Running Android Studio (or any other X11 application) on a remote machine via X11

22 Sep 2019 - tsp
Last update 15 Jun 2021
Reading time 2 mins

This will be a rather short and not so generic blog-entry.

Since all workstations I’m administering are running FreeBSD and Android Studio (and also every other possible well known development environment for Android) is damaged beyond an easy patch and incapable on running portable on anything else than Linux or MacOS (as well as Windows) - because of binary downloads during the gradle build process and uname checking in aapt2 - and i really didn’t want to switch to Linux just because of this annoyance - there is a solution for that: Run a VM or dedicated machine somewhere else on the network or your local machine and use X11 forwarding. In this case the application looks as it would run on your local machine and normally is as responsive but runs on the remote Linux VM that you just setup to run Android Studio (or any other Linux application).

After standard installation of the development environment on the remote machine (this can be done via SSH and without any graphical environment) one is capable of

On most Linux distributions this is enabled in the sshd_config by default. One simply has to generate an ssh-key using ssh-keygen. Just use the default settings and copy the resulting key onto the remote machine at ~/.ssh/authorized_keys.

Then use ssh-agent (in GUI environments like xfce4 it should already be running if you’ve installed the system using packages or ports). If it’s not already running launch it using ssh-agent. Then one can ssh-add /path/to/keyfile add the private key to the local ssh authentication agent.

Note that the server side does have to have xauth installed. On FreeBSD this is available at x11/xauth and can easily be installed via packages (pkg install x11/xauth or from ports cd /usr/ports/x11/xauth/ && make install)

After that the remote application can be launched with X11 forwarding enabled:

ssh -Y "~/android/android-studio/bin/"

The application should launch as expected from a local installation.

To get an useable entry in your own application launcher just create an ~/.local/share/application/userapp-AndroidStudioRemote.desktop file. This could contain the following content:

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Android Studio
Exec=ssh -Y "~/android/android-studio/bin/"
Version=Remote on Xen
GenericName=Integrated Development Environment
Comment=Java, J2EE, Android

After ssh-agent is running one can use this shortcut as long as the VM is also running an reachable.

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Dipl.-Ing. Thomas Spielauer, Wien (

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