Remote desktop access on SuSE: Cygwin, X, XDMCP and SSH? Nope. FreeNX!

This post is also available at my personal web site:

MJL20080827 — Update:  I Just realised that this is one of my top-visited pages and it’s a totally disorganised and incongruent pile of… What’s worse is, I’ve never updated it since the promised update back in March 2007!

Let me clear things up (and save you wading through the whole article): If you want remote access to your openSUSE desktop from a networked thin client, then forget about X11, XDMCP, VNC or tunneling X through SSH. Use the NX protocol. You’ll need to do the following:

  1. Install FreeNX on your openSUSE host. Some (slightly outdated, but usable) instructions are in Chapter 9 of the openSUSE 10.2 Reference manual. If you’re using openSUSE 11.0 or newer, get the latest FreeNX package from the openSUSE Build Service (there are one-click install buttons)
  2. Install an NX client on your remote terminal(s). Nomachine has free NX clients for Linux, Mac, Windows and Solaris (even some experimental ones for PlayStation 2 and Zaurus!). If your remote terminal is running openSUSE, you could alternatively get an open-source NX client from the build service (or ask yourself: I’m running X locally, so why don’t I just use good ole SSH and X11?)
  3. Configure your NX client to connect to the openSUSE host, then log in and enjoy!

The upshot: I’ve done this with a FreeNX server and Nomachine’s NX client for Windows XP, and it all “just works”, except maybe for some font issues with older X clients like emacs (install extra font packages from nomachine to fix that), and some transparency effect issues I noticed in kwin4, probably to do with X11 extensions missing in the NX client. Not a big deal.

Read the rest of this article for the boring background and laughable false-starts in my quest for remote desktops in X… <blush/>

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Crashed Linux

Crashed Linux

Originally uploaded by milliped.

This is a pretty neat shot of the in-flight entertainment system on an Airbus A330 having a boot-up issue. Note, the kernel is Linux.

This photo has a big rant in the flickr comments about whether or not it’s a Linux crash. Well, what’s a Linux crash? Most of the public Windows crashes do not involve the Windows kernel (except for blue-screens) but they get called Windows crashes. So, to be fair, this is a Linux crash, even if it appears that the kernel itself is fine.

New Printer “Just Works” in SUSE 10

Well, here's a first for me: go to local Dick Smith's, buy a cheap printer, for my wife (HP Deskjet 3940, AU$66). Because I don't really care about printing from Linux, I didn't care if it works or not on that OS, just bought whatever Windows printer was cheapest.

Brought it home, plugged it into my PC (in Windows) and it works, after installing drivers and software and about 15 mins of setup time.

For the heck of it, I rebooted to Linux to see what would happen. Well lordy “New hardware detected: HPdeskjet3940” and an offer to set it up. After 5 minutes — just accepting all the standard options — out comes a test page, in colour, bi-directional and fast.

Neat. Linux is ready for me….

Linux distro woes

Well, my flirtations with gentoo didn't last too long. I'm now trying SuSE 10.0 out, which — yes — is an RPM-based distro!

So, why did I leave gentoo? I suppose that the "distro that doesn't get in your way" got in my way. With the arrival of our first baby, I'm rather short on the hours needed to learn how to configure everything in gentoo. While it's true that I could stand to learn a lot from getting it all to work, I can't afford to be hacking around getting pesky things like the scanner to go, or printing, or figuring out why I suddenly cannot burn a CD anymore. I need a "linux for dummies" that just works, and is more stable than winblows. Of course, if money was no object, I'd get myself a nice shiny new dual G5 Macintosh, but that's just for my dreams.

So, since Novel have decided to open up SuSE a bit more now, I'm trying it out. I downloaded the "Evaluation" version, rather than OpenSuse, since I'm not an OpenSource zealot, and frankly I'd like to visit web sites with flash animations. It has crippled xine/kaffeine and no DVDCSS, but I can live without movies for now until I get that sorted, or build from the source I have, or even (ick!) just boot to Windows (though I know of no free DVD players for win32 that expand a 16:9 movie to fill as much of my 4:3 screen as Kaffeine does).

So, it installed well, I now have working scanner, printer, cd-rw, dhcpd, cvs, mysql, java (yay!), apache, tomcat, kde. No Audacity or Rosegarden (important apps for me), no Eclipse (can wait). Slightly out-of-date jedit (4.1) and about 250MB of patches to upgrade to at some point, or not, since on dial-up I'm not exactly a cracker target…

I'm very happy with SuSE so far. It's as pleasant as I always thought it would be. YaST is nice too. Only problem: sometimes cdrecord bombs, still (!). Pisses me off, it worked once but not again, even as root. It can sit on the back-burner (oops) until after I've got my missing audio software installed

Major projects for linux are:

  • Record old music tapes to OGG and burn to data and audio CDs
  • Get nice video editing software (kino) working for baby and burn to VCDs
  • Java hacking (install Sun Java Studio sharchives)
  • Photo indexing and database, then archive to CDs
  • Produce a CD database
  • Get a working backup solution running

Obviously, I need to get cd-rw sorted as a priority… it's kinda central!