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Thread: virtual desktop delivery via remote server

  1. #1
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    virtual desktop delivery via remote server

    I've known since shortly after starting with various flavors of *nix circa '04 that the OS is multi-user server environment. There remains a nagging issue that I just can't seem wrap my head around, and I'd like to solve it. Given that on effectively any virtual infrastructure (whether I own it or not) I can spin up this multi-user environment with relative ease and connect to it securely (as I can), and given that I can install and securely deliver applicaitons at no additional cost per application via ssh command line (which I can), why is complete, open delivery of a desktop environment such a pain?

    VDI solutions exist, but are nearly all geared towards Windows; this makes sense given that the Windows environment wasn't designed with multiple users in mind. Such tools that support linux exist, but are far less prevalent. Frustratingly, there exists a costpoint that far exaggerates the value delivered.

    Furthermore, solutions seem to exist within the current scope of *nix OSs and Ubuntu specifically via LTSP, but when put into a public space (remote server), LTSP (to my knowledge) breaks down.

    Getting to the question (this isn't a rant thread; I'm just frustrated because I haven't yet found a solution to this issue), is there a way to deliver a full desktop experience (sound, video, something skype-ish) via remote Ubuntu Server to a local Ubuntu client (I'll worry about other platforms later) that doesn't involve software costs?

    Here's what I've tried so far:

    Ubuntu 12.04 and Ubuntu 14.04 (desktop and server) using LXDE delivered via xrdp -> everything works wonderfully, except for sound.
    Ubuntu 12.04 and Ubuntu 14.04 (desktop and server) gnome-session-fallback via freenx -> mixed results: 12.04 worked fairly well and I'm still working on that [video only, so far], 14.04 was a total bust: the only that works is an ssh prompt.
    Ubuntu 12.04 and Ubuntu 14.04 (desktop) applications deliverd ssh + x -> works, except for sound
    Ubuntu 12.04 and Ubuntu 14.04 (desktop) desktop delivered via xephyr -> remote screens blank

    Any help is appreciated; I'll get back with the results of freenx on 12.04 as soon as possible - I'm working this in addition to administrating a windows network.

  2. #2
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    Re: virtual desktop delivery via remote server

    Try spice over TLS. It may be limited to KVM-only VMs, I dunno.

    I still prefer FreeNX, but don't need video or audio. Desktop productivity apps just work on 12.04 under FreeNX. Don't have any 14.04 remote desktops yet - perhaps in a few months. No hurry here.

    The XenServer VDI is probably the best of the solutions now, but it isn't free and I don't know if it does remote Linux desktops.

    xdmp is worthless over the internet. It isn't secure.
    ssh +X is too slow over most internet connections. I've tried.
    ssh/openvpn + VNC ... er ... VNC basically sucks. VNC without a tunnel is non-secure.

    http://guac-dev.org/ may be an option. HTML5, but I'd be concerned about using HTTPS for security now.

  3. #3
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    Re: virtual desktop delivery via remote server

    Quote Originally Posted by TheFu View Post
    Try spice over TLS. It may be limited to KVM-only VMs, I dunno.

    I still prefer FreeNX, but don't need video or audio. Desktop productivity apps just work on 12.04 under FreeNX. Don't have any 14.04 remote desktops yet - perhaps in a few months. No hurry here.

    The XenServer VDI is probably the best of the solutions now, but it isn't free and I don't know if it does remote Linux desktops.

    xdmp is worthless over the internet. It isn't secure.
    ssh +X is too slow over most internet connections. I've tried.
    ssh/openvpn + VNC ... er ... VNC basically sucks. VNC without a tunnel is non-secure.

    http://guac-dev.org/ may be an option. HTML5, but I'd be concerned about using HTTPS for security now.
    Unfortunately, XenDesktop is Windows only. I'll start looking into spice tomorrow as well as checking your other link. In your experience, can you achieve sound/video using FreeNX? I'm not opposed to further exploration if there is a payoff.

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    Re: virtual desktop delivery via remote server

    Quote Originally Posted by matt_fussell2 View Post
    Unfortunately, XenDesktop is Windows only. I'll start looking into spice tomorrow as well as checking your other link. In your experience, can you achieve sound/video using FreeNX? I'm not opposed to further exploration if there is a payoff.
    I simply do not care about audio, so never tried to get it working. I actually find audio annoying. Sorry. Pulse audio does work remotely and if there is a VPN, that should solve it. Never outside a VPN.

    The NoMachine NX server is another option. I've never attempted to use it - freeNX meets our small company requirements.

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    Re: virtual desktop delivery via remote server

    Is the LTSP (Linux Terminal Server Project) sort of what you mean? Won't work truly remotely, but within an office environment it works well.

    Or do you mean a completely distributed system, accessible from anywhere, so SSH to server and run desktop tunnelled through SSH connection type thing?
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  6. #6
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    Re: virtual desktop delivery via remote server

    Quote Originally Posted by TheFu View Post
    I simply do not care about audio, so never tried to get it working. I actually find audio annoying. Sorry. Pulse audio does work remotely and if there is a VPN, that should solve it. Never outside a VPN.

    The NoMachine NX server is another option. I've never attempted to use it - freeNX meets our small company requirements.
    I wish I had the option of skipping sound, but the directive I received was that it had to be a complete solution or nothing - otherwise I would have rolled out the xrdp solution. At any rate, thanks for the leads.

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    Re: virtual desktop delivery via remote server

    Quote Originally Posted by spynappels View Post
    Is the LTSP (Linux Terminal Server Project) sort of what you mean? Won't work truly remotely, but within an office environment it works well.

    Or do you mean a completely distributed system, accessible from anywhere, so SSH to server and run desktop tunnelled through SSH connection type thing?
    Yes, I was referencing the Linux Terminal Server Project as a possible solution that I had explored - I have to service remote branches of our organization, so the PXE boot requirement nullifies LTSP. Effectively, what I've been called upon to deliver is XenDesktop/VMWare View experience but at a reduced cost point.

    To answer your question, yes, I need something that is completely distributed and provides a complete user experience.

    What would be great would be implementing something akin to LTSP but with the nodes able to connect from anywhere once the server is set up. I truly wish something as elegant as an option for such a connection would exist in the display manager, but that will have to wait for now.

  8. #8
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    Re: virtual desktop delivery via remote server

    I believe the commercial NX server DOES audio and video. (confirmed) How many users? It looks like $800 to get started, but users and CPUs used alter the licensing. Heck, I'm temped to get the 10-pak just because it will solve some constant complaints by the non-technical people here.

    I'd create 2-3 different budgets and let management choose by cost exactly how much audio/video is really worth. There is a huge price difference and for some video, addon packages will be desired, it seems.

    While I'd rather donate to a F/LOSS project, supporting a mostly OSS team (even if commercial) is good too.
    Last edited by TheFu; May 14th, 2014 at 06:44 PM.

  9. #9
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    Re: virtual desktop delivery via remote server

    NoMachine does deliver audio and video ... BUT ... video is not good enough for watching your favorite action movie.
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  10. #10
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    Re: virtual desktop delivery via remote server

    Quote Originally Posted by QIII View Post
    NoMachine does deliver audio and video ... BUT ... video is not good enough for watching your favorite action movie.
    Even with the h.264 client-side addon?

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