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What are the features of graphical terminal servers and technologies available for Linux?

  • is it open source/free
  • how well does it scale
  • management (?)
  • what's the network usage, susceptibility to latency
  • support for session pause/resume
  • what client platforms does it support
  • support for sound (playback and record)
  • directory/local disk sharing
  • local printing
  • other cons/pros

This question is supposed to be a community wiki for comparison between the different technologies, but it looks like I don't have enough points to make questions into wikis(?)

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8 Answers 8

xpra

  • Fully open source, GPL
  • no load balancing
  • winswitch.org GUI management tool (also works for NX, VNC and RDP)
  • Fairly high bandwidth usage, but also supports lossy JPEG compression (much lower)
  • Sessions can be suspended and resumed at will, very quickly too (much faster than NX), a more general comparison table with VNC and NX is here
  • Supports all platforms. winswitch downloads include binary builds for Windows and OSX
  • Sound via pulseaudio on Linux (basic cross platform sound support via winswitch)
  • no file sharing (winswitch work in progress)
  • no print sharing (winswitch work in progress)

I have to say that this list here is helpful, if a bit confusing: it includes low level protocols (like NX, VNC, and now xpra) as well as high level wrappers (like neatx, freenx, and now winswitch). Also it points to some VNC implementations, but not the more recent TigerVNC fork...

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NX is an implementation from NoMachine, the protocol is a mutated DXCP. VNC (like TightVNC) is usable without any wrappers (like ThinLic). –  Hubert Kario Dec 21 '10 at 11:43
    
Is this a clarification? NX, xpra and VNC can all be used without any wrappers. What I meant is that it may be useful to distinguish the protocols themselves (NX, VNC, xpra, RDP, ssh X11 forwarding...) from the wrappers (NX proprietary, freenx, neatx, winswitch, etc..) –  totaam Dec 21 '10 at 12:23
    
In most cases it's hard to distinguish protocol from implementation. Raw NX libraries are impossible to use AFAIK, you have to use some kind of wrapper. What's more, in big deployments things like sound sharing and print sharing are ''very'' important. –  Hubert Kario Jan 9 '11 at 19:19
    
I strongly disagree: protocols (like RFB or NX) are well documented, and there may be dozens of implementations for it (as is the case for RFB). As for NX, it is trivial to use without a wrapper, even recommended when testing an installation: you can just run nxagent/nxproxy (see NX docs for details). The importance of sound and print sharing does not change that: this is supported by the protocol, not the wrappers. –  totaam Jan 10 '11 at 12:46

X11. (X11 is chatty and has Rotten performance over a WAN.) As many users as you feel like. Ships free with ever Unix-like distribution. Used to be a pain on 10Mbps Ethernet, works fine on 100Mbps, probably great on 10Gbps Thin client Hardware (X-Terminals) used to be available.

Protocol allows for networked printer, sound, input devices. ( And other junk if you really want to)

X11 clients (software or thin operating system) for most hardware are readily available.

Microsoft Windows does not ship with support for it. 3rd Party X clients exist and are pretty good.

  • Allows applications running on multiple servers to appear on one client. (Many to One)
  • Multiple servers serving multiple clients with more than one server's output per client (Many to Many)
  • Or one server and multiple clients (One to Many)
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please, either make this a community wiki or fix punctuation, grammar and formatting, it's painful to look at –  Hubert Kario Nov 16 '10 at 21:33

vncserver TightVNC, RealVNC

  • open source
  • scales over single server
  • no GUI admin tools, users have to start own servers by themselves
  • low to medium network usage, medium susceptibility to latency, optimized for use over Internet
  • session pause and resume
  • clients for Linux, Windows, OSX (probably iOS, Symbian, WebOS, etc.)
  • no sound support
  • no local file access
  • no local printing
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LTSP - Linux Terminal Server Project

  • fully open source
  • scales over single server (not sure)
  • GUI tools for user and session management
  • medium to high network usage, high susceptibility to latency, optimized for use over LAN (X11 forwarded over SSH)
  • no session pause and resume
  • clients have to be thin clients or PCs working as such
  • local sound playback
  • no local file access
  • local printing (not sure)
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NoMachine NX

  • based on OSS but the core is proprietary, the free version supports 2 clients
  • load balancing over multiple servers
  • GUI tools available for user and session management
  • low network usage and low susceptibility to latency, optimized for use over the Internet
  • ability to pause and resume sessions
  • support for Linux, Windows, Solaris and OSX clients
  • local sound playback
  • local files sharing
  • local printing
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up vote 2 down vote accepted

X2go:

  • fully open source
  • very high scalability, ability to use clustering or server arrays for serving clients
  • graphical tools for user and session management
  • low network usage and low susceptibility to latency, optimized for use over the Internet
  • ability to pause and resume sessions
  • support for Linux, Windows, OSX and Maemo. Official repository for debian (both client and server). Client can be run as Desktop Manager on thin clients or systems booted over PXE.
  • local sound playback
  • local files sharing
  • local printing
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ThinLic

  • based on OSS but the core is proprietary, the free version supports 10 clients
  • high availability and load balancing over multiple servers
  • (don't know about tools)
  • low to medium network usage low to medium susceptibility to latency, optimized for use over the Internet
  • (don't know about session management)
  • support for Windows, Linux, OSX and Solaris clients. Client can be run as Desktop Manager on thin client or PXE booted PC.
  • local sound playback and recording
  • local files sharing
  • local printing
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Neatx

  • fully open source server, proprietary client
  • limited to single machine
  • no tools (GUI or CLI) for session and user management
  • low network usage and low susceptibility to latency, optimized for use over the Internet
  • ability to pause and resume sessions
  • support for Linux, Windows, Solaris and OSX clients
  • local sound playback
  • local files sharing
  • local printing

  • rather unstable, sessions that died need to be manually removed

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