Saturday, July 4, 2009

Using X11 over high-latency ADSL and an AltGr NX solution

X11 has been bad at high-latency links for a long time. Supposedly, the Xlib replacement XCB would fix some of that, but so far no-one seems to have picked it up. I found some work on GTK+ in 2006 but nothing since then. Sigh.

So there's this other proprietary solution, Nomachine NX with a free companion FreeNX. I decided to give it a try today, and after spending some time contemplating how to get it installed on Debian, it's not in the main repository because the basic architecture is broken (it's including it's own copy of X and SSH and some other stuff), I finally realized that the easiest setup was probably just downloading and installing the .debs on Nomachine's web site.

I was hoping to get ssh somehost then emacs & working, but it's a bit weirder than that. You have to start up a graphical connection thing, in which you can fortunately select a console. This gives you a remote xterm. The rest is simple.

I must say I'm very impressed with the performance. Of course, I'm only using Emacs but it works really well. It's like being connected through a local network.

Of course, once I started coding, the first time I needed a curly brace, which happens soon enough with Javascript, it was bam, back to start. AltGr sends an arrow-key left. After some digging and hair-pulling, it turns out I needed to run setxkbmap [layout] where layout is "dk" or "de" or similar. Except setxkbmap wasn't installed. So I installed it. Then it was missing it's data. I installed that too. Now everything is fine.

If someone would now just port this kind of thing to the default setup, then I would be a happy man. No more console Emacs sessions.