The Joys (and Sorrows) of Pi

Yesterday was quite a mixed day for me and my Raspberry Pi.

As I mentioned the other day, I’ve been running my Pi headless and accessing it via ssh since I didn’t have suitable input/output hardware to connect to it directly. I also mentioned that I’d obtained a USB keyboard and ordered an HDMI cable and HDMI/DVI converter to allow me to connect up my Pi directly using my monitor at work (strictly during my lunch break, of course ;)).

Shortly after writing that post, my HDMI cable arrived (the converter had in fact got here already), so it was with some excitement yesterday that I took my Pi and related bits along to work with me. Exercising great self-discipline, I managed to resist the temptation to start playing with my Pi during the morning (despite the fact that my boss was safely away at a meeting down in Cardiff) and got on with my actual work until lunchtime. At that point I lost no time in setting up the equipment only to find that the combined length of the HDMI/DVI converter and the connector at the end of my shiny new HDMI cable was slightly greater than the available space in the recessed area at the back of the monitor where the cables are supposed to plug in. In short, there was no physical way of plugging the cable into the monitor.

Scouting around the rest of the building, I discovered that none of the other available monitors had a DVI or HDMI input that I could use. However, I did manage to find one with a composite video socket, as well as a suitable cable, so I was able to connect the Pi that way and have a bit of a direct-connect session with it. I wasn’t vastly impressed with the video quality (and the monitor in question is in a cold part of the building and not easy to move) so I think I probably won’t take the Pi to work again until the new HDMI/DVI cable I’ve now ordered arrives (this one will have a DVI connector wired in directly at one end so it should fit my monitor with no trouble).

Returning home in the evening, I was able to make some progress on the headless connection front which put an altogether more positive spin on the day’s adventures with my Pi. Up to now, I’ve been using ssh to access it via my local network. This is great for command line stuff (which is where I spend quite a lot of my time in Linux anyway) and I recently discovered how to enable the use of programs with a GUI (essentially, adding the “-X” switch to the ssh command, which lets your local X server handle the graphics on behalf of the remote programs). However, it doesn’t seem to let you run a full graphic desktop environment (it could be that I’m just missing something).

While reading around the subject, I recently came across the concept of Virtual Network Computing (VNC), which seems to allow fuller graphic support for a remote system than ssh (I don’t fully grok the technical details yet). I managed to find a couple of good tutorials on setting up and accessing a VNC server on a Raspberry Pi (I mostly used the Penguin Tutor one and filled in some extra details with the eLinux one).

I haven’t yet had much time to play with it, but so far it seems to be working quite well. I suspect that, until such time as I upgrade to a new monitor with HDMI (or at least DVI) capability at home, I’ll continue to access my headless Pi mostly by ssh and use it mostly from the command line. It will, however, be handy to have the option of using a full graphic interface for it if I want to.

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