In an earlier article, we saw how to configure and set up a VNC server on a CentOS 7 linux box. This allows a server to share a GUI with a remote client. It captures all keystrokes and mouse movements from the VNC client, sends them to the remote server and receives the feedback. If you just want to connect for basic file management and other actions, it can be quite fast and you can almost not tell that you're working with a remote application!
The earlier article walked you through the entire process of downloading and configuring VNC on your linux server. It showed you how to identify the port number as well as the entire process of downloading the VNC client and connecting. However, there wasn't much to see because my linux box didn't have a GUI set up yet. VNC is just one half of the equation. We also need a GUI interface program to go along with it. And that's where GNOME comes in.
For the rest of this article, I'm going to assume that you've already followed the earlier tutorial on setting up the VNC server and that it's already up and running on your remote Linux server.
Installing GNOME on Linux CentOS 7
GNOME is the most well known linux desktop environment (and BSD). The most well known client side linux operating system is called "Ubuntu", and it's been using GNOME ever since the first iteration "Warty Warthog" and it's been consistently updated so far. Ubuntu even began releasing its own GNOME flavor called Ubuntu Gnome, but they recently revealed that they're going to discontinue it in favor of the standard GNOME distro.
To install GNOME on CentOS, simply use the yum installer like this:
yum groupinstall "GNOME Desktop"
This will install the entire package and dependencies of GNOME, which should total to around 700MB as shown in the screenshot below:
So be patient! This will take some time to download and install. But once you're done, you need to reboot your server to give everything a chance to take hold. Once it reboots, the GNOME desktop environment service should be running automatically, but you can also type the following:
Keep in mind that this doesn't meant that you will suddenly see a GUI screen over your remote SSH connection! The two systems - graphical and command line are completely different. We can only see the GUI over VNC as shown below.
Connecting to GNOME via VNC
Using the VNC credentials you got from the first VNC tutorial, log into your server using the local VNC application on your PC:
In the earlier article when we connected to the remote server via VNC, there was nothing to see because there wasn't any GUI installed. We just got a blank gray screen like this:
However, this time when you connect from VNC, you should see the setup screen for GNOME:
Select your language, and then choose the typing layout:
Next, you'll be prompted to connect your online accounts to import photos and documents. You can skip this step if you want, like I did:
And you're all set! That's all we need to start using GNOME on CentOS. Here's the final screen:
From here, it should be a familiar environment for anyone who's used to a Windows based GUI system. For example, you can double click the folder icon on the home screen and navigate the folder structure like you would with any Windows device:
When it comes to navigating folders and quickly getting an idea of what's where, I feel the GUI is superior to the command line. Whether you're using GNOME for this reason or for some other purpose, getting it up and running is easy with VNC and the GNOME packages for CentOS.