Connecting to VLAB

CSE's VLAB is a way for you to get access to a CSE lab computer from a non-CSE computer or tablet. The non-CSE computer or tablet can be:

  1. A UNSW computer on campus in a non-CSE computer lab or in the general access area of the library,
  2. Your laptop computer while you're on campus,
  3. A tablet computer or, if you're desperate, a smartphone,
  4. Your computer or laptop at home, or
  5. A computer you have acces to elsewhere. For example if you're a part-time student with a job it could be a computer you have access to at work during your lunchbreak.

Connection is by means of a VNC client program or app on your computer which connects to the VLAB servers at CSE.

We suggest the TigerVNC client, which can be downloaded to and runs straight from your dsektop if you're using a Windows computer. There are also TigerVNC clients for Macs and Linux. Alternatively, you can use TightVNC or RealVNC or any other VNC client which you might have available. On iOS, we suggest using the Jump application.


There are a number of ways you can connect up to and use CSE's VLAB. Some are official and supported. Some are experimental and may be changed in the future or may be removed altogether.

Connecting directly while at UNSW

The best, official and supported way of connecting to VLAB while at UNSW is direct from a VNC client application on your computer or tablet.

Open your VNC client. The host connection you enter into your client determines the desktop resolution you will get. Select one of the following:

HostDesktop resolution x 480 x 600 x 768 x 800 x 1050 x 1080

If you have a problem connecting, make sure you have encryption and authentication turned off in your VNC client.

Connecting through UNSW's VPN

You can only connect directly to CSE's VLAB while you're on campus. This is because the network protocol used by VNC is not encrypted and we don't want evil people to monitor your network traffic and “sniff” your username and password.

Thus, the next official and supported way of connecting to VLAB works from most places in the world and is similar to the direct method but requires the use of UNSW's VPN. The VPN ensures that your network traffic is encrypted.

Go here to learn about the UNSW VPN Service.

Start the UNSW VPN connection on your computer, start your VNC client and then enter one of the host selections from above.

Using a web browser (experimental)

There are times when you either can't install your own VNC client on a computer or when your VNC client can't connect to CSE's servers. Computers which are tightly secured by their owners — such as in banks, financial institutions or the military — or where sites have firewalls which don't permit VPN traffic — such as many schools — can be problematic like this.

In such a situation you might be able to use CSE's web browser interface to VLAB. This will work with most modern web browsers and instead of needing to install a VNC client on the computer, the VNC client comes from CSE directly and runs in the web browser itself. There's no guarantee that this will work in secure sites bit it is something you can try.

From your web browser go to this link:

Note that this web browser interface is not as fast as using a VNC client application installed on your computer.

Resizable desktop (experimental)

The basic VLAB setup uses an individual host connection for each of six possible desktop resolutions. This is simple and works for most users.

Sometimes though it'd be nice to be able to select your own desktop resolution.

Connect to:

The above gives you a starting desktop size of 1024 x 768. If you're running the XFCE window manager you can change the resolution using:

Applications Menu → Settings → ARandR → Outputs → VNC-0 → Resolution. Then click the tick symbol.

The above runs the /usr/bin/arandr command which is also available in Gnome (under System → Preferences) and presumably other window managers' menus.

You can also use the xrandr command from the command line. Use the -s option to select a built-in resolution, or the --fb to define your own.

Connecting directly worldwide (experimental)

The official Internet standard which defines how VNC works (the RFB protocol) unfortunately doesn't define how connections should be encrypted and leaves this up to the individual VNC program software developer. This means that each VNC client or server program has a different way of doing it, if they do it at all.

This means that for CSE to provide the possibility of direct connections to VLAB from anywhere in the world we need to restrict it to one particular client to ensure we get encryption which matches the VNC server we use. We chose TigerVNC server and thus, if you want to connect to CSE's VLAB from outside of UNSW without using UNSW's VPN, you need to use the TigerVNC client.

Connect to:

This provides the same resizable desktop as above.

If you have a problem connecting, make sure you have encryption enabled and authentication disabled.

Last edited by plinich 05/05/2017