NX lets you work on a remote computer using its graphical user interface (GUI). It provides you with a "remote desktop" within a window on your own computer.

NX is essentially a graphical version of the older text-only (command line) programs Telnet, RSH, and SSH, and it provides the same security as the latter. It's similar to programs such as Windows Remote Desktop and Apple Remote Desktop, except that it's cross-platform.

To use NX, you must have the NX client software installed on your computer. Macintosh computers must also have extra software called X11. In addition, there must be an NX server on the destination computer; on the Amherst network, NX servers are available on IT's Unix computers, Romulus and Remus, and the Cluster.

Installing X11 on a Macintosh Computer

The NX client is based on the X Windows software, called X11; Apple includes this software in the Utilities folder for Mac OS 10.5 (Leopard) through 10.7 (Lion), and provides it as as an option for 10.3 (Panther), 10.4 (Tiger), and 10.8 (Mountain Lion). Therefore, NX doesn't include it in its Mac version. To install X11:

  • If you are running Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther), visit the web site X11 for Mac OS X 1.0, download the software, and follow its installation instructions.
  • If you are running Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger), and have a Mac OS X 10.4 Installation disk:
    1. Locate the file Optional Installs.mpkg and double-click on it to start the installer.
    2. Click through the installer pages until you reach the page named Installation Type or Custom Install.
    3. Click open the list item Applications.
    4. Check on the item X11.
    5. Make sure that all other items are unchecked.
    6. Continue with the installation.
  • If you are running Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger), but you don't have a Mac OS X 10.4 Installation disk:
    1. Mount the network disk Macsoft; see the instructions on the web page How to Install College Software.
    2. Locate the file X11 and double-click on it.
    3. Follow the instructions to install X11.
  • If you are running Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) or later, visit the web site for XQuartz, download the software, and follow its installation instructions.

In all cases, after installing X11 check for software updates by menuing Apple > Software Update….

Installing the NX Client

You can install NX from the Winsoft (K:) drive, or from Macsoft. You can also download it from our secure server (requires your Amherst College username and password):

Windows 2000/XP/Vista: Amherst NX Client for Windows

Mac OS X: Amherst NX Client for Mac 

Once you've downloaded the client, double-click it and follow the directions to install it onto your computer.

Setting Up the NX Client

  1. Start up the NX client:
    • On Macintosh: start NX from the folder Applications > Amherst NX Client.
    • On Windows: start NX from the menu Start > All Programs > Amherst NX Client.
  2. In the menu Session, select either romulus.amherst.edu or remus.amherst.edu.
    Most of the configuration information described next will be saved with the selected session.
  3. In the text fields Login and Password, type in your Amherst username and password.
  4. Click on the button Configure….
  5. In the dialog NX - Session, in the page General, in the section Server, click on the checkbox Remember my password (if you want).
  6. In the section Desktop, drag the slider:
    • If you are on campus, to the position LAN.
    • If you are off campus and using dial-up access, to the position MODEM.
  7. in the section Display, in the window size menu, choose:
    • A specific size: your session will appear in its own window, which can be switched with other windows and hidden. On a Macintosh it can also be resized.
    • Available Area: your session will appear in a window that's as large as possible, exclusive of task bars, docks, and menus.
    • Fullscreen: on a Macintosh, this is the same as Available Area. On Windows, your session will take over the entire computer screen (click in the upper right corner to hide the window).
  8. Click on the button Save.
  9. Click on the button OK.
  10. Back in the dialog NX, click on the button Login. On the Macintosh, the X11 software will start up before NX takes over.

NX Client Usage Notes

  • Some applications require special fonts that must be loaded from the remote server rather than from the local computer. If the latter is a Macintosh, take note of the two scripts provided with the NX installation, X11 FontPath romulus.app and X11 FontPath remus.app. The appropriate one must be run before you start an NX session to redirect font requests.
  • When you close an NX window, you will be asked if you want to Terminate the session — the same as if you were to log out — or Disconnect. In the latter case, all programs will be left running, and you can start a new session later and pick up where you left off.
  • On the College's Unix computers, the default graphical interface is the Gnome Desktop. Gnome is similar to the GUIs provided by Macintosh or Windows computers, but is also quite different in many ways. Learn some basics of navigating around Gnome with the brief instructions on the web page The Gnome Desktop.