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By 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 (although not everyone agreed with the ethics of the approach). Angela also reviewed Chicken of the VNC for Mac, and I also recently compared TightVNC 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.
Next, I suggest you set up an HTML file using the tips I offered in my recent CSS web page article. Use a free CSS template and then create a launch page where you can quickly access links to your own personal video streaming services.
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.
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:
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.
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, 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 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.
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.
--->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.
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