My raspberry pi on a shelf

The Pi on the shelf – Getting to grips with X

As I don’t really have space for lots of monitors in my office, I’ve been experimenting with remote access to my Raspberry Pi. Why not just play around with a virtual Pi with QEMU I hear you ask? Well, the most exciting thing about the Pi for me is the breadboard with LEDs so there’s no fun emulating that in software. Remote access is nothing new for me (fixing the Aged Ps’ computer would be much harder without), but I’ve never tried it with something like the Pi.

The Raspberry Pi wiki over on elinux gives some useful instructions on how to access the Pi using the command line and SSH. Windows being Windows, you can’t use the ‘cmd’ command line as SSH isn’t built in. PuTTY works nicely and is now a favourite in my Portable Apps launcher. It does have the advantage of saving settings.

Ubuntu makes this simple as all you need is to type
ssh [ip address of the pi] -l [username on pi, default is pi]
and hit Enter. Enter the password, raspberry by default, and you’re connected. I use byobu and the text colour changes to show that you’re connected to another machine.

From there it’s a simple process to navigate through the folders to find the Python script I wrote to make the LEDs flash and run it.

So far so good, but I’m afraid I can’t live in the terminal alone and was hoping to get at least the colour coding of IDLE from my Python adventures.

My first thought had been to do remote access like I do to my parents computer. Use some kind of software that makes the Raspian desktop appear on my main desktop and work from there. And I did find some instructions on how to do just that using the tightvnc software. But it turned out that Ubuntu had something much more useful in store for me.

If you read down a little on the elinux instructions there is a section on running a GUI remotely. If you use those instructions for the ssh command, you can then start programs from the terminal that appear in their own window on the Ubuntu desktop.

According to my good friend Colin King who can be found at A Smackerel of opinion, this has always been part of X (my apologies for my ignorance of the history of unix!). Being designed to show windows across a network has sometimes lead to criticisms about performance but I must admit I’ve never felt any X based linux distro to be slower than Windows.

All in all, I’m rather pleased as I’ve been able to both have my cake and eat it. My Pi can sit on the shelf

(The title of this post was inspired by the blog post by the brilliant Jon Acuff about the Elf on a Shelf. Unlike the Christmas Elf, my Pi will be sitting on my shelf giving joy all year round)

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