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I'm trying to run a GTK-based plotting library that I wrote over an SSH terminal that's too slow to run an X session over. GTK assumes that a graphical display is present and won't work otherwise. However, I only want to use this library to generate plots and save them to a file, not display them on the screen. Is there any way I can set up a graphical equivalent to /dev/null as my graphical display, without root access to the machine in question? Such a device would report sane values for resolution and depth (1280x1024, 24-bit, for example), and report that all screen drawing commands succeeded without doing anything, and make GTK think there was a real graphical display present.

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Check out xvfb: "X virtual framebuffer is an X11 server that performs all graphical operations in memory, not showing any screen output."

edit Whoops, I missed that bit about not having admin access (edit: it wasn't bolded then). Probably not an option then unless it's already set up.

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Good answer anyways. I have only ever heard of this being done using either xvfb or vnc / x11vnc. There's not much you can do to change the basic configuration of the x server without any admin privileges. – DaveParillo Jul 20 '10 at 15:04
It seems like, at least in theory, you could hook into ssh to present a dummy X display that would catch and discard the data that would normally go back through -X. But I have about 0% of the considerable knowledge that would be necessary to estimate the practicality of such an endeavour. – intuited Jul 21 '10 at 5:01

Another option is to use's dummy video driver and void input driver. Using them will start a X server that does not connect to hardware and has little or no backing store. Pass -config to Xorg to use a separate config file you supply.

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Can this be done w/o root access? – dsimcha Jul 20 '10 at 15:13
Provided the drivers are already in place, yes. – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Jul 20 '10 at 15:58
@dsimcha: on ubuntu look for package xserver-xorg-driver-dummy – DaveParillo Jul 21 '10 at 0:51

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