X11 Forwarding Adventures


Dec 26, 2019
New York City
Since laptops are much lighter than an Octane, the only real way you can sit on the couch and fiddle is by trying out X11 forwarding. Here are some of my notes!

tldr: It's iglx!

Getting Started
  • Edit your sshd_config
    • X11Forwarding Yes
    • X11UseLocalhost No
  • Restart sshd
  • Client
    • ~/.ssh/config
    • Host my.octane.lan -> forwarding yes
  • SGI desktop preferences have a checkbox somewhere that is titled "Show application errors in console" or something similar. You may want to enable this to get logs of stuff dying. You can also invoke stuff like toolchest directly from your shell. Up to you.
Attempt 1: XQuartz

Toolchest, system manager, and a few of the preference apps work fine. Icon catalog does not launch, and leaves us with this error:

X Error of failed request:  BadWindow (invalid Window parameter)
  Major opcode of failed request:  139 (XINERAMA)
  Minor opcode of failed request:  1 (XINERAMAGetState)
  Resource id in failed request:  0x11010000
  Serial number of failed request:  665
  Current serial number in output stream:  665
Looks like another Mac user trying to talk to an SGI is having trouble as well. At this point I thought, let's see if it's XQuartz -- so I grabbed the latest Ubuntu OVA and loaded it up in VMware Fusion.

Intermission: Configuring the VM

Maybe not directly related, but if you don't want to go digging around for a flash disk and/or reboot just to try out Xorg:
  • Your guest needs to be bridged so it gets an IP on your LAN
  • Saw a bunch of forum posts that you cannot do bridged networking over your wireless network connection, but it does work
    • The VM NIC is an ethernet adapter
    • Your wireless NIC doesn't have the same link state (probably) as the virtual ethernet adapter
      • My VMware fusion didn't have the "replicate physical link state" checkbox, but supposedly this solves the issue on VMware workstation
    • VM guest won't autoconfigure the interface properly
  • Give the guest a static IP
    • Everything should work fine
    • Sometimes, the host will time out trying to reach the internet (?), I had to cycle my wifi connection a few times. Both do work simultaneously and I chalk this up to shitty driver

Attempt 2: Xorg

Launching toolchest again yields this, which is not the most fun discovery after sinking about 40 min into getting the VM guest on my LAN.


Luckily, this UNIX StackExchange thread suggested enabling IGLX for remote OpenGL goodness. Let's try that again:

It launches, but takes over GNOME in a spectacular (read: terrible) fashion. The system is unusable and I can't even switch to a tty, so I kill the VM. On reboot, I decide to install Fluxbox: there's no fancy compositor to upset. Upon restarting gdm, something good happened:


After killing the VM a third time I decided to try again after logging into Fluxbox. And would you look at that!


There's the icon catalog in all its glory! I did try the XQuartz instructions to no avail, but it would be nice if we could get this working with native macOS X11. Otherwise, if anyone is interested in taking this journey, hope that these notes helped!


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Dec 26, 2019
New York City
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irix detailer
Feb 8, 2019
Yes- Mach your suggestion to use fluxbox finally got XDM working. It's GDM and gnome which has been blocking things for a while and preventing a working XDM login. I setup a more classic Ubuntu one that is a little more light-weight (Ubuntu 10.04) and it works great. By setup I mean I created this in Vmware Fusion on my MacPro. I used bridged networking.

After you install the VM and re-direct the repos to the 'old-' urls and install fluxbox, you choose it when logging in. Then use xrandr to setup a proper screensize for the VM on the Mac. Then use Xnest with a good geometry setting and you have the entire 4DM experience ready to use!

$ Xnest :1 -geometry 1280x840+0+0 -query fuel.diller.org

I set my ubuntu size to 1440x900.

Then you get this:
Screen Shot 2020-11-22 at 10.55.58 AM.png

Screen Shot 2020-11-22 at 10.59.11 AM.png

SO nice!

Thanks Mach for the breakthru!

Now if this would work in xQuartz we wouldn't need the ubunu VM.
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