Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?
KDE GUI Software The Internet

NX - A Revolution In Network Computing? 404

Anonymous Coward writes "Judging from this interview, it looks like KDE developers have found a new toy to add to their desktop's networking capabilities. They claim to be able to cram a fullscreen KDE session -- KMail for mailing, Konqueror for file management, Mozilla for web browsing and OpenOffice for word processing -- into a 40 KBit/sec modem connection without losing responsiveness for the user experience. At aKademy, the 9 day KDE Community World Summit, a group of core developers started to work on NX/FreeNX integration to help facilitate the "re-invention of the KDE desktop environment" for KDE4. Knoppix-3.6 is the first Linux distribution to ship an integrated FreeNX server (created by Fabian Franz) with the NoMachine NX Client."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

NX - A Revolution In Network Computing?

Comments Filter:
  • Educate me. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Limburgher ( 523006 ) on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @02:23PM (#10120886) Homepage Journal
    Is this on top of a remote X display, or in place of one?
    • It seems to be an alternate way to pass messages back and forth.

      I don't know if you've noticed but remoteX doesn't work in a bandwidth constrained environment. They're claiming that this does.

      I think the app has to be NX-aware for it to work, however...
      • Re:Educate me. (Score:5, Informative)

        by ahfoo ( 223186 ) on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @02:51PM (#10121222) Journal
        I think the app has to be NX-aware for it to work, however...

        I don't think you're right on that point. I downloaded the Knoppix3.6 iso with Bittorrent almost a week ago and I've been using Fabian's NX server the whole time since then. It gives you everything you get in a regular Knoppix KDE desktop. You can burn DVDs using K3B from a machine in another room among other things I've been doing lately.
        I just wish there was some way to make it work at boot time so I could ditch my KVMs.
        I did see that small /. thread on hardware IP KVMs the other day though. Sounded great, but I don't have one to play with. But hey if KVM over IP works for hardware, why not software. Sounds crazy, but you never know.
        • Two words: BIOS Support

          In order to support boot style KVM abilities that hardware KVM's offer, the BIOS has to boot an entire IP stack and daemon to support the integrated KVM functionality, and don't forget the network drivers needed to support the network card. This would be quite heavy. It isn't as simple as the interface between the bios and net boot roms.

          I guess this could actually be integrated into network boot roms and add a new differentiator to the innovation stagnent NIC ASIC market. Just to no
          • Re:Educate me. (Score:3, Interesting)

            by afidel ( 530433 )
            I guess this could actually be integrated into network boot roms and add a new differentiator to the innovation stagnent NIC ASIC market.

            The already have those, they are called lights out management units and they are available from every major server manufacturer. They sit in a PCI slot and provide network attached KVM style controll over the server regarless of what state it is in (even off).
        • The couple of IP based KVMs I've used are just VNC based, nothing clever about them really. They come with a rebranded VNC client to make it look like their own stuff, but you can point tightvnc, realvnc, and the others at them.

        • NOT KDE (Score:5, Informative)

          by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs.ajs@com> on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @04:22PM (#10122108) Homepage Journal
          Let's be clear. This is not KDE. This has nothing to do with KDE, any more than KDE having an AIM client ties AIM to KDE.

          NX is not toolkit-specific, it's just a way of compressing the X protocol for displaying applications over low bandwith connections.

          That said, the KDE folks are talking about "integrating NX" into their KDE application framework, which would presumably mean having desktop tools that make the use of NX more convinient, and perhaps wrapping some of KDE's out-of-band data into the NX protocol (such as inter-application communication).

