Getting a Gnome desktop in VNC under Ubuntu

There is a lot of old and wrong data out on the net about this. I think it is because of the continuing evolution of the desktop environment/gnome/unity etc., most of which I don’t understand.

Below is the overall approach I use, and some things I had to do to make it work. I will use as an example getting up a vnc viewer screen on oregano showing a gnome desktop on cinnamon. Interestingly, it proved much harder on cinnamon (running Wily Werewolf) than on pepper or the Butcher box named kodi, both of which are running Trusty Tahr.

On oregano the file /usr/local/bin/<remote hostname> contains a script to make an ssh connection to <remote hostname> and also to establish various ssh tunnels to that hostname (for example, to look at databases). In the case of hosts where I want to be able to open a graphical environment using vnc, the script will contain the following, among other things (here the remote host is cinnamon, and the port numbers in the command aren’t important, except that the “:3” has to match the “5903”. Selecting the port numbers carefully beccomes important if one has multiple such connections in play at once):

ssh uname@cinnamon vncserver -geometry 2400x1200 :3
ssh -L *:5901:localhost:5903 -g uname@cinnamon

which runs the vncserver command on cinnamon as user uname. The vncserver command looks for an xstartup file under ~/.vnc/xstartup. That file is the key. The (important) contents of the file are (line folding is not in the file):

[ -r $HOME/.Xresources ] && xrdb $HOME/.Xresources
gnome-session --disable-acceleration-check –session=gnome-flashback &

I think that the parameter –disable-acceleration-check is still required, as of this writing, but it is one thing I put in to try to solve the problem, and then had to do other things, and I haven’t yet gone back to test without it. In any case I’m pretty sure it can’t hurt, because acceleration is what we don’t have. (Update: I later found pepper didn’t work correctly till I put it in).
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