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Every time i ssh into my raspberry pi, i get message:

Cannot open display "default display"

I've tried going into raspi-config and installing all the locales. Doesn't change anything. I've then tried googling it and nothing seems to work.

What do I do to make it go away?

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  • Are you logging in using a console and trying to run GUI apps? Jan 5, 2020 at 20:43
  • im logging in via terminal. no im not trying to run gui apps, not even -x with the ssh.
    – john-jones
    Jan 5, 2020 at 21:01
  • What app are you using to make the SSH connection? Jan 5, 2020 at 21:03
  • no app. just terminal.
    – john-jones
    Jan 5, 2020 at 21:06
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    you're right. in the bashrc file i was sourcing multiple other files. and it turned out to be an xkeymap call that caused the message. Turns out the x in xkeymap is for... -x. I was so thinking this was some locale problem configurable in the raspi-config for raspbian has this locale setting problem i was always dealing with that caused errors akin to this one, so i was on the wrong track. Can just post an answer and i'll accept it.
    – john-jones
    Jan 5, 2020 at 22:43

2 Answers 2

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This is a very common sign that there is something in the remote user's .bashrc file that tries to start something that wants to use the X display. That is what the message usually means. A lazy way around this is to edit the logged in user's .bashrc and make the last line to be the clear command. Advantage: hides the problem, disadvantage: you'll never know what is causing it. Best practice is to go through the .bashrc file and find if anything is being run that needs a running Xserver. Also maybe try looking in /var/log/syslog for clues.

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  • 1
    Love the 'clear' solution. Problem still exists but you don't see it.
    – gnuchu
    Mar 1, 2021 at 13:18
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in the bashrc file i was sourcing multiple other files. and it turned out to be an xkeymap call that caused the message. Turns out the x in xkeymap is for... -x

You can test whether a console login is via SSH or not like this

if [[ $(who -m) =~ \([-a-zA-Z0-9\.]+\)$ ]] ; then
echo "SSH session"
else
echo "not SSH session"
fi

who -m produces hostname and user associated with stdin, and in an SSH shell there is output, and none in a GUI terminal, which we can test for. who plus two dummy arguments will produce the same effect, e.g. who am i (very popular), who mom likes or who a b etc.

The top grab is my Rpi4 GUI, the bottom is an SSH login from my Windows PC using wsltty.

enter image description here

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