You are likely to find at some point that you need to work on a department system remotely. In this tutorial, we’ll explore connecting to Snowy, the departmental server.
If you’re familiar with SSH, here are the details you need:
Snowy SSH details
- Username: your university username, e.g.
- Password: your university password
SSH into lab machines
All the lab machines in MVB 2.11 are available when using snowy as
a jump box, this involves first connecting to snowy then to the lab machine in
a chain like fashion making use of SSH’s
ProxyCommand. This step can be
skipped if you are using the university VPN.
Lab machine addresses:
it<ID>.wks.bris.ac.uk where ID is in the following range:
Open a Terminal/Console window, and type the following command:
ab12345 is replaced by your username)
Hit return, and wait for the password prompt. Type in your password and press return again. You are now logged in.
PuTTY is the easiest solution for SSH on Windows. You can either download the installer (
putty.exe, which will run standalone.
Open PuTTY, and enter
snowy.cs.bris.ac.uk in the ‘Host Name (or IP address)’ field. Make sure the ‘Port’ is set to 22. Click ‘Open’. If you are asked to trust a signature, click yes. You will be greeted by a prompt that says:
Type your university username and press return. Then type your password and press return.
From a terminal
You will probably end up working in a terminal a lot of the time, even on Windows. Unfortunately, the set of text-based utilities that comes with Windows is rather lacking. Several efforts exist to make these available on Windows:
- Bash on Windows on Ubuntu - an official Microsoft project that lets you run Linux binaries natively on Windows.
Figuring out how to get one of these to work is a good exercise for any first year CS student.
Getting a graphical environment
Snowy (like most current Linux systems) supports a feature called X Forwarding. This lets you run graphical applications remotely but use them as if they were running natively(-ish) on your desktop.
To enable X Forwarding, add the
-X flag when running OpenSSH:
ssh firstname.lastname@example.org -X
Once logged in, you will be able to launch utilities like
nautilus (the GNOME file manager) and
gedit (the GNOME text editor).
Windows requires additional steps for X Forwading. Firstly, you need to install Ximg, this allows graphical interface on server to be displayed. If you are using putty, all you should have to do tick the Enable X11 forewarding box under Connections\SSH\X11 in your putty connection.
As for Bash on Windows on Ubuntu, Cygwin… etc, you need to add
-X flag when running OpenSSH like in Mac/Linux:
ssh email@example.com -X
Remote Desktop (NoMachine)
If you would like to access lab machines or university softwares at home, then SSH with X11 forwarding might not be a good option. This is because X11 forwarding does not compress data, so the graphical interface will be very slow. NoMachine client allows graphical remote desktop with less lag. The server snowy can be accessed with NoMachine, if you desire to use a lab machine, you can still SSH into them using snowy with or without X11 forwarding.
Copying files with scp
To copy from your computer to Snowy:
scp sourcefile firstname.lastname@example.org:targetfile
scp ~/main.c email@example.com:~/main.c.
To copy from Snowy to your computer:
scp firstname.lastname@example.org:sourcefile targetfile
scp email@example.com:~/main.c ~/main.c
On Windows, the easiest graphical method to transfer files is to use SFTP. There are many SFTP clients available. FileZilla is free and works nicely. Use the following settings:
- Username: university username
- Password: university password
In a terminal
If you want to do this from the terminal, PuTTY comes with a utility called
psftp. Alternatively, if you have something like cygwin installed, you probably have access to
If you get tired of having to enter your password every time you connect to Snowy, don’t worry! You can create an SSH keypair to verify your identity automatically: Snowy has a copy of your public key, and anyone with access to your private key (i.e. only you) can use it to automatically authenticate.
Open a terminal and enter the following:
ssh-keygen -t rsa
The tool will walk you through the process of creating a key. By default, the keypair is saved to the
.ssh directory in your home directory - for example
/home/myname/.ssh/. The private key is normally called
id_rsa, the public key
id_rsa.pub - though you can change these if you want. You will be asked to provide a passphrase. This protects your key from viruses, theft etc., so choose something strong.
Once your key is generated, create the
.ssh folder on Snowy:
ssh firstname.lastname@example.org 'mkdir -p .ssh'
Then append your public key to the list of authorised keys:
cat ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub | ssh email@example.com 'cat >> .ssh/authorized_keys'
PuTTY comes with a tool called PuTTYgen for creating new SSH keys. If you have something like cygwin installed,
ssh-keygen is probably available in your shell.
You can copy the public key across using FileZilla, as described above.
Example SSH config
An example SSH config is given below:
# ~/.ssh/config Host * ForwardAgent yes ForwardX11 yes ForwardX11Trusted yes ####################################### # University machines # ####################################### # University of Bristol machines # See http://www.bristol.ac.uk/it-services/locations/zones/zonee/cosc/remote-access Host snowy Hostname snowy.cs.bris.ac.uk Port 22 User <USERNAME> IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa ForwardX11 no ForwardX11Trusted no # To use only for Cadence tools Host frosty Hostname frosty.fen.bris.ac.uk Port 22 User <USERNAME> IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa ProxyCommand ssh snowy nc %h %p 2> /dev/null # CS lab machines live on the follow ranges # # - 075638--075906 # Host cs-desktop-01 HostName it075638.users.bris.ac.uk User <USERNAME> ProxyCommand ssh snowy nc %h %p 2> /dev/null Host cs-desktop-02 HostName it075639.users.bris.ac.uk User <USERNAME> ProxyCommand ssh snowy nc %h %p 2> /dev/null Host cs-desktop-03 HostName it075640.users.bris.ac.uk User <USERNAME> ProxyCommand ssh snowy nc %h %p 2> /dev/null