          This is all good, but people are missing the mark if they think this is a special way of moving KDE (that is, Qt) widgets across the wire. It's simply not.
    • by UnderScan ( 470605 ) <jjp6893&netscape,net> on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @02:34PM (#10121031)
      Introduction to NX technology []
      A brief introduction to NX motivation and technology
      This document outlines the background and the design decisions that guided NX development. It explains why NX is different from similar technologies and states the goals the NX project is set to pursue.
    • This is using KDE's widgets; the article does not conclude with any reasonable technical confrontation of the X11 protocol. The feature is KDE can be used to minimize the Xlib transport layer by using only widgets. It is a verry impressive feat, the general purpose of X11, but this is using KDE libraries which are slowly demanding more system resource overhead just to run. The largest gripe I have with KDE is it is more difficult to jump between KDE widget context and Xlib context. I've been able to pro
      • I'm pretty sure the parent is BS or I just can't read what its saying. NX takes the X protocol and uses various caching and compression methods to make it more efficient. Unlike VNC which essentially takes a picture of you desktop and sends that, so its easy to see why NX works so much better. It is desktop environment anogistic more or less The client and whatnot I think are written using KDE widgets for the config menu, it uses artsd for sound. The folks developing the Free version are KDE people, thus its under the KDE category. But the server certainly doesn't know anything about KDE or Gnome or whatever, it just deals with X.

        X when using xeyes, xconsole and twwm might be a quick bandwidth-efficient drawing canvas... but it isn't with any modern program, thus the need for something like NoMachine.

        Why do you want to mix KDE and Xlib? Folks developing KDE don't even use Xlib, they leave that up to Trolltech. The only program I can think of thats still developed (sure there are others) and uses Xlib is the mplayer GUI, and I think everyone accepts its a POS, it mixes xlib and GTK last I heard. I just use mplayer from the console, sometimes with one of its KDE frontends.
    • Re:Educate me. (Score:5, Informative)

      by hummassa ( 157160 ) on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @02:44PM (#10121142) Homepage Journal
      It's a remote graphics protocol based on X11, but with considerably less round-trips, due to aggressive caching on both sides.

      Trying to be more plain:

      imagine the work when you click on a button (exaggerated):

      server: move your mouse position to x1, y1
      client: move your mouse cursor to x1, y1
      server: move your mouse position to x2, y2
      client: move your mouse cursor to x2, y2; highlight button(button 1)
      server: move your mouse position to x3, y3;
      client: move your mouse cursor to x3, y3;
      server: mouse down
      client: display pressed button
      server: mouse up
      client: display pressed button (client will now do the ON_CLICK event)

      under NX:

      server: button(button 1) was clicked
      client: does the ON_CLICK event

  • Great! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by natron 2.0 ( 615149 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (97sretepdn)> on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @02:24PM (#10120893) Homepage Journal
    This should give them a boost in the thin client workstation office enviroment! It would be interesting to see this in action.
    • You know what? That's a great idea! Instead of having KDE lag on my normal system without the network, now it can lag in user responsiveness from over the network.

      either way, it's still slow
  • by garcia ( 6573 ) *
    All participants of that BoF left the meeting with a very excited feeling inside. KDE is going to really take on the struggle for the corporate desktops now, with weapons like NX/FreeNX aboard...

    Are they inferring that corporations are all going to finally move to the thin-client type computing that was hyped 10 years ago? I still really doubt that it's going to happen as people are so entrenched in their current mode of deploying applications. MS Office still beats KOffice and OpenOffice and unfortunat
    • Does MS Office 97 beat OO1.1.2?

      Because we're at MS Office 97 on nearly 10K desktops. (upgrade would be in the millions (which we don't have. so there we are)

      • 1. no it does not.
        2. we ( = Minas Gerais [3rd largest economy of Brasil] State House) just switched 700 copies of MSoffice97 for OOo1.1.2; with NO PAIN at all.

        Just do it. Proper training, some care, ok, but just do it.

      • by Eloquence ( 144160 ) on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @03:37PM (#10121694)
        Early this year, c't magazine, probably the most respected German computer magazine, published a quite interesting comparison of office suites []. They subjected all of them to a test with very large documents with 140 pages of text, 120 graphics and 240 footnotes. MS Word apparently became less and less reliable as more pictures were added - suddenly they could no longer be moved and aligned properly without destroying existing layout. The tester gave up on Word but managed to do it with most of the other suites (including OO). They also found OO to be on the same level as MSO in terms of functionality.

