The Linux cluster in The Mill defaults to a fairly heavyweight Gnome3 desktop session. If you prefer something lightweight, you can now change this by clicking on the tools icon after entering your login name and before signing on. This is remembered on a per-user basis. LXDE and GNOME Classic are both fairly straightforward. Openbox has no visible desktop. You use the right mouse button to bring up a menu of applications or to log out.
The remmina remote desktop viewer has recently been installed alongside the default vinagre client.
If you have other requests for software with a reasonable academic use, please ask.
Chris Ritson — NUIT support — email@example.com