Superpowered SSH

Most people regard ssh as a remote terminal, but it is much more. In this presentation we learn how to leverage ssh to run programs on a remote server and display their GUI X11 displays on your local desktop. This allows you to install programs on a remote server instance that could be a lean LXD container and run then from a desktop. This solves the problem of running a program that either is not compatible with your local desktop or a program that you do not want to locally install.

I start by creating a LXD Ubuntu server instance on my LXD host from a locally stored custom LXD image that includes a user account and the openssh-server. This server instance is bridged to the local LAN using skills we learned in my “Network Bridge vs Macvlan” video.

lxc launch Ubuntu-20.04 test --profile default --profile bridgeprofile -c boot.autostart=true

Copy ssh credentials to the server instance so we won’t have to authenticate each time:

ssh-copy-id username@

ssh to the server instance and install updates and dependencies:

ssh scott@
sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade
sudo apt install x11-xserver-utils

Edit the ssh configuration file on the remote server:
sudo nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config

Make sure the the following lines are uncommented and appear like this:

X11Forwarding yes
X11DisplayOffset 10

Next, we rebooted the server instance.

We installed bluefish editor on the server as a test program:
sudo apt install bluefish

Test bluefish from a terminal on your local desktop:
ssh -X bluefish

To automate launching the remote program, create a desktop file:

nano /home/scott/Desktop/Bluefish.desktop

Insert the following contents and update according to your needs:

#!/usr/bin/env xdg-open
[Desktop Entry]
Comment=Run Bluefish from Remote Desktop

Set the above file with execute privilege:

chmod +x /home/scott/Desktop/Bluefish.desktop

Create the script file referenced in the desktop file:

nano /home/scott/Desktop/

Put the following contents in the script:

sh -X bluefish

Give the script execute privilege:

chmod +x /home/scott/Desktop/

You can now easily double-click the desktop icon to run bluefish on the remote server and display it on your local desktop display.

NOTE: An X11 application connects to Xwayland just like it would connect to any X server. Wayland provides backwards compatibility for legacy X11 applications. In order to use it, install the xorg-xwayland package.