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

Matthew Keller mckellercran at gmail.com
Thu May 21 01:07:19 CEST 2009

Hi all,

I figured out how to get this to work. Not saying this is the best way
to do it, but it is working for me. The only problem is that the
graphics are very slow (several seconds to draw hist(rnorm(50))!)

First, I changed both /etc/ssh_config and /etc/ssh_configd to allow
X11 forwarding (i.e., emacs into those files, find the ForwardAgent
and ForwardX11 lines, and change these from "no" to "yes").

Then I used the -X option when ssh'ing into the remote machine:

ssh -X myname at remotecomp.

Then I started R remotely. Within the remote R session, I changed the
default graphics device from 'quartz' to 'x11':

That's it. It is working, but as I said, is surprisingly slow. Not
sure why that is. Does anyone have more experience with graphics
remotely? Are they typically slow, or is it my connection, or perhaps
a setting?



On Wed, May 20, 2009 at 3:13 PM, Matthew Keller <mckellercran at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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:
> "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,
> Matt
> --
> Matthew C Keller
> Asst. Professor of Psychology
> University of Colorado at Boulder
> www.matthewckeller.com

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

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