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Access your OS X box from anywhere Network
If you want to access your OS X computer from remote locations, you've probably encountered some of the same frustrations I did in easily connecting from anywhere. I've tracked down Java software that allows (more or less) secure, easy access from any computer with a web browser.

The built-in SSH server, and the VNC server compiled for OS X, are invaluable tools for complete remote control, but have a weakness: both require specialized client software at your remote location, which is difficult to find at a typical internet cafe, corporate, or educational computer.

Fortunately, smart people have written Java SSH, VNC, and FTP clients: so read the rest for my advice on setting up your built-in Apache server for full remote access.

1. Apache setup

The first thing to do is to set up a folder within /Local/WebServer/Documents to restrict access to certain users. Strictly speaking, your SSH, VNC, and FTP are available to outsiders anyway, but this helps keep out idle snoops. Read this hint for details:

http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20010422202915223

2. Java SSH
The most useful tool is the Java SSH applet, which allows you to run a SSH connection to your webserver within any browser window. Read about and download it at:

http://www.mud.de/se/jta/index.html

Note that you'll need to tweak the default installation to use the plugin "SSH" instead of "Telnet".

3. Java VNC
VNC allows graphical control of your computer from a remote location. The great folks at OSXvnc.com [UPDATE: osxvnc.com has expired and been taken over by a porn operation; do not try to visit!] made an OS X version of the server, including instructions to run it as a Startup item (to run between logins). However, for some reason they didn't include the Java client in their installation. After you've set up their package, go to the VNC home page and download the Mac or Linux server.

Within that package you can find the Java VNC viewer; put that in your Apache documents folder, tweak the web page a bit, and you have an in-browser VNC!

4. Java FTP
Unlimited FTP is a full-featured Java FTP client that is available in a free non-commercial demo. Just download the demo, put it in a folder in your Apache documents, and tweak a few settings. Now you also have full FTP access from any browser!

One important caveat: The Java in OS X / Internet Explorer is too buggy for any of these applets to work from OS X 10.0.4, ironically. Best to try these out from a Classic browser for now, though I hear that 10.1 fixes Java in IE.

The modifications required for any of these packages were fairly easy to do; however, I can put together a more detailed tutorial if anyone desires.

You can see an example of the apps (but not log in!) on my box by entering the username "guest" with no password. Remember, use Classic or Windows, not OS X, to connect here!
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Access your OS X box from anywhere | 9 comments | Create New Account
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Interesting...Secure VNC??
Authored by: Anonymous on Sep 18, '01 01:19:36AM

So, lets say I have apache/mod_ssl installed and running and put access to the VNC viewer in a secure page, would my VNC connection be encrypted? Can I have IPFW blocking all ports except 80/443 and this will still work as IPFW would see it as a localhost connection which are not filtered? Would the VNC viewer connect over the http port automatically? Can I block the standard VNC port with IPFW/brickhouse and still get connections over the secure apache port? Or am I all wrong on these assumptions?

I dislike any method of connecting to my mac remotely that is not secure as I am in a campus environment and there are bound to be sniffers on the network.

Yuri



[ Reply to This | # ]
http access to vnc
Authored by: vajonez on Sep 19, '01 12:13:29PM
While I've not used vncserver on OSX, I do use it extensively on Linux and Windows NT. Most folks don't know this, but vncserver has a webserver and java applet based client built into it. All you need to do is point your webbrowser to:
   http://:
Where display_number is the display that the particular server is running on. Windows doesn't support (and I'd guess OSX is the same) the concept of mutliple displays like X11 so the display number is 0. So if I wanted to access an NT box named "windows" I would access the following URL:
   http://windows:5800
I often run multiple vncservers (all with different resolutions) on my linux box (let say it's called "linux"), so If I wanted an 800x600 window, I'd connect to:
   http://linux:5801
For a 1024x480 window:
   http://linux:5802
This is in the vnc documentation.

[ Reply to This | # ]
this isn't in OS X
Authored by: mithras on Sep 19, '01 12:51:57PM

Disappointingly, the OSXvnc port doesn't include the webserver or the java client. That's why I recommended downloading the linux or mac versions and finding the java client within those.

Incidentally, the java client isn't really http access to VNC. All the VNC webserver, or Apache with the Java client on a web page, does is deliver the Java client to you. So as far as I understand (which isn't terribly far), the earlier SSL speculation wouldn't work.

The Java client then runs just like a normal VNC client, connecting with the regular protocol over the usual ports (5900 or 5901).

Placing the Java client within an .htaccess-protected or SSL-encrypted page only prevents others from obtaining the Java client. Nothing stops them from running an ordinary client on their own machine. Thus VNC still depends on the simple password scheme. Note, though, that the VNC password is NOT sent cleartext to the server - the client uses the typed password to encrypt a challenge from the server. So it's much better than telnet or FTP in that respect.

SSH port-forwarding does indeed work for encrypting your VNC connection, but I don't know any obvious way to make this easy from any remote computer. I'd love to hear someone's ideas...



[ Reply to This | # ]
this isn't in OS X
Authored by: vajonez on Sep 19, '01 03:14:33PM

Oops. If I had read your post more carefully I would have noticed that you mentioned the omission of the java client. Thanks for the clarification.



[ Reply to This | # ]
this isn't in OS X
Authored by: professor on Apr 27, '02 01:01:27AM

>SSH port-forwarding does indeed work for encrypting your VNC
>connection, but I don't know any obvious way to make this easy
>from any remote computer. I'd love to hear someone's ideas...


From *any* remote machine? I don't think so, as you need a machine with
an ssh client.

From a *nix machine (including MacOSX), create an alias in your .cshrc
file

alias tunnelvnc 'ssh -L 5900:your.home.machine:5900 your.home.machine'

and type "tunnelvnc" at the commandline before connecting with the vnc client to localhost:0
(ie, port 5900 on localhost).

P.S.: As a VNC client for MacOSX, I'd like to recommend VNCDimension.app.



[ Reply to This | # ]
this isn't in OS X
Authored by: professor on May 02, '02 01:44:22AM

Actually, because of its support for Tight Encoding, my favourite VNC client is now Chicken of the VNC.app. With the latest version of OSXvnc, this makes a world of difference in the usability.

In the same note, I also point out that you can couple SSH tunneling with firewalling external access to the VNC port(s) for extra security.

[ Reply to This | # ]

osxvnc.com a dead link now?
Authored by: osxpounder on Oct 22, '02 12:40:59AM

I just went to osxvnc.com, and it links to a cheezy search page at Trafficz.com .... Could this mean that there is no more OSX VNC server anymore?



[ Reply to This | # ]
osxvnc.com a dead link now?
Authored by: osxpounder on Oct 22, '02 12:40:59AM

I just went to osxvnc.com, and it links to a cheezy search page at Trafficz.com .... Could this mean that there is no more OSX VNC server anymore?



[ Reply to This | # ]
osxvnc.com a dead link now?
Authored by: dump on Nov 06, '02 07:29:58PM

No, it's just bouncing around. Try
http://www.redstonesoftware.com/osxvnc/



[ Reply to This | # ]