Graphical User Interfaces (GUI)

The Wynton HPC environment supports running a graphical user interface (GUI) on Wynton HPC while viewing and interacting with it on your local computer. More specifically, and in more technical terms, Wynton HPC supports NX and X11 Forwarding protocols

X2Go (NX protocol)


Due to limitation in X2Go Client, it is not possible to connect to Wynton HPC when using SSH password(*). Instead, in order to connect to Wynton using the X2Go Client, you have to have a working SSH key pair set up and configured the X2Go client.

If you are connecting to Wynton from off campus, you will also have to have 2 Factor Authentication setup.

Setup of the X2Go Client (once)

First, you will need to install the X2Go Client on your local computer. For instructions on how to do this, see Installing X2Go Client. When you first run x2goclient:

  1. Use the menus to create a New Session …
  2. Pick a Session name, e.g. Wynton HPC
  3. Set the Host to a development node. Currently one of: dev1, dev2, dev3, or gpudev1
  4. Set the Login to your Wynton HPC username, e.g. alice
  5. In the Use RSA/DSA key for ssh connection, enter the path to the your private SSH Key.
  6. Select Try auto login (via SSH Agent or default SSH key)
  7. Check Use Proxy server for SSH connection
  8. Then in the Proxy server section:
    • Check Same login as on X2Go Server
    • Check Same password as on X2Go Server
    • Set Host to a Wynton HPC login node. Currently one of: or
    • In the RSA/DSA key: field enter the path to your private SSH Key.
    • Select SSH Agent or default SSH key
  9. In the Session type section, choose MATE

Logging in

Launch x2go client.

Double Click configured session (above).

Dialog: Enter Passphrase to decrypt a key

Enter ssh key passphrase (if set)

Dialog: Choose DUO Authentication Method (Only if connecting from off campus.)

Perform Duo Authentication as prompted

Dialog: Remember connection authentication for 12 hours? [y/N]

Input y (This is important, it does NOT work if you choose “N”)

Dialog: MATE on dev2 (This may happen with some configurations, even if you are using SSH Keys. We are investigating.)

Enter Wynton Password

Dialog: Enter passphrase to decrypt a key.

Enter ssh key passphrase (if set)

Dialog: Enter passphrase to decrypt a key.

Enter ssh key passphrase (if set)

Wait, Wait, MATE launches.

3D Graphics with X2Go (in alpha testing)

The X2Go client provides basic support for 3D applications with a software implementation of an ancient version of OpenGL. On the GPU development nodes (i.e., gpudev1), VirtualGL is installed so you can use hardware accelerated 3D graphics. All you need to do is:

  1. Opt-in by sending email to with the subject vglusers
  2. Wait for confirmation that you have added to the vglusers group
  3. Use the vglrun program to run your program on a development node, either
    • by starting the application from a terminal (example below), or
    • by using a Wynton desktop shortcut, after editing it in your Wynton ~/Desktop to have vglrun inserted before the program name on the Exec= line

For example:

[alice@dev2 ~]$ vglrun your-program

You have to opt-in because there is a slight security risk. See case (2) for details. Case (1) does not apply because all of the development nodes are headless.

X11 Forwarding over SSH

You can also use X11 forwarding over the SSH connection used to connect to Wynton HPC.

Verify that you have a working X11 server (once)

Note that, to do this, you will need to be running an X server on your local machine. You can check this by verifying that environment variable DISPLAY is set on your local computer, e.g.

{local}$ echo "DISPLAY='$DISPLAY'"

If DISPLAY is empty, that is, you get:

{local}$ echo "DISPLAY='$DISPLAY'"

then you don’t have a local X server set up and the below will not work.

Log into the cluster with X11 forwarding

To setup the X11 forwarding when connecting to the cluster, just add option -X to your SSH call. For performance reasons, we will also add option -C to enable SSH compression. By using compression, the responsiveness and latency in GUIs will be much smaller - our benchmarks show a 5-7 times improvement when connected via the UCSF VPN (~60 Mbps download and ~5 Mbps upload). To login with X11 forwarding and compression enabled, do:

{local}$ ssh -X -C password: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
[alice@log1 ~]$ echo "DISPLAY='$DISPLAY'"
[alice@log1 ~]$

By checking that DISPLAY is set, we know that X11 forwarding is in place. If DISPLAY is empty, then make sure you have specified -X.

Log into a development node with X11 forwarding

Now, since we should not run anything on the login nodes, the next step is to head over to one of the development nodes. When doing so, we have remember to keep using X11 forward, that is, we need to use -X also here;

[alice@log1 ~]$ ssh -X dev2
alice1@dev2:s password: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
[alice@dev2 ~]$ echo "DISPLAY='$DISPLAY'"
[alice@dev2 ~]$

Comment: There is no need to use SSH compression in this second step. If used, it might even have a negative effect on the X11 latency.

Now, we have an X11 forward setup that runs all the way back to our local computer. This will allow us to open, for instance, an XTerm window that runs on dev2 but can be interacted with on the local computer;

[alice@dev2 ~]$ xterm
[ ... an XTerm window is opened up ... ]

If you get an error here, make sure that DISPLAY is set and non-empty.

Tips: You can login into a development node via a login node in a single call, e.g.

{local}$ ssh -X -C ssh -X dev2
[alice@dev2 ~]$