University IT Virtual Statistics Lab

The Computer Lab Gone Virtual

By Jacob Flores, system administrator supervisor, IT User Services, University IT, and Jonathan Starkweather, statistical analyst research specialist, Data Science and Analytics, Research IT Services, UIT

Software streaming, remote apps, virtual desktops—technology advancements are great, but what do all these terms mean? Here are five key points to understanding University IT’s new Virtual Statistics Lab and how it can benefit you.

  • 1. It's all about the software.
    You need access to the university-licensed statistics software for your research, coursework, or class instruction, correct? Maybe you just want to gain further experience with the software through one of Data Science and Analytics office's many short-courses and simply need access to the applications? All of the traditional software offerings are now available for academic use within the Virtual Statistics Lab.
  • 2. Accessible anywhere.
    Traditionally, you would visit a physical computer lab to use the university-licensed software. Now, as long as you have access to the internet, the Virtual Statistics Lab is at your fingertips. Whether you are on campus with your laptop, at home with your desktop or halfway across the world with your iPad, these applications run on UNT servers and display on your local device by streaming the visual content over the internet.
  • 3. Accessible from anything.
    Seriously, almost anything. The VMware Horizon client used in conjunction with the lab is available on Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS and Android—there’s even an HTML client that runs within a standard web browser. No matter how weak the device is, since the Virtual Lab’s applications are running on our server and simply displayed on your device, everyone and every device has a nice uniform experience.
  • 4. What about your data?
    Fortunately, multiple methods to access your data are available. The universally available option is to use your university-provisioned OneDrive storage. In the virtual lab, your OneDrive storage is automatically mapped to Network Drive letter O:\ right alongside the C:\ drive that you likely are accustomed to seeing. If you opt to use the Horizon View desktop client that UIT recommends, in addition to your OneDrive storage, you also will gain access to your local computer user profile on your computer’s hard drive and any USB flash drives and storage devices plugged into your computer.
  • 5. Seamless integration into your workflow.
    Have you ever used Remote Desktop or a Virtual Desktop before? If so, then you may be accustomed to the full presented desktop environment taking up a whole screen. Our Virtual Statistics Lab takes a different approach: rather than taking up your whole screen, solely the requested application is displayed in its standard window alongside your other locally running applications. This way you can have your email, web browser, etc., sitting alongside your Virtual Statistics Lab application window. You can even pin these applications to your dock and create shortcuts to directly launch individual applications.

Let's take a look.

screenshot of a computer desktop

Well, if that screenshot looks rather ordinary, that’s probably a win in the “seamless” category. In action, the Virtual Statistics Lab applications are indistinguishable from traditionally-installed applications. In the above screenshot, the web browser is the only traditionally-installed application; the remaining statistics applications are all a part of the virtual lab.

For step-by-step instructions on accessing and using the lab's resources, please visit the Virtual Statistics Lab.

Once you have access to the Virtual Statistics Lab applications, head over to Data Science and Analytics’ site to find self-paced short-courses and tutorials to familiarize yourself with these useful applications.

For more information, please send an email to HostComputingServices@unt.edu.

Editor's Note: Please note that information in each edition of Benchmarks Online is likely to change or degrade over time, especially the links to various websites. For current information on a specific topic, search the UNT website, UNT's UIT Help Desk or the world wide web. Email your questions and comments to the UNT University Information Technology Department or call 940-565-4068.