I am a graduate student in statistics at a Canadian University and I have a desktop computer in my office which has software installed that I have used for my research. The software is proprietary and the license is for a local machine so I can not access it remotely (via ssh or otherwise).

Due to the current situation with COVID-19, I am working from home. I am able to conduct most of my research using open source software (such as python and R) however I would also like to use some of the software which I had access to on my desktop in order to complete my research since I had code that was working on the proprietary software. I would save a substantial amount of time by running existing code compared to rewriting it in another language.

Unfortunately I can not access the software on my desktop remotely due to licensing issues and I do not want to visit the university since the government has asked us to practice social distancing and the University has also requested that only essential personnel be present in the interest of the safety of the general public.

Therefore I was wondering whether there were any scholarships or bursaries available specifically for students who would like to use scientific software for their research (in Canada or in North America in general)?

I understand that research and education requires sacrifice and I might end up asking my supervisor to help me out with buying a license and I also understand that a lot of software is available at a discounted price for students (however the student price is still non-trivial). Before I try these options however I was wondering whether the community might be aware of some resources for scholarships or bursaries specifically for software that I could apply for?

Moderators, if this is off-topic, please direct me to the relevant stack exchange so I can post my question there.

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    Just to be clear, remoting into the machine and running the software on the machine is not an option? You are still running it on the licensed machine in that case. Give that is what a large percentage of the workforce at my national lab is doing this very moment to run a wide range of pricey licensed software on their office computers, I think you need to rethink remoting in.
    – Jon Custer
    Apr 1, 2020 at 22:11
  • Seconding @JonCuster's point: isn't remotely logging in to the licensed machine possible? Apr 1, 2020 at 22:13
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    Yes you can access them with a terminal. Many universities have licenses for those software packages which will let you install them on your home computer at no extra charge. Also consider GNU Octave and the Mathematica web application. Apr 1, 2020 at 22:32
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    While our buildings are completely locked down, badge access still worked (the situation has changed here). I was able to retrieve my equipment a couple weeks ago with no issue. If you're just picking up equipment in an already vacant building, you aren't violating the spirit of the order IMO, unless you're under stay-at-home, which is different from social distancing. That may be different if your computer is in a building full of people working for whatever reason. Apr 1, 2020 at 22:51
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    @NM_ You can absolutely use MATLAB in a "headless" (terminal-only) environment on a Mac. See "Start MATLAB Without Desktop" on this page. You can log in to your computer via SSH and use MATLAB that way.
    – ff524
    Apr 1, 2020 at 23:26

2 Answers 2


In your case, you should have a person who is "essential personnel" send you the computer. For example, security or safety personnel. This would meet social distancing requirements. I am assuming that the premise of your question is correct.

More generally, supercomputing centers purchase software licenses. You can apply for free access to many of these centers. I'm not familiar with the ones in Canada in particular.

  • It may not be that simple if access to the local network is required, but not available remotely. Also, it might not work if the OP is in another province or across a national boundary.
    – Buffy
    Apr 1, 2020 at 22:49
  • Is that something essential personnel have been doing? Apr 1, 2020 at 22:49
  • @AzorAhai Essential personnel are not limited to essential duties. Security has to be there even if there's no security problems, so they can do other tasks. Apr 2, 2020 at 0:49
  • International mail works fine. Apr 2, 2020 at 0:49
  • @Anon I guess my question is if essential personnel have been asked to do tasks for faculty and staff like that. I'm not sure I could have that done at my school Apr 2, 2020 at 1:07

I have two suggestions, one of which is an answer to the actual question.

Contact customer support at the vendors of the software, explain the problem and ask if they can provide a solution. Since the machine in the office isn't being used, they might, given the right appeal, grant you a license for the home machine. It would be good advertising for them, actually. Good karma, at least. Given the chaos of the current situation they might be inclined to do something that they wouldn't otherwise consider.

The other is to use the remote access capabilities of all networked macs. You can completely control one mac from another (or even a PC) with the built in software. You can actually see the desktop of one machine in a window on the other and operate it in the usual way with mouse and keyboard. It is a bit finicky if the OS versions are different and you may need one time access to the distant mac to enable access, however. But that might be arranged without physical access over something like a telnet connection.

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