Use your smartphone as a GUI display for your pi

With a very simple hack, we can use our smartphone as a GUI display for your raspberry pi. This can work over remotely and there is not HDMI or any other connector required to connect your smartphone to your pi.

There are a few apps that you would require on your smartphone. Download and install

Xserver XSDL

Xserver XSDL is a xserver which can be run on your smartphone. Whereas connectbot is a simple ssh client for connecting to your raspberry pi via ssh. The trick here is to run the Xserver on your smartphone. Ssh to your pi and tell your pi to forward the display to the Xserver running on your smartphone.

Let us see the configurations that need to be verified on the pi. Ssh to your raspberry pi over the network and check the following configuration options in these files.


AllowTcpForwarding yes
X11Forwarding yes
X11DisplayOffset 10


ForwardX11 yes
ForwardX11Trusted yes

If these configuration options are commented out, simply uncomment them. Else add them and restart your ssh server on your pi.

$ sudo service ssh restart

Now start the app Xserver XSDL on your smart phone. It may download a set of fonts and will then ask you to run some commands on your linux PC. The Xserver starts running on port 6000. Now, we need to forward the display of pi to our smartphone.

Go back to the ssh connection on your smartphone and run these commands.

$ export DISPLAY=           
$ export PULSE_SERVER=tcp:

My smartphone is running on the ip And i am forwarding the display directly to the Xserver running on port 6000.
This is insecure as the port forwarding is not happening over ssh but directly from the pi to the smartphone. But if you are on a local network, it should not matter.

Now simply start your lxde desktop environment on the ssh connection. Execute the following command on the ssh connection.

$ startlxde

And bingo…

It is not very comfortable for working as the mouse pointer is difficult to catch and click. But if you have an old smartphone or tablet lying around, you can use it as a display – running a smart photo frame or a hanging smart calendar.


Deployments are a critical phase of any project. In the “stone age”, developers used to simply scp the files required into production. And there used to be issues when you are dealing with multiple http servers. Keeping all the servers in sync was always the issue.

Then capistrano came into picture. It made deployment of ruby/rails apps very easy. Me and a few other people went ahead and modified it to deploy code into production for php apps as well. But it was a tricky job since capistrano was originally designed to work for ruby/rails apps. Here is a sample capistrano code that sucks out code from svn and pushes it to multiple web servers – and then runs some specific post deployment tasks on them


set :application, “app”
set :repository,  “http:///tags/TAG102”
set :imgpath, “/var/images”

# svn settings
set :deploy_via, :copy
set :scm, :subversion
set :scm_username, “svn_username”
set :scm_password, “svn_password”
set :scm_checkout, “export”
set :copy_cache, true
set :copy_exclude, [“.svn”, “**/.svn”]

# ssh settings
set :user, “server_username”
set :use_sudo, true
default_run_options[:pty] = true

#deployment settings
set :current_dir, “html”
set :deploy_to, “”
set :site_root, “/var/www/#{current_dir}”
set :keep_releases, 3

#web servers
role :web, “”,”″,”″

#the actual script
namespace :deploy do
    desc <<-DESC
  deploy the app
    task :update do
      transaction do

    task :finalize_update do
      transaction do
        sudo “chown -R apache.apache #{release_path}”
        sudo “ln -nfs #{imgpath}/images #{release_path}/images”     

    task :symlink do
      transaction do
            puts “Symlinking #{current_path} to #{site_root}.”
            sudo “ln -nfs #{release_path} #{site_root}”

    task :migrate do
      #do nothing

    task :restart do
      #do nothing

This sucks out the code from the svn repository. creates a tar on local. Scps it to production web servers. Untars it to the specified location. Runs all the tasks specified in finalize_update and finally changes the symlink of “html” directory to the new deployed path. The good point about capistrano is that you are almost blind as to what happens in the backend. The bad point is that since you are blind, you do not know how to do what you want to do. It would need a bit of digging and a bit of tweaking to get your requirements fulfilled by this script.

Now lets check fabric.

Installation is quite easy using pip.

sudo pip install fabric

In case you like the old fashioned way, you can go ahead and download the source code and do a

sudo python install

To create a fabric script, you need to create a simple fab file with whatever you require. For example, if you need to run a simple command like ‘uname -a’ on all your servers, just create a simple script with the following code

from fabric.api import run

def host_type():
        run(‘uname -a’)

And run the script using the following command

$ fab -f -H localhost, host_type

[localhost] Executing task ‘host_type’
[localhost] run: uname -a
[localhost] Login password:
[localhost] out: Linux gamegeek 3.2.0-24-generic #37-Ubuntu SMP Wed Apr 25 08:43:22 UTC 2012 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux

[] Executing task ‘host_type’
[] run: uname -a
[] out: Linux gamegeek 3.2.0-24-generic #37-Ubuntu SMP Wed Apr 25 08:43:22 UTC 2012 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux

Disconnecting from localhost… done.
Disconnecting from… done.

A simple fabric script which can do whatever the earlier capistrano script was doing is here.

from __future__ import with_statement
from fabric.api import *
from fabric.operations import local,put

def production():
  env.user = ‘server_username’
  env.hosts = [‘′,’′,’’]
  env.deploy_to = ”
  env.site_root = ‘/var/www/html’
  env.tag_name = ‘tag101’
  env.repository = {  ‘url’:’http:///tags/TAG101′,
            ‘username’: ‘svn_username’,
            ‘password’: ‘svn_password’,
            ‘command’: ‘svn export –force’,
  env.image_path = ‘/var/images’

def deploy():

def checkout():
  local(‘%s –username %s –password %s –no-auth-cache %s /tmp/%s’ %
    (env.repository[‘command’], env.repository[‘username’], env.repository[‘password’], env.repository[‘url’], env.tag_name));

def pack():
  local(‘tar -czf /tmp/%s.tar.gz /tmp/%s’ % (env.tag_name, env.tag_name))

def unpack():
  put(‘/tmp/%s.tar.gz’ % (env.tag_name), ‘/tmp/’)
  with cd(‘%s’ % (env.deploy_to)):
    run(‘tar -xzf /tmp/%s.tar.gz’ % (env.tag_name))

def symlinks():
  run(‘ln -nfs %s/images %s/%s/images’ % (env.image_path, env.deploy_to, env.tag_name))

def makelive():
  run(‘ln -nfs %s/%s %s’ % (env.deploy_to, env.tag_name, env.site_root))

The good point is that i have more control on what i want to do using fabric as compared to capistrano. And it took me a lot less time to cook the fabric recipe as compared to capistrano.

To run this script simply do

fab production deploy

This will execute the tasks production and deploy in that order. You can have separate settings for staging and local in the same script. You can even go ahead and create your own deployment infrastructure and process to do whatever you want without running into any restrictions.

cfengine – a beginners guide A tool to automate infra…