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Connect to the SSCC with the FastX2 Desktop Client

The FastX2 Desktop Client is an application for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X systems that makes a network connection to the SSCC using SSH. It gives you a Linux connection with full graphics support via the Linux X Windows system, also called X11.  FastX is made available to members of the Northwestern community under a campus site license.

"FastX offers high speed X Windows performance when displaying remote Linux desktops on Windows, Mac and Linux PCs. FastX lets you work at LAN speed over the Internet or to servers far away. FastX secures the X Windows connection with encrypted SSH tunneling. The remote Linux desktop is persistent. If you lose the connection, simply reconnect. Sessions continue to run on the remote host." -- StarNet Communications

Configuration is done once. Then it's easy to make connections from your personal computer to the SSCC login hosts.

The FastX2 Browser Client is a lightweight alternative to this full-featured desktop client.

Prepare to Use FastX

Configure FastX

Connect with FastX

Important Advice

VPN Connection REQUIRED for Off-Campus Users

To connect using FastX from an off-campus location, you must first establish a VPN connection. That gives you an authenticated and secure connection to the Northwestern network that can be trusted by the FastX server and by the SSCC.

Download and Install FastX (VPN Connection REQUIRED)

Windows:

  1. Download the FastX Installer to your PC.
  2. Run the installer.

Mac OS X:

  1. Download the FastX disk image to your Mac.
  2. Open the disk image named FastX.dmg.
  3. Drag FastX into your Applications folder.

Run FastX for the First Time

Windows:

Use the Start Menu (Click Start Menu > All Programs > FastX) or use the Start Screen to find the FastX application and Run it. When asked to allow FastX to communicate through the firewall, Allow it.

Mac OS X:

  1. In the Finder, open the Applications folder and locate FastX.
  2. Press the Control-key and click the FastX icon.
  3. Choose Open from the pop-up menu.
  4. Click Open.

Note: FastX will be stored as an exception to your security settings and you will subsequently be able to run it by double-clicking the FastX icon. You will have to do this each time you upgrade FastX.

Create Connections

FastX Connections use SSH to connect to an SSCC login host and launch the FastX Server (named fastx2_sci). Create a separate Connection for each login host you might use.

Click the PLUS icon in the upper right corner of the window.

Select SSH from the drop-down list. A New Connection window will open.

Anyone with an SSCC account can use Hardin.

  1. Name: Enter Hardin
  2. Host: Enter hardin.it.northwestern.edu
  3. Port: 22
  4. User: Enter your own NetID in lower-case letters.
  5. Click Save.

Anyone with an SSCC account can use Seldon. Click the PLUS icon to create another new Connection. 

  1. Name: Enter Seldon
  2. Host: Enter seldon.it.northwestern.edu
  3. Port: 22
  4. User: Enter your own NetID in lower-case letters.
  5. Click Save.

Dornick is specialized for students and faculty in the School for Professional Studies Predictive Analytics Program. Click the PLUS icon.

  1. Name: Enter Dornick
  2. Host: Enter dornick.it.northwestern.edu
  3. Port: 22
  4. User: Enter your own NetID in lower-case letters.
  5. Click Save.

Selected IPR Users Only: Click the PLUS icon.

  1. Name: Enter Mule2
  2. Host: Enter mule2.ipr.northwestern.edu
  3. Port: 22
  4. User: Enter your own NetID in lower-case letters.
  5. Click Save.

Open a Connection to an SSCC Login Host

Double-click a login host name in the Connections window. A window will pop up for you to Enter your NetID password. Then Click Continue.

FastX will open an SSH connection to the login host and run the FastX server named fastx2_sci on that host. FastX on your personal computer communicates with fastx2_sci to manage your Sessions. A Session Management window opens, with the title bar showing the name of the connection and your username and login host address. You will have no sessions to begin with, so the window will appear to be empty. You can open multiple sessions on any login host.

Start a Session

Click the PLUS icon in the upper right corner of the Session Management window to create a new Session.  A new window will appear.

Click the Bookmarks button and Select GNOME Terminal from the drop-down list. The Command box will change to start a single application program named gnome-terminal. Click OK. Your GNOME Terminal window will open, and your Sessions window will change to show that you have a single session named GNOME Terminal.

The full list of Suggestions includes:

  1. GNOME Terminal
  2. Xfce Lightweight Desktop
  3. GNOME Desktop
  4. xterm

The GNOME Terminal Command Line Window is a traditional GNOME Terminal session. Type Linux commands in this window. Manage batch jobs. Launch graphical IDEs like xstata and rstudio. Edit your files with the evim GUI. GNOME Terminal is the most common means of access to the SSCC. Explore the menu bar items to learn more about the features of GNOME Terminal. GNOME Terminal is the recommended way to use the SSCC.

Xfce is a lightweight desktop environment for Linux that is designed to be fast and to use system resources efficiently. It is much more resource-intensive than GNOME Terminal.

The GNOME Desktop is a standard desktop for Red Hat Enterprise Linux. It is even more resource-intensive than Xfce.

xterm is a traditional terminal emulator for the X Window system. It is not recommended.

The SSCC has minimal support for the Xfce and GNOME desktops. Most analytic applications are only available from the command line.

Disconnecting and Reconnecting Sessions

Running sessions are listed in the FastX Session Management window. Sessions continue to run on the login host until terminated by you, or if you exit the terminal window or logout from a desktop session.

You can disconnect a running session by selecting a session and then clicking the Pause Button.

You can reconnect to a paused session by double-clicking on the session, or by selecting a session and then clicking the Reconnect Button.

If a connection is lost, perhaps due to a network failure, the session will disconnect. You might want to disconnect in your office, go home, and reconnect. 

To get back after a connection loss, first open a Connection to the login host you were previously using. Your sessions will be listed again in the Sessions window.

Click the Blue Triangle to connect to a selected session.

Click the Blue Pause Button to disconnect a selected session.

Disconnected sessions will be terminated after three hours of non-use to conserve system resources.

Terminating Sessions

Sessions can be terminated by exit or logout commands, or they can be terminated from the FastX program.

Click the Blue X Button to terminate a selected session.

Session Sharing in FastX

Session sharing provides multiple users the ability to view and optionally interact with a running FastX session. Sharing can be enabled and disabled on the fly.

Session sharing is only available for Desktop sessions (either Xfce or GNOME). You cannot share a simple Terminal session.

Every user sharing a session must have an active SSCC account.

Session Sharing in FastX explains how to use FastX to share a Desktop session with guests. Note that sharing controls now appear when you move the mouse pointer over the title bar of the desktop.

Repeated Password Prompts

If you are repeatedly prompted for your password:

If you have changed your password, be aware that it may take a few minutes for the change to be recognized by the SSCC login hosts.

Common VPN Issues

If your attempt to login times out, or if the network connection is rejected, make sure that your VPN connection to the Northwestern network is active.

If your attempt to login fails because the SSCC host address is not found, make sure that your VPN connection is properly configured.

It's best to telephone the IT Support Center to obtain help with VPN problems.

Last Updated: 5 June 2017

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