Setting up GUI Desktop on a VM

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This article is a draft

This is not a complete article: This is a Draft, a work in progress that is intended to be published into an article, which may or may not be ready for inclusion in the main wiki. It should not necessarily be considered factual or authoritative.



These instructions are for the Ubuntu operating system:

  1. Install a GUI Desktop on your VM.
    There are lots of different Desktop packages available. For example some common Desktop packages available for the Ubuntu operating system are: This article shows a few of these different desktops. Below are the commands to install the Mate Desktop.
    [name@server ~]$ sudo apt update
    [name@server ~]$ sudo apt upgrade -y
    [name@server ~]$ sudo apt install ubuntu-mate-desktop

    During the installation of the ubuntu-mate-desktop package it will ask you to choose the default display manager, a good option is lightdm. Installing the ubuntu-mate-desktop package can take a fair amount of time (something like 15-30 mins).

  2. Install TigerVNC server.
    This software runs on your VM and allows you to use the GUI desktop you installed in step 1. remotely using a client software.
    Question.png
    [name@server ~]$ sudo apt install -y tigervnc-common tigervnc-standalone-server

    This command will install the TigerVNC server and some supporting software. For details about using VNC servers and clients see our docs on VNC.

  3. Start the vnc server
    Question.png
    [name@server ~]$ vncserver
    -> enter a password
    -> enter "n" for view-only password
    The first time you start a vnc server it will ask you to set a password. This password is used later when connecting to the vnc desktop. You don't need a view-only password. The vncpasswd command can later be used to change your password.
  4. Open port 5901 and test connection (see OpenStack#Security_Groups security groups for more information about opening ports to your VMs with OpenStack). However, this is not secure as the data sent to and from your VM will not be encrypted.
  5. Connect using an SSH tunnel (see SSH_tunnelling). There is an example of creating an SSH tunnel to a VNC server running on a compute node of one of our clusters here: VNC#Compute_Nodes.
  6. Instructions for connecting using an SSH tunnel for linux or mac:
    • Open your terminal
    • type the following: SSH -i filepathtoyoursshkey/sshprivatekeyfile.key -L5901:localhost:5901 ubuntu@ipaddressofyourVM
    • Download and run the latest tigerVNC-x.y.z.dmg package installer. Configure the default viewer settings by clicking the desktop TigerVNC Viewer icon. In the "VNC Viewer: Connection Details" window that appears click "Options -> Security" then tick all boxes. To save the settings click OK and then click Connect. If Connect is not clicked, the settings will not be saved.
    • open the tigervnc viewer application and in the VNC server field enter: localhost:5901.
    • your GUI desktop for your remote session should now open
  7. Close port 5901. Once you are connected to your VNC server using an SSH tunnel, you no longer require port 5901 open so it is recommended that you remove this rule from your security groups. (see OpenStack#Security_Groups security groups for more information).
  8. To stop the vncserver
    Question.png
    [name@server ~]$ vncserver -kill :1