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VCL is short for "Virtual Computing Lab." Duke University has set up several virtual computing lab images and they can be used to work remotely.


Using MATLAB over a wireless connection with port forwarding for X11 works great, right up until you need to hear the sounds MATLAB is making. In order to run a version of MATLAB that will also send sounds to your speaker, you will need to use a VCL that runs Windows in a window.

Using a Windows VCL and MATLAB

There are several steps to using a Windows VCL with the MATLAB distribution. The end result will be having a window open on your local computer in which a Windows7 distribution is running. The process is slightly more complicated than the Working from home steps there are some similarities. Duke has posted instructions at their Knowledge Database site for "How to use VCL." This includes listing the required software for opening a VCL as well as how to make a reservation. For MATLAB, the VCL to use is the "OIT Windows7 Lab Image."

Process Summary

Here is a summary of the process:

  • Go to; enter your Duke ID and password if requested
  • Click the "New Reservation" yellow tab at the top
  • Pick the "OIT Windows7 Lab Image" from the pull down box
  • Pick a duration (might as well pick the longest)
  • Click "Create Reservation"
    • will be taken to the current reservations screen
  • On the current reservations screen, once "Pending" becomes "Connect!" - click "Connect!"
  • On the Connect! screen, click "Get RDP File"
    • Windows folks should run this with RDC, which should already be installed
    • Mac OS folks should run this with Remote Desktop Connection, which may need to be installed
    • Linux people should run this with rdesktop, which should already be installed
  • Log in using your OIT credentials
  • Behold the magic of Windows!

Accessing CIFS from MATLAB in Windows VCL

Your CIFS space - which is to say, ~ in your UNIX account - is mounted as drive Z:. If you run the MATLAB program on that Windows distribution:

Start -> All Programs -> Mathematics & Statistics -> MATLAB -> VERSION -> MATLAB VERSION

(where VERSION is something like R2014a, the version of MATLAB currently installed) you can switch into your CIFS space by typing "cd Z:" in MATLAB's command window. You can use the UNIX cd and ls commands in the MATLAB command window to move around.

Using a Linux VCL and MATLAB

There are several steps to using a VCL with the MATLAB distribution. The process is slightly more complicated than the Working from home steps but they are similar. They are summarized here (for Windows, Mac, and Linux users) and the latter four steps from the list are discussed in detail below.

  • Install the appropriate software if need be. For Windows users, this means MobaXterm; for Mac users, this means XQuartz; for Linux users - you're probably all good already...
  • Make a reservation at
  • Receive reservation confirmation, including the IP address of your virtual machine
  • Connect to the virtual machine using
ssh -XY netid@machineid
where machineid is the four-part IP address of the virtual machine you were given.
  • Profit

Making a Reservation / Receiving Confirmation

  • To make a reservation, point your browser to, log in using your Duke credentials, and then select New Reservation
  • Choose the "OIT Linux Lab 2013" environment, Now, and a duration of 4 hours (or whatever is longest)
  • Click "Create Reservation"

Receiving Confirmation

In a few seconds, possibly minutes, you should receive an e-mail with your reservation confirmation and an IP address. After that happens, within 20 seconds, the web page should refresh and there will be a "Connect!" button on the web page. Click that button.

Connecting to the Virtual Machine

  • Start your terminal program (MobaXterm or XQuartz terminal or a Linux terminal)
  • Type
ssh -XY netid@machineid
You should now come to the command prompt for the virtual machine over which you have been given temporary dominion. Note that these virtual machines access your OIT space just like logging in to Teer machines would.


And by profit, I mean you can now run UNIX commands just like the good old days. Like

matlab &

will bring up MATLAB and typing


will work. These machines should mount your CIFS drive.


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