This is an idea that's been floating in my head for a few days, and I just wanted to see if it was feasible, and if so what the best way to go about implementing it would be.

I have several computers running linux (Ubuntu to be specific), and I was wondering if it would be possible to employ Xorg's server/client design to create a virtual KVM system.

My idea is to have them set up so that the computer my mouse, keyboard and monitor is attached to is acting as a client to all three servers (including itself), and to switch between them by hitting Ctrl+Alt+F6,7, or 8.

So, is this possible, or something similar? If it is possible, what are potential pitfalls. For example, is response time likely to be affected if the server and client are connected over a 10/100 internal network?

  • look for XDMX, it works fine.
    – kagali-san
    Aug 31, 2011 at 16:13

4 Answers 4


You could do this fairly easily, but it won't be pretty. Basically you'd need to run three different Xservers on each of the different virtual terminals. The first one would be the normal X server running locally. The other two would need to be set up to use XDMCP. This really old HOWTO might be a good starting point.

  • this is the real answer. X was designed to work like this in the old days when multiuser systems were huge and graphic workstations were too expensive.
    – Javier
    Jun 3, 2009 at 20:54

You've got it backwards - in X, the server is the display and the client is the software. So one machine can only act as a display server for itself. Doing otherwise requires something like vnc.

The other implication of this, however, is that X software can be launched on a remote machine and have their display be local... the easy way is to first launch an xterm from the remote and then start up all the remote programs from there, like:

local$ ssh -X remote xterm
[ xterm pops up with a remote$ prompt ]
remote$ firefox
[ firefox pops up, display is on local, but it's running on remote ]

Since the xterm is already using your local machine as its display, they all will do so as well. Of course that could be shortcutted as

local$ ssh -X remote firefox

Multiple X Servers is the answer if you are opposed to using the remote desktop (vnc) available in the repositories and installed by default.


Does (Quick) Synergy or x2x meet the bill?

I believe they only switch between clients when you move the mouse off the display, but there is an off-change that they'd allow you to configure keyboard shortcuts.

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