Remote UNIX Access

Documentation for getting started with the FastX remote access software.

FastX Remote Access Software

FastX is a commercial product that provides remote access to Linux systems by giving you a full graphical interface within your browser. No software is required on your machine except the browser. This service is available from anywhere that has a reasonable internet connection.

A note of caution however. You should avoid accessing this service from public machines such as at hotels or conferences as these machines are highly likely to be compromised and will record your login credentials.

Accessing The Software

Point your browser at You will be prompted for a username and password. This should be your NRAO/GBO/LBO username and your UNIX password.

Once you have logged in you will be presented with a screen that looks like this:

For your convenience shortcut connections to our different computing machines are provided in the left-hand panel. Pick ariel or titania if you’re actually observing and euclid, fourier, maxwell, newton, planck, thales if you want to reduce data. If your system supports it, you might see a page that allows you the choice between running the FastX session in the browser or via an app on your computer. For the latter to work, you are required to download and install the app.

Session Controls

While in a FastX session there is a small drop down menu in the top part of the window that appears when you hover over it and allows some control over the session:

From left to right: The first icon brings you back to the FastX starting page. The second icon (keyboard) allows you to set the keyboard. The third icon controls the sharing of the session (more later) and the forth icon allows to open files to the clipboard.

The fifths and last icon allows you to change other settings, such as the window size. Tinkering with these settings should not generally be required but on a very slow link lowering refresh rates and picture quality may help.

Ending A Session

When you are finished, click the home button in the control menu (see above) and close the browser tab that contains the session you were working in. In the FastX starting page you will see a session in the center (Disconnected Sessions). This will expire automatically after 7 days, but if you don’t need it anymore, please terminate the session to help save ressources for your fellow observers.

You can reconnect to a disconnected session by clicking the “play” button.

Be aware that if a host is rebooted the session will also disappear. If you do decide to make use of this feature please ensure that you have set your screensaver to the blank screen option so as not to waste CPU cycles and have a password set.

Please also bear in mind that due to licensing only a limited number of concurrent sessions are possible.

Is This Secure?

Short answer: yes. Access to this service is only available over the HTTPS protocol and as such all traffic between your browser and the server is encrypted. You can safely access all GBO/LBO/NRAO internal services such as ETK.

What Can’t I Do?

You cannot fire up a browser in a session and access the FastX service. This kind of recursion is not permitted. As usual the Computer Use Policy applies to all use of this service.

Sharing a Session

This software makes it possible to share a session in a similar manner to VNC but the sharing is accomplished through a web link containing a session key rather than sharing a VNC password. Sharing of sessions should only occur where there is a genuine need to do so, for instance when a member of staff is assisting an observer with actual observations or data reduction.

Sharing a session is accomplished by using the sharing icon on the session control drop down. This will open a second menu in the top-right corner of the browser window.

Click the first icon in the top left (human figure with a plus sign), which will open yet another box.

Click on Public link and switch the options from Restricted to Public.

You can copy the link and share with e.g. the staff member. This must be done in a secure manner such as encrypted IM or through Green Banks talk and draw system. Email is not a secure method. As the dialogue states, anyone with this link can connect to the session.

Once a session has been shared it must be terminated after use and not left running to connect to later.

Known Issues

If you already have a copy of Firefox running on another Linux machine you will not be able to start Firefox until you have killed the copy running elsewhere or taken other steps to allow it.

If your UNIX account is not based in Green Bank then start up of this service may be quite slow and performance non optimal.