/Novell Forge would benefit from the publicity and "cross-selling" opportunities surrounding the launch.

How to get involved

  • Download the binary files and test VNC for NetWare in your NetWare 6.x environment (along with your favourite VNC viewer).
  • Contribute to the project as a developer.
  • Participate in the public Discussion Forums.
  • Assist in documenting and resolving Bugs, responding to Support Requests and initiating or endorsing Feature Requests.

Where to from here?

Further developments will depend very much on feedback and contributions from the VNC for NetWare "user community". I am excited, however, at the possibility of making VNC for NetWare available for older NetWare versions (5.x, 4.x and even 3.x), as per this Discussion Forum thread.

Links to the most popular VNC Viewers and other VNC resources can be found here: http://forge.novell.com/modules/xfmod/docman/index.php?group_id=1274&docid=464

Comments from Users

Svetlin Petrov

NetWare 6.5 really offers several secure ways for remote connection to the system console -

  • RConsoleJ with SSL support
  • Console screens option of the NetWare Remote Manager - it even gives access to the server console GUI
  • SSH connection

But for those sysadmins who use VNC for remote connections now there is a NetWare option too.

I've downloaded the VNC server from: http://forge.novell.com/modules/xfmod/project/?vncnw

In the readme file there is a detailed installation description - but in general I unzipped the file vncnw_bin_1_00.zip in the root of the SYS volume of my NetWare 6.5 server.

After that I loaded the vncpass.nlm module which configures the VNC server password. At the end I unloaded the server console GUI and loaded the VNC server - vncsrv.nlm. (In fact the author of the NetWare VNC server gave me the advice to unload the server GUI before I load the vncsrv.nlm.)

I used a Win32 VNC viewer running under Windows 2003 and connected to the NetWare 6.5 server.

So - everybody who likes VNC can use it for remote connection to NetWare 6.x.

It seems that forge.novell.com will become a real paradise for NetWare utilities and tools very soon!

If you have any questions you may contact Svetlin at SPetrov@myrealbox.com


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