In my line, I do a lot of work on multiple computers and I usually need to access one or more of them remotely. This is usually quite easy when working with two computers using the same operating system environment, but becomes rather tricky when mixing OSes. SSH access is great for running applications in Linux, but becomes a pain when you need to run applications in the shell or if you need to multitask. This is where TeamViewer comes in handy.
TeamViewer is a simple peer-to-peer remote desktop access software suite that is easy to setup and–most importantly–cross-platform! TeamViewer provides secure access to a remote machine across a home network or anywhere in the world through the World Wide Web. You can run applications and perform any level of maintenance just as if you were sitting at the computer yourself. Everything runs in a dedicated window so there’s no getting lost. You can even use TeamViewer for online meetings and file sharing without need for a separate FTP setup!
Did I mention it’s free?
TeamViewer is free for non-commercial use, so it’s perfect for maintaining a remote machine on the home network or performing maintenance on your parents’ computer from across the country!
One of the best remote access tools in Linux is SSH, a protocol that allows remote command-line interfacing with a remote computer. When setting up a system like the VCR, where the screen may not necessarily be readable from across the room or (like many “Internet of Things” applications) may not have a screen at all, remote access to terminal is essential.
Ubuntu 14.04 does not enable SSH by default, but does provide easy access to the OpenSSH service via its software repositories. On the server machine (the one you wish to access remotely), run the following:
sudo apt-get install openssh-server
Once the packages are installed, you can change settings by editing the configuration file located at /etc/ssh/sshd_config in Nano (or other text editor).
Once your configuration settings are saved, restart the service to enable SSH access from your client computer:
Having reliable FTP access to a remote computer running Linux can be especially useful if said computer is to be a media server and connected to a screen ten feet across the room. For the VCR project, and for any Linux project, I recommend using vsftpd for its simplicity and active development.
To install vsftpd, simply type the following command in Terminal:
sudo apt-get install vsftpd
Once installed, you will need to edit the configuration file to authenticate users and enable write access (if you’re going to be using it as such). Use Nano (or whichever text editor you prefer) to edit /etc/vsftpd.conf and change the following values:
Reboot and your FTP server will be running in background, ready for action!
My latest grand project has come about from a desire to have an integrated home entertainment solution and an inability to find any off-the-shelf product that handles media the way I want it to.
My first impulse was to build an HTPC in a traditional desktop-style case, but I could not locate one that would fit in my IKEA Besta TV stand. As it happens, I had a cache of old VCRs taking up space in storage after my VHS digitising project, so I grabbed one that would suit well and got to tinkering.
The form factor of the VHS turned out to fit an mATX motherboard and power supply side-by-side almost exactly. Thankfully, there was still plenty of clearance for fans and other internal bits as well. Best of all, the case pays homage to a time in my childhood when the VCR (actually, this exact VCR) was the focal point of entertainment–perhaps even more than the NES that sat next to it. After all, you can’t play Super Mario Bros. and build Lego models at the same time!
With the internals completed, I set about assembling the software suite. XBMC provides the main interface while Firefox and RetroArch supplement functionality for most streaming services and video games. The biggest decision I’ve had to make was whether to build the system on Linux or Windows. I’ve completed comparable versions under both, but I eventually paid for a Windows 7 license to take advantage of the superior graphics processing compatibility provided by Microsoft DirectX as well as eliminate the headache of futzing around with Wine compatibility settings.
The end result is an all-in-one streaming media, local media, classic and modern gaming machine that evokes an aesthetic of an era that is quickly fading into the annals of history.