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Phys 2660 Software Resources

There are numerous free software packages available to work with a networked *NIX computer from your personal desktop or laptop. If you happen to be running Linux, you won't need this page. But it is likely you are running a Windows or Mac machine and will need some additional software to have a good setup for working remotely on galileo.

Executive Summary: In order to work on your assignments from home, you will need to be able to communicate with Galileo through both text and graphics. There are many options to choose from. Several are summarized below.

Some fine print
It is not practical for us to offer individual support for software on students' personal computers. The information below provides useful pointers to tools that you can install on your Windows PC or Macintosh to connect to galileo complete your classwork. ITS-managed computers are available at many locations on grounds. These may always be used to access galileo outside of the lab hours for Room 22. We will strive to update these pages with informative links to easily available software you can use on your Windows or Mac OS to connect to galileo. While we can offer advice, the staff for PHYS 2660 will not be available to install and configure software on students' personal computers.

Note: Don't forget to read the documentation for any programs you wish to install!

The Basics

Text: The most basic piece of software you need is a terminal emulator that can connect to galileo over the internet using a secure network protocol. This will give you a text-based interface to galileo (an interactive shell).

Graphics: If you want to display graphics from programs you run on galileo (and this includes anything that makes use of your mouse), you will need to have a standalone X server running on your local machine or be using NXClient. This software interprets requests from the remote machine to draw windows and react to mouse events on your local machine. This allows you to run (almost) anything on the remote machine, while viewing and controlling the results locally.

For PHYS 2660 much of the work can be accomplished using only a text shell. However, you will probably find editors with graphical interfaces such as emacs or nedit more intuitive. Furthermore, data visualization projects will certainly need graphics support.

Text: Connection options (Secure Shell / Secure Copy Clients)

SSH clients allow you to get a text-based terminal window that talks to Galileo. By installing an SSH client and an X server (see below) you can do both text and graphics on Galileo. An ssh/X connection to Galileo will typically be slower than an NXClient connection when you are working from home, over a slow network connection. On grounds, the difference in speed is less noticeable.

Windows SSH Options:

Preferred option: PuTTY

  • PuTTY is a free and very easy to use ssh client. You can download putty.exe here.
  • Download the Windows installer program for PuTTY. Using the installer makes it easier to later un-install if you so desire/need.
  • Follow the installation instructions. The default options are fine for ~99% of users.
  • Once installed, start the program and a Configuration Window will appear. By default you start on the Session page of the Configuration Window. Enter for the HOSTNAME in the Session Configuration.
  • If you will be using X-windows, ie, for graphics, as ~100% of you will – see Xming below! – make sure to Enable X11 Forwarding before you connect. To do this look at the menu options on the left hand side of the configuration window. Select Connection→SSH→X11 then select Enable X11 Forwarding.
  • For convenience, you can save these settings in a session profile for all your future connections to galileo: On the Session page, enter a nickname for this profile (for instance, “connect2galileo”) in the “Saved Sessions” field; then press “Save”. Upon future launches of the putty program, you will then be able to load this session called “connect2galileo” and all settings will be set for you automatically.
  • Click Open on the PuTTY Configuration window.
  • You will then be prompted to enter your userID/password to complete the connection. Then press Open to complete your connection. Enter your password when prompted; characters might not appear but proceed to enter it and press return/enter. Note:

Secondary option: SecureCRT

  • If you are on the University network, you can download SecureCRT directly from ITS. This is the ssh client used on the ITS Lab computers. To use SecureCRT, just click on the QuickConnect icon as shown on the above webpage. Enter: for the HOSTNAME and your userID for USERNAME.
    Enter your password when prompted; characters might not appear but proceed to enter it and press return/enter. If you wish to display X-windows, open the configuration for secureCRT and enable X11 tunneling. Then exit and restart secureCRT.

Also useful: WINSCP

  • When using these options for Windows, copying files from your computer to galileo needs an additional piece of software. WINSCP provides an easy to use secure copy interface for transferring files to/from your Windows PC.


  • If you have a Mac w/ OS X, you are all ready to go! Just open a shell (Applications→Utilities→Terminal) and use the ssh program that is already installed.
    Note: if you wish to display X-windows, you should call ssh as follows:
    ssh -Y,
    if you get an error using the -Y flag, this means you are running an older version of ssh. In that case use instead:
    ssh -X
    Always use the -Y option if this is supported, otherwise you may experience some problems with your windows unexpectedly closing.
  • Enter your password when prompted; characters might not appear but proceed to enter it and press return/enter.
  • Copying files in Mac OS X is easy too: The scp program is also available for file transfers.

Graphics: X-Server software packages (X11)

Windows Graphical Interactions

  • Xming is a free and easy to use X-server for Windows. To install Xming, go to the official Download Page and download and install the latest version of the packages called:
    • Xming
    • Xming-fonts

You should be downloading two distinct .exe files, corresponding to the setup executables for the above two packages. Once downloaded, run the Xming setup executable first (clicking through to accept all defaults, including the creation of the desktop shortcuts) and then the Xming-fonts setup executable (again accepting all default options). Once installed, you will be able to start the Xming program via the “XLaunch” shortcut on your desktop. Choose “Multiple windows”, press Next, then “Start no client”, press Next again, then Next again, and then finally Finish. This will set up an XWindows server on your personal Windows computer allowing you to open up graphics produced by a remote machine. Note: you must start the Xming program before you connect with your PuTTY or SecureCRT program.

Last note! You have to have X11 forwarding enabled for this to work. See the PuTTY or SecureCRT instructions above. See Xming for more information on Xming.

Mac Graphical Interactions

First check to see if you already have X11 installed, it would be located in Applications → Utilities →

If is not there…

Installing packages from Apple

For OS 10.6x: See the instructions at:

If you are running an earlier version of Mac OS X, please notify your instructor.


