Friday, November 28, 2014

Getting X11 setup in Mint and connecting with Windows

On my previous post I explained how to connect remotely to your box through SSH. Nevertheless, that was limited to a text terminal type interface, i.e., no access to graphical applications. So, now that we got the ssh running, we want to be able to get a GUI through that pipe, i.e., a remote graphical interface to our Linux box. I basically followed these steps:
  1. You got to make sure that you got the right software on the client (Windows on my case) machine (I use Xming) and on the server side (xorg). In my case, I had to install Xming. Xorg was there. I also installed xterm but I don't think it is required (?)
  2. Installing Xming was really straightforward and didn't require any configuration. When you run it will stay on the background (you can see it as a process).
  3. Then you can launch PuTTY (see my previous post on SSH). Make sure X11 forward option is there (see link above...)
  4. Once Xming is running, you should be able to launch graphical applications...  
Note: if for any reason this does not work, delete all .Xauthority* files from your home directory, reinstall Xorg (sudo apt-get --purge remove xorg and sudo apt-get install xorg) and login again.

I am not an expert on X Window system and have not researched the details at all, but if I had to guess, basically the client (Xming) gets commands (through the SSH connection) that tell it what to paint in the screen. Xorg is the one sending those. I guess the commands are kind of high level to minimize network bandwidth. Also, the client sends commands to interact with the windows.

If anybody knows of a simple explanation/link, please comment :)

I believe there are also configuration options that can improve the quality of what you get. Nevertheless, in my case, I just jumped all the way to VNC. This is not ideal, though, as it does require to have an open session on the server. Bandwidth requirements are also likely higher. So, I may come back and create  further post on this.

Also in VNC one has to be careful with security/lack of encryption. Anyhow, that will be described in my next post...


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