Beginners Headless Zynthian Tutorial

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Introduction

Here's a simple as possible step by step beginners tutorial to setup a headless Zynthian.

A headless Zynthian is a Raspberry Pi with ZynthianOS without the screen, the buttons and the knobs. All is controlled remotely via another computer, a tablet, a smartphone or a midi controller. In most of the cases, the Zynthian Kit is the better way to use ZynthianOS. But sometimes, headless configuration could be interesting.

Hardware

  1. Raspberry Pi (Pi4 recommanded)
  2. SD card (class 10)
  3. Power supply (take the official one)
  4. I2S DAC (sound card) (recommanded sound cards)

ZynthianOS

  1. Download the last stable Zynthian OS image
  2. Download Etcher
  3. Burn the ZynthianOS image on an SD card

Network Connexion

  • The more simple way for making a network connexion is to directly connect an ethernet cable from the Raspberry Pi to the computer.
  • Another way is to connect the two devices to an Ethernet switch.

Web Browser

You will need a web browser but not all are working well for that purpose.

  • Google Chrome is reported to works well

First Boot

  1. Put the SD on the raspberry
  2. Power on by plugin the power supply
  3. Wait a little bit
  4. Open your web browser

If you cannot enter to the Zynthian WebConf Tools, wait a little bit more. Then try to reboot by powering off. Then, try to burn another SD card.

Configure Internet

  • If you are connected via an ethernet switch, connect the switch to your internet box
  • If you are directly connected via an ethernet cable, configure the Wifi on the WebConf page:
System / WIFI / Add Network

Mode = ON

Update ZynthianOS

Now that you are connected to the Internet, you can update Zynthian OS via the WebConf:

Software / Update

System / Reboot

Configure the hardware

Configure your hardware setup via the WebConf:

Hardware / Kit / Custom

Hardware / Audio / Select your soundcard on the list

Hardware / Display / Generic HDMI Display

Hardware / Wiring / DUMMIES


 System / Reboot

Install VNC Server on the Raspberry Pi

VNC allows you to remotely have the Raspberry Pi screen on your personal computer, your tablet or your smartphone. To install VNC (or other softwares) on the Raspberry Pi, you need an access to the terminal:

  • Option 1 : via the WebConf terminal
System / Terminal
  • Option 2 : via SSH (that's mean via another terminal)

- On MacOS, open the MacOS Terminal and type:

ssh zynthian.local 

It will first ask your mac password and then the Synthian password (raspberry). Then, if you see root@zynthian:~ you are on the Raspberry Pi terminal.

Note : On MacOS, if you need to re-burn your SD card and have the error message “Host key verification failed” when you try to connect via SSH, you need to erase the previous SSH information with the nano text editor in the ssh known_hosts by running this command:

sudo nano /var/root/.ssh/known_hosts


In nano, delete the zynthian line (control K), then write the file (control O + enter), then quit (control X).

- On Windows, download PuTTy and do the same that for MacOS.

  1. When you are on the Raspberry Pi terminal, run the following commands:
sudo apt update
sudo apt install realvnc-vnc-server 
sudo raspi-config

Interfacing Options / VNC / Yes

Install VNC Viewer in your Devices

  1. Download and install VNC viewer in your devices:
  1. Connect to the Zynthian UI via VNC:

You should be on the same network (ethernet cable and/or Wifi). Type the raspberry pi IP address (on Windows and android) or zynthian.local (on MacOS and iOS) in VNC Viewer.


User name : root

Password : raspberry

You should now have the Zynthian UI working remotely.

For a better use, configure Zynthian UI for headless use in the WebConf:

Interface / UI options
 
Advanced view : ON

Enable Touch Widgets: ON

Enable cursor: ON

On stage, you can disconnect the Zynthian from internet and configure it as a hotspot for connecting your devices to it. For this, go to the WebConf:

System / WIFI / Hotspot

OPTIONAL STEPS

Accessing the Native GUI

If you want to access from your computer to the Graphical User Interface of softwares like Pure data that run on the Raspberry Pi, you need to install an X11 server on your computer:

On the X11 server’s terminal (xterm) that run on your computer, send the command:

ssh -Y root@zynthian.local

On the Zythian UI, create a new Pure Data layer (or other engine with supported native GUI: ZynAddSubFX, Aeolus and Pianoteq) and thehe Pure Data GUI should appears on your computer screen.

Accessing the ZynthianOS Folders

If you want to graphically access to the Zynthian OS files and folders (not recommended for beginners):

  1. install an SFPT client on your computer:
  1. Open an SFPT connection:
Server : zynthian.local (MacOS) or IP Address (Windows)

User : root

Password : raspberry
  1. If, for exemple, you want to access to the Pure Data externals folders for manually installing externals that aren’t available via another way, simpli use it as a normal finder, go to:
/usr/lib/pd/extra

And upload your custom externals.