Graphical Linux applications are called X applications as they use the X Windows protocol to communicate with the display. Unlike the simple terminal (shell) interface for logging into Linux (using an SSH client), running graphical Linux programs remotely requires some setup and consideration.

Running a single X application

If all you need to run and interact with is a single remote X application, and you will exit it before logging out, we recommend the following strategy if you are a Windows or Mac user in MCECS.

Pick the VPN and RDP client of your choice or use our web based RDP client at:

Use that to log into a Windows Remote Lab computer. Find and run the mobaXterm program. Click on Session and then select the SSH session type. Specify the remote host as the Linux system you want to log into (you can ignore the username at this stage), and click on OK.

Then follow the login and password prompt to login to the Linux system. Once you have gotten to a terminal (shell), run the X application (graphical Linux application) you want. It will start up and open up graphical windows on your remote desktop connection. You can then use the program. When you are done, exit the program before logging out from your remote desktop connection.

Running a full graphical Linux desktop remotely

If you want to remotely run a full Linux graphical desktop including its own window manager, you will need to set up a VNC session. A VNC session allows you to keep your desktop session running, while you disconnect and reconnect to it. It is ideal for long running work.

Running a VNC session involves setting up an SSH tunnel to the Linux system, running a VNC server on the Linux system that starts the remotely accessible X windows desktop, and then running a VNC viewer locally so that you can interact with that remote Linux desktop.

We have details for various platforms. Replace the example names of the Linux systems with the host you are intending to run the VNC server on.