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  1. #1

    Member Since
    Oct 26, 2009
    is it possible to X11 forward OS X to a linux box?
    Hello all,
    I just last week purchased and setup my first mac. I've used macs before a little, but I've never had one as my primary machine. For the past couple years I've mostly been running ubuntu, and I really like the remote control capabilites via ssh and having x11 forwarding setup. I know it is possible to X11 forward from linux to OS X, I've already set this up on my LAMP server so I can control it from my mac, however, is the reverse possible? I know that OS X is running on some form of a customized BSD kernel, so I thought it might be.
    I tried doing this myself by turning ssh on, then editing the sshd config file. I found the line "#X11Forwarding no" in the config file and changed it to "X11Forwarding yes". Then I saved the file and restarted the ssh server. Now I can login to my mac via ssh, but when I try to run a command that would open a window, it doesn't get forwarded. For instance, if i do a "open -a safari" from the terminal on my mac, it would open a safari window, but when I do this remotely it just gives an error message. If someone could confirm that this is or is not possible, that would be great.

  2. #2

    Member Since
    Mar 30, 2004
    12" Apple PowerBook G4 (1.5GHz)
    It might work for X11 applications, but it won't work for native OS X applications.

    Safari, Mail, iMovie, Word, Photoshop, etc. are all native applications.

  3. #3

    nabl's Avatar
    Member Since
    Dec 13, 2007
    United States of America
    2.1GHz MacBook with 4GB RAM, Mac OS X 10.6, iLife and iWork 09
    If I understand what you mean by X11 forwarding (I've read about it but never set it up personally), I'd say the answer is no. Even though Mac OS X is based on UNIX technologies, the window server is entirely different from X. Don't quote me on it, but I believe the network forwarding was the primary design goal of X, while OS X's window server was designed to use some form of Postscript on-screen. As a result of their differences in design, I don't think OS X's window server has such a capability.

    Having said that, there are a few things you can do. First, Mac OS X does use the standard VNC protocol for remote desktop capabilities, and as of Leopard you can use a third-party VNC client (I believe Vinagre is currently the default in Ubuntu) to control OS X. Also, you might be able to configure X11—installed with OS X by default since Leopard and available before that on the installation disc—to be accessible over the network. However, even if that is possible (I've never researched it, but I see no reason it wouldn't be), you would only be able to use the X11 applications remotely.

  4. #4

    Member Since
    Oct 26, 2009
    Thanks for your input, you confirmed my suspicions. I have already setup vnc for remote desktop, though I have to say with my DSL connection at home it is not ideal for accessing remotely via VNC (a bit slow and sluggish sometimes). That's why I was wondering if there was a better way, X11 is pretty awesome since it only sends the active window, not the entire desktop, but it makes sense that it won't be able to send non-X windows, which unfortunately is everything I would want to run anyways. I'll stick with vnc and try to tweak the settings to get it working more to my liking.

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