Headless does not mean you can’t use the GUI

Written by James McDonald

July 11, 2008

The Problem: So you have a firewall / server box that you don’t want to run X on but you would rather forgo the pleasure of editing all the config files by hand. What to do?

A resolution: Use ssh X forwarding to bring those remote GUI programs to your local workstation.

How to Linux: If you run ssh as follows on your local workstation.

ssh -Y user@host

You should then be able to run an X application on the remote headless box by typing the program at the ssh prompt and it should hook up to your local X server. e.g.

system-config-network

On Windows:
Install Cygwin and select the X-startup-scripts package which will give you an X server.
Launch an X session using the startxwin.bat file you should have an xterm window pop up.
Use ssh -Y user@hostname in the xterm window to connect to the remote box.
You can then issue a command to any X application and it should launch on your local workstation.

What you get:
So the end result will be you are sitting at your workstation ssh’d into the remote box that isn’t running X and the program you run from the ssh command prompt will pop up on your workstation. No more vi edit, fix, repeat. With the GUI it’s just like Windows Next, Next, Next, Next, Next, Next, Next, Back, Next Finish, Repeat.

Caveats
Note: On the remote Linux box the sshd_config file requires “X11Forwarding yes” as an option.

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