        Now, many bad experiences people may have with OO are probably related to importing existing MS documents. Even though the filters are pretty good, they are obviously not perfect, and last I checked macros were ignored entirely. However, that is not a fair comparison -- Microsoft would utterly fail it, as they don't have the most basic OO import filter. And the complexity of this problem is similarly high as the one of emulating the Windows API on Linux - you don't just have to get the file format right, you also have to duplicate Microsoft's way of interpreting it, even if it's buggy and/or inconsistent.

        Nevertheless, the developers are always working hard on improving import filters, as it is obviously essential to business migration. OpenOffice 2.0 will have improved filters, and it will also have much better database management [] with support for databases directly stored in files (as Access does).

        OpenOffice is clearly more performance-hungry than MS Office, although in my experience that is mostly the start-up time. I don't anticipate major improvements in this area. If you're looking for a very slim MS Word replacement, KWord or AbiWord are probably projects worth keeping an eye on. TextMaker [], a proprietary package, also exists for Linux. And if you're into DTP, Scribus [] is quite mature already.

    • Considering I am running 400 remote x thin client terminals on the shop floor I guess the answer is yes, thin client is cool. Now of course we run bluecurve desktops and don't care much about the network efficency but I have actually tried NX and it is damn responsive over slow links.
    • MS Office still beats KOffice and OpenOffice and unfortunately I really don't think this is going to change that.

      Please quantify that statement with facts.

    • Are they inferring that...

      No, %$#@ it, they're not. They might be IMPLYING it, though.

      For God's sake, people. The difference between "infer" and "imply" is not that complicated. We ought to be able to get it straight.


      • by Espectr0 ( 577637 )
        4 entries found for infer.
        1. To conclude from evidence or premises.
        2. To reason from circumstance; surmise: We can infer that his motive in publishing the diary was less than honorable.
        3. To lead to as a consequence or conclusion: "Socrates argued that a statue inferred the existence of a sculptor" (Academy).
        4. To hint; imply.
  • So... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @02:25PM (#10120912) Journal
    This is PCAnywhere for linux?

    I run sessions over shit dial-up connections, like 16.8kbit or so, and the responsiveness is decent. If I get a full 56.6 connection, it's really good.

    I know we cheerlead for OSS around here, but is this a brand new amazing wonderful thing, or just another VNC protocol? And does KDE need more stuff? The K is for "Kram it all in!"

    • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Doctor Crumb ( 737936 ) on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @02:50PM (#10121217) Homepage
      PCAnywhere for linux is called X11. It's been around for years and years, this is just KDE taking advantage of a protocol to speed that up.
    • There needs to be a "No concept of history" moderation.

      X11 has been around for longer than many slashdotters have been alive.

      And does KDE need more stuff? The K is for "Kram it all in!"

      Oooh! Another joke about KDE having too much functionality, and a clever wordplay on the letter K!!! Take that KDE developers!!!

    • NX is to VNC (Score:5, Informative)

      by Julian Morrison ( 5575 ) on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @03:52PM (#10121838) X is to frame-buffer.

      VNC runs an app remotely, displays it remotely, and sends bitmap movie of the display actoss the network. It can't scale, because the server has to do 100% of the work, and because sending bitmap diffs is bandwidth heavy.

      NX runs an app remotely, displays it locally. Only the unavoidable parts of X protocol travel over the network. It can scale well, because the server only does the bit-crunching; the "thin client" draws the display.
  • Wait isn't open source supposed to only copy already existing closed source technology?

    How dare they be innovative.

    Next thing you know linux will have a measurable and growing market share.

    Then software like apache, eclipse, and jboss will be used in enterprise applications.

    Oh, wait...

    Never mind!

  • How possible (Score:2, Insightful)

    How can you transfer a browser's contents over a 40kB line when its own internet connection can be a lot higher?
  • by xcomputer_man ( 513295 ) on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @02:29PM (#10120963) Homepage
    Evas []-based apps (including the upcoming E17 window manager) perform extremely well over remote X connections, using traditional Xlib. I have tested this myself, over remote connections Evas-based apps are at least 10 times more responsive than GTK/QT apps, using the same traditional X11 connection. Evas is designed to minimize roundtrips to the server so everything gets drawn the first time. And there's a new canvas server in CVS called Evoak that allows remote canvas sharing among applications, complete with gzip compression etc....NX probably won't even be able to touch it performance wise.
    • Does that works for any random X application without modification ?

