Remote MX data collection at MacCHESS

© Last updated May 2017

MacCHESS allows remote data collection at its macromolecular crystallography beamline F1. This opportunity is reserved for users who have visited the laboratory in person and are familiar with MacCHESS facilities and procedures.
Once you have submitted a proposal (be sure to mention your wish for remote collection), had it approved and been assigned beam time, here's what you will need to do to collect data remotely:

Using the automounter

The user should be familiar with the ALS style automounters used at MacCHESS.

Get CLASSE IT credentials
About a week in advance of your beam time, make contact with MacCHESS about remote access. We need to know who will be the primary contact for your group's data collection. We will also want a phone number and e-mail address for contact during the beamtime.
MacCHESS will issue CLASSE* IT credentials to the primary contact. This will consist of a username and instructions for securing your password. These temporary credentials will allow you to connect to the CHESS lab network using VPN. The credentials should last long enough to complete data collection.

* CLASSE is the parent organization for CHESS. They oversee some of our IT resources.

Set up VPN
OpenVPN on the computer you will use during data collection. "VPN" stands for Virtual Private Network. CLASSE has a wiki page describing how to install and configure OpenVPN for this purpose. (Your CLASSE IT credentials are required to access the wiki.) Here's a tip for Windows7 users: be sure to "Install as administrator." In addition to the software itself, you will need to install a configuration file and a certificate in the OpenVPN directory. These files are available from the wiki page.
When you run OpenVPN and open a connection, you will be prompted for an account name and password. Use the CLASSE IT credentials you were assigned. You will be connected to CLASSE VPN server, and will have access to its additional network links inside the CHESS firewall. This allows you to connect to the MacCHESS data collection server
You can verify the VPN connection by trying to open an SSH connection to landline. Use the specuser data collection account to login to landline.
Leave the VPN connection open throughout data collection and retrieval.
This procedure replaces the old method of setting up a hole in the CHESS firewall. It is no longer necessary for you to identify your IP address. Instead, you need to remember your CLASSE IT account name and password for the duration of the experiment.

Set up a remote desktop client

Test your ability to connect in advance

Making the NX connection
MacCHESS uses NX remote desktop software from
NoMachine to enable the remote desktop connection. The data collection workstation runs nxserver and the user (you) will run the client on your computer. X2Go also uses the NX remote desktop protocol, but is not compatible with NoMachine NX.

Beamline F1 uses server

Make the connection, using NX 3.5.0-7 client:

Make the connection, using NoMachine 4.x or 5.x client:
Once your ability to connect is established and your beamline time slot approaches, wait for approval from MacCHESS to connect for the actual data collection. This is usually carried out by email and telephone.

Operate the beamline

Retrieve your data

We recommend RSYNC for data transfer. Here is some advice and instruction for RSYNC and other data transfer methods. By default, RSYNC uses the SSH protocol for network transfers. This is the same protocol used by the NX remote desktop interface, so using RSYNC to retrieve your data should work just fine through the VPN connection.

Maintain contact

You will need to be in touch with the MacCHESS staff throughout the process, from advance preparations to beamline operation to data retrieval.
You should submit a phone number and e-mail address through which the primary user can be reached during data collection.
Beamline F1
F1 server name: (
Data collection account: specuser
F1 data directory: /F1a
F1 direct phone: 607-255-0584

CHESS main phone line: 607-255-7163

It is possible to set up a skype connection to facilitate communication. Please ask if you think this would be helpful.
MacCHESS staff may occasionally communicate through signs displayed on the data collection desktop, such as "Pause for maintenance," or "Call F1."

Things you should communicate:

Back to Schuller staff page
MacCHESS home page