FastX is a program for connecting to the HPC systems with a GUI desktop environment. It is similar to No Machine connections but is newer and a little more robust when using Duo 2 factor authentication. Please see the FastX documentation site for detailed information on how to use FastX. FastX will send an automatic authentication request to your registered device if using the Duo app. Otherwise it will make a phone call to your registered number. Unlike No Machine though there is a much longer time out so it is more forgiving of slow push response times or the latency of a phone call for authentication. Another benefit that FastX has over No Machine is that you can close a remote desktop session but as long as the FastX program and the connection to the server was not disconnected the underlying ssh session is still active. This means that sessions can be started and stopped on the same server without triggering additional authentication requests from Duo.
You can download the FastX2 client from the FastX - ITS Help Desk - Information Technology Services at The University of Iowa page. You will need to sign in with your HawID and password. On the next page that opens up you will see buttons to download a client. Select the one that is appropriate for your system.
ITS-RS recommends installing FastX2 instead of FastX1.
Note that Argon only has FastX2.
You can download the FastX1 client from the FastX - ITS Help Desk - Information Technology Services at The University of Iowa page. You will need to sign in with your HawID and password. On the next page that opens up you will see buttons to download a client. Select the one that is appropriate for your system.
Notice that there is also a listing of the license server and port. Take note of these as they will have to be entered after the FastX1 program is installed. The license information is not needed for FastX2. You will need to connect to a VPN for off-campus access if using FastX1. Since FastX2 is licensed on the server side the client does not require the VPN. However, if off-campus be sure to use port 40 in the connection settings. Unless you already have access to the Engineering VPN use the UI Anywhere VPN service.
Before you run FastX, you need to select the license server. From the Help menu, select Register. The License Activation dialogue box asks for the Activation Key. Use the arrow to the right of Activation Key to select License Server. Complete the License Server information as shown. Hostname: itsnt1396.iowa.uiowa.edu and Port: 5053. Click OK.
To connect to the HPC systems, you will need to create entries for the hosts. To create a new entry click on the green + button of the FastX toolbar. This will open up a connection editor.
Be sure to set the User field to your HawkID. Then click on the Save button. Once this is established the server connection will appear in the connection list.
Double click on the connection entry to establish an ssh connection. You will be prompted for a password if you are not using a key and Duo will autopush an authentication request to your default device with the Duo app or a phone call to your Duo registered phone number. The screen will now look like the following:
Once the Duo authentication has been approved click on the Start a new session field. This will bring up a menu with some common session options.
Select the one that you would like to use and it will start up in a new window. When you are finished with a session you can log out of it as normal. This will leave an ssh session open to the server so that any further sessions on that server will not need to go through the Duo authentication. To disconnect from the server completely, either exit FastX or right-click on the server name and select Disconnect.
Sessions can be resumed if they are not terminated when the FastX program is closed. This means that you can disconnect from a server but leave the session running and reconnect to it later. In this scenario, the backend ssh connection to the server has to be established so this will require Duo authentication. But once the ssh connection is up FastX will find any existing connections on the server. What is important to keep in mind here is that there is more than one login node per HPC system that are used in a round robin so that a connection to an HPC system will resolve to one of the available login nodes. This is important to remember when trying to reconnect to sessions as your new connection will need to land on the same host as the session that you want. If you do this frequently you may want to create explicit connections for each login node.
We kindly ask that you please terminate any sessions that you no longer need as they do use resources.
When connecting to Argon with FastX version 2 to open a Desktop such as MATE session, sometime you get an error saying "cannot connect to the bus session". This happens particularly if you have installed Anaconda to work with Jupyter on the cluster. Anaconda changes the .bashrc file with the PATH settings and causes the problem in first place. There is a fix available for this particular problem.
Change your PATH variable in .bashrc FROM:
The most important change is to take the $PATH variable at the end to the beginning of the PATH setting.