      • by xcomputer_man ( 513295 ) on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @03:37PM (#10121702) Homepage
        Does that works for any random X application without modification ?

        Apparently you weren't even reading. I said "Evas-based apps".

        And while NX is still a hack that attempts to get around the problem of poor network performance for X11 apps (by wrapping/translating X calls with its own calls), Evas solves the problem directly by making efficient use of Xlib and eliminating unneeded roundtrips. Evoak, the shared canvas goes even further: the host canvas is running on the same machine as the X server, and clients connect to Evoak (which has a much leaner protocol, supports compression *and* encryption) rather than to X. This is the kind of technology that could make running remote X apps on your cellphone possible if resources were available to implement it.

        If you want to find out more go read [].
    • I have to admit I've seen xeyes and Koules perform much better than even the most simple GTK apps over remote connections. It seems athena and other basic toolkits do better than these newfangled ones ;)

      The GTK apps also seem to benefit the least from X compression schemes I've tried. Well the ones that aren't screen-shot deltas like VNC and NX. Actually I'm only partly sure that NX uses delta compression but it performed great.

      I'm glad to hear that E is designed from the ground up with remote connections
  • by cjsteele ( 27556 ) * <> on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @02:30PM (#10120988) Homepage
    My employer had previously deployed 2,000 modified NetBSD thin clients from IBM that ran off of 200+ Linux boxes that provided the OS, print and storage facilities, but let the thin client do the grinding on the apps... only difference here is that the thin client doesn't grind on the data, just renders screen shots. Fact of the mater is, both approaches are highly manageable ways to provide low-cost computing to the masses...
  • by Phat_Tony ( 661117 ) on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @02:32PM (#10121016)
    Soon, maybe they'll invent "dumb terminals" that run all their programs off a central, "mainframe" computer!
    • Wow! That's a cool idea! And then, we could add a graphics protocol and send commands for that over a narrow pipe to the terminal, like Windows' RDP...I mean, like NX, that revolutionary newly thought up idea does!
  • I don't believe (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Snaapy ( 753650 )
    into a 40 KBit/sec modem connection without losing responsiveness for the user experience.

    I'd like to see any responsive image data over 40 Kbit line. Let's imagine some icon takes 64x64 pixels and is crunched to 4KB compressed. It still takes 0,5 seconds per an icon to load. Opening a start menu, waiting... please be patient.

    Anyone who have surfed on a modem knows it's far from real-time responsiveness.

  • by Xentax ( 201517 ) on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @02:35PM (#10121043)
    I know we're running out of possible acronyms that don't already stand for something, but releasing two new 'overloads' for an acronym almost at the same time sucks.

    (If you're wondering, we have this NX client software, and the NX 'No-eXecute' flag on CPU's to help contain the threat posted by stack and heap overflow vulnerabilities)

    We're running out of TLA space a lot faster than IPv4 space. Not as big a deal, I know, but just wait until companies start trying to brand/trademark acronyms or initialisms (for the purists out there) when there's already existing meanings for their choices...

    • NX is not an acronym, it's an abbreviation.

      Acronyms are a special kind of abbreviation that you can pronounce as a word: for example BASIC, NATO, LASER.

  • by melted ( 227442 ) on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @02:35PM (#10121054) Homepage
    You can do RDP over analog modem and things are pretty darn snappy. And you could do this since Windows NT4 Terminal Server edition. Remote desktop comes stock with NT OSs since Windows 2000.
    • by omega9 ( 138280 ) on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @02:48PM (#10121192)
      To clarify the parent a little,

      The client side comes stock on NT, 2k Pro and Server*, XP Pro and 2k3 Server*. However the MS RDP client is downloadable for free from their site.

