Because FLOSS is handy, isn’t it?

Remote graphical applications with NX

Posted by isilanes on April 28, 2007

I have been recently (re)made aware of NoMachine’s NX communication programs by my colleage Txema. NX technology is a way of stablishing a connecting from one computer to another one, and create some sort of tunnel through which displayed info (graphics) is transmitted compressed. The communication, of course, is made through SSH secure connection.

Molden opening a file at Arina, a supercomputation cluster I have connected to from Bart, my computer at work, to which I have stablished a NX connection from Heracles, my computer at home. Screenshot taken from Heracles.
(Clic to enlarge)

Veteran Linux users will say “So what’s the big deal?”. Remote connections via telnet, and later with SSH, have been available a long time ago. Exporting the display (that is, making graphical programs opened in the remote computer appear in the local screen) has always been a simple task, and more recently even SSH tunneling has been made available for that task.

However, the key point here is the compression. When running a NX connection, we open a communication channel, running a custom application in the remote machine (for example, we can open the desktop environment, and work as if we were sitting in front of the remote machine), and all the information is compressed, so that the responsivenes of the remote application is as close as possible to applications run in the local computer.

Even though the core NoMachine’s NX code is free software, the client and the server themselves are not, I think. That is a pity, but free alternatives, such as FreeNX are being built upon the free core. From here I wish the best of successes for that project.


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