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I'm trying to set up the backup service for a server at work. Specifically, we are using the online backup service SpiderOak. It seems like a fantastic program except for one fact: it uses a graphical interface to do all account setup and management. This isn't a problem in the long run since it runs in the background to do all backups, but right now I'm struggling to get it configured.

My server, of course, doesn't have X or any GUI installed. It seems like a no-brainer to use SSH (with the -X flag for X forwarding) from a GUI-enabled Linux workstation to set it up (in fact this is recommended in the official documentation for the program). The problem here is, it doesn't work.

This is my output:

dan@cobalt:~$ SpiderOak
Fontconfig error: Cannot load default config file
SpiderOak: cannot connect to X server

So, how do I forward X output from my GUIless server to my workstation?

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Maybe you should post a snipped of the config file, properly sanitized of course. – Brad Gilbert Aug 24 '09 at 22:56
up vote 4 down vote accepted

By default Ubuntu Server (as of 9.04) does not have xauth installed. You will need to install via apt-get as root or via sudo.

[root@myserver]# apt-get install xauth

In General it's a good idea to verify your SSH settings. On your server check to make sure /etc/sshd_config contains:

X11Forwarding yes

On your client ensure /etc/ssh_config contains:

ForwardX11 yes

To verify if X is forwarding try:

[root@myserver]# xclock

If it works you know that your X is forwarded.

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I doublechecked both of those option and both are set to yes. SpiderOak still returns it's error and xclock returns "Error: Can't open display:" – DWilliams Aug 24 '09 at 19:43
Did you try xclock? Make sure that when you log in, that DISPLAY is set to something like "localhost:10.0" or thereabouts. If xclock fails, then SpiderOak will too. – Mei Aug 25 '09 at 3:31
Installing xauth and restarting the server made it work as expected, thanks! – DWilliams Aug 25 '09 at 13:47

You need to install a few minimal X11 packages on your server. Not the whole thing, but stuff like xauth and fonts. You didn't mention your distro, but on RedHat/CentOS that would be like xorg-x11-xauth and xorg-x11-fonts-base. Often times, installing 'xterm' will pull in all the necessary dependencies for you. Sorry I don't know the whole list of required packages/files offhand.

Once that's done, on the server, double-check SSH X11 forwarding is working by typing:


You should see something like "localhost:10.0" if it's working, or a blank line if it's not.

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