Headless ECS Liva

I bought the Liva and Brix to use headless. I didn’t want them to be media centers hooked up to a TV because I already had devices that did this pretty well. Instead I wanted to use them as music sources. Originally I wanted the Raspberry Pi to fulfill this duty, but the USB problem really killed it for me.

In a nutshell, the Liva acts as a music server, using mpd, that hooks up to a networked drive. It also acts as an airplay receiver that anyone who has an iOS device and is on my network can send songs to. To control mpd, I use an mpd client for iPhone called MPoD (MPaD for iPad). I’m also able to control mpd using my universal ir remote. I can send it commands to stop a song, play a song, etc. As far as maintenance of the Liva goes, everything can be done using ssh and vnc which will be what I cover in this post.

Install SSH

After the Linux Mint install is complete, install ssh first by using this command.

sudo apt-get install ssh

sshing into the Liva

In terminal on your Mac, just type:

ssh username@LivaIPaddress

If this is the first time you’ve ssh’d into the Liva, it’ll ask you about a security key/known host. Type yes. Side note, every time you reinstall an OS the security key changes. So you won’t be able to ssh into the Liva. You will have to clear out your known_hosts file that is hidden in your home directory on your Mac.

Activate desktop sharing.

On the Mac, you can desktop share with your Liva pretty nicely once it’s set up. The Chrome OS VNC app works pretty well too.

Desktop Sharing Preferences

First you will need to activate desktop sharing. In Cinnamon, go to Menu > Preferences > Desktop Sharing. Then allow the viewing and controlling of the desktop. Make sure the “You must confirm each access…” checkbox is deselected otherwise who is going to confirm it!? Requiring a password is optional. I activated this option. You can leave the notifications off since it’s kind of pointless in a headless set up.

dsp

Require Encryption?

Vino, Mint’s desktop sharing app, is installed on Mint by default, but there seems to be a weird bug that doesn’t allow you to vnc into the computer even if you do activate desktop sharing. It’s related to encrypted connections. I guess Vino can’t do them, so you’ll have to turn off that option. In order to do that you will have to install dconf-tools using:

sudo apt-get install dconf-tools

Once installed, in Cinnamon, go to Menu > Administration > dconf editor. Then in dconf editor go to org > gnome > desktop > remote-access. Deselect “Require Encryption”. X out and reboot.

dconf

Connecting

Find the ip address of your liva and connect to it using the “Screen Sharing” option on the Mac or vnc for Chrome OS. Enter the Liva’s ip address, and then your password (the one you used in the desktop sharing preference). You should now be able to see your screen.

Now let’s go headless for real!

At this stage, my Liva will not boot up in Linux without a monitor connected. What the? Dang, then what was the point of this post? Yes, irritating. It stops before it connects to the network. I can’t even ping it. So no ssh. Most modern computers allow you to boot without a monitor. It’s normally something you can adjust in the bios. The Liva’s bios does not have this option as far as I can tell. Interestingly, Windows 8.1 does boot headless. Does this mean it’s a Linux thing and not a bios thing? My Brix will boot up in Linux headless though. Maybe something in GRUB? Nothing I changed in the configuration helped.

My solution right now is to use a vga dummy plug. It’s a little plug with some strategically placed resistors which goes into the vga port of the Liva and tricks it into thinking a monitor is connected. I really don’t like this solution though.

VGA Dummy Plug

2 Comments

  1. Liva X (2GB/32GB varient)
    BIOS v2.16.1242
    OS : Arch (Minimal) with Wireless and Wired connections configured. Pretty stock install, no grub/ kernel parameter hacks.

    Following settings in BIOS work making this box boot headless (without dummy plug, these setting were applied AFTER resetting BIOS to ‘Optimized Defaults’ (press F3)):

    Boot ->
    Operating System Select = Manual
    OS Selection (ACPI) = Windows 8.x
    Boot -> CSM configuration
    CSM Support = Enabled

    I had success booting Debian 8 (Jessie) also in headless mode, which was again a console only install.
    Please let me know if this works in your case.

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