You've got to love it when yesterday's capitalist pig-dog commercial software becomes today's pure, virtuous, free, open-source tool. Two powerful remote desktop systems for Linux have just been given the open-source treatment.
Linux users have always had a few options for remote desktops, from the X11 itself through to VNC. However these don't work quite as well as commercial implementations such as the popular NoMachine.
Windows has the reasonably efficient and consistently implemented Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) but it is inherently proprietary and tied to the Windows architecture, so it's not an option for sharing Linux desktops (though Linux client software is available to control Windows machines using RDP).
While NoMachine releases its client software for free, until recently the terminal servers themselves (required to actually share desktops over a network) haven't been.
Now, software maker 2X has released its Linux terminal server solution -- based around NoMachine's technology -- as open-source.
With 2X, companies can roll out a fleet of cheap 'thin client' Linux PCs with bugger-all CPU power and no storage, with users accessing their Linux desktops over the network from a central server.
2X will continue to sell its Windows terminal server to corporate clients who want to be able to provide Windows desktops to thin clients. Because this allows companies to save the cost of buying Windows licenses for every PC (as well as the powerful PCs needed to run it), this market is naturally larger for Windows.
It might explain why the company has open-sourced its Linux terminal server version to drum up some support.
No need to pay for NoMachine
If you're one of the particular variety of geeks that keeps up on the world of remote desktop software [I confess to being one], you may remember NoMachine from when it first hit the scene as a powerful cross-platform terminal server built on the technology of X that allows thin client PCs (well, any PC) to use fully featured desktops or standalone applications, even over low bandwidth links.
At the time when it was first released it was so nifty you could even use a desktop through a browser, thanks to a Java plugin.
NoMachine is a commercial product, but the company does release its core libraries -- its compression technology that makes the magic happen -- under the GPL. It's this that originally made the FreeNX project, and now 2X's products, possible.
As far as performance goes, NoMachine's technology is on par with Windows' own Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) suite, better than VNC, and far superior to X11's own compression system (know as 'lbx', low-bandwidth X) which is both fiddly and slow, speaking from experience.
If you haven't so far played with Linux based remote desktop software, or you're living in the dark ages spamming X sessions over the network (well, ok, this is acceptable for LANs), you have two great options to explore, and two is always better than one.
Free client and server software for Linux
Not free but the original and the best