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4 Creative Uses For A VNC Server

Ryan Dube 18-01-2012

vnc serverBy now, you’re probably pretty familiar with VNC Servers. We’ve certainly covered how to set them up and use them often enough here at MUO. I once showed you how to use the service to spy on your spouse How To Spy On Your Spouse With Your Computer Read More (although not everyone agreed with the ethics of the approach).  Angela also reviewed Chicken of the VNC How To Set Up & Use Chicken Of The VNC For Remote Access [Mac] If you've ever needed to get remote access for a computer, you've probably realised that some solutions are far superior than others. Even as far as VNC (Virtual Network Computing) clients go, there are a... Read More for Mac, and I also recently compared TightVNC Is TightVNC Really More Tight Than Other VNC Clients? When it comes to remotely connecting to a desktop PC or a server, most people quickly opt for installing a VNC server. It's fast, easy to configure, and best of all it's absolutely free. Once... Read More to other VNC clients.


Other than just using VNC clients to connect to a remote computer, what can you really use VNC servers for? I mean, when you stop and think about it, the ability to connect to and control a remote computer using free software like this is pretty cool.

In this article, I’m going to put together four remote-control systems that you can use to control various entertainment and display systems throughout your home, from a single, central computer. This is especially useful for those of you that have a “main” computer in your living room or living area that everyone uses.

Four Cool Ways to Use a VNC Server

Each of the four setups that I’m going to describe here involve a main computer running VNC client software, and a remote computer – which doesn’t have to have a mouse or keyboard attached – running the VNC server software. EchoVNC is my own personal favorite, but really any VNC server software that you prefer will work.

The four setups are: a remote TV controller, a remote stereo/music controller, a centralized surveillance system, and an in-home information display system. Sound cool? Let’s get started.

Remote Control TV Media

The setup that I am going to propose here involves a central computer in your living room that controls your television entertainment system. The actual infrastructure should be configured as showing in this diagram.


vnc server

Next, I suggest you set up an HTML file using the tips I offered in my recent CSS web page article Create a Full Page News Ticker Display with CSS & RSS Widgets If you're a news blogger, the importance of staying up to date on breaking news is critical. Ever since I started covering more news-related events on my own blog, I realized how important it was... Read More . Use a free CSS template and then create a launch page where you can quickly access links to your own personal video streaming services.

 create vnc server

Have that page automatically launch every time the display PC boots up by adding the link to that HTML page you’ve created in the startup folder.
 create vnc server
Once you’ve got this all set up, all you have to do is sit down at your control PC in the living room, VNC into your media “controller” PC, and you’ll see that browser window already open. Just click on the service you want to use and launch the movie of your choice.


Remote Access Sound System Controller

You can use this same approach to remotely control a sound system. All you have to do is hook up an inexpensive standalone tower PC to your stereo system.

This is what that setup would look like:

 create vnc server

This setup is nearly identical to the movie system controller, except the output from the standalone PC is sound rather than an HDMI output cable. Now, all you have to do is connect to the standalone PC via VNC and launch the music using your favorite music app like iTunes. Here, I’ve connected to my controller PC using Echo VNC and iTunes.


setting up a vnc server

Just launch the music on the remote PC and the music will start playing on your stereo system.

By the way, if setting up a media center PC sounds cool and you’d like to try it, I highly recommend the free MUO manual on setting up a media center PC How to Build a Great Media Center PC Looking for a media center? read all about the different hardware components, best places to buy them, software candidates and media extenders, in this ultimate guide! Read More , which goes into far more detail than I can in this article.

Access Your Surveillance System

Were you one of the people that thought the Wi-Fi surveillance system idea that I put together using Active Webcam How To Build A WiFi Home Surveillance System With Your PC Read More was a good idea? Well, if you think about it, incorporating VNC into the mix can let you dedicate a single PC to monitoring your entire household surveillance system.


By installing VNC server software onto that dedicated surveillance PC, whenever you want to check out all of your camera displays, all you have to do is remote into it to check out all of the cameras.

setting up a vnc server

This allows you to run your surveillance system setup from a single, dedicated PC. Whenever you want to monitor the cameras, just remote in and check things out.

Set Up a Household Display

If you’ve ever walked through a manufacturing facility, then you’ve probably seen those flat screen informational boards up everywhere, scrolling through important statistics and information.

Well, using VNC you can actually set up a similar display at home. Just mount a small LCD display monitor on a shelf or on the wall. Connect it to a dedicated, standalone PC that you can hide in a cabinet or under a table.

Then, set up a rotating set of HTML screens that show anything from this month’s family calendar, to a task list of important projects the family will be completing together. You can use a website like FreeHTMLCalendar to create such a quick HTML calendar screen and customize it with your important events.

setting up a vnc server

If you’re familiar with Javascript, then you can set up your remote PC to scroll through HTML pages as shown here.

--->The body of your HTML web page goes here

As you can see, the moment the first HTML page loads, it launches the “PageLoad” function. This waits 20 seconds before launching “loadnext()”, which will load the next HTML page. For each display page, you’ll just change the next called HTML file.

Here is the directory on my remote display PC that holds all of those HTML pages to display.

vnc server

Whenever you want to update your remote display, just remote into it with VNC, update those HTML files with new information, news or a new family calendar, and you’re done!

Do you see yourself trying out any of these VNC client/server setups? Can you think of any other cool ways to make use of VNC? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.

Image Credit: ShutterStock

Related topics: Remote Access, Remote Desktop, VNC.

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  1. Juergen
    July 15, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    VNC is the perfect way to only work on one (powerful enough) computer that sits at home (e.g. in the cellar). No more need to set up other computers more than with a VNC client. Perfect to use older laptops or the rasbperry pi as clients (at home and all over the world). In the rare instances were you need to actually tranfer files you can use google drive, scp, rsync, or sshfs. I am also controlling quite some robotic equipment in my research lab that way. A security layer is added by using VNC through an ssh tunnel (e.g. xvnc4viewer -via myserver:1 (where 1 in the VNC screen number).

    Need 3D graphics support in VNC? It's possible if your server has enough power. Simply run a virtualbox machine inside the VNC window, and there you go. Works for most applications (other than highspeed games) through the emulated graphics hardware of a virtualbox. Have't had a desktop PC at home since 2010 with only a thinclient sitting at my office desk.

    For the machine in the cellar: consider an industrial-grade server with enough CPUs and enough RAM. Nothing else required. Everything else can be virtualized (except for a true modern Mac OS which remains buggy, unfortuantely).

  2. ferdinan Sitohang
    July 9, 2012 at 2:25 am

    Thank you, it is very help full

  3. Brett Pierce
    January 20, 2012 at 12:29 am

    "Remote Access Sound System Controller" This one I have actually have done.

    • Ryan Dube
      January 20, 2012 at 1:14 am

      Brett - cool! Was your setup about the same as this one or any different?