      The server side only comes stock on NT,2k, and 2k3 Servers, not the workstation OSs. And even then, you have get a single "stock" license, so no more than one connection at a time unless you shell out some bucks.
      • Um... remote desktop client and server is definately in XP Pro (along with remote assistance). Of course it's only good for one user at a time (I assume this is an artificial limitation). What comes with the Servers is likely the full dealie that allows multiple concurrent desktops.
        • I assume this is an artificial limitation

          Indeed, the winlogon process does an RPC call to the termsrv module to check if an additional connection is allowed. Termsrv is statically linked to the licensing module. Some beta versions op SP2 enabled multiple connections. More specifically, replace \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\TERMSRV.DLL with version 2.1.2600.2055 (find on internet, replace in command line safe mode) and the registry key below to enable it (Requires Windows XP SP2 (RC), fast user switching, non-empty u
  • diff NX LBX? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @02:42PM (#10121111) Homepage Journal

    How is NX different from the Low Bandwidth X (LBX) extension for the X windowing system [] that usually underlies KDE and Gnome?

  • This sounds like a perfect application to use with Mom & Pop computers.

    You can run a proxy server to help filer out all the "Bad Stuff" (TM) on the Internet, and you know it won't be a support nightmare.

    Less bandwidth intensive then a terminal session, but less apps too. Might be a good compromise.
  • by Vexler ( 127353 ) on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @02:47PM (#10121171) Journal
    An earlier poster replied that Microsoft has had this for years by using RDP. That configuration is not bad, but I would say that the Citrix ICA/IMA architecture has that beat, and more. (ICA/IMA is better at handling burst traffic, and compression is more efficient.)

    My company deployed more than twenty-five thin clients in addition to many PC-based virtual sessions that allow the back-end servers to do the number crunching. Each thin client session uses no more than 7-8 Kbps to maintain screen updates, and responsiveness is limited only by the capabilities of the servers and the network bandwidth available.
  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @02:50PM (#10121215) Homepage Journal
    No really if it could be used like a terminal sever with an openMosix cluster it could be very nice. You need more power you just add more CPUs to the cluster.
  • by Master of Transhuman ( 597628 ) on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @02:51PM (#10121223) Homepage
    "They claim to be able to cram a fullscreen KDE session -- KMail for mailing, Konqueror for file management, Mozilla for web browsing and OpenOffice for word processing -- into a 40 KBit/sec modem connection without losing responsiveness for the user experience."

    No, they do NOT. The interviewed persons state that a responsive NX session requires a 40kbps link, and about 25MB of RAM. This allows you to run a KDE session remotely and also allows non-KDE apps like Open Office to run remotely.

    They do NOT say that you can cram ALL of those programs SIMULTANEOUSLY INTERACTING into that 40kbps.

    Obviously they mean you can interact with all of those programs over that link - one program at a time, switching between programs, just like any other remote-control software.

    They estimate that a modern PC with 1GB of RAM and a 3GHz CPU could support 25 simultaneous fullscreen KDE remote sessions, crapping out at 35 sessions.

    As for usefulness of this technology, they list at least nine scenarios and benefits of using it.

    One of which is that it eases Linux adoption on the desktop by allowing Linux clients to access Windows apps running on Windows servers and vice versa, thereby allowing companies to migrate from Windows to Linux at their own pace and not forcing them to find equivalent Linux programs for various Windows-only mission-critical programs. In other words, migration doesn't have to be all or nothing.

    Is this too hard for ./'ers to comprehend?

  • If this works... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @02:51PM (#10121227) Homepage's a Windows killer. I know, I know people have been saying that for years. But look, at the pace of development and innovation in Linux v Windows. Okay, maybe a killer, but it will most definitely be a nudge toward nitch market status for Windows.

    Now that Shorthorn is starting to look like XP Rebloated, 5% of companies are contemplating a complete switch to Linux and 36% are considering some type of OSS introduction, this could push quite a few more over the edge.

    Great idea.

