28 Aug

remotely starting up x11 applications

We have a TV here in the house, but it’s gathering dust – the only person in the house that uses it is my two-year-old son, Jareth, who uses it to incessantly watch Bear In The Blue House over and over.

Instead, we use the monitor and speakers of the main house server, Monolith (called that because it’s big and black) to watch our media.

Being the lazy bastard that I am, I was sitting on the couch with my laptop on my lap, and decided I wanted to watch something on the big computer.

So, I did a bit of research and came up with this method:

  • ssh into the machine using the username which controls the active desktop.
  • enter xhost +lappie, where “lappie” is the name of the computer you’re sshing from.
  • use mplayer to open up your media on the remote computer.

If you get an error, then make sure that DISPLAY is set. If you’re not sure, then set it with export DISPLAY=:0.0 (the most common number – if you have vnc servers running, or multiple monitors, then it may be different).

It’s possible then to run a program on your local machine and have it display on the remote one. For example, the following line, typed into your local console, opens up klines (a cool strategy game) on the remote machine:

DISPLAY=monolith:0.0 klines

Unfortunately, that’s pretty useless, as you won’t be able to control it with your mouse – unless, of course, you combine it with the amazing powers of Synergy.

All in all, there’s a lot of potential for this trick…

One possible use for it is to have a CPU-/RAM-intensive program such as OpenOffice running on your fast home server, and displaying on your slow laptop – of course, there are better ways to do that (VNC, for example), but it’s a thought.