Data Centers

XWindows marks the spot for remote NetWare server administration

RConsole works great for network administration, but it can't display the NetWare GUI. Learn how to use XWindows to redirect the NetWare GUI on your server to your local workstation.

As a seasoned NetWare administrator, you know you can remotely access your server’s console from your administration workstation using RConsole and RConsoleJ. With them, you can do almost everything from your workstation that you can do standing in front of the server—everything, that is, except work with NetWare 5.x and 6’s GUI screens. In this Daily Feature, I’ll show you how to use XWindows to display the GUI from your NetWare server right on your administration workstation.

The X Window System, commonly referred to as XWindows or just plain X, was created to let UNIX systems display graphical user interfaces. One of the nice features of XWindows is that it uses a client/server architecture to allow workstations to display the GUIs of other remote workstations or servers. Programs running under XWindows actually run on the remote server. However, display output by those programs appears on the client workstation rather than on a monitor attached to the server. When Novell developed the GUI for NetWare 5.0, it took the Xfree86 implementation of XWindows into consideration as the basis for the then-new NetWare server GUI, which Novell refers to as the servertop.

Why would I need to access my NetWare server’s GUI?
Although the thought of running a GUI on a server to begin with is anathema to most NetWare administrators, using and accessing the server GUI can actually come in handy. For example, many of NWConfig’s configuration screens now only appear on the GUI, not on the server’s text interface. If you try to run NWConfig remotely from your administration workstation using RConsole to reconfigure services running on your server, you’ll quickly hit a brick wall because RConsole and RConsoleJ can’t display the NetWare GUI.

Likewise, if you use ConsoleOne to administer objects in your NDS tree, you may find it helpful to use XWindows to run ConsoleOne on the server and just display the output on your administration workstation. Doing so saves you the time and trouble of installing the NetWare client on your workstation as well as the executables for ConsoleOne itself. Additionally, because ConsoleOne can be such a resource hog on a workstation, you’ll experience better overall performance using ConsoleOne through XWindows rather than running it natively on your workstation.

Finally, remember that the NetWare GUI requires a VESA-compliant video card, monitor, and pointing device. Many times, however, NetWare servers don’t have big monitors with fast video cards, so running the GUI at the server console isn’t always possible or practical.

What you need at your workstation
You can display the NetWare GUI on any workstation that runs XWindows remote client software. This means that you can administer your NetWare server on workstations that run practically any operating system including UNIX, Linux, HP-UX, OS/2, Windows 9x, Windows NT, Windows 2000, or MacOS X.

Microsoft doesn’t include an XWindows client with any of its Windows operating systems. If you’re going to use XWindows on a Windows administration workstation, you’ll need additional software. You can find many good XWindows clients by searching on CNET's Web site. My favorite XWindows client for Windows is PC-Xware from NCD. You can download the evaluation version, which retails for $395 from NCD’s Web site.

Obtaining and installing PC-Xware is beyond the scope of this Daily Feature, but to make PC-XWare work, I installed it with the default options on my Windows 98 workstation. PC-Xware’s Setup program asked me if there was a default host on my network and what its IP address was. The default host refers to the IP address of your NetWare server. After Setup finishes installing, you may need to reboot, go into the NCD program group, and select the configuration wizard. Choose an icon, give it a name, and specify the IP address of your NetWare server. Under the Program Options menu, I chose to display the whole XWindows session in a window.

Changing the way NetWare runs XWindows
To display the NetWare GUI on your workstation, you must change the way your server displays the GUI. By default, the NetWare GUI sends its output to your computer’s video card, which naturally winds up displaying on your monitor. NetWare’s GUI also allows you to reroute the display to cross your network.

To make the GUI do this, you must make some changes on your server. Start an RConsole session on your NetWare server and go to the server’s console prompt. You can’t use RConsoleJ because you’ll be unloading Java. If you don’t have IPX configured on your server and can’t use RConsole, you can use Telnet to access your server. (Before you can do that, you must configure Telnet on your NetWare server using INETCFG, which is beyond the scope of this article.)

Unload all Java applications by typing java –killall and pressing [Enter]. Then, type java –unload and press [Enter]. This will kill all Java applications, including those that control the server GUI.

Next, reload Java by typing java and pressing [Enter]. To redirect your server’s display, typeenvset display=ipaddress:0.0,where you replace ipaddresswith the TCP/IP address of your administration workstation.

Make sure the XWindows software on your administration workstation is ready to connect to your NetWare server. Finally, start your server’s GUI by typingstartx at the server’s console prompt and pressing [Enter]. Your NetWare GUI will appear on your desktop.

If you want to switch back to displaying the GUI locally, you must shut the GUI down. Unload and reload Java again. To tell the GUI to display locally, type envset display= and press [Enter]. Finally, restart the GUI by typing startx and pressing [Enter].

Be careful!
XWindows sessions aren’t secure communications. You don’t want to use XWindows over the Internet because a hacker could use a sniffer to intercept the screens you’re broadcasting. As for NetWare servers whose clients are all in the same physical building, there’s not much to worry about. Once you have XWindows running properly, you can do just about anything from your workstation that you can do standing right in front of the server.

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