Logging in - Graphical Desktop Interface

Give Me GUI!

Despite the gnarly sounding title of this page, it's probably what you will need to learn to do, first and foremost. Getting a remote desktop of your own on the compute servers will let you do all sorts of things, like run Matlab, FreeSurfer, Python, and so forth. Some people are comfortable just logging into a server via a command-line interface like SSH, but many prefer to see a more user-friendly interface. For this, I strongly suggest you use the software package "NX" - it requires the fewest steps to connect and is generally better than the other options. If someone tells you that you should use something called VNC instead, tell him or her that they will have to arm wrestle you first.

Remote Access using NX Client

NX is a client/server system that will allow you to connect via a graphical interface to a server. To get started, you need to download the appropriate client for your operating system...

Once you've installed NX Client, you need to set up a connection profile. This just means entering a name for the connection (can be anything, but I suggest using the hostname of the remote computer, e.g., ba1.mit.edu as well as the remote hostname (probably the same as the connection name, e.g., ba1.mit.edu.

Note that there is a slider that lets you choose the sort of network connection you have. I tend to find that for desktops that are on MITNet, the "LAN" option gives best results, while wireless connections of any sort or wired connections from off-campus tend to do better with the "WAN" setting. If you are on a really slow connection, you might need to ratchet this setting down to find an optimum balance between snazziness and function.

IMPORTANT... Read the next bit carefully, since most of the questions I get about failed NX connections stem from having KDE instead of GNOME set up in the connection profile.... Next, you need to set up your Desktop session to use Gnome, instead of the default KDE (KDE is not currently installed on the cluster). Just select Gnome from the drop-down box as seen in the following figure.

Now you will get a login prompt; use your regular hive username and password.

If you're running Microsoft Windows, you'll probably need to answer a bunch of annoying messages about unblocking nxssh and other apps.

The very first time you connect to this host, you'll probably also be prompted to trust the remote site's key.

After all that, you'll be set. Once you connect, you'll get a standard Gnome desktop. Note that NX works a little differently from VNC, in that you don't tend to run tons of tunnels at once - in fact, if you try to connect to a host where you already have a desktop open, your previously-open client session will close and you'll be connected to your existing desktop. This is meant to be a feature, not a bug.