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Installing Software on a Headless Xserve G5

I needed to run the Dantz Retrospect Backlup client onto my new Apple XServe G5. The problem is that the G5 doesn’t have a monitor. You can install packages through the command line on the server. Simply ssh into the box, then run the installer command. If you want to log into the box with a graphical interface, as is required for programs that don’t provide a package, Apple recommends you buy the $299 “Apple Remote Desktop.” That is a lot of money for a one time use.

Then I remembered that OS X 10.4 includes a VNC server in the system. On Tiger clients, its in the Sharing system preference pane. On Tiger server, however that option is not available. So I decided to install a VNC server.

1. Download the OSXvnc server application.

2. Copy the OSXvnc application to your XServe’s /Applications/ folder. I did this by sharing the root level of the hard drive, logging into the XServe (Apple-K) from my computer, and copying the application into the /Applications/ folder. Then I disconnected from the drive, and turned off the sharing of the root folder.

3. Ssh into the XServe.

4. I then ran the OSXvnc program by typing “sudo open /Applications/” You should be prompted for the system password.

5. Then using a VNC client (I recommend Chicken of the VNC, available at I connected to my XServe. I was prompted with a standard OS X login box. I logged in as a user with administrative privileges.

6. Then I ran the Retrospect Client installer. It prompted me for for a few things (Retrospect password) and then restarted the server. Once the machine restarts, you will be disconnected from the VNC server. You’ll need to re-enable it if you want to log in again through Chicken of the VNC. You can enable OSXvnc to come up automatically when the server starts up, but be sure to set a password if you do that. You can also change the port that is used.

That’s all there was to it. I saved $300 through two open-source applications.