Using CYGWIN to get the mathlets

This document exists primarily to give an option to 18.03 students who seek to run athena courseware, such as the mathlets from their MSWindows desktops.

The overall strategy is to run them on athena and use cygwin on MSWindows as the display.

I used to do this quite a lot at my former job, but I don't do it here, so the instructions I am giving are from memory. If you find that they work well enough for you, then email me. If these instructions are incomplete enough that something goes wrong, but you want to try and work it out, then email me and we will try to get to the root of the problem, fix it, and modify this page for everyone to benefit. Otherwise, don't bother me with it just doesn't work because that isn't useful.

Another guide to this approach, using a different set of programs is given here. In principle, it does the same sort of thing. I haven't tried this way. Maybe someone reading this could and give me feedback.

installing cygwin

Go to the cygwin site and click on the install or update now! link. You can also just try to use this link here.

Say yes to the defaults.

At some point you will be given a list of sites to download from. Pick one that looks close somehow.

Then, after some time, it will give you a list of optional packages to install. There are three which you really should get (and their dependencies will force the rest).

  • fvwm2: under XFree86
  • OpenSSH: under either Security or Network, I don't recall
  • vim: under Editors
  • OpenSSH will let you get a remote shell on an athena machine. fvwm2 won't really be used, it is just there to pull in all the XFree86 dependencies you need. vim will likely only be used if there is some problem which needs fixing later.

    Say yes to everything else after this and accept all defaults.

    using cygwin for the first time

    Depending on how your MSWindows is set up, when you first run cygwin you will get a message at startup asking you to issue commands like:

    mkpasswd blah blah blah
    mkgroup blah blah blah

    Type in each line (they take a few seconds to run sometimes). If there is any place where things go wrong this is it. One you are done with this, then kill the cygwin window.

    If no such messages come up and you get a bash prompt, then you're good to go.

    using cygwin the next time

    Assuming all went well the first time, the next time you start up cygwin you will get a window which has just a prompt which looks something like




    or something like that. The next step is to start up an X server. There are a few ways to do this, but the way that is easiest, if I recall correctly is,


    If all goes well, then this command will cause two xterm windows to pop up and a little X to appear in that MSWindows system tray (right-clicking on the little icon is the only way to shut X down). This means the X server has started.

    using cygwin as a remote display

    If you have gotten this far, everything should just work. Start cygwin up, then start the X server up, then go to one of the newly popped up xterms (this won't work in the original cygwin window) and type something like

    yourname@yourmachine$ ssh -C -X

    If it asks you something about never having connected to this host before, just say yes. You will be prompted for your athena password, and proof, you get an athena prompt. Only now your X display is routed to your local machine.

    athena% attach 18.03
    athena% cd /mit/18.03/tools/sunos/
    athena% ./SolutionTargets-sun 

    And this should work.

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    Page updated: March 2, 2004