by November 1, 2004 0 comments

Physical presence before a machine to copy files or to configure it, is a matter of the
past. Thanks to the many software and utilities, which allow remote login, file transfer and remote desktop access. You may have used software
that allows us to do all this on homogenous OSs but what about sitting on a Windows machine and
viewing a Linux desktop, copying files across them or a terminal login which is more secure than
using Telnet.

The answer lies in two pieces of software: SSH (Secure Shell) and VNC (Virtual Network Computing). An SSH package installed on Windows and
Linux machine allows us to do secure terminal login and secure file transfer. With VNC running on 
Windows and Linux, you can view Windows desktop on Linux and a Linux’s X Window desktop on

Direct Hit!
Applies to: System administrators
USP: A one-stop article on secure terminal access, file transfer and remote desktop access between Windows and Linux

This article takes you through installing and configuring these two packages on Windows
and Linux. Note that for this article we have used PCQLinux 2004 and a machine running Win XP

Set up SSH
For both terminal login and secure copying we need SSH installed on PCQLinux and Win XP. PCQLinux already bundles the SSH package and installs it by default. To run the SSH service (if it is not already running), you will have to issue the following command.

service sshd start

For Windows, you will need to download OpenSSH for Windows from
/showfiles.php?group_id=103886&package_id=111688. Unzip the downloaded zip file and double click 
on the setupssh.exe file. Follow the onscreen instructions to install OpenSSH. Once done, open up a Command Prompt and change (cd) to the directory where you installed OpenSSH (by default it gets installed in C:\Program Files\OpenSSH, assuming that C:\ is your boot drive). Subsequently issue the following commands.

mkgroup -l >> etc\group
mkpasswd -l -u administrator >> etc\passwd

The second command will allow you to login as administrator through SSH. Instead of the administrator, you can opt for any other user in which case
you have to specify the Windows login name of that user, in place of administrator, in the above 
command. Next to start the SSH server, go to Control Panel>Administrative Tools>Services, right click
on ‘OpenSSH Server’ from the list of services and select Start. 

Terminal access
Using the ssh command you can connect from a Linux machine to a Windows machine and vice versa. OpenSSH installs the ssh command on the
Windows machine unless you have de-selected the Client component during the OpenSSH installation. If the IP address of the Linux machine
is and that of Windows machine is, you can use the following commands for a terminal login:

ssh root@ (from the Windows machine)
ssh administrator@ (from the Linux machine)

When prompted for a password, supply the Linux machine’s root password and Windows machine’s administrator password, respectively.Instead of using ssh command on Windows, you can download and use Putty
( putty.exe) which is a graphical client. 

File transfer
The command line way of transferring files between the Windows and Linux machines is to use the ‘scp’. If you want to transfer a file named foo.conf from your Windows machine to the /opt directory of the Linux machine, use the following command. 

scp foo.conf root@

When prompted, enter the password for the Linux root user. The syntax of the above command is:

scp @:

To copy a file named manual.doc from the Linux machine to C:\ of Windows:

scp manual.doc administrator@

The syntax for this is:

scp @:/cygdrive//

To copy a directory, say docs, instead of a file, use the -r option as:

scp -r docs root@
scp -r docs administrator@

If the commands are too difficult to remember, you can use graphical utilities such as WinSCP ( on Windows and SecPanel ( on Linux to transfer files. 

Set up VNC
For Windows, download VNC for Windows from exe. To install it, double click on the file and follow onscreen instructions. The defaults should work fine. When prompted for, enter a password. You will need to supply this password when you try to access the Windows desktop from the Linux machine. 

PCQLinux bundles along the VNC software. To install VNC, install the RPMs named vnc-server-4.0-0.beta4.3.i386.rpm and vnc-4.0-0.beta4.3.i386.rpm found on PCQLinux CD1 and CD3 respectively. 

Access Linux desktop
To access Linux desktop from Windows, you will first need to run vncserver on the PCQLinux machine. For this, login as root and issue the following.


When prompted, enter and confirm a password. This will be the password required to access the Linux desktop from the
0Windows machine. Now hop to the Windows machine and click on Start>Programs>RealVNC>VNCViewer>Run VNC Viewer. For server, enter When prompted, enter the password that you had specified for vncserver. You will be greeted by a Linux desktop. But wait, the default desktop manager shown by VNC on Linux is the same boring twm. How about showing up a ful-fledged GNOME desktop? For this, open the file named xstartup found in the directory /root/.vnc, in a Linux text editor. In this file, replace twm with gnome-session on the last line. Stop the vncserver by issuing the following command.

killall Xvnc

Then again start it by issuing vncserver. Next time when you connect from the Windows machine, you will be greeted by the PCQLinux GNOME desktop. 

Access Windows desktop
After installing VNC on Windows, you should be able to see a VNC server icon on the system tray. If not, click on Start>Programs>RealVNC>VNC Server (Service Mode)>Start VNC Service. 

On the Linux machine, switch to X Window, open a terminal window within X Window and issue the following.


When prompted, type in the password that you had specified during the VNC installation on Windows. Windows desktop will now show on your Linux machine. 

Shekhar Govindarajan IT4Enterprise

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