How do I run GUI apps remotely with VNC?

With VNC (Virtual Network Computing) allows you to use GUI applications over a remote connection. If you only have one application to run, consider using X11 forwarding instead.

The instructions below are for connecting to Eniac using VNC. The same instructions will work for other remote resources, such as Biglab and Speclab.

Server setup

Since VNC is not running by default, you will need to start VNC on the remote machine (the computer you're connecting to):

ssh -t eniac.seas.upenn.edu vncserver

Provide a password for the VNC connection when prompted to do so.

Client setup

Now we need to configure the client. For good security, you should tunnel your VNC connection over SSH. Run this command on your local machine (the computer you're connecting from):

ssh -L 5901:localhost:5901 -N -f eniac.seas.upenn.edu

Finally, connect to the already running instance of VNC that you started on the server:

vncviewer localhost:5901

Enter the same password you used when starting the VNC server when configuring the server above. A new window will appear, allowing you to run GUI programs on the remote machine.

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