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Super-fast remote desktops with FreeNX

By   |  August 22, 2006

IT admins have long turned to VNC to work on remote desktops. VNC simply sends a live picture of the screen over the network, and returns mouse and keyboard changes to the remote desktop. Despite it’s long run as an essential IT tool, VNC has its drawbacks, and is getting a little long in the tooth. A significantly better solution has been released by the folks at NoMachine, an Italian-based remote access and terminal services developer.

NoMachine uses X Server’s client/server architecture, throws in some compression, adds a secure socket layer for security, and delivers NX – a mind-blowing remote access solution that beats VNC hands down in the Linux environment.

Instead of sending full screens to the client, NX sends just enough information for the client to draw the windows itself. Combined with the compression through a variety of methods, NoMachine says that running a remote session on a LAN is indistiguishable from running it on a local computer.

It also means that NX can run over the Internet. While you’ll know you’re not on a local computer, the performance with a good connection makes the system quite usable – something you’re not going to get with VNC.

It’s also darn easy to set up and deploy. I use it on my home network to access other LAN machines, and it only took a couple of minutes to get running. I use FreeNX, an open source version of the server released by NoMachine under the GNU license, to work remotely on both my US server and other machines at home. Once you’ve set up a profile on the client, connecting is literally two clicks – one on a desktop icon that the NX client sets up for me and once on “connect”.

Performance is quite dependent on the application that you’re running, particularly if connecting over the Net. I found that some Java apps were unusable, but native X apps proved more responsive.

The move away from VNC has opened up a whole new sphere of uses for NX. With VNC, you’d tend to pop onto a server, do some administration, and hop off again. With NX, you can use it to actually work on a remote server, doing hard-core development or just picking up mail and using

Some enterprising folk are even offering remote desktops to users. Since NX uses the native power of Linux’s multi-user environment, all you need is a good disk quota system, a fancy front-end, and FreeNX. Check out for a good KDE desktop service.

To install the NX client on Ubuntu, you’ll need the nxclient package (sudo apt-get install nxclient). Clients are available for Linux, Windows, Mac OS X and Solaris For the server, you’ll need SSH. Add one of the FreeNX repositories and apt-get freenx.


One Response to “Super-fast remote desktops with FreeNX”

  1. dominik
    August 22nd, 2006 @ 12:00 am

    Is FreeNX useable via gnome\’s vino-server?

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