View Full Version : Multiple simultaneous user windowing environments

26th June 2007, 03:39 PM
I wrote this up a few weeks back for the mac users at work. I reproduce here for your enjoyment (and becasue it's a useful thing).

For setting up a shared Mac for use by multiple people (aka an application server) similar to what Windows Server lets you do.
Log on to your Mac (local or domain account)
If not already done, enable fast user switching.
Install/run Vine Server http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/11283http://teamspace.imt.csiro.au/confluence/images/icons/linkext7.gif (http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/11283) and note the port number (and set a password if you don't want random people using your login session)close the application window. Vine server should continue to run in the dock.
Fast switch back to the login screen to let other people either do the same or work on the Mac directly.You should now be able to connect to computername : port with your favourite VNC client and see your desktop.

There are some gotchas:
Using fast user switching while accessing your desktop via VNC may cause you to lose the connection. This is also true if you fast user switch from the Mac whilst also connected via VNC (as the same user). The key here is to log on, run Vine Server, switch, then connect via VNC...in that order.
Depending on how much memory your Mac has you may need to make multiple instances of Vine Server. This way each instance will run in its own memory space and not as a seperate thread of the parent app. On an iMac with 512Mb I was able to get at most 2 connections before more attempts would fail to start. Creating a seperate copy of the app for each user I can run 5 or more connections without too much issue (this is before running any apps)
On Macs with an iSight camera, a user can start the camera (like with PhotoBooth), switch to the login screen and will be able to see what the camera sees via VNC (doing so will be slow and might even freze the session for that user though).
Each user will need to physically log onto the Mac first to get this to work (no VNC session to the login screen yet).
Original instructions shamelessly lifted from http://macosx.com/forums/howto-faqs/52547-howto-simultaneous-user-environments-via-vnc.htmlhttp://teamspace.imt.csiro.au/confluence/images/icons/linkext7.gif (http://macosx.com/forums/howto-faqs/52547-howto-simultaneous-user-environments-via-vnc.html)

Obviously the more RAM the better. The iMac I used to test this only had 512Mb (it now has 1Gb) but was still responsive enough to run one or two apps per user.

If you have to ask "Why the hell would you want to do this" then you don't need to. Useful for shared computers where more than one person wants to use the computer (they sign in, switch to the login screen and go back to their desktop computer). We use if for Windows users that need to use that one Mac only application but can't justify a new Mac to run it (also means I get to play with big, beefy Mac Pro's and not have to pay for them :) )