FAQs: Networking and Systems with Userful Desktop

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Copyright © 2007-2015 Userful Corporation. All rights reserved.
(Updated 2015.09.29)

If you can't find what you're looking for here, return to the Userful Desktop FAQs page.


Q: Can I give each Userful Desktop station its own IP address?

Yes. The instructions for doing this are in the Administrator Guide.

Q: How can I give Userful support staff remote access to my Userful Desktop?

By setting up your firewall to do port forwarding.

Userful's remote connection method is SSH over TCP. What we need is one external TCP port forwarded to port 22 of the Userful Desktop's IP. The external port can be port 22 as well, or a different one. It doesn't matter as long as the final destination is port 22 of the Userful Desktop's IP.

If your router needs an incoming address for the rule, we come in from the IP address of (primary.userful.ca).

For more details see the Userful Desktop Administration Guide - Enabling Remote Support Access. Also note this diagram:

Network diagram for port forwarding

Q: Why do I need to open ports for Userful Desktop demos?

Your firewall may be blocking required ports. Before you can start a Userful Desktop live demo, you will generally see the Session Test page, which tells you if your computer is set up properly to use the online demo.

The online demo does not actually run Userful Desktop software on your computer, rather, it runs it on our Demo Server and lets you see the screen display on your computer. To do this, the Demo Server uses a program called VNC. There are two parts to VNC software, the server (which runs on our Demo Server), and the client (which runs on your computer). Consider this diagram:

Figure: Basic VNC architecture

The VNC client ("Java VNC Viewer") requires Java to be properly installed on your computer, and uses a port number between 5800 and about 5830 to get itself set up (the highest number may be less depending on the configuration of the Demo Server). It will actually only use one port, but exactly which port is used is determined the moment you start the demo, so it is best to configure your firewall to open all ports from 5800 to 5830.

Similarly, the VNC server also requires a range of ports opened. Specifically, it needs ports 5900 to about 5930 to be left open by your firewall.

If you are concerned about leaving these ports open, you can, of course, close them again after viewing the demo.

Q: How can I use my thin client for Userful Desktop sessions?

With proper configuration, Userful Desktop can be used with Thin Client hardware. Here's how:

The XDM login screen
  1. Check if your thin client device is compatible.
  2. Turn on the Userful Desktop machine you wish to use as your terminal server.
  3. Find the IP address of this Userful Desktop server. (This can be done in Admin mode using the "System Information" icon.)
  4. Turn on the thin client.
  5. Configure your thin client to connect to the Userful Desktop (possibly requiring the Userful Desktop's IP address). (See note below.)
  6. Once properly configured, the login screen to start the remote session (running off your Userful Desktop terminal server) will prompt for a username and password (see Figure). (If you do not know the username and password please contact us.)

NOTE: Configuration depends on the thin client. The type of configuration you are looking for may be described as "XDM", "XDMCP", "X11", or even just "X". There may be an "XDM Browser" where the thin client device will query the network's subnet to automatically find any XDM servers. In this case the Userful Desktops in your network should respond describing themselves as "Userful Desktop". If there is no XDM Browser or the Userful Desktop does not respond to the query for whatever reason, the connection will need to be configured manually. Only the IP address of the Userful Desktop is required. There may be other configuration options depending on the specific make and model of your thin client device. For example, there may be an option to automatically connect when the thin client is powered on. The correct values for these types of configuration options are at the discretion of the thin client "administrator" (i.e. the person configuring the thin client).

Q: Which thin client devices are compatible with Userful Desktop?

Some thin client devices have already been successfully tested with Userful Desktop. Some of our Userful Desktop customers have already invested heavily in a thin client infrastructure. For them, Userful Desktop software supports remote thin client terminals. This does not offer as fast performance as our standard stations (shared rich clients), however it does enable customers to use the hardware they have already purchased. Below is a list of devices and their compatibility status.


  • Hardware:
    • Wyse S50
      • Linux based OS
      • Using the XDM/XDMCP connection protocol
    • Neoware (not yet thoroughly tested)
  • Software:
    • Xnest (Linux application)
      • Use the command
        Xnest -query <userful_desktop-ip-address> :<display-number>
      • Could be done on Userful Desktop with the proper configuration.

Untested (but will probably work):

  • Wyse V50 (Linux based OS)
  • Wyse 5150 SE (Linux based OS)

Untested and unknown compatibility status:

  • Maxspeed Corporation
  • HP
  • Neoware
  • Wyse
  • Expert

If you find that Userful Desktop works with thin client devices that are listed as "untested" or are not on the list, please let us know so we can update their status.


Q: How can I get Userful Desktop into Single User Mode?

A: Single User Mode is a command line-only mode that can be used to troubleshoot and diagnose various issues with Userful Desktop. It can also be used to install packages.

Note: Booting into Single User Mode is an advanced task and should be done only under the guidance of Userful tech support staff.

To enter Single User Mode:

  1. Turn on the computer.
  2. When the "GNU Grub" screen comes up, press the P key on a keyboard that is connected directly to the back of the computer's motherboard.
    • It must be a keyboard plugged in through a USB port or a PS/2 port on the motherboard, not an expansion card or USB hub.
    • Note that you will only have a small window of opportunity to press the key before the computer will continue loading the operating system.
  3. You will be prompted to enter a password. Contact Userful staff for this password.
  4. Once done, you will be presented with a second Grub menu. Press the P key again.
  5. You will be prompted to enter another password. Contact Userful staff for this second password.
  6. At this point, there are two different ways to get into Single User Mode, depending on the version of Userful Desktop you have:
    1. If you have an older version, press the down-arrow key once, to highlight the kernel line, and press the B key to boot.
    2. If you have a newer version, you will be presented with a third Grub menu with only one option. Press the Enter key to boot into it.
  7. The system will then boot quickly in non graphical mode; once it is done, a prompt will be displayed that looks something like this:
  8. Now you are in Single User Mode where you can do whatever you need to do.

Q: How can I install other software on Userful Desktop?

The Install Packages tool in Administrator Mode is used to add and remove optional Userful Desktop software packages.

  1. Advanced tools.png
    Start a session and get into Administrator Mode.
  2. Double-click on the Advanced Tools folder icon on the desktop.
  3. Select Updates if you are updating a package that is already installed, or choose Available if you are looking for a new package. (We strongly recommend not selecting Installed, since this allows you to remove packages. See "Removing Packages" section below.)
  4. Click Refresh at the bottom right of the window. This will update software lists available from the selected repositories.
  5. Check the box next to each package to be installed. Be careful when choosing packages; make sure you understand what it is you are installing.
  6. Once you have selected all the necessary packages, click the Add to Queue button at the lower right of the window.
  7. Click the Process Queue button on the lower right of the window.
  8. Click OK as required, and wait while the packages are downloaded and installed. You may wish to make sure that the automatic log-off feature is disabled while you are waiting for the install process to finish. You can check this by clicking on the timer just to the left of the clock at the bottom right of the screen.
  9. Repeat this process on every Userful Desktop computer that requires the additional software. (Not every station on multistation computers. Just one station per computer is necessary.)

WARNING: We do not recommend that you change the selected repositories. Do so only under the direction of Userful Support Staff.

Removing Packages

To remove software packages added by yourself or another Userful Desktop Administrator, follow the above process but select Installed instead of Updates, then select the packages to remove and follow the rest of the steps above.

WARNING: Only remove packages previously added by yourself or another Userful Desktop administrator. If you accidentally remove a critical component, you may need to reinstall Userful Desktop.

Q: How are Userful Desktop software updates done?

A: Have a look at the "Userful Desktop Software Updates" page.