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Joined: 17 Jul 2005
Posts: 1187
Location: Edinburgh, UK

PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2016 7:41 pm    Post subject: xpra/winswitch vs VNC Reply with quote


I just came across winswitch and xpra and am wondering if they might suit my home and work setup a little better than the VNC approach I'm using currently; I'd welcome some feedback and gen from anyone who's "been there, done that".

The host/server machine is a microserver with a NAS-grade AMD APU and 4GB RAM. To keep a desktop up and running between home / office / road, I have tigervnc + fluxbox running on it. It works well enough for my needs, if barely at times, such as when I'm on the road VPN-ing in on a weak 3G connection. Between two ADSL2+ connections (office), it's fine (though I use it a lot so I still worry about usage caps at times... so greater efficiency would still be a plus).

At home, I'd like to be able to offer my partner some of this functionality, as our shared "desktop" computer is a Raspberry Pi 2 which does struggle a bit running Libreoffice and Firefox at the same time, for example (not nearly as awful as many might think, but still a bit painful at times). I've not been keen to enable a VNC instance for her on the server, as (a) her use is infrequent and (b) I could use those cycles a lot of the time ;) I have experimented with X11 forwarding, but performance was pretty dismal, especially with Firefox (for which Gecko/XUL is to blame, I gather, but I'm not waiting around for servo).

So, questions.

1. I was all set to install xpra on the server, but then I discovered that it pulls in the whole Xorg stack (a lot more than I needed for tigervnc, even though I was using xdm with it) and wondered if this is such a great move from a maintenance-burden (or resource) POV? If X forwarding and VNC don't need a complete, full-fat Xorg server, why does this?

2. Winswitch seems like a big step up in user-friendliness terms for my partner's benefit (the screenshots on their site certainly make it look so) but it appears to be a Python daemon that would run per-user: as resource usage on the server is a prime concern, is it really worth it compared to just creating desktop shortcuts that perform the necessary xpra tasks (assuming that's possible)?

3. On the road, I'd be connecting via OpenVPN in TUN mode so in effect I'd be on a different subnet, meaning the mDNS feature of the server part wouldn't work OOTB, if at all, I think. Is there anything to be gained by using mDNS provided the server is not a moving target, e.g. does the server present any info on currently active sessions, users, running apps via mDNS only, or can all this be accessed by the client app as long as it's pointed at the server hostname?

I'm gonna dive in anyway, so may end up answering these questions myself, but as I haven't found much discussion on them thus far, thought it might be a useful topic for posterity.

Thanks in advance for any contributions!
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