Raspberry Pi Solves Remote Headless Connection Headaches with the Browser-Based Raspberry Pi Connect

Secure peer-to-peer system needs no firewall faffing nor the installation of special VNC clients — just your existing web browser.

Gareth Halfacree
1 month agoSecurity / Communication

Raspberry Pi is looking to make it easier to gain secure access to your single-board computers, wherever you may be — using Raspberry Pi Connect, available in public beta form today, in the web browser of your choice.

"It's often extremely useful to be able to access your Raspberry Pi's desktop remotely. There are a number of technologies which can be used to do this, including VNC, and of course the X protocol itself," says Raspberry Pi's Gordon Hollingworth.

"But they can be hard to configure, particularly when you are attempting to access a machine on a different local network; and of course with the transition to Wayland in Raspberry Pi OS Bookworm, classic X remote desktop support is no longer available. We wanted to be able to provide you with this functionality with our usual 'it just works' approach. Enter Raspberry Pi Connect."

Raspberry Pi Connect aims to deliver a solution to two separate-but-related problems. The first is accessing a graphical desktop session on a headless or remote Raspberry Pi, which normally needs the user to install a VNC client — and, in the case of Raspberry Pi OS Bookworm and its switch to Wayland, only specific VNC clients are supported. The second is accessing a Raspberry Pi that isn't on a local network without exposing it to the world at large.

The first problem is solved by Raspberry Pi Connect running a compatible VNC client entirely in-browser, meaning no special software needs to be installed. The second is handled using a peer-to-peer connectivity system, which doesn't need holes to be poked in a user's firewall — taking the same approach as popular browser-based videoconferencing clients to connect you to your Raspberry Pi.

"When you use Raspberry Pi Connect from a web browser to connect to your Raspberry Pi device, we establish a secure peer-to-peer connection between the two using WebRTC: the same real-time communication technology that underpins the in-browser clients for Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet," Raspberry Pi's Paul Mucur explains.

"Our 'rpi-connect' daemon for Raspberry Pi OS is responsible for listening out for new screen sharing sessions from the Raspberry Pi Connect website," Mucur continues, "and negotiating the best possible (i.e. lowest latency) connection between the in-browser VNC client and a VNC server running on your device."

Raspberry Pi Connect is available now, exclusively for the 64-bit Raspberry Pi OS Bookworm running in the default Wayland mode, with documentation on the Raspberry Pi website. "Raspberry Pi Connect is in beta at the moment," Hollingworth warns, "so please bear in mind that you might come across the occasional limitation or imperfection."

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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