NoMachine Server Installation and Configuration

NoMachine

Installing the NoMachine server using the Debian package installer (dpkg).

In the previous article, we introduced the X Window system and discussed different X Window remote desktop options. In this article, I will cover installation of the NoMachine remote desktop server and the various server options.

To set up the NoMachine server, download and install it whatever method is appropriate for your Linux distribution. As far as I know, it is not in any of the repos. To install the NoMachine server under Linux Mint, I downloaded NoMachine for Debian Linux and used the Debian package installer to install it:

sudo dpkg -i nomachine.4.1.29.5.i386.deb

After a few minutes, the NoMachine server was installed and ready to use.Depending on the distribution you are using, the installation may be more involved. Most of the major distributions should have packages available that make the installation relatively painless.


Configuring the NoMachine Server

Once it is installed, you can launch the NoMachine server (on Linux Mint, it can be found in the Internet program group). The NoMachine server interface has two tabs: one called “Connected users” and a second for “Active transfers“. There is also a “Connections” option to toggle allowing connections. There is also a button called “Connection preferences“.

NoMachine

The Services tab under Connection Preferences in the NoMachine server interface.

In “Connection preferences”, there are six separate tabs: “Services“, “Security“, “Devices“, “Transfers“, “Performance“, and “Updates“. “Services” lists the network services running and allows you to configure the services. In this case, we are running the NX service on port 4000. There are two other options: “Start automatic services at startup“, which causes services marked as automatic to be started when the machine starts. “Advertise this computer on the network” causes NoMachine to broadcast the required information to let other computers discover it on the local network.

The next tab is “Security Preferences“. There are three options here: “Require permission to let remote users connect“, which if selected requires the local user to accept the connection before the remote user can connect to the desktop. The second is “Require permission to let the remote users interact with the desktop“, which if selected causes the users to connect in view-only mode. The third option is “Hide the NoMachine icon in system tray“; if this is selected, the NoMachine menu won’t be accessible in normal conditions, but notifications will be still displayed when somebody connects.

The “Devices” tab controls what devices are made available to the remote user. Disks, printers, USB devices, smart card readers, and network ports are selected by default. There is also an “Enable audio streaming and microphone forwarding” check box which is selected by default. The “Transfers” tab controls transfer preferences. Here you can allow or deny the uploading of files by remote users, and allow or deny the downloading of files. You can also disallow files bigger than a certain size for both uploads and downloads, and set the directory to which files are saved.

The “Performance” tab controls system performance and has four options. “Use a specific display encoding” allows the user to select from a dropdown list of encoding algorithms, including VP8, MJPEG and H264. “Request a specific framerate” allows the user to select a framerate from a dropdown list (a higher frame rate uses more processing power). “Use acceleration for display processing” uses the GPU and accelerated graphics (when available) for better performance. “Use lightweight mode in virtual sessions” causes virtual sessions to only use the X protocol compression, which may require less bandwidth and less computing resources.

The final tab is “Update“, which controls update preferences. There is an “Automatically check for updates” check box, as well as a button to check for updates immediately. This tab also includes information about the product, version number and platform.

Now that we have covered server configuration, in the next article we will cover accessing the system remotely using NoMachine.


External links:

The official NoMachine site

X Window System

X Window

Introducing the X Window System

X Window is the underlying management system for most Unix and Linux GUIs. It takes an entirely different architectural approach than a Microsoft Windows system, in that the X Window system is set up in a client-server architecture similar to VNC. In this model, the X server communicates with various client programs. The server accepts requests for graphical output (windows) and sends back user input (from keyboard, mouse, or touchscreen).

When reading the X Window documentation, you will find that they use the terms server and client in the reverse of what would seem intuitive, meaning the server is where the display is being generated, not the remote machine to which you are connecting. The server in this context may function as an application displaying to a window of another display system, a system program controlling the video output of a PC, or a dedicated piece of hardware. This client-server terminology (the user’s terminal being the server and the applications being the clients) often confuses new X users. But X takes the perspective of the application, rather than that of the end-user. Since X provides display and I/O services to applications, it is a server. Applications use these services; thus they are clients.


Most current implementations of the X Window system are based on the X.Org foundation, which is the open source implementation of the X11 protocol. A closely related project is the XFree86 Project, which is the open source version of the X Window system (which uses the X11 protocol). X11 is the protocol that is used to transfer information about the GUI between the server and the client. The end result of these design decisions is that much like Windows’ built-in terminal server support, two Linux systems can remote access each other via a GUI virtual desktop.

You can configure the X Window System to permit connections from remote systems without any third-party software. While this works, the evolution of desktop Window Managers and common software packages has rendered this method inefficient. A much more robust way to accomplish the same thing is using NX technology developed by NoMachine, which is a highly optimized process and protocol to make X sessions available remotely. The NoMachine remote desktop is available for free (client and server) from the official NoMachine website. Commercial versions are also available. In December 2010, NoMachine announced that forthcoming NX releases (4.0 and up) would be closed source. Fortunately, an open source version of the NX server is called FreeNX, and is available from the official FreeNX website. FreeNX does not support relaying sounds to the client, while the NoMachine server does.


External Links:

X Window System on Wikipedia

NX technology on Wikipedia

The official NoMachine web site

The official Free NX web site

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