  • Here is a link [] to a previous Slashdot article about FreeNX (without the IT theme).
  • by Bravo_Two_Zero ( 516479 ) on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @02:56PM (#10121285)
    It's interesting, but until there are thin clients (no, not the roll-your-own-with-old-PCs variety) that support the protocol, it's a hard sell in a lot of environments. M$ Terminal Services is a pain, and isn't cheap, but we can deploy thin clients with ready RDP sessions in addition to VT220 and tn5250 emulation (including passthru printing). I could do all that with a PC running *nix, but the PC hardware isn't a book-sized device that churns away happily in a dusty warehouse.

    It's not a knock by any means. I'd love to centralize the client apps and just serve sessions over 40kbps. But even that is a little expensive over a 128/256kbps frame relay connection. It's nice. It will be useful. But doesn't sound like something to adopt in a real, low-bandwidth, network computing environment at the moment. I'd love to hear that I'm wrong and missing the point, because I'd *love* to replace MS WTS as well as local PCs in our warehouses.
    • I should clarify. I have seen this:

      RDP and RFB Foreign Protocols

      NX accessibility and remote computing capabilities are not limited to Linux desktops and servers. NX encapsulates and translates into X protocol the Remote Desktop Protocol used by Microsoft Windows NT/2000 Terminal Server Edition and Citrix Metaframe, and Remote Frame Buffer, the protocol used by VNC, another Open Source remote computing facility, available numerous different operating systems.

      Although NX compression offers the best perform
  • ...fight that's brewing. This may be the linux entry.

    IBM is pushing toward a new (centrally managed and provisioned) eclipse based rich client (aka browser on roids) to talk mostly to its workplace portal (aka websphere with portlets)

    Microsoft is pushing the other way with a more complex workstation model and an enhanced "user controlled" sharing place via sharepoint portal,

    Linux desktops have, generally, been trying to mimick Microsoft stuff but with secure, stable applications....(e.g. open office)

    Now, a KDE may become a player in the rich but centrally managed client space.


    Clearly there is a place for centrally managed rich client -- think live of business stuff that at one time was managed through the 3270 terminal. The browser has proven it sucks for that kind of thing, but this trend toward a semi-open or open rich client replacement is going to be the thing to watch.

    Line workers are going to use this stuff (IBM's or something like it -- this KDE version could be it too). The big battle will be for how corporations manage knowledge worker desktops. Will it be a Centrally controlled rich client, or a traditional powerful workstation with sharing tacked on.

    It seems like Linux based machines are likely to have a horse in both races.

  • I tried to search for an explanation of how NX works, but it didn't turn up anything useful. Can anyone explain how NX works?
    • Re:How does it work? (Score:5, Informative)

      by be-fan ( 61476 ) on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @03:09PM (#10121440)
      NX is a compression and caching layer on top of the X11 protocol. It takes the basic X protocol and performs compression of protocol requests, caching of server responses, compression of images, etc.
    • here []
    • by xybe ( 525773 )
      From their site []:
      NoMachine has developed exclusive X protocol compression techniques and an integrated set of proxy agents that make it possible to run complete remote desktop sessions, even at full screen, using narrowband Internet connections, at speeds as low as those offered by a 9600 band modem.

      They use X at the base and add further compression and network optimization. In fact they make it work on top of VNC and RDP

      Not too shabby

  • Belongs in SSH (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Effugas ( 2378 ) * on Tuesday August 31, 2004 @03:21PM (#10121543) Homepage
    NX really needs to be ported to into OpenSSH as an optional compression module for its X Forwarding component. That way, there's literally nothing more than:

    ssh -X user@host ...and if both client and server support NX, things just fly.

  • ... or am I the only dinosaur who remembers these?

    GraphOn made this really sweet line of X terminals that allowed you to split the X server between the remote workstation server and the the display/mouse/keyboard. I was lucky enough to have one of these at home, and it was very zippy ... at 9600 baud I could run an X display that was darned nice to have a full X display at home while my VaxstationII sat at work. Later versions used better compression and were even faster and more responsive. They used

"How many teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "FIFTEEN!! YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?"