Accessing the Interactive Linux Cluster

By Chris Geddings. Filed in Access Econ Linux Resources, Accessing Economics Resources, Computational Computing, Economics Computing Basics  |  
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Apple OS X

Apple OS X is a unix operating system, and as such, it is designed to communicate easily with other Linux and unix operating systems. For those who desire access to graphical user interfaces of software installed on the interactive cluster nodes, it is necessary to communicate with the cluster via X11, an implementation of the X window system. X11 should be installed by default on versions OS 10.5 and higher, but for those with no installation, the software can be obtained from the Apple website.

Assuming X11 is installed, following are the required steps to access the interactive cluster.

  1. Open X11 (this can be found in the Applications directory).
  2. At the command line prompt, type `ssh -X -Y’, where `username’ is your Economics Department user ID (not your Duke user ID, unless the two are the same).
  3. After typing ‘Enter’ you will be prompted for your departmental password. After entering your password you will have access to the server node via command line.

Microsoft Windows (XP, Vista, 7)

Accessing the interactive linux servers from a computer running Windows requires X-Win32, available for free on the Duke OIT website. Assuming X-Win32 is installed, following are the required steps to access the interactive cluster:

  1. Open X-Config by navigating through `Start > All Programs > X-Win32 > X-Config’.
  2. In the main X-Config window pane, select `Autostart’, and then click the `Manual’ button in the right-hand column with the heading `New Session’.
  3. Select `ssh’ in the ‘Connection Method’ window that pops up and click `Next’.
  4. A window titled `X-Win32 – New Session (ssh)’ will pop up. Fill the fields in the following manner:
    1. Session Name: Econ Interactive (or whatever name you choose)
    3. Port: 22
    4. Login: username (where `username’ is your Economics Department user ID (not your Duke user ID, unless the two are the same))
    5. Command: /usr/bin/xterm -ls
    6. Password: (type your Economics Department password)
    7. Confirm Password: (type your password again)
    8. xconfig

  5. After clicking `Save’, you can either close and restart X-Win32 (which will automatically start a new session with an xterm terminal) or you can click `Launch’ in the configuration window. The resulting xterm terminal is a bash shell that can be used to interact with the linux server.

As an alternative to typing `/usr/bin/xterm -ls’ in the `Command’ field of the New Session window, you could type `matlab’ or `xstata’, which will launch interactive Matlab and Stata sessions directly, without an xterm terminal. This might be beneficial if you use the servers exclusively for Matlab and Stata, but has that disadvantage that you cannot interact with the server via command line.


As always, if you get stuck, submit a ticket and we’ll help you to get back on track.


  1. Comment by Ralph Mastromonaco:


    I logged into the new cluster ( It put me on login-03. I’m running stata 11 se interactively, and it appears to be loading data from afs at much slower rate than I’m used to running Stata10 on cain or login01. Markedly slower. I don’t know if this means anything but wanted to let you know.

  2. Comment by Chris Geddings:

    I have started looking into this. Hopefully, it just needs an afs cache adjustment.

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