The Arrival of NX, Part 5: Using NX
This is the fifth in a seven-part series written by FreeNX Development Team member Kurt Pfeifle about his involvement with NX technology. Along the way, he gives some basic insight into the inner workings of NX and FreeNX while outlining its future road map. In Part 5, Kurt explains how you can start to explore what NX offers by following his step-by-step instructions. Much of what Kurt describes in this series can be reproduced and verified with one or two recent Knoppix CDs, version 3.6 or later. A working FreeNX Server setup and the NoMachine NX Client has been included in Knoppix now for over a year.
The NoMachine NX Client license says, "Redistribution of NX Client software, including commercial Closed Source packages, is allowed, free of charge, for commercial and non-commercial use...". This enabled Klaus Knopper to include the NoMachine NX Client in Knoppix, versions 3.6 and later, even though it is not free software. It also is included in Kanotix. The NX Client is released in binary form under a free for commercial and non-commercial use license similar to the Adobe Acrobat reader software that we find in most Linux distributions. A KDE-based NX client, kNX, also is available. kNX works and is used by quite a few people daily, but it more of a proof-of-concept implementation, though, and its use is not yet generally recommended.
Knoppix also includes FreeNX, a fully GPLed implementation of an NX server application, based on the NoMachine GPLed Core NX libraries and utilities. So Knoppix enables you to access any free or commercial NX server in the world or even run your own FreeNX one from CD-ROM.
We have arrived at a point in this series where we can conduct various hands-on exercises. I have been using the Knoppix-4.0 DVD Edition, as released by Klaus Knopper during LinuxTag 2005. However, any other CD- or DVD-version of Knoppix torrent or Kanotix torrent since the 3.6 release (March 2004) should work the same or similarly. Depending on whether you have one or two machines available booted from Knoppix, you should be able to follow along with most or all of the different activities we describe here:
Use the NoMachine NX Client started from Knoppix to run a remote NX session to the NoMachine "testdrive" NX server in Rome/Italy. How to do so is explained in this article.
Use the FreeNX server started from Knoppix to run a local NX session to the same Knoppix instance. This is explained in the next article, Part 6.
Use the NoMachine NX Client started from one Knoppix to run a remote FreeNX session to a second Knoppix. This also is explained in Part 6.
Implement some artificial TCP/IP "traffic shaping" for the NX connections to simulate link conditions on a modem line, and compare NX performance over this medium with plain vanilla X11 performance; also in Part 6.
Be aware that your performance measurements may deviate from the ones presented in this article. This will depend on how much your hardware--mainly RAM size and CPU power--differs from mine.
Boot up Knoppix, and make sure you have an Internet connection. As our first exercise is to run a remote NX session to the public NoMachine testdrive NX server, you need to create an account for yourself. Open a Web browser and go to http://www.nomachine.com/testdrive.php. There you need to register a temporary testdrive user account (see Figure 1) so you can access that testdrive server in Italy or, alternatively, another testdrive server in Germany.
Registration does not require any information beyond your name and e-mail address; see Figures 2 and 3. You then need to wait for the confirmation e-mail to show up in your inbox (Figure 4); it should arrive within a few minutes.
Use the remote testdrive offered by NoMachine to form an initial valid impression about NX's performance in a real-life environment over an Internet connection. This is the quickest way to come to an initial conclusion about the viability of NX or FreeNX for your remote terminal server requirements.
Be aware that there is an upper limit of 30 concurrent NX user sessions on testdrive.nomachine.com. Also, currently no public testdrive option is available for remote sessions to a Windows Terminal Server. If you urgently need to test that, send an e-mail to NoMachine and ask for special permission.
If you find the NX testdrive server interesting enough, you then can proceed with your own tests and set up your own (Free)NX server. One quick way to do so is by running the FreeNX server provided on any recent Knoppix Live CD.
Notice that the User ID text field is labeled Login in the NX client that you will use shortly.
The mail details the NX server name, the (SSH) port number to use, your login name and your password. Asterisks were inserted to hide the real password in the figure. Test accounts are valid for one week and automatically expire thereafter.
You do not need to download and install the newest NX Client from NoMachine. The version included in Knoppix, namely 1.4.0, is good enough for now. I know that the more adventurous readers will be tempted to download the new 1.5.0 client, knowing that Knoppix with the new UnionFS filesystem easily can install and run new software packages while running from CD. If you know how to do this, go ahead.