[R] how to get remote ESS graphics to work?

Matthew Keller mckellercran at gmail.com
Wed May 20 23:13:29 CEST 2009

Hi all,

My graduate student is logging onto my macpro and running R through
ESS aquamacs (with Mx ssh and then  Mx ess-remote). Everything is
working fine until we get to graphing.

 We are trying to give him the ability to look at graphics
interactively. The ESS manual is not too helpful: "If you run X11 (See
Section 13.3.2 [X11], page 68, X-windows) on both the local and remote
machines then you should be able to display the graphs locally by
setting the ‘DISPLAY’ environment variable appropriately."

It's unclear what DISPLAY is appropriate. I have X11 forwarding set up
on my machine (the remote machine). When we try to create a graphic in
his ESS remote process, (e.g., hist(rnorm(50))), we get the following
"Error in X11(...
unable to start device X11cairo
In addition: Warning message:
In x11(): unable to open connection to X11 display"

Does anyone out there use interactive graphics on their ESS remote
sessions? If so, could you provide any help? We're really stuck and
just need a step-by-step from anyone who knows.

Thank you,


Matthew C Keller
Asst. Professor of Psychology
University of Colorado at Boulder

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