  • Start the X server: Applications → Utilities →
  • Open a terminal: Applications→Utilities→Terminal
  • In your terminal type ssh -Y to connect to galileo and you should now be able to view X-windows graphics from galileo.


  • If your X11 application is running, but you still cannot display graphical windows, then use the terminal program that is part of the X11 application (xterm) instead of the standard Mac terminal program for your ssh connection.
  • If you have a problem with your pointer turning yellow and being difficult to see, try the links here or here.

Cutting and pasting text between the Mac desktop and X-windows

There can be some issues with cutting and pasting between windows managed by X11 and those by the Mac desktop. After starting X11, go to your preferences/settings menu and you'll find several options (“Emulate 3-button mouse” ,etc). Try checking all the options and things should work reasonably well. You may also find it vastly more convenient to simply use a 3-button USB mouse.

Text and Graphics: Combined solution (NXClient) for Windows

A nice solution for connecting to Galileo from remote locations is probably “NXClient”. This is a free product produced by a company called “NoMachine”. Note: I do not recommend doing this for people running Mac OS X (the tools described above are more than adequate), but if you are a Windows user this is a good option.


You can install a standalone version of NXClient on your computer. This can be downloaded from the company's web site:

  • OS X - again, this is not recommended or necessary for people running Mac OS X variants

After you've installed NXClient on your computer, you will also need an NX session profile file for Galileo. You can download this from Galileo's web site:

  1. Point a web browser at Galileo's home page (
  2. RIGHT-click on the link labeled “Download NX Session Profile” at the left-hand side of the page.
  3. Select “Save Link As” from the menu, and save the file on your computer.
  4. To connect to Galileo, double-click on the file you saved.

Note: If you are running Windows and you have problems with your fonts, download the additional font packages from this link as well

Additional note: If you are running Windows and you cannot see the text in an emacs session (like it all appears as empty boxes) run emacs via

emacs -fn 9x15 filename & 

Note: If you're using an Apple computer running OS X, you may find that the “e” key behaves like a backspace when you're using NXClient. To fix this, see the OSX_nxclient_keyboard_fix page. Again, I do not recommend using NXClient if you have a Mac, the above connection methods are straightforward and more than adequate.

More Advanced Tools

The tools above will work just fine for all of your Phys 2660 work. But you can check out this section if you're interested in exploring some more interesting technology. With the exception of Cygwin and the LiveCD's, these are beyond the scope of our documentation here and are not recommended for beginners.

Cygwin (under Windows)

With Cygwin you can install a linux based environment on your Windows PC, including all necessary communication and X-server software. See the local Cygwin Page for instructions on how you can install Cygwin.

FINK/X11 (for the Mac)

You may install the X-server via Fink, the OS X project that brings most of the open-source Linux tools (graphics programs, office programs, libraries, etc) to your Mac with a convenient installation management tool. The specific link for installing Fink is: here, but that's just the first step. Note: It is not necessary to do this for people running Mac OS X (the tools described above are more than adequate).

Live CD's

An alternate approach for Windows PC owners – don't install anything! There are a number of “Live CD” distributions available these days that provide a complete Linux distribution on a boot-able CDROM. Just put the CD into your computer and reboot (make sure your BIOS is set to boot 1st from the CDROM). Then your PC will come up running Linux, just like the LAB PCs and, presto!, you have a Linux box. During the boot process, the code will detect your hardware and load all drivers seamlessly for an amazingly wide range of hardware options.

Here are some options:

  • Ubuntu Live CD: Ubuntu is a popular distribution with great hardware support and user resources. This is possibly the most friendly distribution out there these days. We run Ubuntu in the Class Lab.
  • Fedora Live CD: The latest Fedora release is also quite nice.
  • Knoppix: The project that brought live distributions to the main stream.
  • Gnoppix: Like knoppix, but with the arguably friendlier Gnome desktop.
  • Damn Small Linux: Boot and run from your pen drive or a credit-card sized cdrom! A small, but very usable distribution.

Note: we recommend using a live CD only if you use the ethernet port on your computer to connect to the network. Many win-modems are not well supported, so dial-up access may be a problem. But almost all 10/100/1000 ethernet cards are well supported with no configuration work necessary. Many wireless cards are supported, but some may not have native support in the Linux kernel YMMV. If you do use wireless with a live distribution, we recommend using the wahoo network and not cavilier. Any special modifications needed to configure your hardware are beyond the scope of our documentation.)

Many other live CD projects are available for Power PC, Intel, and AMD platforms, each customized in different ways.

Virtual Machines

Virtualization is a very hot subject these days, you'll probably be hearing about it more and more in the near future. Many solutions are already available to allow you to install a second (third,…,etc) operating system under a virtual machine (VM) running on your computer. The VM looks just like a full-fledged computer to the new OS, but the whole VM runs as a regular process on the host computer. For example, you can have a VM running Linux on a Windows host or visa versa. Or you can have a VM running another flavor of Linux(Windows) under a Linux(Windows/Mac) host etc. Why would anyone want to do this? There are many reasons (testing code under many OS's on a single machine, having a convenient development platform for system code, fault tolerance, etc). Though the VM has all the functionality of a fully configured computer, it's just a file that can easily be moved from one physical machine to another with ease and practically no issues of hardware compatibility!

A detailed review of VM tools is beyond the scope of this page. But there are a number of easily installed options that will give you a usable VM with ssh, X-server, etc.

  • VirtualBox is a hot new virtualizer that allows you to install Linux under Windows or on an Intel-based Mac.
  • See this list of recommendations for virtual machine applications.
software/sw_main.txt · Last modified: 2015/01/22 09:07 by neu